The Essence Of Fundamental Duties

Introduction:

Ten Fundamental Duties of the citizens are incorporated in Article 51A, Part IV-A of the Constitution of India. It was inserted by the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 and there was large number of changes brought during the Emergency. Soon after the emergency ended and a new Government assumed office in 1977 and the whole position was reviewed by the Parliament. In most of the cases, pre-emergency position was restored. Article 51A was one that emerged unscathed because it was considered by all parties to be a unexceptionable charter of principles which citizens could usefully absorb and practice. The concept has been borrowed from USSR (Now Russia).

Originally ten fundamental duties were listed. Later on, by virtue of 86th amendment to the Constitution of India in year 2002, 11th duty was added.

Background:

The Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November, 1949 and became effective on 26 January, 1950. When the Constitution was adopted, there was no provisions regarding Fundamental Duties to the citizens thought there was provisions for Fundamental Rights under Part III. Upon the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee which was appointed by the President of Indian National Congress, The Fundamental Duties of citizens were added to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment in 1976.

The Swaran Singh Committee suggested that steps required to be taken to ensure that the people did not overlook their duties while in exercise of their Fundamental Rights. The Committee suggested incorporation of 8 Fundamental Duties in the Constitution of India, provided as under:

  1. To respect and abide by the Constitution and the laws,
  2. To uphold the sovereignty of the nation and function in such a way as to sustain and strengthen its unity and integrity.
  3. To respect the democratic institutions enshrined in the Constitution and not to do anything which impair their dignity or authority,
  4. Defend the country and render national service, including military service, when called upon to do so,
  5. Adjure communalism in any form,
  6. 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,
  7. Abjure violence, protect and safeguard public property, and refrain from doing anything which may cause damage and destruction to such property,
  8. Pay taxes according to law.

But the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act (1976) consists of 10 Fundamental Duties. Certain recommendations of the Committee were not accepted.

Concept:

Duty is an inalienable part of right : what is duty for one is another’s person right and respect human life and not to injure another person. Mahatma Gandhi, an apostle of non-violence and preacher of truth, while emphasizing the economic and social responsibilities of all citizens said:

“ The true source of right is duty. If we all discharge our duties, rights will easily accessibleamd will not be far to rights. If we leave duties unperformed and run after the rights , they will escape us like an unattainable goal, the more we pursue them, the farther they will fly.”

As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights put it: “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of the personality is possible [Article 29(1)]. Exercise of fundamental rights entails duties to the community which ensure the free and full development of human personality.

Ideally, a proper balance and harmony can be achieved if the State i.e., high functionaries of the Government and the leadership generally, cease to lecture the citizens on their duties and devote their energies and attention to protecting their rights, and the citizens themselves lay greater emphasis on discharging their responsibilities and duties instead of all the time demanding fulfilment of their rights.

As fundamental rights are extended to foreigners but fundamental duties are confined only to Indian citizenship.

Provisions:

There is reference to such duties in international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 {Article 29(1)} and Article 51A(Fundamental Duties) brings the Indian Constitution into conformity with these treaties.

Available Legal Provisions:

The Parliament has the right to impose penalty or punishment for violating any of the Fundamental Duties. The Justice Verma Committee was aware of the fact that any non-operationalization of Fundamental Duties might cause due to the lack of concern or non-availability of legal and other enforceable provisions; but it was due to lack of strategy implementation.  A brief summary of legal provisions available in regard to the enforcement of Fundamental Duties is given below:

  1. In order to safeguard the respect which is shown to the National Flag, Constitution of India and the National anthem, the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 was enacted.
  2. The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act 1950 was enacted soon after independence, to prohibit improper use of the National Flag and the National Anthem.
  3. In order to certify that the correct usage regarding the display of the National Flag is well understood, the instructions are issued from time to time on the subject which are embodied in Flag Code of India, which has been made available to all the State Governments, and Union territory Administration (UTs).
  4. There are a number of provisions in the existing criminal laws to ensure that the activities which encourage enmity between different groups of people on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. are adequately punished. Writings, speeches, gestures, activities, exercise, drills, etc. aimed at creating a feeling of insecurity or ill-will among the members of other communities, etc. have been prohibited under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  5. Imputations and assertions prejudicial to the national integration constitute a punishable offence under Section 153 B of the IPC.
  6. A Communal organization can be declared unlawful association under the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.
  7. Offences related to religion are covered in Sections 295-298 of the IPC (Chapter XV).
  8. Provisions of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (earlier the Untouchability (Offences) Act 1955).
  9. Sections 123(3) and 123(3A) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 declares that request of vote on the ground of religion race, caste, community or language is a corrupt practice. A person performing any kind of fraudulent activity can be disqualified for being a Member of Parliament or a State Legislature under Section 8A of the Representation of People Act, 1951.

Amendments:

  1. The Fundamental Duties were added by the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 (w.e.f. 3-1-1977).
  2. The 11th Fundamental Duty was added by the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act (w.e.f. 1-4-2010).

Case Studies:

In M.C.Mehta (II) v. Union of India & Ors.[i], following directions were issued:

  1. the Central Government shall direct to the educational institutions throughout India to teach at least for one hour in a week, lessons relating to protection and the improvement of the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life upto class 10th ;
  2. the Central Government shall provide text books to the educational institutions free of cost;
  3. the children shall be provided with the knowledge of maintaining and cleaning the environment outside as well as inside;
  4. the Central Government shall consider training of teachers who teach this subject by the introduction of short-term courses for such training;
  5. the Central Government, the Government of the States and all the Union Territories shall consider desirability of organizing “Keep the city/town/village clean” week;
  6. to create a national awareness of the problems faced by the people by the appalling all round deterioration of the environment.

In Union of India v. Navin Jindal[ii], the Supreme Court observed:

For the purpose of interpretation of the constitutional schemes and for the purpose of maintaining a balance between the fundamental/legal rights of a citizen vis-à-vis, the regulatory measures/restrictions, both Part IV and IV-A of the Constitution can be taken recourse to.

In AIIMS Students’ Union v. AIIMS[iii],  a court in determining the constitutional validity of any law seeking to give effect to duties, may consider law to be ‘reasonable’ in relation to Article 14 or 19. The court will uphold as void any law which prohibits an act which is violative of the duties. Fundamental Duties provide a valuable guide and aid to interpretation of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has held that the duties must be used as a tool to control State action drifting from constitutional values.

Conclusion:

The Fundamental Duties acts as a constant reminder that rights and duties go hand in hand. Before we complain of the inadequacies of the system and claim our rights we must also consider our responsibility and fulfill the duties.  

As the famous saying- “Great power brings great responsibilities.” 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.”


[i]  (1998) 1 SCC 471.

[ii]  (2004) 2 SCC 410.

[iii] (2002) 1 SCC 428.


References:

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