Fundamental Duties, Why They Should Be Made Enforceable?

Updated: Jul 31


The Constitution of India was adopted by India on 26th January 1950. Part III of the Constitution contains the fundamental rights which are the basis of the Constitution. Part III of the Constitution has been made mandatory and enforceable subject to the exceptions provided therein. Thereafter Part IV of the Constitution contains the Directive Principles of State Policy. It was always felt that the mere inclusion of rights would not serve the purpose in the scheme of the Constitution. It is a known fact that India is a democratic republic; it is run by people’s elected Government. Hence, the citizens also take an active part in the running of the Government. The constitution gave citizens fundamental rights which were made enforceable. It further gave certain directives to the state in the form of Directive Principles of State Policy; which although were not enforceable per-se but serve as a necessary directive for the States to do certain acts. However, no corresponding duty was imposed on the citizens to do or not to do certain acts. In the course of debate of Constituent Assembly, Prof. K. P. Shah, who was the first person to raise the point about the insertion of fundamental duties in the Constitution, had said that the Constituent Assembly ought to enter fundamental duties of the citizens in the Constitution and that should be treated as of the same vigor and force as that of the fundamental rights included in the Constitution. The Constituent Assembly, however, did not include his suggestion. However, the preamble of the Constitution itself acts as a guiding force and imposes a certain duty upon the State to protect basic structure based on which the democratic republic is to run in the future. No corresponding duty was ever cast upon the citizen of India to protect the institution, country, its pride, and its ideals. This long-ranging debate finally ended in 1976 when Indira Gandhi led Government inserted Part IV-A in the Constitution wherein Article 51-A was inserted which talked about fundamental duties by inserting Part IV-A by the Constitution (Forty-Second Amendment) Act, 1976, Section 11 (w.e.f. 3rd January 1977). Subsequently, by another Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, Section 4 (w.e.f. 1st April 2010) Item (k) to the List of Fundamental Duties under Article 51-A was added. Thus, Fundamental Duties were inserted in the Constitution for the first time w.e.f. 03.01.1977. Article 51-A in its present form reads as under:

“51A. Fundamental duties It shall be the duty of every citizen of India:

(a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;

(b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;

(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India;

(d) to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;

(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;

(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;

(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures;

(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;

(i) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence;

(j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement;

(k) who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years[1].”

A collective reading of the above Article would show that certain mandatory duties have been imposed upon the citizen of India. However, the same is not enforceable by any court of law, unlike fundamental rights. It may also be noted that duties are not self-executing. The state must make a law for its implementation. In the absence of such laws, the duties itself are not enforceable. It is not the case that certain recommendations have not been made to date for making the duties enforceable. The Government of India appointed a National Commission to review the working of the Constitution. Therein there was a committee known as Justice J.S. Verma committee. The committee made a strong recommendation for making the duties enforceable. The recommendations were subsequently accepted by the commission. The commission observed in the report as below:

“4. 3.40.3 (i) The Commission recommends that the first and foremost step required by the Union and State Governments is to sensitize the people and to create a general awareness of the provisions of fundamental duties amongst the citizens on the lines recommended by the Justice Verma Committee on the subject. Consideration should be given to the ways and means by which Fundamental Duties could be popularized and made effective; (ii) right to freedom of religion and other freedoms must be jealously guarded and rights of minorities and fellow citizens respected; (iii) reform of the whole process of education is an immediate but immense need, as is the need to free it from governmental or political control; it is only through education that will power to adhere to our Fundamental Duties as citizens can be inculcated; and (iv) duty to vote at elections, actively participate in the democratic process of governance and to pay taxes should be included in article 51A. …”

In its recommendations, Justice Verma Committee in Chapter entitled “Salient Recommendations” under the heading ‘Operationalization Overview’ observes as under:

“Duties are observed by individuals as a result of dictates of the social system and the environment in which one lives, under the influence of role models, or on account of punitive provisions of law. It may be necessary to enact suitable legislation wherever necessary to require obedience of obligations by the citizens. If the existing laws are inadequate to enforce the needed discipline, the legislative vacuum needs to be filled. If legislation and judicial directions are available and still there are violations of Fundamental Duties by the citizens, this would call for other strategies for making them operational.”

The matter came up for consideration before Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case titled as Hon’ble Shri Ranganatha Misra versus Union of India and others cited as 2003(7)SCC 133. Therein it was prayed that Hon’ble Supreme Court may issue directions to the State to educate citizens regarding the fundamental duties. Hon’ble Supreme Court while taking note of the report mentioned above; disposed of the petition by issuing the direction that the State shall take note of the recommendations made by the Committee and implement the same as early as possible.

The question of enforceability of the fundamental duties came before Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in a matter relating to reservation in A.I.I.M.S. In A.I.I.M.S. Student Union versus A.I.I.M.S., cited as 2002(1) SCC 428, Hon’ble Supreme Court while discussing the Article 51-A, observed as under:

“Almost a quarter-century after the people of India have given the Constitution unto themselves, a chapter on fundamental duties came to be incorporated in the Constitution. Fundamental duties, as defined in Article 15-A, are not made enforceable by a or Court just as the fundamental rights are, but it cannot be lost sight of that duties in Part-IVA – Article 51A are prefixed by the same word ‘fundamental’ which was prefixed by the founding fathers of the Constitution to ‘rights’ in Part III. Every citizen of India is fundamentally obligated to develop the scientific temper and humanism. He is fundamentally duty bound to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievements. The state is, all the citizens placed together, and hence though Article 51-A does not expressly cast any fundamental duty on the State, the fact remains that the duty of every citizen of India is the collective duty of the State.

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Fundamental duties, though not enforceable by a writ of the court, yet provide a valuable guide and aid to interpretation of constitutional and legal issues. In case of doubt or choice, people’s wish as manifested through Article 51-A can serve as a guide not only for resolving the issue but also for constructing or molding the relief to be given by the courts. Constitutional enactment of fundamental duties, if it has to have any meaning, must be used by Courts as a tool to tab, even a taboo, on State action drifting away from constitutional values.”

Why the fundamental duties be made enforceable? This is a wide-ranging debate but here it is necessary to clarify the views of some of the renowned thinkers of the society. It was once said by Mahatma Gandhi, “I learned from my illiterate but wise mother that all rights to be deserved and preserved come from duty well done.” Albert Einstein who is credited with the discovery of the theory of relativity once said that “every day, on hundred occasions, I remind myself that my mental and physical life depends on the toil of other persons, living or dead. So I must try to repay whatever I have received and am receiving”. Freedom is the basic right for any human being who is born in this world. But, in case we assume a situation wherein everyone is free to do whatever he desires. Such a situation will lead to disasters and can’t be possible. So, to maintain freedom of a human being all his fellow human beings must have some duty to protect his freedom. That is where the duties become inseparable from the right. In the words of Walter Lippman, the philosopher-journalist, “for every right that you cherish, you have a duty which you must fulfill.” The same is based on the basic principle that to maintain freedom a duty must be imposed upon all to protect that freedom. For example, freedom of religion is a fundamental right as guaranteed by Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India. To protect this right, a duty has been cast upon the citizen of India under Article 51-A (e) which makes it obligatory for all citizens to promote brotherhood, religious tolerance. Without citizens respecting the religion of fellow people; the guarantee as given under Article 25 and 26 is bound to fall. A right possessed by one person involves, on the part of another or of others, the obligation to respect that right. This obligation is called duty. We may, therefore, define duty in the abstract as a moral bond or obligation of doing or omitting certain acts in favor of another person. The act itself that ought to be done or omitted is the concrete duty. Every duty then supposes a corresponding right, and every right a duty: right and duty are correlative and inseparable[2]. Right is a moral power existing in one person, which gives rise to an obligation in another. Hence, rights and duties are inseparable. The constitution is a guiding force behind our nation and its principles must be respected and adhered to not by the State but also by the people of India as both have to work together to make India a better place. It is thus needless to mention here that the fundamental duties must have some enforceability so that people of India respect the basic ideals which formed the basis of the Constitution of India.

[1] Inserted via 86th Amendment on 12th December 2002

[2] A brief textbook of moral philosophy by Rev. Charles Coppens, S.J., 1895, Catholic School Book Company


-Advocate Ravinder Singh Dhull

Additional Advocate General

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rsdhull

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