An insight into citizen’s legal rights in India by Sarthak Chaturvedi, Lawyer at Supreme Court

New Delhi (India), October 16: Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve been victimized, discriminated against, or taken advantage of, and you didn’t act since you weren’t sure whether you could or not? Well, it’s time to empower yourself legally and understand your rights as an Indian citizen. While most of us Indians are aware of some of our basic legal rights, here are some of them which you might not know about.

1- The right to file an FIR-

According to the Indian Penal Code, 166 A, A Police officer can’t refuse to lodge an FIR. As an Indian citizen, you have a right to file an FIR for a cognizable offense, and a police officer who refuses to lodge the FIR is punishable for committing a crime under Section 166A(c) of the Indian Penal Code. The Supreme Court has said that in such cases, “the police officer will be liable for prosecution and punishment.”

How to exercise this right?

Visit the police station (ideally near the crime scene) and present all the information before the concerned officer in charge. Also, Section 154 of the CrPC gives a choice to the informant to furnish information orally or in writing.

Note: Guidelines issued by the Delhi Police entitle women to the privilege of registering a complaint via email or even through the post if they can’t go to the police station.

What to do when your right is violated?

If the concerned officer in charge refuses to register a first information report about the commission of a cognizable offense within his territorial jurisdiction under Sec. 154(3) following actions can be taken –

(a) Approach The Superintendent of Police:

The informant can approach any senior officer of police or the Superintendent of Police, or the Commissioner of the police with a written complaint.

If the Superintendent of Police is satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offense then, he might investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him.

(b) Complaint to Judicial Magistrate:

If even after submitting a complaint to Senior Police officials no FIR is lodged, then the informant is legally entitled to file a complaint to the Judicial Magistrate/ Metropolitan Magistrate u/s 156(3) read with Section 190 of the criminal procedure, thereby requesting the FIR to be registered by the police and commencing investigation into the matter.

(c) Legal Remedy:

A Writ Petition may be filed in respective High Court for seeking damages/compensation if the inaction of the Police on the complaint/non-registration of FIR has resulted in frustration/deprivation of ―life and liberty of any person, guaranteed under Article 21 of Constitution of India.

2- The right to claim a refund-

The Consumer Protection Act of 1986 guarantees every consumer the right to a complete refund if they are not satisfied with their purchase or in the event that the consumer has not been able to utilize the services that he had paid for.

In fact, It is illegal and an unfair trade practice to print “No exchange or refund” on bills and invoices.

What to do when your right is violated?

In case money is not refunded by the company, you can send a legal notice. If the money is still not refunded, file a complaint in the consumer forum for deficiency in service. You can also register a criminal complaint of cheating against the defaulters.

3- Right of parents to be maintained by their children-

According to the Section 125 of Cr. P.C, parents (father or mother whether biological, adoptive or stepfather or stepmother, whether senior citizen or not) have the right to claim maintenance from their adult children.

What to do when your right is violated?

Approach the court with sufficient proof that your sons/ daughters who are capable of supporting you have neglected to do so. An application for maintenance may be filed against any person, liable to pay the same.

4- Right to equal pay for equal work-

The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 is a law that mandates equal pay for both men and women for equal work done by them. When two or more people have done the same work under similar circumstances, they are entitled to be compensated equally.

What to do when your right is violated?

Employees have the right to file a complaint with the concerned labor authorities when an employer breaches these provisions.

The appropriate labor authority, after verifying the merits of the case, may initiate an inquiry into this matter and take the appropriate action.

Note: Employers are required to maintain registers that should contain the particulars of the remuneration of their employees.

5- The rights of a woman when arrested-

As per section 46 of the criminal procedure code ( CrPc), apart from exceptional circumstances, no woman can be taken into custody before sunrise or sunset (After 6 pm and before 6 am). And, under no circumstances a male police officer can arrest a woman.

What to do when your right is violated?

If a woman finds herself in a situation where there is a violation of arrest procedure by the police authority, then she must:

(a)Refuse her arrest if the due procedure of law is not followed by the arresting police authority.

(b)Contact her Advocate to seek legal guidance & remedy.

(c)Remind her legal rights to the arresting police authority.

(d) Complain to the Station House Officer (SHO) of the police station where she has been arrested.

(e)  Can complain to the Magistrate having local jurisdiction.

6- Right to take legal action if a traffic police officer snatches the key of your vehicle.

Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 says that if the traffic police officer snatches the key from the car or motorcycle, you have a right to launch a Legal proceeding against that traffic police officer.

What to do when your right is violated?

If the police officer snatches your vehicle keys without any reason, take photos of what is happening and file a complaint against that traffic police officer.

7- Your right under the Police Act, 1861

As per the Police act, 1861, a police officer is always on duty whether he/she is wearing a uniform or not. If an officer is approached by the victim, the officer could not refuse to help because he/ she is not on duty.

8- Right under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961

As per the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, no company can fire a pregnant woman. It may be punishable by a maximum of 3 years of imprisonment. This rule is applicable to both private and public sector employees.

9- Right against the Cheque Bounce

A cheque bounce is an offense under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, punishable with a fine which can extend to twice the amount of the cheque or imprisonment for a term not more than two years or both.

What to do when your right is violated?

If you have received payment via a cheque, which later bounces, you should immediately contact a lawyer and send a legal notice to the person who is supposed to pay you.

If you do not receive a payment within 15 days of the legal notice, you can file criminal charges against the person, and he might go to jail for it.

10- Right to a Free Legal Aid

Under Article 39-A of the Constitution of India, the government has enacted this act to provide free legal aid service to all those who cannot afford to opt for the services of lawyers.

11- Right to Information (Article 19 (1) (a)

Under the RTI Act, any citizen of India can request information from any public authority, and the authority will have to revert back at the earliest or within thirty days.

If the matter involving a petitioner’s life and liberty, the information has to be provided within 48 hours.

What to do when your right is violated?

Public officials who deliberately delay or obstruct an application for information or who deliberately provide incorrect or misleading information can be punished under the RTI laws.

In a country as diverse and complex as India, it is important to know your legal rights as an Indian citizen. Not knowing these basic legal rights can have an impact on everything from your personal safety to your job security.