Fundamental Duty

Mahatma Gandhi once remarked ‘Right is duty well performed’. These words echo the significance of duty in the context of the Indian constitutional setup. 

There are certain legal duties that Indian citizens have to abide by and failure to perform which legal action follows. And, then there are certain ‘Fundamental Duties’ which every citizen of India should follow but are non-enforceable. 

Fundamental Duties did not find any reference in the original Constitution of India and ten such duties were included by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976. In the year 2002, the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act was enacted to incorporate one more fundamental duty. It is the duty of every parent or guardian to provide educational opportunities to children between 6 to 14 years of age. 

They are contained in Part 4 and listed in Article 51A of the Indian Constitution. India took motivation from the Constitution of the USSR and decided to include them. 

The idea to have Fundamental Duties In India’s Constitution was assigned to the Swaran Singh Committee, established in the year 1976 in the backdrop of the internal emergency that was prevailing around that time. The committee was of the view to include a total of 8 fundamental duties. Certain duties recommended by the committee like a duty to pay taxes among others were negated by the ruling party. The logic applied by the then government to incorporate Fundamental duties was to evoke consciousness among people of their responsibilities and thereby strengthen democracy. The chapter on fundamental duties has stayed as it is even after successive governments have come to power reflecting the consensus on the need to have them in the Constitution. 

The Fundamental Duties are to be performed by the citizens of India only and are essentially non-justiciable like the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP). So, there lies no legal action in case of non-pursuit of these duties. They are virtuous responsibilities that Citizens should strive to follow and some of them are civic duties like admiring the National Flag and Anthem. 

Article 51A of the Indian Constitution specifically lists the following Fundamental duties. 

—It shall be the duty of every citizen of India— 

(1) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag, and the National Anthem; 

(2) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom; 

(3) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India; 

(4) to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so; 

(5) 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; 

(6) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.

(7) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.

(8) to develop the scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform.

(9) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence.

(10) 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; 

(11) 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. 

The fundamental duties are sometimes condemned by experts for several reasons 

  1. It is a poor decision to not make Fundamental duties legally enforceable as there is no legal action for non-pursuance and hence these are not followed in letter and spirit. 
  2. The inclusion of Fundamental Duties as an addition to Part 4 of the Constitution Part 4A and not in a distinct part showcases the lack of earnestness. 
  3. The non-inclusion of certain other duties that were recommended by the Swaran Singh Committee also raises questions. 
  4. The duties in present shape are mere personal commitments and hence lack any concrete ground. 
  5. The phrases included in certain duties are open to multiple interpretations and subject to be disregarded. For example- the words like ‘composite culture’ etc. 
  6. Some believe that citizens are asked to fulfill duties even when their rights are under threat due to several laws like sedition. 

There are certain apprehensions over the issue of legal enforcement of Fundamental duties as well. Of late, the apex court has also received a petition to seek the legal enforcement of fundamental duties and the court has raised a question to the Central government and the states on the same matter. The need to legally enforce is felt since mere mentioning of duties does not suffice and penalizing for non-compliance will effect better following of them by the citizens. 

Having said that, Fundamental duties hold great significance as well for the following reasons-

● They ensure a sense of responsibility among citizens that they have certain duties towards the nation and fellow Indians along with certain rights. 

  • They nurture a sense of nationalism and mutual belongingness among the citizens. 
  • The duties are precaution against anti-social activities and elements. 
  • The Supreme Court has already opined that the honorable court may consider a law to be reasonable concerning Article no. 14 or 19 if it gives effect to the Fundamental duties.

● Duties have a direct bearing on rights. If duties are not followed by a citizen it endangers others rights. For example- the duty to abjure public violence ensures Fundamental Rights under Article 14 I.e. Right to Life.

Moreover, a committee set up under Justice J.S. Verma noted that certain provisions already provide for legal implementation of Fundamental Duties like the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1971, The Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955) among others. 

The apex court in the Rangnath Mishra lawsuit noted that the fundamental duties should be enforced both by legal and social sanctions. 

To sum up, let us remember the words of the Iron Man of India, Sardar Patel- “Every Indian should now forget that he is a Rajput, a Sikh, or a Jat.

He must remember that he is an Indian and he has every right in his country but with certain duties”.

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