India’s freedom struggle is a topic of great depth and history, and the fruits of that struggle are still borne by many of us. The country, as a whole, will never outgrow the learnings that originated at the time of independence. As we enter the 75th year of our independence, I can say that our country has prospered in facets that we don’t give our institutions enough credit for.
As a practising advocate in India, I can proudly say that I have witnessed a few micro-aspects of the system myself, and I can only imagine the amount of conflict of opinions that the founders of our Constitution must have gone through to define a legal system for our country, a land of diversity and vast culture.
While the Constitution of India covers the larger picture of India’s independence, there are subsequent landmark legislations that were passed by the Parliament of India that, I believe, aptly capture the essence of India’s independence at the core:
- Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act): The RTI Act sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information. It replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002. Under the provisions of the RTI Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously.
The RTI Act is often viewed as a final liberation from British colonialism and described as a tool for empowering ordinary citizens and changing the culture of governance by making it transparent, less corrupt, participatory, and accountable.
- Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976: The Act was the greatest milestone in abolishing the age-old system of bonded labour which was fast seeping into Indian society. The provisions of this Act uphold not just the true essence of Independence but also the core principles of human rights.
- Zamindari Abolition Act, 1950: The British brought along and promoted the extractive system of Zamindari. With the abolition of Zamindari came land ceilings, better tenancy rights and redistribution of land among the landless, aiming at a more equitable distribution of wealth and income, thus, bringing in the element of “independence” for citizens.
- Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA): ITPA was passed by the Parliament to suppress immoral traffic among women and children in India. ITPA had undergone two amendments in 1978 and 1986, respectively, making the Act more gender-neutral. This legislation aims to stop immoral trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in India.
- Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act): Right to Education is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution of India. The RTE provides that every child has a right to full-time elementary education of “satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards”.
There is no denying that education (not necessarily elementary) forms the most important part of anyone’s journey towards self-growth, which ultimately leads to a fulfilling feeling of independence in one’s own regard.