Critical explanation of Fundamental Duties with case law
The fundamental duties are incorporated in Part IV-A of our constitution by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976. Presently our constitution lays down 11 fundamental duties under article 51-A, which are statutory duties and are enforceable by law. The fundamental duties were incorporated to emphasise that rights and duties go hand in hand. There exists an obligation of the citizen in exchange for the comprehensive fundamental rights enjoyed by them. Fundamental Duties have been borrowed from the Constitution of Russia.
In Chandra Bhawan Boarding v. The State of Mysore 1 , the Supreme court made the following observation prior to the insertion of Article 51-A:
“It is a fallacy to think that our Constitution, there are only rights and no duties. The provisions in Part IV enables the legislature to build a welfare society and that object may be achieved to the extent the Directive Principles are implemented by legislation.”
In A.I.I.M.S. Student’s Union v. A.I.I.M.S 2 , Supreme Court clearly stated that fundamental duties, although not enforceable by a writ of the court yet provide valuable guidance to the interpretation of constitutional and legal issues. These duties can serve as a guide not only for resolving the issue but also for constructing or moulding the relief to be given by the courts. The fundamental duties must be given their full meaning as expected by the enactment of the Forty-second Amendment.
In Mohan Kumar Singhania v. Union of India 3 , a governmental decision to give utmost importance to the training programme of the Indian administrative Service selectees was upheld by deriving support from Article 51-A (i) of the Constitution, holding that the governmental decision was in consonance with one of the fundamental duties.
In Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of Uttar Pradesh 4 , a complete ban and closing of mining operation carried on in Mussoorie hills was held to be sustainable by deriving support from the fundamental duty as enshrined in Article 51-A (g) of the Constitution. The court held that preservation of the environment and keeping the ecological balance unaffected in a task which not only government but also every citizen must undertake. It is a social obligation of the state as well as of the individuals.
In Aruna Roy v. Union of India 5 , the constitutional validity of the National Curriculum Framework for School Education has been challenged in the Supreme Court that it violates Article 28 of the Constitution and is against the secular fabric of our nation. It was providing value education development related to major religions in the world. The court held that National Curriculum is not imparting any religious instructions which are prohibited under Article 28. These are fulfilling the purpose of what is inscribed in Article 51A(e) which says, the people will strive to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood should be maintained among all the people of India, irrespective of caste, creed, culture and language and it has to work on renouncing several practices that derogatory to the dignity of a woman.
Swaran Singh Committee
The need and necessity of fundamental duties were felt during the emergency period. Hence, in 1976, the committee was set up to make a recommendation for fundamental duties It recommended for the inclusion of Fundamental Duties under a different chapter.
The aim was to make citizens conscious of their duties while enjoying fundamental rights. The government welcomed the suggestion and included in a separate article 51A which had ten fundamental duties. The government realised that non-inclusion of fundamental duties in the original constitution was a huge mistake which has now been ratified.
Although Swaran Singh Committee suggested the incorporation of only eight fundamental duties but the 42nd Amendment had ten duties.
JUSTICE VERMA COMMITTEE OBSERVATIONS
The Verma Committee on Fundamental Duties of the citizens (1999) identified the existence of legal provisions for the implementation of some of the Fundamental Duties. They are mentioned as below: 6
- 1. The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act (1971) prevents disrespect to the Constitution of India, the National Flag and National Anthem.
- 2. The various criminal laws in force provide for punishments for encouraging enmity between different sections of people on grounds of language, race, place of birth, religion, etc.
- 3. The Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955) provides for punishments for offences related to caste and religion.
- 4. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) declares the imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration as punishable offences.
- 5. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (1967) provides for the declaration of a communal organisation as an unlawful association.
- 6. The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 prohibits trade in rare and endangered species.
- 7. The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 checks indiscriminate deforestation and diversion of forest land and for non-forest purposes.
It shall be the duty of every citizen of India 7 –
- (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 endeavour and achievement.
Following are some of the characteristics of the Fundamental duties:
- Some of the fundamental duties are moral duties while others are civic in nature. For example: Cherishing the idea of nationalism is a moral obligation whereas respecting the National Flag and National Anthem is a civic obligation.
- Fundamental duties are an obligation only on the citizens of the country and not on the aliens.
- These fundamental duties are non-justiciable in nature. Direct enforcement is not possible but parliament can pass a law with regard to the fundamental duties to legally enforce them.
These duties are a code of conduct laid down on the recommendations of the Swarn Singh Committee. Since they are unjustifiable there is no legal sanction behind them. Moreover, a few of these duties are vague. For example, for a common citizen definitions of ‘composite culture’, ‘rich heritage’ ‘humanism’, or ‘excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activities’ may differ. They will realize the importance of these duties only when these terms
are simplified. There is a need to revise the present list, simplify their language and make them more realistic and meaningful and add some urgently required more realistic duties. Also, it should be tried to make them justiciable.
In AIIMS Students Union v. AIIMS 8 it has been held that Fundamental Duties though not enforceable by writ of the court, yet provide a valuable guide and aid to interpretation of constitutional and legal issues.
Significance of Fundamental Duties
These duties are a constant reminder to the citizens while enjoying their rights, the citizens should be aware of their duties towards their nation and other citizens. These also serve as a warning to the people to refrain from any anti-social activities that disrespect the nation like burning the flag, destroying the public property or disturbing public
They also help in inculcating a sense of discipline and commitment in the citizens towards the nation. They help in realising national goals by the active participation of citizens rather than mere spectators. It helps the Court in determining the constitutionality of the law. For instance, any law passed by the legislatures, when taken to Court for constitutional validity of the law, if it is giving force to any Fundamental Duty, then such law would be taken as reasonable.
The parliament can enforce them by law and impose any type of penalty or punishment for violating any of the Fundamental Duties.
In the words of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, “The moral value of fundamental duties would not be to smoother rights but to establish a democratic balance by making people conscious of their duties equally as they are conscious of their rights”.
Fundamental Duties are the section of the Constitution of India that prescribe the duties of the citizens to the State. The Fundamental Duties are a kind of moral obligations of all citizens to help promote a spirit of patriotism and to uphold the unity of India. The Fundamental Duties are although not legally enforceable, i.e. without any legal sanction in case of their violation or non-compliance yet the citizens are morally obligated by the Constitution to perform these duties.
There is a need for these duties to be obligatory for all citizens i.e. subject to the State enforcing the same by means of a valid law. The Supreme Court has finally, issued directions to the State in this regard, with a view towards making the provisions effective and enabling a citizens to properly perform their duties properly.
Laxmikant, M, Indian Polity, McGraw Hill Education, Chennai, 2018.
Written by Preetkiran Kaur RGNUL, Punjab