Conflict between fundamental rights and DPSP

This article is written by Rachna Kumari. This article provides an in-depth analysis of the conflict between fundamental rights and DPSP by discussing the origin, nature, purpose, scope, and landmark judgments of fundamental rights and DPSP. 

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

The Constitution of India derives a holistic approach to civic life in a democratic polity. Some rights are guaranteed in the constitution, known as fundamental rights. Article 13 of the Constitution of India gives teeth to the fundamental rights and makes them justiciable, which empowers the citizens to move the court in case of infringement of their fundamental rights. 

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On the other hand, the Constitution also includes certain directive principles of state policy that aim at realising the high ideals of justice, liberty, fraternity, and equality enshrined under the preamble of our Constitution. They embody the concept of a ‘welfare state’ that seeks to establish not just social but economic democracy in the country. DPSP was framed as the constitution framers aspired for our nation to reach its fullest potential. As our society advanced, conflicts started to arise regarding the superiority of DPSP and FRs. It was on the court to decide which of the two prevailed over the other. We shall understand the same in detail with the help of landmark judgments and recent case laws. 

Meaning

Fundamental rights and DPSP are the liberties of citizens and directives given to the State for safeguarding the interests of individual rights. Fundamental rights act as a shield against unreasonable actions of the State, whereas DPSP acts as guiding principles to ensure that the state is acting in accordance with the vision of our forefathers to strengthen the country from its core. 

Fundamental rights

Fundamental rights are a set of essential, basic, natural and inalienable rights that all human beings have, irrespective of gender, caste, race, religion, etc., and are considered universal and sacrosanct. 

According to natural law philosopher John Locke, man is born “with a title to perfect freedom and an uncontrolled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the Law of Nature” and he has by nature a power “to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and property, against the injuries and attempts of other men”. 

During British rule, the basic fundamental rights of Indians were jeopardised to inhumane extents, which led to the discussion of including fundamental rights in the Constitution of India. The need to have fundamental rights was accepted by each and every member of the Constituent Assembly. The question was not even pondered upon as to whether to incorporate fundamental rights into the Constitution or not; rather, the debate all along was to minimise the restrictions being imposed on them. The effort was to keep fundamental rights as broad as possible. The denial of rights during the British era led to the inclusion of fundamental rights in Part III of the Constitution under Articles 12 to 35. The concept of fundamental rights was borrowed from the Constitution of the USA. 

DPSP

DPSP are a set of guidelines and principles mentioned in the Constitution of India that make it an obligation on the part of the State to function in such a manner that it is in favour of the citizens. These are the constitutional recommendations given to the State in legislative, executive and administrative matters. The DPSP resembles the ‘Instrument of Instructions’ specified under the Government of India Act, 1935. The DPSP constitutes a very comprehensive list of economic, social and political recommendations for a modern democratic State. They aim at achieving the ideals of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity enumerated in the Preamble of our Constitution. They incorporate the concept of a ‘welfare state’, which establishes not just social, and political but economic democracy as well.

In the words of Granville Austin, DPSP is aimed at furthering the goals of the social revolution or fostering the revolution by establishing the conditions necessary for its achievements. In Constituent Assembly debates, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said that “It is the intention of this Assembly that in future both the legislature and the executive should not merely pay lip service to these principles enacted in this part, but that they should be made the basis of all executive and legislative action that may be taken hereafter in the matter of the governance of the country.” 

In Charan Singh and Ors v. State of Punjab and Ors (1974), the Supreme Court held that the government, as enjoined under Article 46 of the Constitution and the Directive Principles, particularly Articles 38 and 39(b) and the Preamble of the Constitution, requires economic and social justice to be done to the weaker sections of society, in particular to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and to prevent them from social injustice and the prevention of all forms of exploitation.

Origin of the concepts of fundamental rights and DPSP

The origin of the fundamental rights and DPSP can be traced back to various sources, historical influences and experiences that our country went through. One of the most influential documents for the adoption of fundamental rights is the US Constitution. Other than that, the British legal system that governed India during the colonial period influenced the Constitution makers to adopt concepts like the rule of law and the protection of individual rights. The concept of DPSP was adopted from the Irish Constitution. It provided a framework for social and economic justice, which was crucial to address the socio-economic problems in post-independent India. 

Fundamental Rights

The King of England, John, was facing significant challenges during his reign. Due to his arbitrary decisions and the imposition of heavy taxes on his barons and subjects, the king faced backlash and opposition from the barons. Fearing a civil war, the King issued the Magna Carta, also known as the “Great Charter”, in 1215. It has a significant historical origin with respect to the fundamental rights of individuals, as it laid down the principle that even the king was not above the law and his authority was also limited by the rule of law. It was a crucial document in the development of constitutional principles that continue to influence recent concepts of the rights of individuals and the rule of law.  Some of the key provisions that laid down the foundation of fundamental rights include protection from arbitrary arrest, recognition and protection of property rights, limitation of the king’s authority over individuals, access to justice, etc. 

Although the Magna Carta was a product of mediaeval feudal society, its principles have had an everlasting impact on the development of constitutional law. The principles of the Magna Carta served as a model for future developments in the acknowledgement of the protection of individual rights, for example, the Constitution of the United States and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

The formulation of the US Constitution also serves as a source for the Indian Constitution. Though at the commencement of its Constitution, the U.S. did not contain a specific bill of rights, later on, a series of amendments were made to include individual rights, which is famously known as the Bill of Rights. These amendments enumerate the rights Americans have against the government. It guarantees civil liberties and rights to individuals such as freedom of speech, press and religion, right to keep and bear arms, right against unreasonable search and seizure, right against self-incrimination (in American dramas, a lot of times we see the accused saying, “I invoke the fifth!” This “fifth” refers to the Fifth Amendment, which states that people have the right against self-incrimination and cannot be imprisoned without due process of law (fair procedures and trials). After getting independence from the British, the framers of the Constitution soon enough realised the importance of securing some rights for individuals, which even the State cannot take away. Resultantly, the Bill of Rights and Magna Carta had a significant impact on the Constitution of India, which is evident in the form of Part III of the Constitution, which guarantees fundamental rights to the citizens of India. 

DPSP

Directive principles of state policy are mentioned under Article 36 to Article 51 in Part IV of the Constitution. The idea of DPSP is borrowed from the Irish Constitution. The framers of our Constitution realised at an early stage that without economic democracy, there is no use of political democracy. To further that vision, some directive principles were made that promote the prosperity and well-being of the people. DPSP strengthens and promotes the concept of a welfare state by laying down certain socio-economic goals that the government strives to achieve. Broadly, we can say that DPSP is based on the maxim endorsed by Hobbes, Salus Populi Suprema Lex which literally means that the welfare of the people is the supreme law and enunciates the idea of law. The concept of DPSP in the Constitution of India is largely influenced by the Irish Constitution, which has adopted the same from the Spanish Constitution. 

Nature of fundamental rights and DPSP

The DPSP and fundamental rights are two crucial components of our constitution that outline the rights of individuals and the obligations of the State. The justiciable nature of fundamental rights and the non-justiciable nature of DPSP are the aspects that set both of them apart. Justiciable means that these rights are protected by the Constitution and can be enforced by approaching the courts.

Fundamental Rights 

Fundamental rights are justiciable in nature, which means that they are enforceable in a court of law. In cases where an individual’s rights are violated by the actions of the State or a government authority, the individual has the right to approach the judiciary for relief. Fundamental rights protect citizens from the arbitrary actions of the State. The judiciary acts as a guardian of fundamental rights and is empowered to strike down any government action that violates the rights of an individual. In a nutshell, the justiciability of fundamental rights means that these rights are legally binding and enforceable in the courts. 

For example, freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. After the abrogation of Article 370, the right to speech and expression was compromised as Internet services were shut down in Kashmir. The 4G internet was completely shut down for six months. Later on, 2G services were allowed on some whitelisted sites. On August 4, 2019, after a period of shutdown on 4G services for 18 months, the administration stated that 4G internet was restored on February 5, 2021. In the case of Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India (2020), the Supreme Court declared that access to the internet is a fundamental right and the government cannot deprive citizens of fundamental rights except under certain conditions explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. 

Similarly, the Right to Life is an integral part of the Constitution under Article 21. Prior to the case of D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997), many cases of custodial violence and death were reported. Even though compensation was provided, there was no mechanism to hold the police accountable. The Hon’ble Court laid down guidelines to govern arrest and specified the custody procedures required by the police to follow. 

DPSP

While fundamental rights create negative obligations on the state, i.e., the state is bound to refrain from doing something, DPSP creates positive obligations on the state, and the state is not answerable in court for not acting in accordance with DPSP. The non-justiciable nature of the DPSP simply means that it is not legally enforceable by the courts for its violation. Therefore, the government cannot be compelled to implement them. However, Article 37 of the Constitution itself says that these principles are fundamental in the governance of the country, and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles while making laws. 

  • The enactment of the Right to Education Act, 2009 is a solid example of implementing DPSP to provide free and compulsory education for children aged between six to fourteen. Prior to the enactment, Article 45 and Article 39 (f) of DPSP, had a provision for state funded as well as equitable and accessible education. The 86th Constitutional Amendment, in 2002, provided the Right to Education as a fundamental right under Article 21A of the Constitution. 
  • The Mid-day meal scheme is another example of the implementation of  DPSP under Article 47 to improve the level of nutrition of individuals. 
  • Further, the welfare schemes such as MGNREGA are examples of DPSP being implemented in the form of welfare schemes. Article 41 provides for the right to work under DPSP. 

Purpose of fundamental rights and DPSP

Fundamental rights and DPSP are part of the Indian Constitution. But they are incorporated for different purposes, as stated below. Before that, it should be noted that despite having conflict on the basis of different purposes they sought to achieve, they do have a common purpose of achieving the welfare of the citizens because India is a welfare state.

Fundamental rights

Fundamental rights are a crucial part of the Constitution of every democratic nation. The purpose of fundamental rights is to safeguard the liberty, dignity, and equality of individuals, which promotes a just and harmonious society. In the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978), the Hon’ble Supreme Court has given a wider interpretation to Article 21 and reiterated that the right to life isn’t just about survival; it extends beyond mere animal existence. The fundamental rights ensure that people are treated equally, fairly and respectfully in society. They give us the liberty to express ourselves and practise our beliefs without unreasonable intervention by the State or individuals. FR’s give everybody a chance to contribute to the community to their fullest extent. 

DPSP

DPSPs are the guiding principles that aim to guide the government in its policy formation and decision-making processes. The basic purpose of DPSPs is to create a framework for a just and equitable society. DPSPs guide the government to work towards reducing inequalities and providing opportunities to every section of society. 

In his book, ‘An Ambassador Speaks’  while talking about the applicability of DPSP MC Chagla (former Chief Justice of India), he stated that “If all these principles are fully carried out, our country would indeed be a heaven on Earth. India would then not only be a democracy in the political sense but also a welfare state looking after the welfare of its citizens”. These principles facilitate stability and continuity in domestic and foreign policies in the political, economic and social spheres in spite of the changes in the party in power. They also serve as a crucial test for the performance of the government. Citizens can examine the policies of the government, keeping the DPSPs in consideration. 

Scope of fundamental rights and DPSP

The scope of fundamental rights and DPSP defines their extent and applicability. The scope of fundamental rights is centred on the protection of individual liberty, whereas the scope of DPSP is broader as it focuses on social and economic welfare and puts an obligation on the State to continuously work towards the welfare of  society. 

Fundamental rights

Fundamental rights include a wide range of individual liberties and protections. They include the right to life, liberty, and freedom of religion and ensure that everyone is protected from the arbitrary actions of the State. In A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950), the Supreme Court took a narrow interpretation regarding the scope of fundamental rights and focused only on the physical liberty of citizens, ignoring the other aspects that contribute to a meaningful life, such as the right to live a dignified life, right to privacy, freedom of speech and expression, etc. This case highlighted the need to broaden the scope of fundamental rights beyond the literal interpretation and inculcate purposive interpretation. 

Further, in the case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973), the Supreme Court reinforced the principle of basic structure and held that although the Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution, while doing so, the basic structure cannot be altered. This case also reaffirmed that fundamental rights form an essential part of the basic structure. Further, in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978), the Apex Court significantly expanded the scope of fundamental rights, and the Hon’ble Court ruled that Article 21 cannot be limited to mere existence but includes the right to live with dignity. 

In the recent judgement of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) v. Union Of India (2018), the court expanded the scope of Article 21 and held that the right to privacy is an intrinsic part of individual liberty and dignity. In Kaushal Kishore v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2023), the Supreme Court further expanded the scope of FRs by ruling that Article 19 and 21 rights can also be enforced against private individuals and entities. 

These cases reiterate that the Constitution is dynamic in nature and that its interpretation evolves with contemporary times. The expanded view taken by the Supreme Court in recent judgements assures that fundamental rights cannot be curtailed unreasonably. 

DPSP

The scope of DPSPs incorporates multiple dimensions, such as socialistic principles that reflect the ideology of socialism. They direct the State to promote the welfare of society by securing a social order permeated by justice and reducing inequalities. To secure the right to adequate means of livelihood for all citizens (Article 43), prevent the concentration of wealth [Article 39(c)], equal pay for equal work for men and women [Article 39(d)], promote equal justice and provide free legal aid to the poor (Article 39-A) inserted by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976, to make provisions for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief (Article 42), are all examples of the expanded scope of DPSPs. 

These guiding principles also take inspiration from Gandhian ideology. Organising village panchayats and endowing them with necessary powers (Article 40), promoting the educational and economic interests of SCs, STs, and other underprivileged sections of society, etc. (Article 46), are representative of programmes enunciated by Gandhi during the National Movement against Britishers. Other than that, DPSPs also inculcate liberal principles such as securing for all citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the country (Article 44), providing early childhood care and education for all children under the age of six years (Article 45) substituted by (86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002), promoting international peace and security, maintaining just and honourable relations between nations, etc. (Article 51). 

Classification of fundamental rights and DPSP

The fundamental rights provide civil, political, social, economic, cultural and educational rights to individuals, whereas the DPSP obligates the State to work towards the social, democratic, and economic welfare of the people of the country. 

Fundamental Rights 

The Constitution provides six fundamental rights to the citizens of India, which are as follows:-

  1. Right to equality (Article 1418): The right to equality ensures that all citizens are equal before the law. It prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, sex, or place of birth. It includes the right to equality of opportunity in public employment and the abolition of untouchability. 
  2. Right to freedom (Article 1922): This right includes freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly and association, freedom to move throughout the territory of India, and right to reside and settle in any part of the country. 
  3. Right against exploitation (Article 2324): This right aims to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable groups/sections of society, such as children, women, the elderly, etc. It prohibits human trafficking, forced labour, and employment of children in hazardous industries. 
  4. Right to freedom of religion (Article 2528): This right guarantees freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practice and propagate any religion. It also protects the right of religious denominations to manage their own affairs without the intervention of the State. However, the State has the right to regulate or restrict some religious practices that disrupt public order, morality, and health. 
  5. Cultural and Educational Rights (Article 2930): These rights protect the interests of minorities by allowing them to conserve their language, script, and culture.
  6. Right to constitutional remedies (Article 32): This right is referred to as the “Heart and Soul of the Indian Constitution” as it empowers citizens to approach the Supreme Court for the enforcement of their fundamental rights. The court is empowered to issue writs for the protection of these rights. 

It is pertinent to note here that the right to property was one of these fundamental rights prior to 1978, but after the 44th Amendment, this right was deleted from the list of fundamental rights and was made a constitutional right under Article 300-A of the Constitution. 

DPSP

The constitution of India does not contain any classification with regard to directive principles. However, based on their content and direction, they can be broadly classified into three categories, such as socialistic, Gandhian and liberal-intellectual. 

Socialist Principles

These principles reflect the ideology of socialism. They lay down the idea of a democratic socialist state that aims at providing social and economic justice to its citizens and sets the path towards a welfare state. Some of the examples of these principles that are enshrined under Part IV of the constitution are as follows:-

  • Article 38 – This Article is incorporated to promote the welfare of the people by securing a social order permeated by justice-social, economic and political and to minimise inequalities in income, status, facilities, and opportunities. 
  • Article 39- To secure the right to adequate means of livelihood for all citizens, the equitable distribution of material resources of the community for the common good, prevention of concentration of wealth and means of production, equal pay for equal work, etc. 
  • Article 39A – To promote equal justice and to provide free legal aid to the poor. 
  • Article 41– To secure the right to work, education and public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disability. 
  • Article 42 To make provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief. 

Gandhian Principles

  • Article 40 – To organise village panchayats and endow them with the necessary powers and authority to enable them to function as units of self-government. 
  • Article 43 – To promote cottage industries on an individual or cooperative basis in rural areas. 
  • Article 46 – To promote the educational and economic interests of SC, ST, and other weaker sections of society in order to protect them from social injustice and exploitation. 
  • Article 47 – To prohibit the consumption of intoxicating liquor and drugs which are injurious to health. 

Liberal-Intellectual Principles

  • Article 44 – To secure for all citizens a uniform civil code throughout the country.
  • Article 45 – To provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.
  • Article 48 – To organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines. 
  • Article 48A – To protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife.. 
  • Article 49 – To protect monuments, places, and objects of artistic or historic interest which are declared to be of national importance such as the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Ajanta Caves etc. 
  • Article 50 – To separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the State. 
  • Article 51 – To promote international peace and security and maintain just and honourable relations between nations, to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations, and to encourage settlement of disputes by arbitration. 

Position of fundamental rights and DPSP during Emergency 

The position of fundamental rights and DPSP during an emergency is a crucial aspect. During an emergency, some of the fundamental rights can be subjected to suspension, whereas the Constitution does not provide for suspension of DPSP even during an emergency. The State must aim to strike a balance between maintaining law and order viz-a-viz upholding socio-economic ideals. 

Fundamental rights

Fundamental rights, being an integral part of the Constitution, cannot be taken away easily. However, during unprecedented times, the President of India can suspend the fundamental rights on the declaration of emergency. Under Article 359 of the Indian Constitution, the president has the power to suspend the FRs during internal and external emergencies. During an emergency, FR’s mentioned under Article 19 are suspended automatically, but Articles 20 and 21 cannot be suspended even during an emergency. 

A few examples of when FRs of individuals were curtailed are:-

  • COVID-19: The right to move freely was compromised during COVID-19 to avoid the spread of coronavirus. 
  • Abrogation of Article 370: When Article 370 was suspended, the emergency was declared by the President, and hence the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression was compromised. 

Telecommunication services are often terminated temporarily in areas where situations of internal disturbance and aggression arise, such as Manipur violence, Nuh violence, etc. 

DPSP

Even though DPSPs are not legally enforceable, they must be protected for the overall development of our country. Some steps by which protection of DPSPs can be ensured by the government include taking proactive steps in reviewing the various policies and tracking their implementation. During an emergency that is declared under Article 352 of the Constitution, the DPSP is significantly impacted. During a national emergency, the President has the authority to suspend certain fundamental rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution. However, the DPSP doesn’t suspend automatically during an emergency. As, during an emergency, the focus of the government is more on maintaining law and order and safeguarding the security of the nation, it is probable that DPSP can be affected. 

Enforceability of fundamental rights and DPSP

The enforceability of fundamental rights and DPSP differ significantly. Fundamental rights are legally enforceable and capable of providing relief to individuals when violated. On the other hand, DPSPs are moral and political guiding principles that are not enforceable in court. 

Fundamental rights

Since FRs are legally enforceable in court, individuals whose FRs are violated can initiate legal proceedings against the State.  One of the fundamental rights of citizens is the right to constitutional remedies under Article 32. This right enables citizens to move to the Supreme Court for enforcement of their rights. Article 32 confers citizens with the right to approach the Supreme Court for constitutional remedies when their fundamental rights are violated. The Supreme Court can issue writs such as Habeas corpus, certiorari, Prohibition, Mandamus and quo warranto to question the authorities. In cases of violation, the courts can grant orders of compensation. 

Notably, Article 226 (not a fundamental right) empowers the High courts to issue writs. This article gives the High Courts of India a similar power to issue various writs in cases of violation of fundamental rights or legal rights. 

In the case of the Secretary, Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya & Ors. (2020), the women officers were being discriminated against as they were inducted into the army only through the Short Service Commission, which deprived them of benefits like pensions and promotions that male officers used to get because of their induction through the Permanent Commission. The State argued that granting a permanent commission can result in mismanagement, as women would claim for maternity leave, etc. The court rejected the State’s contention and held that the actions of the State were violative of Article 14 of the Constitution and it directed the State to grant permanent commission to women officers as well. 

In the case, Young Lawyers Association & Ors. v. The State of Kerala & Ors. (2018), famously known as the Sabarimala Temple case, the Supreme Court held that restricting the entry of women aged between 10-50 into the Sabarimala temple is unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 15, 19(1), 21 and 25. The court allowed the entry of women of every age group. 

DPSP

DPSP are a set of non-justiciable principles, which means that they are not legally enforceable by the courts, in cases of violation or non-fulfilment. In the case of UBSE Board v. Hari Shankar (1979), the SC reiterated that the DPSP are not enforceable in courts as they do not create any justifiable rights in favour of any person. 

Article 37 of the Constitution states that the provisions contained in Part IV of the Indian Constitution shall not be enforceable by any court, but the principles that are laid down are crucial for good governance in the country, and it shall be the duty of the state to apply the given principles while making laws for the country. In the constituent assembly debates, while talking about the importance of DPSP, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar categorically mentioned that “a government which rests on popular vote can hardly ignore the directive principles while shaping its policy. If any government ignores them, it will certainly have to answer for that before the electorate at the election time.” 

As the DPSP are non-justiciable, the Constitution makes it clear that ‘these principles are important for the governance of the country, and it shall be the duty of the state to implement these principles in making laws’. Thus, they impose a moral obligation on the state for their implementation. 

Even though the DPSP are non-enforceable, the State can endeavour to make these non-enforceable principles into enforceable law by converting them into legislation. Some of the directive principles which are incorporated in legislation are as follows:-

  1. Free legal aid (Article 39A) has been made compulsory under the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987
  2. Free and compulsory education (Article 45) has been effectuated by the Right to Education Act, 2009. 
  3. Just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief (Article 42) have been incorporated in the Industrial Relation Code,2020,  Code on Wages, 2019,   Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions,2020, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
  4. Protection and improvement of the environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife (Article 48A) have been complied with under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, to safeguard the wildlife and forests, respectively. 
  5. Protection of monuments, places, and objects of national importance (Article 49) has been safeguarded by the enactment of the Ancient and Historical Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act,1951.  
Serial No. Basis of Difference  Fundamental Rights DPSP
Definition  Rights granted to citizens by the Constitution guarantee freedom to an individual and other bundle of rights.  Principles and guidelines for the government to follow while making laws for the Country. 
Constitutional provision FRs are guaranteed under Part III (Article 12-35) of the Constitution.  DPSP is enshrined under Part IV (Article 36-51) of the Constitution. 
Nature FRs are negative in nature as they prohibit the State from taking certain actions.  DPSP are positive in nature as they require the State to take certain actions. 
Justiciability They are justiciable. In case of violation, a person can directly approach the court of law.  They are non-justiciable which means that in case of violation, they are not legally enforceable by the courts. 
Aim They aim to establish political democracy in the country.  They aim to establish social and economic democracy in the country. 
Sanctions They have legal sanctions.  They have political and moral sanctions. 
Scope As they promote the welfare of an individual; they are considered personal and individualistic.  Since they promote the welfare of the whole society; they are considered societarian and socialistic. 
Implementation They are automatically enforced and do not require any separate legislation for their implementation.  They are not enforced automatically and require legislation for their implementation. 
Role of Judiciary  If a law is violative of the fundamental rights of an individual, the courts are bound to declare that law unconstitutional and void.  If a law is violative of any directive principle then courts cannot declare that law as unconstitutional and void. However, they can uphold the validity of a law on the basis that it was framed to give effect to a directive principle. 
Adoption  FRs as a feature were borrowed from the US Constitution.  DPSP as a feature was borrowed from the Constitution of Ireland. 
Example  E.g. Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right against exploitation E.g. Organisation of village panchayats, Promotion of cooperative societies etc. 

Champakam Dorairajan case

State of Madras v. Srimathi Champakam (1951) is a landmark case that dealt with reservations in India. The judgement in this case led the parliament to amend the Constitution of India for the very first time. This case started the discussion of introducing reservations in educational institutions, employment, etc. for the marginalised sections of our society. This case also demonstrated that while both fundamental rights and DPSP are integral parts of the Constitution, a harmonious interpretation of the provisions is necessary to ensure that the state’s efforts to promote social, economic and political justice do not infringe on the rights of the individuals. 

Facts

In 1927, the Province of Madras issued a government order ‘Communal G.O.’, which reserved seats in four medical colleges of the State for different castes. A total of 330 seats were available for students at those four colleges. The distribution of seats was such that six seats were reserved for non-Brahmin Hindus, two for backward Hindus, two for Brahmins, two for Harijans, one for Anglo-Indian Christians, and one seat for Muslims.   

In 1950, Champakam Dorairajan, a Brahmin woman, filed an application to the Madras HC under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, stating that her fundamental rights under Article 15(1) and 29(2) had been infringed. Article 15(1) states that ‘The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them’. Article 29(2) states that ‘No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them’.

Issue

  1. Whether the communal G.O. of 1927 that reserved seats for admission in educational institutions on the basis of caste, religion, race etc. was violative of fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens under Article 15(1) and 29(2) of the Constitution of India. 

Judgement

K. Kuttikrishna, the then Advocate-General of Madras, argued that according to Article 46, the State has a duty to promote the educational and economic interests of the underprivileged sections of society, especially Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. He also stated that  Article 46 is a part of Directive Principles of State Policies, which are fundamental for good governance in the country. 

The Hon’ble SC held that the communal G.O. is based on caste, religion and race, which is discriminatory in nature and is violative of fundamental rights guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution. Reserving seats for individuals on the basis of religion, race, or caste is against the Constitution. The SC also held that the DPSPs are unenforceable in court. Part IV has to run as a subsidiary to Part III of the constitution. In case of any conflict, the Fundamental Rights shall prevail over the DPSP. 

Golaknath case

After India gained independence from British rule, the newly formed constituent assembly drafted the Constitution of India. In the 1950s and 1960s, many states in India started implementing land reforms for the redistribution of agricultural land from large landlords to small landless farmers. These land reforms often placed a cap on the maximum land one person could own. I.C. Golaknath v. State of Punjab (1967) is significantly important in the legal and constitutional history of India. It dealt with a key question of whether the parliament had the power to amend the FRs that are guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution of India. 

Facts

One Henry and William Golaknath possessed five hundred acres of land in Jalandhar, Punjab. The Punjab government passed the Punjab Security and Land Tenures Act, 1953 (hereinafter referred to as PSLTA, 1953). As per the Act, a person could own only 30 standard acres (or 60 ordinary acres) of land. As a result,  the Golaknath brothers were asked to forgo the surplus land they owned. They challenged the validity of PSLTA, 1953, on the ground that it was violative of Article 14 and Article 19(1)(f) and deprived them of their fundamental right to possess property. Additionally, they urged the court to declare the 17th Constitutional Amendment, 1964 (which placed PSLTA, 1953, in the ninth schedule) unconstitutional and ultra vires.  Basically, the 17th Constitutional Amendment amended Article 31A and extended the definition of ‘estate’ to include ryotwari and agricultural lands. Further, the Ninth Schedule was also amended by inserting the Mysore Land Reforms Act, 1961 and the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953. This amendment saved the two Acts from being declared unconstitutional on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the fundamental rights (Articles 13, 14 or 31) provided under the Constitution. 

Issue

  1. Whether the parliament has the ultimate power to amend the fundamental rights guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution of India?

Judgement

With a ratio of 6:5, the SC held that the Parliament has no right to amend the fundamental rights. As per Justice Subba Rao, the 17th Amendment violated the fundamental right to acquire land and engage in any lawful profession. However, because the doctrine of prospective ruling was applied, the Supreme Court decision had no bearing on the constitutionality of the 17th Amendment or the PSLTA of 1953. Justice Subba Rao emphasised that the Parliament does not have the power to amend Part III of the Constitution. The Supreme Court’s historical decision led to the 24th Constitutional Amendment in 1971. This amendment empowered the Parliament with the power to amend any part of the Constitution, including Part III, which was further challenged in the Kesavananda Bharati case. 

Kesavananda Bharati case

Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973) is one of the most landmark and consequential cases in the constitutional history of India. This case is remarkable in itself as it shows the tussle between the scope of parliamentary authority viz-a-viz the safeguarding of fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens by the Constitution of India. 

Facts

Kesavananda Bharati (hereinafter referred to as the petitioner) was the head priest of a religious sect of the Edneer Mutt with its main office in Kasaragod, Kerala. The petitioner had certain land areas of the sect registered under his name. There were some disagreements going on between the state government and the members of the sect regarding the ownership of the land. The state government of Kerala introduced the Land Reforms Amendment Act, 1969, which entitled the government to acquire the sect’s land. The petitioner moved the SC under Article 32 of the Constitution for infringement of his fundamental rights under Article 14 i.e., right to equality, Article 19(1)(f) i.e., freedom to acquire property; Article 25 i.e., Right to practise and propagate religion,  Article 26 i.e., Right to manage religious affairs and Article 31 i.e. compulsory acquisition of property. 

As the court entertained the petition, the Kerala government introduced the Land Reforms Amendment Act, 1971. After the case of I.C. Golaknath v. State of Punjab (1967), the government made several amendments, such as  

  • 24th Constitutional Amendment (1971) gave Parliament the power to amend any provisions of the Constitution.
  • 25th Constitutional Amendment (1972) specified that the state government is not responsible for equally compensating the owner of the property if his private property is taken by the government, and 
  • 29th Constitutional Amendment (1972) – The Kerala Land Reforms Act (hereinafter referred to as ‘Act’) was inserted into the 9th schedule, which brought the matters related to the Kerala Land Reforms Act outside the purview of the judiciary, 

The provisions of the ‘Act’ along with the 24th, 25th and 29th Amendments were challenged in court. 

Issue

  1. Whether the 24th Amendment is constitutionally valid or not.
  2. Whether the 25th Amendment is constitutionally valid or not.
  3. Whether Parliament can amend the Constitution or not.

Judgement

The pivotal question was answered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court with a paper-thin majority of 7:6. The Hon’ble Court held that Parliament can indeed amend any provision of the Constitution, provided that the amendment shall not alter the ‘Basic structure’ of the Constitution. The court upheld the constitutionality of the 24th Amendment Act. Regarding the second issue, the court found the 2nd part of the 25th Amendment to be ultra vires (beyond the scope of legal power/authority). It was held that the doctrine of ‘Basic structure’ has to be followed by the parliament while amending the Constitution.

Minerva Mills case

Minerva Mills v. Union of India (1980) is a landmark decision that safeguarded the ‘fundamental framework’ of the Constitution, which was amended by the Parliament. This case also highlights the equilibrium that is to be maintained between the parliamentary authority and the fundamental rights of individuals.  

Facts

To serve the interests of the general public, the Parliament came up with a plan that involved reconstructing the poor assets of those companies/ enterprises that are of public importance. Consequently, parliament passed the Sick Textile Undertakings (Nationalisation) Act, 1974, to work towards its goal of securing the enterprises. 

Minerva Mills was a textile company in Karnataka that produced silk clothes. The government was of the opinion that Minerva Mills is a sick company (a company that has faced losses equal to or exceeding its entire net worth at the end of any financial year) and needs intervention in its affairs. So, the government set up a committee under Section 15 of the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951 and authorised the National Textile Corporation Ltd. to manage the affairs of the company. 

Through the 39th Constitutional Amendment, 1975, nationalisation was included in the 9th schedule, which was outside the realm of judicial review. Thereafter, the company was taken over according to the provisions of the Sick Textile Undertakings (Nationalisation) Act, 1974. After the case of Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain (1975), to gain an upper hand and ultimate power, the Parliament passed a 42nd amendment, which amended Article 31C. Additionally, Section 55 of the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976, which stated that “No amendment of the Constitution (including the provisions of Part III) made or purporting to have been made under this article whether before or after the commencement of section 55 of the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976] shall be called in question in any court on any ground” amended Article 368 of the Constitution. The said amendment to Article 31C stated that no legislation that gave effect to the DPSP could be held unconstitutional and be struck down by the court on the basis that it is violative of Article 14 or Article 19 of the Constitution. To neutralise the decision given in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, Parliament made an amendment to Article 368 by adding two clauses that declared that any amendment (including Part III)  made under Article 368, whether before or after the enactment of Section 55 of the Amendment Act, 1976, shall not be called into question in any court on any ground, and there shall not be any limitation on the power of the parliament to amend any provision of the Constitution. 

The petitioners challenged the validity of various provisions of the Nationalisation Act, 1974, Sections 4 and 55 of the Amendment Act, 1976, the order of the government to nationalise Minerva Mills, and the priority given to DPSPs over FRs. 

Issue

  1. Whether amendments to Articles 31C and 368 are constitutional or not.
  2. Whether DPSPs can be preferred over FRs or not.

Judgement 

The Hon’ble Court made its decision with a ratio of 4:1. The court held that the parliament has the power to amend the Constitution, but the basic structure of the Constitution cannot be amended. The amendments made in Article 368 were held unconstitutional as they hampered the basic structure and also barred the court from its power of judicial review, which is against the spirit of the Constitution. 

Regarding Article 31C, the court held that prioritising Part IV over Part III would destroy the basic structure. The very basic and fundamental rights, such as the Right to equality and Freedom of Speech and Expression are subjected to vulnerability, which is very problematic. The Court also relied on the significance of the Golden Triangle, i.e., Articles 14, 19 and 21. The court added that Article 31C robbed two sides of this triangle. 

The justiciable nature of FRs and the non-justiciable nature of DPSPs have caused a conflict between the two since the inception of the constitution. Until the judgement of the SC in the case of State of Madras v. Srimathi Champakam (1951), there was a constant conflict between FRs and DPSPs on which of them shall prevail over the other. The SC settled this question in this case by ruling that in cases of conflict between FRs and DPSPs, FRs shall prevail. It held that DPSP has to comply with FRs and run subsidiaries for them. 

Further, in Minerva Mills v. Union of India (1980), the SC held that fundamental rights “are not an end in themselves but are the means to an end.” The end goal is mentioned in the DPSP. It was also held that the FRs and DPSP together “constitute the core of commitment to social revolution and they, together, are the conscience of the Constitution”. The Constitution of India is founded on the bedrock of the balance between the FRs and DPSPs. They are similar to the two wheels of a chariot that shall go together for a smooth journey. Giving superiority to one over the other will disrupt the purpose of the Constitution. The balance between both is an essential element of the basic structure of our constitution. 

In State of Kerala v. N.M. Thomas (1975), the SC held that the DPSP and FRs should be construed in harmony with each other and that every attempt should be made to resolve any apparent inconsistency between the both. 

In the case of Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha v. State of Gujarat (2020), the SC mentioned that the Constitution is a charter that solemnises the transfer of power. However, the constitutional vision of Swarajya transcends the devolution of political power. The fundamental rights and directive principles of State policy present a coherent vision of a welfare state that contemplates social, political and economic justice. Granville Austin, in his seminal work on the Constitution of India, has described FRs and DPSP as “the conscience of the Constitution which connects India’s future, present, and past by giving strength to the pursuit of social revolution in India”. 

A conflict between fundamental rights and DPSP can arise due to tension between individual liberties and the collective welfare of society. For a harmonious society, it is essential to find a balance between them. Courts need to adopt an approach of purposive interpretation when a conflict arises between FRs and DPSPs. The government should frame policies in such a way that the objectives of FRs and DPSPs are met and conflict is minimised. 

Over the years, the Supreme Court has reiterated the fact that fundamental rights and Directive Principles of State policy should go hand in hand and both must coexist harmoniously. Efforts should be made by the State to achieve the goals set in the DPSP without compromising the fundamental rights of individuals. The Supreme Court has restated the importance of balance between FRs and DPSP in the case of I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu (2007). The Hon’ble Court held that as DPSPs are negative and positive obligations on the State, the constituent assembly has imposed a duty on the government to adopt a middle ground between the liberty of the citizens and the welfare of the people. FRs and DPSP should be balanced with an inclination towards the public good. However, this balance should not take precedence over the fundamental rights of individuals. 


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