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Difference between fundamental rights and the directive principles of state policy - Mosewl.com

Difference between fundamental rights and the directive principles of state policy

This article is written by Mohammad Sahil Khan and further updated by Diksha Shastri. The article explains the difference between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy under the Constitution of India, with the landmark case laws on the subject.

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution states that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic. Being a democratic republic, the Indian Constitution confers certain Fundamental Rights upon its citizens and some rights to the non-citizens of the country as well. Fundamental Rights are the rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution of India to safeguard the interests of the people.

While on the other hand, Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs) are certain principles directed towards the State in order to carry out effective governance of the country. Unlike Fundamental Rights, DPSPs are not enforceable in the court of law. However, it does not imply that they do not have any significance; these entail the basic rules that the State should follow for effective governance.

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Fundamental Rights are guaranteed under Part III ranging from Articles 12 to 35 of the Constitution of India. Fundamental Rights are not absolute in nature (reasonable restrictions can be imposed), yet it is useful in providing justice to the people. These are the basic human rights through which the citizens of India can live a truly free and secure life. The power of Fundamental Rights is also reflected by the fact that a person can directly approach the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.

Origin of fundamental rights

In order to understand the need of the Fundamental Rights, it is pertinent to understand its origin. 

  • The seed of Fundamental Rights was sown in the Swaraj Bill of 1895, which talked about the concept of Freedom of Speech, Right to Privacy and other such concepts.
  • England Bill of Rights (1689), United States of Bill Rights (1791), and France Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789) are some of the foreign law principles that gave inception to the thought of having Fundamental Rights as an integral part of the Indian Constitution.  
  • So many brutal acts were committed by the Britishers under the Rowlatt Act, 1919. The provisions of this Act used to put strict restrictions on all Indian Citizens, leading to many protests and resentment from the nationals. Local shops were demolished, Indian officials were put in jails, and British Officials were tried without Juries. These issues further paved the way for having Fundamental Rights to save the people from the injustice that was meted out to them. 
  • The Nehru Commission of 1928 discussed the need of having certain rights which were deemed fundamental. This commission in its report suggested the insertion of  a declaration of rights in the Constitution amongst other recommendations.  
  • Eventually, Fundamental Rights were incorporated in the first draft of the Constitution which was prepared by the Drafting Committee, whose chairman was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. After the first draft dated 21st February, 1948, Fundamental Rights were included in the second and third drafts as well and finally into the present Constitution.

Rights provided under Part III of the Indian Constitution

Right to Equality (Articles 14-18 of the Indian Constitution)

In India each person deserves the right to be treated equally before the law. To enable this basic right, the Constitution of India provides for different provisions contained in the intricacies of Article 14 to Article 18 of the Constitution. 

Equality before law

According to this provision, the State, ie., government cannot deny any person two main things: 

  • equality before the law; and
  • equal protection of the laws. 

This is applicable all over the territory of India, i.e., to state as well as central government. 

Prohibition of discrimination

Detrimental and prejudicial views about a person based on their gender, caste, sex, creed, race, etc gives rise to discrimination. Under Article 15 of the Constitution, the State needs to prohibit discrimination of all kinds. This includes access and use of public spaces. 

However, there are certain additional points of importance, which allow the State to make certain special powers for empowerment of women, children, and socially backward classes.

Access to equal opportunity

Equality does not only come into play while seeking remedies for justice. As per Article 16, each citizen of India also has an equal opportunity to be employed under any office of the State. With an exception that allows the government to make provisions for reservation, aimed at empowering the socially backward classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 

Abolition of Untouchability

Exploitive practices performed in the name of untouchability are banned completely under Article 17. Under this fundamental right, practice of untouchability amounts to a punishable offence. 

Abolition of Titles

To solve issues like inequality, the State bans any titles for people of India, with two exceptions for titles of military stations and academic achievements under Article 18. Moreover, all Indian citizens are also banned from taking any title, for example, a count or countess, from any international State.

Right to Freedom (Articles 19-22 of the Indian Constitution)

Articles 19 to 22 give citizens the right to live their lives with dignity. Some of the basic rights such as Freedom of Speech and Expression, Freedom to Form Associations, etc; are essential in maintaining human dignity. These rights are consciously introduced in the Constitution to provide freedom to individuals which were curtailed in the pre-independence era. 

Freedom of Speech

Article 19 allows the citizens of India to have certain important rights to live their lives with freedom to the best of their capabilities. 

These rights allow the citizens to enjoy the basic aspects of life, including rights such as the right to:

  1. Speak freely;
  2. Peaceful assembly;
  3. Form unions and associations;
  4. Free movement;
  5. Peaceful residence within the territory of India;
  6. Omitted: Right to property; and
  7. Practise any trade, profession or occupation that’s lawful. 

However, these rights come attached with certain reasonable restrictions from Article 19(2) to 19(6) ensuring a peaceful environment across the nation. 

Protection for convicts

All citizens have basic human rights and they should be protected. Hence, Article 20 provides protection to convicts. These protective measures provide the following rights:

  • no person can be convicted for the same offence twice; and
  • no accused can be forced to be a witness against their own self.

Protection of life

Article 21 provides the most basic right to live freely with  personal liberty. However, it also places an exception that the personal liberty is limited to the boundary of the procedures established by Law. 

Right to education

Inserted through the 86th amendment of the Constitution of India in 2002, Article 21A makes it mandatory for the State to provide free and compulsory education for all children between the age  of 6 to 14 years.

Protection from arrest and detention

As per Article 22, anyone who is going to be arrested has to be informed of the grounds of their arrest prior to the action. Moreover, as soon as they are arrested, they  must  be informed of the grounds as  well as their right to seek legal counsel of their own choice. Finally, the arrested or detained person also has the right to be presented to the Magistrate of appropriate jurisdiction within 24 hours of such arrest. 

Right against Exploitation (Articles 23-24 of the Indian Constitution)

Article 23 of the Constitution prohibits human trafficking and forced labour. This provision aims to eradicate issues like trafficking for humans for begging and other kinds of forceful labour.

Right against Exploitation as provided under Article 24 restricts the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous environments like factories and mines. 

Right to Freedom of Religion (Articles 25-28 of the Indian Constitution)

Freedom to practise religion 

Every person has a right to have a conscience, to practise, propagate, and profess their religion freely. Under Article 25 this right remains applicable as long as public morality, decency, health and other reasonable measures are not affected. 

Freedom to manage religious affairs

Again, subject to the reasonable considerations mentioned above, Article 26 also provides for the right to

  • establish and manage religious institutions;
  • manage personal religious affairs; and
  • own, hold, and administer religious property.

Freedom to attend and worship at religious institution

Under Article 28, educational institutions established by religious trusts can impart religious instructions. However, state funded schools aren’t allowed to do so. Moreover, if any religious instructions are passed, no person in such a school can be compelled to follow it. This promotes secularity and the freedom to practise religion. 

Cultural and Educational Rights (Articles 29-30 of the Indian Constitution)

All different communities living in India are allowed to protect and conserve their language, script and culture under Article 29. Moreover, in any state funded school, it is not allowed to bar the admission of a citizen only on the grounds of difference of religious belief or any other discriminatory factor.

Article 30 provides cultural minorities their right to establish educational institutions. Moreover, no discrimination against the funding of such institutions is allowed. 

Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32-35 of the Indian Constitution)

Remedies to enforce Fundamental Rights

Chapter III not only covers the Fundamental Rights, but also provides different remedies for enforcement of these  rights through Article 32. Any person whose rights are infringed retains the right to file a lawsuit before the Supreme Court of India. Moreover, it bestows upon the Supreme Court the power to issue writs in furtherance of such enforcement. 

Parliamentary power of modification

Under Article 33, the Parliament of India is entitled to a power to modify the application of the Fundamental Rights to certain sections of the society. This section majorly includes members of the armed forces. The idea behind this provision is to keep a track on their performance of the specific duties assigned to such persons. 

Restriction on Fundamental Rights 

When any person employed by the State or Union government does any act for the restoration of order in an area where martial law is in force, they can be indemnified by the Parliament under Article 34

Legislative power of the Parliament

Finally, Article 35 of the Constitution gives certain legislative powers exclusively to the Parliament to pass laws for furtherance of these rights and to prescribe punishments for offences related to infringement of Fundamental Rights. 

Significance of fundamental rights

These basic human rights are the reason why people of India can today live a life full of dignity and equal opportunities. There are a lot of reasons why the Fundamental Rights are different from the DPSP and a bit more important for individuals than  the other concepts under the Constitution. Let’s take a look at the different points of significance of Fundamental Rights: 

Individual Protection

After taking a glance at the Fundamental Rights, it’s evident that India is a citizen first country. As a result, anyone residing within the territories of our country can live independently, free of restrictions, as long as they maintain public order and morality. 

Promotes personal development

A democratic country will go as far as its citizens take it. With access to basic human rights like free preliminary education, right to live a healthy and secure life with privacy, the citizens of India can focus on personal development, reaching their full potential. 

Allows a Discrimination free life

With laws that prohibit discrimination based on all different aspects like religion, race, caste, creed, sex, etc. the people residing in India can live a liberating and self-sustaining life. The Fundamental Rights not only hold the state responsible for discrimination but also private individuals. This provides an overall protection to those who are vulnerable. 

Promotes democracy

As the largest democracy of the world, the Indian Constitution is framed to suit the developing needs of its people. The Fundamental Rights given under the Constitution hold the State responsible for its actions that infringe these basic human rights. This promotes democracy, allowing people to speak up whenever their rights are infringed.  

Ensures deliverance of justice

The right to seek remedies and enforce the basic rights, is also integral to the Fundamental Rights. While these rights are primary, the fact that these can be enforced gives it much more significance than the Directive Principles, which cannot be enforced. 

Acts as a check on the power of the State

The state is given certain powers to ensure effective and efficient governance of India. However, power without any limitations can create problems for the citizens. Resultantly, the Fundamental Rights puts a check on the actions of the state, ensuring that they are not misused arbitrarily. 

Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) are the principles or guidelines mentioned in Part IV of the Constitution. Directive Principles of State Policy of India have been adopted from the Irish Constitution, influenced by the Irish National Movement especially Irish Home Rule Movement of 1870. Articles 36-51 discuss various Directive Principles of State Policy. These Directive Principles of State Policy, unlike Fundamental Rights, are not enforceable in a court of law, but that does not undermine their importance. Despite not being enforceable, DPSPs are extremely important as they give certain guidelines to the State for carrying out effective governance. 

Directive Principles of State Policy are highly inspired by the concepts of social justice, foreign policy and economic welfare. The need for these principles in India stems from the fact that the people of the country were highly inspired by the independence of Ireland from the control of Britishers. The Indian people who were striving for independence looked up to the Irish Constitution and they wanted to adopt a similar model of governance, once the country achieved independence. Looking at the diversity and vastness of India, people felt the Irish Constitution should be emulated in India as well because it comprehensively tackled social and economic challenges. DPSPs look for the welfare of the citizens by providing them with good social and economic conditions.

Origin of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)

Various concepts of the Constitution of India have originated from different countries. It’s also applicable to the concept of DPSP. So, let’s take a look at how the directive principles of state policy were introduced in the World, gradually making their way to the Indian Constitution. 

  • The idea behind the concept of Directive Principles dates back to the 1780s through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of the French Revolution;
  • Later, in 1870, the Irish Home Rule Movement heavily influenced the inception of DPSPs in the Indian Constitution;
  • When the Nehru Commission was formed in 1928, there were some talks of introducing principles to make the state commit  to the defence of Fundamental Rights.
  • Then, in 1948, the United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights also paved a way to bring DPSPs in the Indian territory;
  • Lastly, when the Constituent Assembly of India was created to draft the Constitution, the concept of Directive Principles of State Policy was an integral part of all three drafts prepared in February, 1948, October, 1948, and Final Draft of 26th November, 1949. 

Significance of Directive Principles of State Policy

The DPSPs are propositions that can help the government function in a better way. It allows certain visionary guidelines on how the State should think and work while preparing its legal and regulatory policies. Here are the points of significance of the Directive Principles of State Policy.

Promotes welfare 

Directive Principles of State Policy strive to promote the social, and economic welfare of the individuals by securing social order. They work towards promoting the concepts of equality, liberty and justice which are enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution.

Transformation of the State

The DPSP are guiding principles that were aimed to transform the government from being a “police state” to a “welfare state”. 

Protective Instruments

Although DPSPs are not enforceable in a court of law, still they are instrumental in establishing the constitutional viability of a law. 

Categorization of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)

Articles 36-51 elucidate everything regarding the Directive Principles of State Policy. The essence of DPSPs is divided into the following core types:

Socialistic Principles

Socialistic principles are aimed at tackling complex social and economic issues and look to pave a model pathway toward a modern welfare state.

Social Order

Under Article 38 the aim is to secure a social order throughout the country by using tools of social, economic and political justice. Reducing income inequality, status imbalance, facilities and opportunities available, and other social issues are at the core of this directive principle.

Principles for Equality

Article 39 aims at securing adequate means of livelihood for the citizens by providing equitable material resources to everyone, and striving for equal work pay for both men and women. This DPSP is also beneficial in preventing the concentration of wealth and also looks for the healthy development of children, women, men and workers. Article 39A gives out guidelines for promoting equal justice and providing free legal aid to the poor.

Securing the right to work

Article 41 relates to the discussion regarding unemployment. The core value of this DPSP is to provide the right to work, right to education and right to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age and sickness. This can encourage the different governments to take steps within their capacity for the eradication of unemployment. 

Humane working conditions

Article 42 guides the State to make provisions regarding just and humane working conditions for workers. The Article extends such provisions for maternity relief as well.

Appropriate living wages

The directive principle under Article 43 also lays emphasis on the betterment of workers. Under this article, the State is guided to give a decent wage through which the workers can maintain a proper living standard. Moreover, it further enhances the need to provide social and cultural opportunities to workers. Article 43A seeks to increase the participation of workers in the management of various industries.

Gandhian Principles

Principles under this part of Directive Principles of State Policy are dedicated to the ‘Father of the Nation’, Mahatma Gandhi. The principles mentioned in this section are closely associated with Gandhian ideology that seeks a plan of reconstruction that Gandhiji had preached during the National Movement.

Village Panchayats

Under Article 40, village panchayats have been touted as a self-government authority under the Article. The DPSP preaches that village panchayats should be given some powers to function as independent authorities.

Promotion of Cottage Industry

As was popular in the Gandhian era, the concept of promoting cottage industry has been iterated under Article 43 of the Directive Principles of State Policy. It inspires the government  to promote individualistic and cooperative cottage industries in the rural areas within the territory of India. 

Formation of co-operative societies

Article 43B is all about promoting autonomous functioning, and professional management of cooperative societies.

Promoting interests of the weaker sections

Article 46 is dedicated to weaker sections of the society or rather communities that have been through various oppressions. Educational and economic interests of SC, STs and other weaker sections have been propagated under this directive principle of state policy. The State has been guided to ensure that there is no social injustice and exploitation against the weaker sections.

Improvement to public health

Under the guideline of Article 47, the State should work to prohibit the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are harmful to health.

Prohibition of animal slaughter

Slaughtering of cattle should be prohibited and work should be done for improving their breeds under Article 48.

Liberal Intellectual Principles

The ideology of liberalism has been reflected in the liberal intellectual principles.

Formation of a Uniform Civil Code

A much talked and deliberated directive principle of state policy is Article 44. Article 44 talks about Uniform Civil Code (UCC). Article 44 states that the State shall endeavour to secure a secure uniform civil code throughout the territory of India. Goa has often been referred to as a ‘shining example’ of the Uniform Civil Code, in fact, it is the only state in India that has UCC.

Early childhood care

Article 45 can be seen with reference to Article 21A. This particular DPSP states that the State should take measures to provide early childhood care and education to children until the completion of 6 years of age.

Promoting modern animal husbandry

According to this DPSP under Article 48, agriculture and animal husbandry shall be organised on the scientific lines. The state should ensure to take steps in this respect. Along with this, the government should also focus on healthy development and improvement of breeds of various cattles.

Improvement of environment

Through the provision under Article 48A, the Constitution inspires the state to safeguard and protect the environment, wildlife and forests of the country of India. 

Protection of monuments

Monuments, places and objects of historic and artistic importance should be protected to conserve the heritage of the country. The DPSP under Article 49 makes it the State’s obligation to protect such places and things of national interest and importance. This includes its maintenance and protection from disfigurement, etc. 

Separating the judiciary and executive

Article 50 is about the separation of the judiciary from the executive when it comes to the public service of the State.

Promotion of international peace

Under Article 51, international peace and security should be promoted; there should be an honourable relation between nations. International disputes should be settled by means of arbitration and there should be respect and obligation of international treaties.

Part of Constitution

Fundamental Rights are mentioned in Part III of the Constitution while Directive Principles of State Policy are mentioned in Part IV of the Constitution. Articles 12-35 refer to Fundamental Rights while Article 36-51 refers to Directive Principles of State Policy.

Definition

Fundamental Rights refer to the most basic human rights that a government must provide to the citizens of its country. These rights are primal to living a life free of fears of authoritarian acts by the State. 

Whereas, the directive principles of state policy provide certain positive tips to the government, which should be followed to achieve social and economic welfare in the country. 

Nature 

Fundamental Rights in its essence are negative in nature simply because they prohibit the State from taking any action which may violate the Fundamental Rights of the citizen. They are referred to as ‘negative’ because a claim made by an individual imposes a negative duty on all other people. For example: If the Right to Privacy is claimed by an individual, then it imposes a whole set of negative duties on all other individuals to not breach it.

Unlike Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy are positive in nature as it requires the State to do certain things as opposed to restricting State. For example, under DPSPs, the State has been suggested to enact a Uniform Civil Code throughout the country. This is positive in a sense as it allows the State to take certain actions.

Democracy type

Fundamental Rights ensure political democracy as they prevent the establishment of a despotic or an authoritarian government in the country and ensure that the liberties of people are protected from any invasion by the State.

Directive principles of state policy help in maintaining social and economic democracy as it ensures that the State shall maintain social order by promoting economic, social and political justice throughout the country.

Adaption Source

The Fundamental Rights of India have been adapted from the Constitution of the United States of America.

Directive Principles of State Policy have been highly inspired by the Irish Constitution. The independence of Ireland from the clutch of Britain highly motivated people to look up to the Irish Constitution for inspiration.

Consequences of violation

If the Fundamental Rights of an individual are violated, then it is considered to be a punishable offence because Fundamental Rights are enforceable by law. Upon violation, legal proceedings can be initiated and the person responsible for breach of a fundamental right is punished accordingly. .

Since Directive Principles of State Policy are not enforceable by law and are mere guidelines, their violation is not an offence and cannot be awarded punishment for their violation.

Touchstone for laws

If a law is passed by the Parliament, such that it tends to violate certain aspects of Fundamental Rights,  the Court in such cases can declare these kinds of laws or amendments as unconstitutional.

However, if a law or amendment made or initiated by the Parliament that does not adhere to the guidelines mentioned in DPSPs, the Court does not hold power to declare these laws as unconstitutional.

Individualistic or collective

Fundamental Rights are individualistic in nature as they are instrumental in preserving the rights and welfare of citizens in an individualistic manner. For example; if the right to freedom of speech of an individual is curbed; the Constitution ensures that the remedy is provided.

Directive Principles of State Policy are more collective in nature because DPSP focuses on promoting the welfare of the entire society or community of the country in a collective manner. For example, under DPSP; State has been suggested to employ village panchayats as a self-governing authority to look after the welfare of people in toto.

Suspension during Emergency

Fundamental Rights can be suspended only in case of Emergency under Article 359 of the Constitution by the President. However, Fundamental Rights which are mentioned in Articles 20 and 21 cannot be suspended even during an emergency.

Directive Principles of State Policy can never be suspended, even during an emergency.

Enforceability

To seek remedies for the disruption of these basic Fundamental Rights, it’s not necessary to have a separate Act or Law in place. For example, if your right to equality has been breached by someone, you can easily move to the Court and seek its remedy. Fundamental Rights are directly enforceable. 

On the other hand, the directive principles of state policy are not directly enforceable. These are just guiding stars for the government. If after taking inspiration from these policies, the State decides to enforce its applicability, they will have to pass a separate legislature through the Parliament for that purpose. 

Purpose

The purpose of having Fundamental Rights is to protect the individual citizens from the harmful actions of the State. 

Whereas, the purpose of the DPSPs is to provide a gateway through which the State can easily create an environment that promotes and prospers equality, welfare and development of the community.

Applicability

The Fundamental Rights are majorly applicable to all the citizens for actions that happen within the territory of India. 

However, the DPSPs are applicable mostly to the State to achieve a good and moral social order with welfare of the weaker sections, and equality for all. 

Understanding these key points of differences between the Fundamental Rights and the directive principles of state policy can be made much easier with this table: 

Basis of Difference Fundamental Rights (FRs) Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)
Definition FRs are liberties that fulfil the basic human needs for the citizens of India. DPSPs are mere recommendations by the Constitution that the State should apply in formation and modification of the legislative reforms. 
Articles in Constitution Articles 12 to 35 in Part III of the Constitution cover these civil liberties.  Articles 36 to 51 in Part IV cover the guiding principles of DPSP.
Nature Fundamental Rights have a negative implication on the State to restrain from certain activities such as untouchability and discrimination. It imposes a duty on the state and private individuals to respect the rights of other citizens.  Directive principles of state policy positively impact the union and state government  to take certain measures in their policies that promote welfare and create a social economic balance. 
Applicability The FRs have an individual applicability, which means, it protects the rights of private individuals. The DPSPs have a community approach. The principles aim at the betterment of the society as a whole.
Enforcement The Fundamental Rights can easily be invoked by moving to the court and establishing the fact that your rights have been infringed.   Directive Principles are not enforceable in the Court of law as they are not binding. 
Conception The concept was inspired from the provisions of the Constitution of  America. It was taken from the Constitution of Ireland. 
Type of Democracy FRs promote political democracy by giving a chance to protect individuals from the State. DPSPs promote social and economic democracy as it talks about principles of equality, health, education, environmental and cultural protection.
Purpose The purpose of   Fundamental Rights is to  protect the citizens of India from the harmful actions of others and the state. The purpose of DPSP is to provide a guiding path to the government, which can be implemented in new legislative policies. 
Legal Aspect For the enforcement of these rights, no separate legislation is required. You can only enforce the DPSPs if the government has passed any legislation on it, making it binding in nature. 
Consequences of Breach When a fundamental right is infringed, the offence is punishable by the law. Since these are only guiding principles, they cannot be breached. Hence, no consequences. However, if any  DPSP is made enforceable through a separate legislation, and a breach occurs, the act will be punishable on the basis of that specific law. 
Suspension When an emergency is invoked in the State, all Fundamental Rights except Article 20 and 21 can be suspended by the government. The DPSPs cannot be suspended or revoked in any case. Not even in an emergency state. 

State of Madras v. Srimathi Champakam Dorairajan (1951)

In this landmark case, a young Brahmin filed a suit in the Madras High Court under Article 226, alleging the breach of her fundamental right to admission to a college, the Apex Court ruled that while Fundamental Rights are enforceable, Directive Principles of State Policy is not enforceable. Therefore, Fundamental Rights will prevail over DPSP. Further, it was added that DPSP would run as a subsidiary to Fundamental Rights. Leading to the first ever amendment of the Constitution of India, it was decided that order of government based on caste, religion, and race was a straight up violation of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 29(2). Thus, the petition was dismissed.  

Re: The Kerala Education Bill (1958)

Doctrine of Harmonious Construction was propounded in this case in order to avoid conflict between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. It started with a reference petition by the President of India to check the constitutional validity of certain provisions of Kerala Education Bill, 1957. These provisions were found to be discriminatory while giving the State excessive power and control to manage all education institutions. The Supreme Court held that when there is only one interpretation of the law then one with Fundamental Rights should be considered over DPSPs but if there are two interpretations of a law then one which validates the law should be considered.

I. C. Golaknath & Ors v. State Of Punjab & Anrs. (1967)

In this case, due to a local tenancy legislation of the Punjab government in 1953, a family was ordered to forgo their excess land to tenants. Aggrieved, the party challenged this on the grounds in this case that it obstructed their then valid right to property (Article 19(1)(f)), and their fundamental right to carry profession (Article 19(1)(g)), and equal protection (Article 14). This became an issue for the family because under Article 31 (b),  the government was allowed to pass such an Act without it being questioned judicially – as it was listed in the 9th Schedule. Hence, the main issue that was raised before the court was whether or not the Parliament held absolute powers to amend the Fundamental Rights given to us by the Constitution. Taking a look at the practices followed by the Parliament, the majority view was that Fundamental Rights were integral to protect a truly democratic India. Hence, it was held by the Supreme Court that the Parliament could not surpass the Fundamental Rights to give effect to the directive principles of state policy. 

Kesavananda Bharati vs. the State of Kerala (1973)

In this case, when the validity of (now repealed) Article 31C was put in question, the Supreme Court held the second part of it as invalid. Article 31C saves certain laws that are passed for the enforcement of directive principles, from being questioned. When this issue came before the Supreme Court, it was held that the part of this Article was invalid. It was the part that did not allow the laws passed by the Parliament to be questioned on the grounds that they were not giving effect to the DPSP. However, later on through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment, in 1976, the scope of this Article was expanded to include all different Directive Principles of State Policy. It was held that the Parliament could not make changes to the basic structure of the Constitution. Moreover, it was also pointed out that Fundamental Rights are an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

Pathumma v. State of Kerala (1978)

The purpose of DPSP was highlighted in this case and it was stated that DPSP plays an important role in fixing socio-economic goals. In this case, a creditor obtained a mortgage decree over an agriculturist debtor. Due to his inability to pay, his land was taken away by the court. Then, in an auction, a third party bought this land. Now, the agriculturist felt his land was taken away wrongfully. In this case, several such petitioners had filed arguing against the validity of such ownership of land, and claiming their violation of Right to Property. The combination of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy should be maintained, as has been declared in this judgment.The appeals were dismissed on the grounds that the State had tried to bring a social reform in a non-violative way through the Act. Moreover, the Court also emphasised that the purpose of DPSPs is to fix certain socio-economic goals for quick attainment of the weaker sections.

Minerva Mills v. Union of India (1980)

Within a few years of the 42nd Amendment, in 1980, when the case of Minerva Mills was presented, the Supreme Court held 2 provisions of the amendment as invalid and unconstitutional because they did not allow the constitutional amendments to be called in question for validity before the court. The facts of this case go back to the issues of nationalisation being included in the 9th schedule of the Constitution. After this, an order was passed by the government to take over control of the Mills through an order. This petition challenged  the validity of the Nationalisation Act 1974, the government order and the primacy of DPSP over FRs. According to this decision, the foundation of the Indian Constitution was in creating a balance between Fundamental Rights and the DPSPs. Moreover, this judgement also makes it clear that the Directive Principles cannot be achieved by nullifying the FRs. 

Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union  of India (2008)

The Apex Court in this case held that both Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy go hand in hand. Fundamental Rights deal with political and civil rights whereas DPSP deals with social and economic rights. The facts are that post the 93rd Constitutional Amendment Act 2005, many people were facing admission issues due to the high quota for reservation 27% of total numbers granted through the Central Educational Institutions Act 2006. The petitioner’s contention was that this action of the state violated the basic structure doctrine. The Court judged that the non-enforceability of DPSP does not make it subordinate to Fundamental Rights. 

The above-mentioned cases are some of the most infamous instances where there was a relation between Fundamental Rights and directive principles of state policy. However, this sparks an important question in mind. What exactly leads to the conflict between Fundamental Rights and DPSPs, and in case of conflict, which prevails. Let’s see if we can figure it out. 

There are two major reasons due to which a conflict between Fundamental Rights and DPSPs might arise:

Nature of both concepts

Fundamental Rights are designed to protect the individual’s rights to life and freedom. However, the directive principles are framed to promote the welfare of our country and its people as a whole. It tends to protect the community interests. As a result of this core difference between the Fundamental Rights and directive principles of state policy, the chances of conflict increase when the state tries to pass a law that protects larger interests, but may in turn violate individual Fundamental Rights. 

Justiciability

Another point that raises a scope of conflict is the fact that Fundamental Rights are enforceable while the directive principles aren’t. As you can see from the trail of judgments above, it is quite a pertinent issue. Thus, the justiciability factor also leads to an increase in conflicts. Especially if the parliament has passed an Act giving effect to a DPSP and that provision conflicts with a fundamental right. 

Example of Conflict

Let’s take the simple example of reservation. It is an action that is in furtherance of the directive principles that promote equal employment opportunity and protection of the interests of the socially backward classes. However, reservation may also hamper the Fundamental Right of the other private individual. Though neither action is unlawful, it creates an instant of conflict between the Fundamental Rights and directive principles of state policy.  

What Prevails 

In all the different judgments that have been passed till date, a similar view has been opined. Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of  state  policy  are both equally important, but in any situation, if there is a conflict between the two, usually the fundamental right prevails over the DPSPs. Moreover,  for a democracy like India to truly succeed and live by its Constitution, it has always been advised by the courts to create a balance and harmony  between the two integral concepts. 

The current chain of precedence based on the chain of judgments passed until the Minerva Mills case is that : 

  • Fundamental Rights prevail over Directive Principles of State Policy; and
  • Articles 39(b) and 39(c) prevail over Articles 14 and 19. 

Relevant doctrine

The doctrine of harmonious construction comes into play while looking at the relationship between Fundamental Rights and DPSPs. According to this doctrine, any law must not be looked at with an isolated standpoint. Moreover, if there are any situations of clashes between two different laws, a harmony must be created to reach a proper decision. 

Hence, whenever there is a contradiction in the provisions of two different sets of laws, instead of invalidating one, both should be construed and interpreted in a harmonious manner, so as to maintain the validity of all aspects of law. 

With all this being said, the two key features of doctrine of harmonious relationship, that comes into play while deciding matters of conflict between Fundamental Rights and directive principles of state policy are:

It builds harmony and balance

When this doctrine is followed, a harmonious interpretation of two different laws can be made. Such an action further creates a balance between the socio – economical and political interests of the public. 

It protects legislative intent

Each law is passed with an intent to obtain one or the other way of security or protection. When two different laws contradict, it is not necessary that one of them has to be completely invalidated. A harmonious interpretation of the two can absolutely save the intention with which the laws in question were framed. 

If we look at Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy, both have been extremely instrumental in the governance of the country ever since the independence of India. The concept of Fundamental Right in the United States of America and Directive Principles from the Constitution of Ireland has been borrowed in true essence. Both have served well in the governance of the country but when we compare both of them hand in hand Directive Principles of State Policy falls short in comparison to Fundamental Rights, majorly due to its unenforceability.

While Fundamental Right is more objective and has more imposing value, Directive Principles of State Policy in some ways are subjective because it is a kind of moral obligation which the State may or may not implement up to their discretion. Fundamental Rights are aimed at empowering people as it prohibits the State from taking extreme steps which is necessary for a democracy to survive. On the other hand, Directive Principles of State Policy empowers the State to take action for the welfare of the country which is needed because India is a vast country and it is extremely pertinent to maintain social, economic and political justice throughout the country. Despite differences, both cannot be seen as exclusive from each other; rather they should complement each other for effective governance of the country.

Under which part of the Constitution, Fundamental Rights are mentioned?

Fundamental Rights are mentioned under Part III of the Constitution of India.

Which part of the Constitution deals with Directive Principles of State Policy?

Directive Principles of State Policy are mentioned under Part IV of the Constitution of India.

From which country’s Constitution, Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy have been borrowed?

Fundamental Rights are borrowed from the Constitution of the USA, while Directive Principles of State Policy have been borrowed from the Irish Constitution.

What are the six types of Fundamental Rights mentioned in part III of the Constitution?

1. Right to Equality. 2. Right to Freedom. 3. Right against Exploitation. 4. Right to Freedom of Religion. 5. Cultural and Educational Rights. 6. Right to Constitutional Remedies.

Are Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy enforceable?

Fundamental Rights are enforceable but Directive Principles of State Policy are not enforceable.

Why are Fundamental Rights important?

Fundamental Rights are important because they protect the freedom and liberties of citizens against the State.

What is the role of Directive Principles of State Policy?

Directive Principles of State Policy provide guidelines to the State for effective governance of the country.

What is Uniform Civil Code?

Uniform Civil Code calls for the formulation and implementation of personal laws which would be followed by all the religious communities. 



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