Fundamental Duties in India

To the grumbler all duties are distasteful; nothing will ever satisfy him, and his whole life is doomed to prove a failure. Let us work on, doing as we go whatever happens to be our duty, and being ever ready to put our shoulders to the wheel. Then surely shall we see the light.

~Swami Vivekananda 

INTRODUCTION

The foundation on which the functional component of our or any legal system depends is the reciprocity of rights and obligations, and the resultant rectification of the harm done by non-observance of duty. Aside from that, law has relatively little impact on society. Law has the credibility of a great social leveller because of the proper distinction between rights and duties.

Law is a great social leveller, or at least it strives to be, among other vital things it does. It serves as a counterbalance in society. In a strict sense, its role is confined to resolving opposing societal interests. It may have other functions, but in the end, these activities are nothing more than a means of helping law in doing its primary function, which is to maintain societal equilibrium.

The framers of our Constitution placed a significant burden on the state to guarantee rights and establish appropriate conditions for citizens to enjoy them. To balance out the State’s commitments to citizens, the Constitution has now established Fundamental Duties, which are citizens’ obligations to their country. Fundamental duties are defined in Article 51 A of the Indian Constitution, and they are detailed in clauses (a) to (k). In fact, all of the fundamental obligations are so extensive that if citizens follow them, there will be no need to refer to Parts III and IV of the Indian Constitution, which deal with fundamental rights and state policy direction principles.

The reason for the same is very simple as performance of duties by the citizens will automatically result in such an orderly administration that there will be no breach of fundamental rights and on the other hand directive principles of the state policy will be realized effortlessly.[1] Duty is the wellspring of right. If we all do our jobs, we won’t have to look far for rights. If we run after rights while leaving duties undone, they will elude us like a will-o’-the-wisp, and the more we follow them, the further they will fly.

INTRODUCTION OF FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES IN INDIAN CONSTITUTION

Even though the traditions and temper of Indian philosophy throughout the ages placed a larger focus on obligations, there were no provisions in the Indian Constitution laying down individual duties until 1976. Till then the necessity of duties were not felt as they were taken for granted because all those who had fought for independence had reached a level of maturity where they observed and carried out their responsibilities without any prompting from anyone. It was possibly felt that it was an Indian’s responsibility to do his duties selflessly, and that the state had no need to instruct him on the subject.

The Indian Constitution already comprised of a chapter on citizens’ and people’ rights, and the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution included a new chapter on fundamental obligations in 1976 to adequately supplement it. Fundamental duties have frequently been referenced in a number of Supreme Court and High Court rulings, despite the fact that they are non-executive in character.

  • Swaran Singh Committee

The Swaran Singh Committee issued their report in 1976, at a period of political unrest in India. The primary concept behind including the obligations was to involve citizens in day-to-day government activities so that they do not feel isolated in a democratic country like India, hence fostering a sense of collective responsibility.

A chapter on fundamental duties was inserted into the Constitution about a quarter century after the people of India had given the Constitution to themselves. The Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976, added Part IV-A, which deals with citizens’ fundamental duties, in response to the Swaran Singh Committee’s recommendations. The Committee also advised that citizens will face penalties if they fail to carry out their responsibilities. However, the same advice was eventually withdrawn. As a result, the Indian Constitution was brought into compliance with Article 29(1) of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

After the Forty-second Amendment Act, which introduced Part IV-A, the judiciary’s responsibilities grew significantly, and a new sort of judicial statesmanship was required to interpret the Constitution in such a way that the fundamental tasks in Indian policy were given a meaningful place.

  • Justice Verma Committee

In 1998, the Justice Verma Committee was formed to devise a strategy and technique for implementing a worldwide programme to make fundamental duties enforceable in all types of educational institutions and to teach these duties in every school. The committee took this action because it was clear that the Fundamental Duties were not operationalized. The committee discovered that the lack of operationalization was due to a lack of execution plan rather than a lack of concern.

The committee provided with the provisions like:[2]

  1. Under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1971, no one can insult the Indian flag, Constitution, or National Anthem.
  2. Various criminal laws have been enacted to punish those who promote hatred between people based on race, religion, language, or other factors.
  3.  The Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1955 established penalties for any offence involving caste or religion.
  4. Under numerous articles of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, imputations and claims that are harmful to the nation’s integrity and unity are deemed penal offences.
  5. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 was enacted to prevent a communal organisation from being declared an unlawful association.
  6. Under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, members of Parliament or state legislatures who engage in corrupt practises such as soliciting votes in the name of religion will be held accountable.
  7.  In the case of rare and endangered animals, the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 protects and prohibits commerce.
  8. To ensure that Article 51A(g) was effectively enforced, the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 was enacted.

RELEVANT CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS

Article 51A of the Indian Constitution defined the Fundamental Duties:

  1. to respect the National Flag and the National Anthem;

Every Indian citizen has a basic responsibility to uphold the Constitution and respect its principles and institutions, as well as the National Flag and Anthem. We should all uphold the Constitution’s dignity by abstaining from any behavior that violates the word or spirit of the law.

The above clause also came up for consideration before Supreme Court in Bijoe Emmanuel and others v State of Kerala & Ors.[3] known as ‘National Anthem Case’. The Supreme Court stated that every citizen has a responsibility to uphold the Constitution and revere its principles and institutions, as well as the National Flag and the National Anthem.

  • to cherish and follow the noble ideals;

The clause states that Indian citizens must respect and uphold the noble principles that motivated the country’s independence war. People are joined by a bond of love and a sense of brotherhood, not just in the physical sense that everyone gets their fair portion, but also in every sector of life, be it social, economic, or political. The motto of our freedom fighters was “service before self.” So many of them were well aware that what they were doing would result in disaster in their established lives.

  •  to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;

All Indian citizens have a responsibility to protect India’s sovereignty, unity, and integrity. In any democracy, the people bear the duty for sovereignty. Every citizen has a primary responsibility to defend his country. The nation ceases to exist if the country’s freedom and unity are compromised.

  •  to defend the country;

Similar provision is also contained in Article 23(2) where the state has been empowered to impose compulsory service for public interests without making any discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, or class, or any combination of these factors.

  •  to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood;

In the current situation, where disharmony and discard are hurting our country, it is all the more important to cultivate harmony and a spirit of common brotherhood among all Indians.  Article 51-A(e) further reminds us of our duty to renounce practice derogatory to the dignity of women.

  •  to value and preserve the rich heritage;

Another basic responsibility of all citizens is to protect and preserve the country’s rich and noble legacy. We must value and cherish what our forefathers and foremothers shaped and bequeathed to us as emblems of their creative brilliance and triumphs. Ours is one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Our contributions to the fields of art, sculpture, architecture, mathematics, science, medicine, and other fields are well known.

  •  to protect and improve the natural environment;

Every citizen has a responsibility to maintain and improve the natural environment, which includes forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife. For our survival, these natural components provide us with air, food, and medicine. Today, environmental preservation is a national and international priority; ecological imbalance poses a threat to humanity as a whole. The delicate balance between man and his environment has been endangered by technological advancements. Various High Courts and Supreme Court judgments have also emphasised environmental conservation and instructed the competent government to curb indiscriminate natural resource development.

The Gujarat High Court in Abhilesh Textiles v. Rajkot Municipal Corporation[4] had in fact enforced the fundamental duties of protection of environment as provided in Article 51-A(g). In the case, the petitioners who were owners of manufacturers were called upon by the Municipal authorities not to dump their tainted water on public areas within specific period failing which their factories would be closed.

The petitioners have challenged the notice on the claiming that it was issued in breach of principles of natural justice and the closure of industries will negatively affect them. The Gujarat High Court, in dismissing the case, stated that releasing affluent water on public spaces contaminates the entire community. In no case may the petitioners claim an unrestricted right to operate his business. Every right, according to the Court, must be limited by fundamental obligations. To claim freedom, one has to incur certain obligations in the form of duties enlisted in the Constitution.

  •  to develop the scientific temper;

We are required by the Constitution to have a scientific temperament, humanism, and a spirit of inquiry and reform. Why should a citizen have a scientific temperament, one could wonder? Answering the question is not difficult. A scientist’s thinking is inquisitive and probing. By using reasonable and systematic thought, he discovers the mystery of nature. If our countrymen want to solve the challenges that have engulfed our country, they must have a scientific mindset. But the problem does not rest there; in order to achieve the intended result, we as citizens must possess humanistic values as well as a spirit of inquiry and reform.

  1. to safeguard public property;

It is our sacred duty to avoid harming or destroying public property that belongs to everyone. It is funded by the citizens’ taxes. It is a highly uncivilised deed to do damage to things as a form of protest or amusement. As a result, it is our most important responsibility to protect public property and locations as if they were our own.

  •  to strive towards excellence;

The nature and growth of a society are determined by the characteristics of its members. Our individual and collective greatness contributes to raising the general standard and quality of life. Whatever task we do is vital, and we should strive for greatness in our fields by working hard.

  • to provide for education to his child;

This section outlines the duty of parents in teaching their children so that when they grow up, they would be valuable assets to the nation, with highly developed intellects and a keen awareness of their surroundings.

ENORCEABILITY OF FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES

In the case of Vijay Mehta v. State of Rajasthan[5] the single Judge of the Rajasthan High Court opined that Fundamental Duties enumerated in the Constitution are not enforceable by law. In that case, the petitioner, a member of a political party, had filed a petition under Article 226 seeking the appointment of a Commission of Enquiry into “Flood in certain places in the State, damage caused by floods in certain places in the State, damage caused by flood waters, and steps to be taken to prevent recurrence of flood” by the respondent, the State. The Court stated that the appropriate government has no statutory obligation to the petitioner. The fundamental duties stated in Clauses (g), I and (j) of Article 51-A of the Constitution, as well as any other clause in the Constitution, are not enforceable by law.

Unlike several Fundamental Rights, such as Articles 14 and 21, which apply to all people, which is applicable to both citizens and non-citizens, Article 51A exclusively applies to Indian nationals.

Some of the foregoing responsibilities are already enforced by conventional law; for example, there are laws that make any behaviour that threatens India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity unlawful and punishable.

In terms of the enforcement of these duties, it has been decided that because they are personal duties, they cannot be enforced through mandamus because they do not cast any public obligations.[6]

According to the High Court, the Constitution of India requires Indian citizens to respect the obligations outlined in Art. 51 A.[7] 

The scope of the Article was further extended in Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India[8] by Bhandari, J who said “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.”

Article 51A(a) makes it a duty for Indian citizens to honour the national anthem. However, no law has been passed requiring anyone to perform the national anthem. When the National Anthem is sung, a person shows no disrespect to the National Anthem by standing politely but without singing along.[9]

LANDMARK CASES

Although the judiciary initially refrained from enforcing these duties, the recent trend in judicial decisions indicates that the judiciary is now vigorously enforcing these obligations. The interpretations made by the Supreme Court and different High Courts are not in line with the main purpose for which these duties were introduced, especially for dealng with anti-national activities in the country, as can be seen by examining the case laws of the Supreme Court and different High Courts. Rather, the judiciary is trying to enforce these duties in a way so that the fundamental rights of others are infringed.

  • Chandra Bhawan Boarding v. State of Mysore[10]

In this case, 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.”

  • A.I.I.M.S. Student’s Union v. A.I.I.M.S[11]

In this case Supreme Court held that, although the fundamental duties are not enforceable by a writ of court, they provide significant direction and aid in the interpretation and settlement of constitutional and legal difficulties. In the event of a dispute, the wishes of the people, as represented in Article 51-A, can be used as a guide not only for settling the issue but also for constructing or moulding the remedy to be granted by the courts. As anticipated by the Forty-second Amendment’s enactment, the fundamental duties must be given their full meaning.

  • Mohan Kumar Singhania v. Union of India[12]

In this case, the Supreme Court upheld a government decision to prioritise the training of Indian Administrative Service selectees by citing Article 51-A I of the Constitution, which stated that the government’s decision was consistent with one of the fundamental duties.

  • Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of Uttar Pradesh[13]

A complete prohibition and closure of mining operations in the Mussoorie hills was declared to be sustainable in this case, based on the fundamental obligation inherent in Article 51-A (g) of the Constitution. The court held that environmental preservation and maintaining the ecological balance is a job that not only the government but also every citizen must perform. It is both the state’s and individuals’ social responsibility.

  • M.C. Mehta v Union of India[14]
  • It is mandatory for all educational institutions to hold a weekly teaching lesson on environmental conservation and enhancement for at least one hour.
  • Article 51-A (g) of the Constitution requires the Central Government to teach this lesson in all educational institutions.
  • The central government should likewise distribute free books on the same subject throughout the country.
  • The government should have a “keep the city clean” week at least once a year to raise public awareness about the need of maintaining a clean environment.

CONCLUSION

Fundamental duties are an important part of a democratic state because they remind citizens of their responsibilities to the nation while simultaneously allowing them to enjoy their rights. The word “fundamental” is connected to the duties, which makes them extremely important and necessitates that they be followed by everyone.

There are a variety of factors that slow down the completion of tasks. These issues, which include a lack of values, education, poverty, and corruption, must be addressed on a war footing. People’s social attitudes must be modified in order to achieve this. Parents, teachers, civil servants, professionals, and anyone involved in the administration of justice must serve as role models for the public in order for them to understand and acquire the concept of duty. The fundamental duties provided in the constitution are not enforceable by law but they are to be made enforceable by the citizens themselves.[15] It provides a sense of social responsibility among the citizens.


[1] DEEKSHA SETHI. FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES UNDER THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA: THEIR ROLE AND IMPORTANCE, National Law University Delhi (India) 2019, http://14.139.58.147:8080/jspui/bitstream/123456789/301/1/34LLM18.pdf

[2] Diganth Raj Singhal, Fundamental Duties. Ipleaders, Jul 31, 2019, https://blog.ipleaders.in/fundamental-duties-2/#Justice_Verma_committee

[3] Bijoe Emmanuel and others v State of Kerala & Ors, AIR 1986 Ker 32.

[4] Abhilesh Textiles v. Rajkot Municipal Corporation (05.08.1987 – GUJHC).

[5] Vijay Mehta v. State of Rajasthan, (2012) ILR 2 (RAJ) 422.

[6] Surya Narain v. Union of India, AIR 1982 Raj 1, 7.

[7] K.R.K. Vara Prasad v. Union of India  AIR 1980 AP 243.

[8] Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India (2008) 6 SCC 1.

[9] Bijoe Emmanual v. State of Kerala, AIR 1987 SC 748 : (1986) 3 SCC 615

[10] Chandra Bhawan Boarding v. State of Mysore AIR 1970 Sc 2042

[11] AIIMS Students Union vs, AIIMS,  (2002) 1 SCC 428

[12] Mohan Kumar Singhania v. Union of India AIR 1992 SC 1

[13] Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1985) 2 SCC 431

[14] M.C Mehta (2) vs. Union of India, 1998

[15] Fundamental Duties under the Indian Constitution By Krishnendra Joshi available at: https://blog.ipleaders.in/fundamental-duties/


Author: Shubhashish Roy from ICFAI, Dehradun.


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