Editorials, GS-2, Indian Polity, Public Admin 2, Uncategorized

Fundamental duties’s role in our polity

Any debate on the Constitution naturally focuses on the historic significance of the primacy of the fundamental rights of citizens. These rights placed India at the forefront of nations that cherish human rights. The historic significance of these rights lies in the fact that a people who suffered colonial oppression and the loss of basic rights for a long time reasserted themselves with a rare zeal in a constitution they gave unto themselves. It’s equally important that these fundamental rights were not limited to the celebrated freedoms under Article 19(1) and the right to life and liberty, but were extended to other parts like the freedom of religion also. The Constitution guarantees that these rights will be protected from any encroachment.

No doubt fundamental rights are crucial to the survival of a vibrant democracy, there’s an equally important aspect for a polity to survive, citizens should have a high sense of duty. The Constitution-makers didn’t think it necessary to list out the duties of citizens because they couldn’t have perceived a society that ignores such duties. Through 42nd AA, 1976, Fundamental duties were added in Part IV-A of Indian Constitution (Article 51-A).

A close look will reveal these duties are fundamental to the survival of this nation as an organised polity. Some of the core duties need to be mentioned to illustrate the point: It shall be the duty of every citizen to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our struggle for freedom; to promote harmony and common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectoral diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women; to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture; to develop a scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform; to protect and improve the natural environment, etc.

In 1998, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government had appointed the Justice J.S. Verma Committee “to operationalise the suggestions to teach fundamental duties to the citizens of the country”. This committee submitted its report containing a number of recommendations for the government to act on. There are schemes being implemented by the ministry of home affairs, HRD ministry, the environment ministry, etc, to promote the teaching of fundamental duties.

We are living in a period in which Indian society is being subjected to unhealthy and dangerous pulls and pressures. The school environment and the social milieu are such that children learn all the wrong things about each other and become victims of social prejudices. The Justice Verma Committee had suggested changes in school and teacher education curricula to incorporate the teaching of fundamental duties, in a serious way, to children. If children learn these in the classroom, they will grow up with a sense of duty imprinted on their minds.

India has a composite culture. Every citizen has a duty to preserve it. Every race that inhabited this land has contributed to the development of this culture. The great rishis evolved a global perspective on man — “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam” sums up that perspective. They believed that ultimately, there is one truth, but wise men say it differently (ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti). This non-sectarian, secular and universalist perspective of the ancient rishis should form the core of citizens’ duties.

The prime minister has rightly said our children should be taught the Constitution. Yes, and more than any other thing, they should be taught the citizen’s duties. The Supreme Court, too, has said that since duties are obligatory for citizens, the state should strive to achieve the same goal. Rights and duties have to exist together. Rights without duties will lead to anarchy.

Relation between part III and part IV of the Indian constitution:
In Inre Kerala Education bill

The Supreme Court observed “though the directive principles can not override the fundamental rights, nevertheless, in determining the scope and ambit of fundamental rights the court could not entirely ignore the directive principle but should adopt the principle of harmonious construction and should attempt to give effect to both as much as possible.

The Supreme Court began to assert that there is “no conflict on the whole” between the fundamental rights and the directive principles. They are complementary and supplementary to each other.

In Chandrabhavan and Kesavananda Bharati cases inaugurated a new era of integrationist approach which could emphasis the under pinning of interrelated value of part III and part IV, Kesavananda Bharati’s case stood for penetration of the notion of distributive justice under Article 39(b) and (c) into the property relations by upholding the constitutionality of Article 31c. the legislative contributions through agrarian and economic reforms, labor welfare and other social justice statutes have by focusing on social welfare, ultimately enhanced the worth of fundamental rights. Judicial review, by removing unreasonable provisions monitored this process. In practice, the interconnections of rights are more sensitized when the government takes the directive principles of state policy seriously.

In Minerva Mills Limited v/s Union of India
The court observed that the constitution was founded on the bed-rock of balance between part III and part IV. To give absolute primacy to one over the other was to disturb the harmony of the constitution. This harmony and balance between fundamental rights and the directive principles is an essential feature of the basic structure of the constitution. Both the fundamental and directive principles of the state policy are embodying the philosophy of our constitution, the philosophy of justice social economic and political. They are the two wheels of the chariot as an aid to make social and economic democracy a truism.

In Bandhua Mukti Morcha v/s Union of India
The approach of sticking to strict legalism in the implementation of laws enforcing directive principles, which in turn promote fundamental rights, has increased the role of directive principles in the inter-relationship doctrine.

The integrative approach towards fundamental rights and directive principles or that the both should be interpreted and read together has now come to hold the field. It has now become a judicial strategy to read fundamental rights along with Directive principles with a view to define the scope and the ambit of the former. Mostly, directive principles have been used to broaden and to give depth to some fundamental rights and to imply some more rights therein for the people over and what are expressly stated in the fundamental rights.

By reading article 21 with the directive principles, the Supreme Court has expanded the horizon of article 21 and derived there from different rights of the citizen. Some of them are;

1)Right to life includes the right to enjoy pollution free water, air and environments. The court has derived this right by reading article 21 with article 48A.
2)Right to health has been recognized as fundamental rights of the workers under article 21.
3)Right to education under article 21A is to be understood with reference to directive principles contained in article 41 and 45.

Thank you!


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