Basic needs and its legal administration

Basically, basic needs mean the elementary conditions of existence for every human being. Basic necessity must mean the irreducible minimum prerequisite for a human being. Broadly it means that it is indispensable for lying human life within a society as an equal at last principle

From the “Homoestatic” concept, we can divide Basic Needs into two types:

  1. Physical/Medical sense: In this type, basic needs are same for every person. These needs are very essential for the existence of biological. For example: water, food and nutrition, shelter, movement, amount of heat, etc.
  2. Non-Physical sense: This is an aspirational need. The Marxist community called this need as ‘social solidarity’. For example: cooperation among people, communication, and emotional need.

Distinguish between Right and Basic Needs

  1. To get clearly explanation on basic needs, therefore we also have to know the distinguish between rights and basic needs, as following:
  2. Rights imply an autonomous and fully capable of agent, but basic needs can hardly be described as capable and autonomous.
  3. Rights generally understood in the negative sense as absence of constraint or interfere from others. While basic needs can for positive action or interference in view to secure them.
  4. Usually rights relate to the political and property interest while basic needs widely relates with economical and social interest in nature.

Basic needs get transformed into rights depends upon the prevalent legal and political consciousness.

Prioritizing Basic Needs

The arrangement of needs in ranks involves not only for better identification but also for fixing social priority of various human need. One of the earliest thinker which gives the priority of human needs was given by Buddhism:

  • Food
  • Cloths
  • Shelter
  • Medical Services

United Nations has identified basic need as following:

  • Nutrition
  • Shelter
  • Health
  • Education
  • Leisure
  • Security
  • Environment

Similarly, International Labour Organization (ILO) has identified in their scheme, namely:

  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Pure water
  • Sanitation
  • Public transport
  • Health
  • Education Facilities

Abraham Moslow was the first person who propounds the theory of hierarchy of human needs. It mechanism is emerged for higher needs only after a reasonable satisfaction of lower needs. In the same context, Christian Bay says about “New and Higher” motives are born as more basic ad essential motives received satisfaction and the individual receive their satisfaction for granted.


The idea of prioritizing human needs has assumed significant results in the wake of widespread hunger and starvation. It is true that food need might no more be a serious problem for various developed societies. In the word of Professor Conrad, “The problem of basic needs is no longer pressing in the West. It is affluent that no one dies because of starvation involuntary.”

That is the reason why basic needs concept is more significant to be implemented for the 3rd countries, such as India and Indonesia. It evolves to the concern of larger masses.

1. Constitutional Guarantees

There are various provisions in Indian Constitution which gives special guarantees for the basic needs, namely:

Article 14:
The equality guarantee may be invoked for all cases of inequality access to certain basic needs related to food, health case, water, education, etc.

Article 15:
Prohibition of discrimination on certain grounds (sex, race, etc), including in its practice to get basic needs to be fulfilled.

Article 17:
It prohibits the practice of untouchability. The problem of untouchability in the context of basic need is more than discrimination.

Article 21:
This article has been developed in assures of certain fundamental needs for the citizen by judiciary.
The significant of sovereignty in India is that the satisfaction for human needs not merely responsibility of the state, but also for each well-off member of society.

2. Basic Needs Seeker

The economist have used level of food for constructing “poverty lines” by relating it into level of food that required for the making of the minimum calorie intake to the body. According to the works by Dandekar and Rath in 1971, each people at least need 2.250 calories per adult.

In 1995, Operation Research Group Barada estimates the categories of Below Poverty Line (BPL) by converting the calorie into some amount of money in the following:

  • Rs. 6.500 – 5001 : Poor
  • Rs. 5.001 – 2501 : Very Poor
  • Rs. 3.500 – 2251 : Very Very Poor
  • Rs. 2251 – Below : Destitute

However, in a recent BPL assessment in census 2001, the government has modified its methodology that is based on 13 categories scorable socio-economic indicators, including literacy, migration, and health.

3. Government Measures

The measure for providing basic needs for the citizen can be divided into two broad categories:

  • Legislative initiatives
  • Judicial initiatives
  • Legislative initiatives

Among the legislative initiatives, the notable ones are those relating to:

  1. Minimum wage protection:
    • The Minimum Wages Act, 1948
  2. Untouchability abolition and its incident:
    • The Untouchability Offences Act, 1955
    • The Prevention of Atrocities, 1989
  3. Bonded Labour Abolition
    • The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
  4. Child Labour (Prohibition) Act, 1986
  5. Legal and Aid
    • The Legal Services Authorities, 1987
  6. Employment Guarantees
    • The National Rural Employment Guarantees Act, 2005 which gives 100 hours of work for every unemployment person in 200 districts.

Judicial initiatives
One of the greatest achievement and one which have gabled the court to make its invaluable contribution to protection of human right, has been the liberalization of the rule of “Locus Standi”.The liberalization of the rule of locus standi in the field of public law has fostered the development of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) or Upendara Baxi called it as Social Action Litigation (SAL).

4. Landmark Cases

Krishan Pattanayak v. State of Orissa

It was the first significant initiative to get food recognized as a fundamental right came up, because of wide-spread famine and starvation condition. The Supreme Court took over three years in disposing-off the petition, that too without either recognizing any right of the poor and hapless to food or fastening administration with any kind of obligation.

Peoples Union for Civil Liberties v. UOI

In this ongoing petition before the S.C till April 2004, eleven orders had been passed. Two of most important orders are Order II and Order IV.

Order II : Court set the stage for taking on the problem of hunger and starvation
Order IV: The Court gave elaborate directions in respect of the right schemes for the amelioration of the weaker sections.

Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corp.

It was the first case where the shelter needs of pavement dwellers came to focus. The court passed directions for giving alternatives site to those who were staying there.


In the word of Professor B.B. Pande, “the current judicial and administrative policy in the context for providing certain basic need as fundamental rights of citizen can be questioned both on moral and political grounds.

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