Relevance of fundamental duties in constitutional law

For duty, duty must be done; the rule applies to everyone.


The concept of duty is not a new one, especially, when it comes to Indian society. Since time immemorial there has been a stress on performing one’s “kartavya“, an obligation recognised and effected by law, to conform to a particular standard of conduct towards the society, parents and the country. However, no such duties for the citizens were incorporated in the original Constitution of India at the time of its commencement in 1950, but it was only by way of the Forty-Second Constitutional Amendment that a new pattern of national conduct was introduced in accordance with the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee, injecting the fundamental duties into the Constitution of India. From a myopic view, these duties, broadly, require the citizens to respect the ideals of the Constitution and the institutions it establishes, to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India professing different religions, speaking different languages, practicing different customs and inhabiting different parts of the country and to safeguard the public property and to abjure violence. The duties described here, embody some of the highest ideals preached by our great saints, philosophers, social reformers and political leaders. In other words, these duties are somewhat like a prayer and a pledge in the forum of his conscience. Since, the approach of the Article as it stands today is not to criminalize or to intimidate the citizen, but to remind him of his basic duties, its strength lies not in its enforceability by the police and the courts of law, but in its appeal to the nature of man in respect of his conduct as an Indian citizen.

Even then, the fundamental duties are vital in their own way, as they may be used as a tool of judicial interpretation of statutes. In this regard, the apex Court has at multiple stances, interpreted the provisions of the Indian Constitution in the light of the fundamental duties adumbrated in Part IVA.[1] Furthermore, the Courts may also issue directions to the States, in view of giving effect to and deriving support from the Fundamental Duties, as was done in M.C. Mehta case, where under Article 51-A, the Central government was obliged to introduce compulsory teaching of lessons on protection and improvement of environment in all the educational institutions across the country.

Hence, the ‘relevance and importance’ concern is substantially addressed and settled by the Supreme Court, where it has been made clear that fundamental duties, though not enforceable by a writ of the court, provide valuable guidance and aid to interpretation and resolution of constitutional and legal issues in case of any doubt.

However, the question of implementation of Fundamental Duties has been smouldering since their inception as it is not the individual so much as the society, which is affected by the non-observation of the same. This is because, identification of violation of duties by individuals is difficult and enforcement even more difficult in practice, simply because who is going to identify and take note of such violation by various individuals. In this direction, nevertheless, some of the fundamental duties enshrined in article 51A have been incorporated in separate laws and statutes; they should, the author believes, be mandatorily discharged by all who enjoy the corresponding Fundamental Rights under Part III of the Constitution of India. Further, a comprehensive list of fundamental duties, including ones like duty to cast vote after attaining majority, duty not to indulge in corruption, duty to respect humanity and human values, etc should be prepared and be included and added in the Constitution of India. Last but not the least adequate steps should be taken to sensitise the people and spread general awareness among them relating to fundamental duties.

Therefore it can be clearly derived that duties are not self-executing and therefore just as person with an injured leg needs a shoulder to walk similarly fundamental duties need the support of the State for its proper implementation by enacting laws for the same. Hence, even if the fundamental duties have no sanction attached, the citizen must introspect and endeavour to perform these duties and the sanction should be self-imposed.

[1] Javed v. State of Haryana, (2003) 8 SCC 369



Yuvina Goyal


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