A mere declaration of fundamental rights in the Constitution is meaningless, useless and worthless without providing an effective machinery for their enforcement, if and when they are violated. Hence, Article 32 confers the right to remedies for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of an aggrieved citizen. In other words, the right to get the Fundamental Rights protected is in itself a fundamental right. This makes the fundamental rights real. That is why Dr Ambedkar called Article 32 as the most important article of the Constitution—‘an Article without which this constitution would be a nullity. It is the very soul of the Constitution and the very heart of it’. The Supreme Court has ruled that Article 32 is a basic feature of the Constitution. Hence, it cannot be abridged or taken away even by way of an amendment to the Constitution. It contains the following four provisions:
(a) The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights is guaranteed.
(b) The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs for the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights. The writs issued may includehabeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari and quo- warranto.
(c) Parliament can empower any other court to issue directions, orders and writs of all kinds. However, this can be done without prejudice to the above powers conferred on the Supreme Court. Any other court here does not include high courts because Article 226 has already conferred these powers on the high courts.
(d) The right to move the Supreme Court shall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for by the Constitution. Thus the Constitution provides that the President can suspend the right to move any court for the enforcement of the fundamental rights during a national emergency Article 359).
It is thus clear that the Supreme Court has been constituted as the defender and guarantor of the fundamenetal rights of the citizens. It has been vested with the ‘original’ and ‘wide’ powers for that purpose. Original, because an aggrieved citizen can directly go to the Supreme Court, not necessarily by way of appeal. Wide, because its power is not restricted to issuing of orders or directions but also writs of all kinds.
The purpose of Article 32 is to provide a guaranteed, effective, expedious, inexpensive and summary remedy for the protection of the fundamental rights. Only the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution can be enforced under Article 32 and not any other right like non-fundamental constitutional rights, statutory rights, customary rights and so on. The violation of a fundamental right is the sine qua non for the exercise of the right conferred by Article 32. In other words, the Supreme Court, under Article 32, cannot determine a question that does not involve Fundamental Rights. Article 32 cannot be invoked simply to determine the constitutionality of an executive order or a legislation unless it directly infringes any of the fundamental rights.
In case of the enforcement of Fundamental Rights, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is original but not exclusive. It is concurrent with the jurisdiction of the high court under Article 226. It vests original powers in the high court to issue directions, orders and writs of all kinds for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights. It means when the Fundamental Rights of a citizen are violated, the aggrieved party has the option of moving either the high court or the Supreme Court directly.
Since the right guaranteed by Article 32 (ie, the right to move the Supreme Court where a fundamental right is infringed) is in itself a fundamental right, the availability of alternate remedy is no bar to relief under Article 32. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that where relief through high court is available under Article 226, the aggrieved party should first move the high court.