Originally, the constitution of India did not contain any list of fundamental duties. In other words, enjoyment of fundamental rights was not conditional on the performance of fundamental duties.
The Fundamental Rights, the Directive Principles of the State Policy and the Fundamental Duties are sections of the Constitution of India that prescribe the fundamental obligations of the State to its citizens and the duties of the citizens to the State. These sections comprise a constitutional bill of rights for government policy-making and the behaviour and conduct of the citizens. These sections are considered vital elements of the constitution, which was developed between 1947 and 1949 by the Constituent Assembly of India.
The Fundamental Rights are defined as the basic human rights of all citizens. These rights, defined in Part III of the Constitution, apply irrespective of race, place of birth, religion, caste, creed, or gender. They are enforceable by the courts, subject to specific restrictions. The Directive Principles of State Policy are guidelines for the framing of laws by the government. These provisions, set out in Part IV of the Constitution, are not enforceable by the courts, but the principles on which they are based are fundamental guidelines for governance that the State is expected to apply in framing and passing laws.
The Fundamental Duties are defined as the moral obligations of all citizens to help promote a spirit of patriotism and to uphold the unity of India. These duties, set out in Part IV–A of the Constitution, concern individuals and the nation. Like the Directive Principles, they are not enforceable by the law.
Democratic rights are based on the theory that rights are not created by the state. Individuals are born with right. It is on this theory that the Indians before independence raised the slogan that “freedom is our birth right.”
The socialists on the other hand, make enjoyment or rights conditional on the fulfillment of duties. They claim that “he who does not work, neither shall he eat.” The constitution of the world’s first socialist country, that of Soviet Union contains a list of fundamental rights immediately followed by a list of fundamental duties. It is clearly asserted that the enjoyment of fundamental rights is conditional on the satisfactory performance of fundamental duties.
It was on this Soviet model that fundamental duties were added to the Indian Constitution by 42nd amendment of the constitution in 1976. The fundamental duties are contained in Article 51A.
Swarn Singh Committee Report
The committee on constitutional amendments by the President of the Indian National Congress, popularly known as the Swaran Singh committee from the name of the chairman, reportedly felt that a chapter on fundamental duties for the citizen should be included along with the existing fundamental rights in the constitution.
The reasoning behind this thought was fairly clear. Most people had tried to take maximum advantage of the fundamental rights while forgetting that they owe something to the community in return. And, the constitutions of a number of countries have a chapter on fundamental duties.
The Swaran Singh committee, presumably after scrutiny of some of these constitutions, formulated an eight-point code of fundamental duties. The points were:
- To respect and abide by the constitution and the laws,
- To uphold the sovereignty of the nation and function in such a way as to sustain and strengthen its unity and integrity,
- To respect the democratic institutions enshrined in the constitution and not do anything which may impair their dignity or authority,
- Defend the country and render national service, including military service, when called upon to do so,
- Adjure communalism in any form,
- Render assistance and cooperation in the implementation of the directive principles of state policy, and promote the common good of the people, so as to subserve the interest of social and economic justice,
- Abjure violence, protect and safeguard public property, and refrain from doing anything which may cause damage and destruction to such property,
- Pay taxes according to law.
The committee further recommended that a new directive be included in Article 39 to provide that the state shall direct its policy also to secure population control, through family planning or other suitable measures.
It proposed that parliament may, by law, provide for the imposition of such penalty or punishment as may be considered appropriate for any noncompliance with, or refusal to, observe any of these duties.
To safeguard the fundamental duties from being challenged in any court of law, the committee suggested the inclusion of an explicit provision that “no law imposing such penalty shall be called in question in any court on the ground of infringement of any of the fundamental rights or on the ground of repugnancy to any other provisions of the constitution.”
The overall purpose of these proposals was to make the citizen responsible for the administration of the state.