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Fundamental Duties

The purpose of the article is to look at Fundamental Duties as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Then the opinions of courts in different cases related to Fundamental Duties shall also be discussed.

By: Ram Agarwal, 3rd Sem LLB Hons, KRM University, Gurugram.

Constitutional Provisions

51A. Fundamental Duties. — It shall be the duty of every citizen of India— 

(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 national struggle for freedom; 

(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India. 

(d) to defend the country and render national service 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 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 the 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 endeavour and achievement; 

(k) who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.

Explanation to Constitutional Provisions

In the words of Gandhiji, “The true source of rights is a duty. If we all discharge our duties, right will not be far to seek. If leaving duties unperformed we run after rights, they escape us like a will-o’-the-wisp. The more we pursue them, the farther they fly.”

The Fundamental Duties of citizens were added to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, upon the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee. Article 51 A was included in the Constitution of India in Part IVA. Originally ten in number, the Fundamental Duties were increased to eleven by the 86th Amendment in 2002. Article 51 A of the Constitution of India begins with the words” It shall be the duty of every citizen of India”.

While the Fundamental Duties are self-explanatory, a few case laws are worth mentioning. 

  1. Ms. Aruna Roy & Ors V Union of India & Ors, SC, W.P. (C ) 98/2002

The recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee on Fundamental Duties of Citizens pave the way for a strong commitment to basic human values and social justice.

The core components of the school curriculum as mentioned in the National Curriculum for Elementary and Secondary Education. A Framework (1988) is all the more relevant in the present scenario. The Constitutional Amendment incorporating the ten Fundamental Duties of Citizens is a valuable pointer to what the country expects of its citizens. All these must find a prominent place in the total education system of India including the school environs.

  1. Re-Ramlila Maidan Incident Dated V Home Secretary & Ors, SUO MOTU WRIT PETITION (CRL.) NO. 122 OF 2011

“…. a common thread runs through Parts III, IV, and IVA of the Constitution of India. One Part enumerates the fundamental rights, the second declares the fundamental principles of governance and the third lays down the fundamental duties of the citizens. While interpreting any of these provisions, it shall always be advisable to examine the scope and impact of such interpretation on all the three constitutional aspects emerging from these Parts. It is necessary to be clear about the meaning of the word “fundamental” as used in the expression “fundamental in the governance of the State” to describe the directive principles which have not legally been made enforceable. Thus, the word “fundamental” has been used in two different senses under our Constitution. The essential character of the fundamental rights is secured by limiting the legislative power and by providing that any transgression of the limitation would render the offending law void. 

The word “fundamental” in Article 37 also means basic or essential, but it is used in the normative sense of setting, before the State, goals which it should try to achieve. As already noticed, the significance of the fundamental principles stated in the directive principles has attained greater significance through judicial pronouncements. When the courts are called upon to examine the reasonableness of a legislative restriction on the exercise of freedom, the fundamental duties enunciated under Article 51A are of relevant consideration. Article 51A requires an individual to abide by the law, to safeguard public property, and to abjure violence. It also requires the individual to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of the country. All these duties are not insignificant. Part IV of the Constitution relates to the Directive Principles of the State Policy. Article 38 was introduced in the Constitution as an obligation upon the State to maintain social order for the promotion of the welfare of the people. By the Constitution (Forty-Second Amendment) Act, 1976, Article 51A was added to comprehensively state the fundamental duties of the citizens to complement the obligations of the State. Thus, all these duties are of constitutional significance. 

The Parliament realized the need for inserting the fundamental duties as a Part of the Indian Constitution and required every citizen of India to adhere to those duties. Thus, it will be difficult for any Court to exclude from its consideration any of the above-mentioned Articles of the Constitution while examining the validity or otherwise of any restriction relating to the right to freedom of speech and expression available to a citizen under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The restriction placed on a fundamental right would have to be examined concerning the concept of fundamental duties and non-interference with the liberty of others. Therefore, a restriction on the right to assemble and raise protest has also to be examined on similar parameters and values. In other words, when you assert your right, you must respect the freedom of others. Besides imposition of a restriction by the State, the non-interference with liberties of others is an essential condition for the assertion of the right to freedom of speech and expression.”

  1. Ashoka Kumar Thakur V Union  of India & Ors, SC, W.P.( C) 265/2006

“Fundamental duties, as defined in Article 51A, are not made enforceable by a writ of court just as the fundamental rights are, but it cannot be lost sight of that ‘duties’ in Part IVA – Article 51A are prefixed by the same word ‘fundamental’ which was prefixed by the founding fathers of the Constitution to ‘rights’ in Part III.

Every citizen of India is fundamentally obliged to develop the scientific temper and humanism. He is fundamentally duty bound to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievements.

The state is, all the citizens placed together, and hence though Article 51A 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. Any reservation, apart from being sustainable on the constitutional anvil, must also be reasonable to be permissible. In assessing the reasonability one of the factors to be taken into consideration would be — whether the character and quantum of reservation would stall or accelerate achieving the ultimate goal of excellence enabling the nation to constantly be rising to higher levels. In the era of globalisation, where the nation as a whole has to compete with other nations of the world to survive, excellence cannot be given an unreasonable go by and certainly not compromised in its entirety. Fundamental duties, though not enforceable by a writ of the court, yet provide a valuable guide and aid to interpretation of constitutional and legal issues. In case of doubt or choice, people’s wish as manifested through Article 51A can serve as a guide not only for resolving the issue but also for constructing or molding the relief to be given by the courts. Constitutional enactment of fundamental duties, if it has to have any meaning, must be used by courts as a tool to tab, even a taboo, on State action drifting away from constitutional values”.

  1. P.A. Inamdar & Ors V State of Maharashtra & Ors, SC, C.A.5041/2005

“…. It is submitted that fundamental duty is enjoined on citizens to so direct their individual and collective activities that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement. This duty implies that the State on its Part is to facilitate discharge of duties by the citizen in relation to the professional education.”

  1. Sachidananda Pandey V State of west Bengal & Ors, 1987 AIR 1109, 1987 SCR (2) 223

“….Article. 51A(g) which proclaims it to be the fundamental duty of every citizen of India “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.” When the Court is called upon to give effect to the Directive Principle and the fundamental duty, the Court is not to shrug its shoulders and say that priorities are a matter of policy and so it is a matter for the policy-making authority. The least that the Court may do is to examine whether appropriate considerations are borne in mind and irrelevancies excluded. Inappropriate cases, the Court may go further, but how much further must depend on the circum- stances of the case. The Court may always give necessary directions. However, the Court will not attempt to nicely balance relevant considerations. When the question involves the nice balancing of relevant considerations, the Court may feel justified in resigning itself to acceptance of the decision of the concerned authority.”

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