General Studies IIConstitution

Fundamental Duties (Article 51A)


Recently, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre and states to respond to a petition to enforce the Fundamental Duties of citizens, including patriotism and unity of the nation, through comprehensive, well-defined laws.

About Fundamental Duties (Article 51A):

  • The fundamental duties of citizens were added to the constitution by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, upon the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee that was constituted by the government earlier that year.
  • Originally ten in number,
  • The fundamental duties were increased to eleven by the 86th Amendment in 2002, which added a duty on every parent or guardian to ensure that their child or ward was provided opportunities for education between the ages of six and fourteen years.
  • The idea of Fundamental Duties is inspired by the Constitution of Russia (erstwhile Soviet Union).
  • The other fundamental duties obligate all citizens to respect the national symbols of India, including the constitution, to cherish its heritage, preserve its composite culture and assist in its defence.
  • They also obligate all Indians to promote the spirit of common brotherhood, protect the environment and public property, develop scientific temper, abjure violence, and strive towards excellence in all spheres of life.
  • Like the Directive Principles of State Policy, the Fundamental duties are also non-justiciable in nature
  • In case of violation of fundamental duties enshrined in the constitution by a citizen including President, Vice President, Speaker, parliament members, state legislative members, etc., it amounts to contempt of the constitution which is punishable under Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.
  • Supreme court has ruled that these fundamental duties can also help the court to decide the constitutionality of a law passed by the legislature.
  • There is reference to such duties in international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 51A brings the Indian constitution into conformity with these treaties

The fundamental duties noted in the constitution are as follows:

Article 51 AProvision
 (a)To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.
(b)To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our Indian freedom Struggle.
(c)To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India.
(d)To defend the country and render national services when called upon to do so.
(e)To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
(f)To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.
(g)To value, protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.
(h)To develop the scientific temper, humanism, and spirit of inquiry and reform.
(i)To safeguard public property and to abjure violence.
(j)To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement.
(k)Duty of the parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child, as the case may be, between the age of six and fourteen years (added by 86th Amendment Act, 2002).

Sources of Fundamental Duties

It is significant to note that none of the Constitutions of Western Countries specifically provide for the duties and obligations of citizens . Among the Democratic Constitutions of the world we find mention of certain duties of the citizens in the Japanese Constitution. In Britain, Canada & Australia the rights and duties of citizens are governed largely by Common Law and Judicial Decisions. The French Constitution Makes only a passing reference to duties of citizens. The American Constitution provides only for fundamental rights and not duties of citizen.

But the Constitution of Socialist Countries, however, lay great emphasis on the citizen’s duties  like Article 32 of the Yugoslavian Constitution and Chapter VII of the Soviet Constitution lays down Fundamental Rights & Duties and also Chapter II of the Constitution of Republic Of China. All the aforesaid Constitutions specifically lay down duties of the people, they also guarantee the “Right to Work” to every citizen which the Indian Constitution does not provide still today. The “right to work” should, therefore, be guaranteed to every citizen who are expected to do certain to the nation.

Significance of Fundamental Duties

  • Rights and duties are correlative.
    • The Fundamental Duties are intended to serve as a constant reminder to every citizen that while the Constitution specifically conferred on them certain fundamental rights, it also requires citizens to observe basic norms of democratic conduct and democratic behaviour.
  • These serve as a warning to the people against the anti-social activities that disrespect the nation like burning the flag, destroying the public property or disturbing public peace.
  • These help in the promotion of a sense of discipline and commitment towards the nation. They help in realising national goals by the active participation of citizens rather than mere spectators.
  • It helps the Court in determining the constitutionality of the law. For instance, any law passed by the legislatures, when taken to Court for constitutional validity of the law, if it is giving force to any Fundamental Duty, then such law would be taken as reasonable.

Criticism of Fundamental Duties

The Fundamental Duties mentioned in Part IVA of the Constitution have been criticized on the following grounds:

  • They have been described by the critics as a code of moral precepts due to their non-justiciable character. Their inclusion in the Constitution was described by the critics as superfluous. This is because the duties included in the Constitution as fundamental would be performed by the people even though they were not incorporated into the Constitution.
  • Some of the duties are vague, ambiguous and difficult to be understood by the common man.
  • The list of duties is not exhaustive as it does not cover other important duties like casting vote, paying taxes, family planning and so on. In fact, the duty to pay taxes was recommended by the Swaran Singh Committee.
  • The critics said that the inclusion of fundamental duties as an appendage to Part IV of the Constitution has reduced their value and significance. They should have been added after Part III so as to keep them on par with Fundamental Rights.
  • Swaran Singh’s Committee recommended more than 10 Fundamental Duties, however, not all were included in the Constitution. Those duties recommended by the committee which were not accepted were:
    1. Citizens to be penalized/punished by the parliament for any non-compliance with or refusal to observe any of the duties.
    2. The punishments/penalties decided by the Parliament shall not be called in question in any court on the ground of infringement of any of Fundamental Rights or on the ground of repugnancy to any other provision of the Constitution.
    3. Duty to pay taxes.

Swaran Singh Committee 1976 Report:

  • It was suggested that a separate chapter on fundamental duties be added to the Constitution.
  • It emphasized that citizens should be aware that, in addition to enjoying rights, they also have responsibilities, and proposed the introduction of eight Fundamental Duties into the Constitution.
  • In 1976, the Central Government accepted these proposals and adopted the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, which added a new section to the Constitution, known as Part IVA.
  • The new section consisted of only one article, Article 51A, which established a code of ten essential citizen duties for the first time.
  • Interestingly, some of the Committee’s recommendations were not accepted and thus were not incorporated into the Constitution, such as:
  • The Parliament may provide for the imposition of such penalty or punishment as may be deemed appropriate for any non-compliance with or refusal to observe any of the duties.
  • No law imposing such a penalty or punishment may be challenged in court on the basis of a violation of one or more
  • Fundamental Rights or a violation of any other provision of the Constitution.
  • The obligation of citizens to pay taxes should also be considered a fundamental duty

Verma Committee Observations (1999)

Verma Committee Observations (1999) identified the existence of legal provisions in line with FDs

  • The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act (1971): prevents disrespect to the Constitution, National Flag, and National Anthem.
  • Various Criminal Laws – punishes for encouraging enmity between different sections of people.
  • The Protection of Civil Rights, 1955, or The Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1976 – punishes for offenses related to caste and religion.
  • Indian Penal Code (IPC) – declares the imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration as punishable offenses.
  • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 – provides for the declaration of a communal organization as an unlawful association.
  • The Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 – provides for disqualification of MPs/MLAs for indulging in corrupt practices or soliciting votes on the grounds of religion or promoting enmity between different sections of ppl.
  • The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 – prohibits trade in rare and endangered species.
  • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 – checks indiscriminate deforestation and diversion of forest lands for non-forest purposes.

Supreme Court’s Stand on Fundamental Duties

  • The Supreme Court’s Ranganath Mishra judgment 2003 held that fundamental duties should not only be enforced by legal sanctions but also by social sanctions.
  • In AIIMS Students Union v. AIIMS 2001, it was held by the Supreme Court that fundamental duties are equally important like fundamental rights.
    • Though fundamental duties are not enforceable like fundamental rights they cannot be overlooked as duties in Part IV A.
    • They are prefixed by the same word fundamental which was prefixed by the founding fathers of the Constitution to ‘right’ in Part III.

Relationship between the Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles and Fundamental Duties

  • The Directive Principles have been used to uphold the Constitutional validity of legislations in case of a conflict with the Fundamental Rights. Article 31C, added by the 25th Amendment in 1971, provided that any law made to give effect to the Directive Principles in Article 39(b)–(c) would not be invalid on the grounds that they derogated from the Fundamental Rights conferred by Articles 14, 19 and 21.
  • The application of this article was sought to be extended to all the Directive Principles by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, but the Supreme Court struck down the extension as void on the ground that it violated the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • The Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles have also been used together in forming the basis of legislation for social welfare.
  • The Supreme Court, after the judgment in the Kesavananda Bharati case, has adopted the view of the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles being complementary to each other, each supplementing the other’s role in aiming at the same goal of establishing a welfare state by means of social revolution.
  • Similarly, the Supreme Court has used the Fundamental Duties to uphold the Constitutional validity of statutes which seeks to promote the objects laid out in the Fundamental Duties.
  • These Duties have also been held to be obligatory for all citizens, subject to the State enforcing the same by means of a valid law.
  • The Supreme Court has also issued directions to the State in this regard, with a view towards making the provisions effective and enabling citizens to properly perform their duties

Source: Indian Express

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