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Fundamental Duties – Indian Polity Notes

Enshrined in the Part IV-A of the constitution, the fundamental duties weren’t part of the original constitution. Those were added by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act 1976 based on recommendations of Sardar Swaran Singh Committee.

No liberal democracy in the world has provisions relating to duties in its constitution. It is argued that the idea of fundamental duties is taken from the erstwhile Soviet Constitution. At present article 51A constituting fundamental duties has 11 duties.

Sardar Swaran Singh Committee Recommendations

During the national emergency of 1975-77, the government headed by PM Indira Gandhi appointed Sardar Swaran Singh Committee on Fundamental Duties. Committees recommended the inclusion of part IV A with sole article 51A in the constitution.

The committee had recommended 8 fundamental duties, but not all were incorporated in the final 10 duties which were added in Part-IV A.

List of Fundamental Duties

According to Article 51A, 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 national anthem.
  2. To cherish and follow noble ideals that inspired the 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 spirit of common brotherhood amongst all people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
  6. To value and preserve the rich heritage of the country’s composite culture.
  7. To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.
  8. To develop a scientific temper, humanism and 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 endeavour and achievement.
  11. To provide opportunities for education to his child or ward between age of six and fourteen years. [added by 86th constitutional amendment act 2002].

Features of Fundamental Duties

  1. Fundamental duties are not justiciable. There is no punishment for disobedience of these duties.
  2. These are essential facets of Indian life based on Indian traditions, religion and culture.
  3. Fundamental duties apply only to citizens of India. Foreigners are outside the ambit of these duties.
  4. These are a combination of moral and civic duties.

Relevance of Fundamental Duties

  • They serve as a reminder to citizens that while they have been given freedoms but they shall be conscious of their duties towards the nation too.
  • They act as a source of inspiration for citizens.
  • These can be used by the judiciary to determine the constitutionality of a law. If the law gives effect to fundamental duties, it will be considered as reasonable in relation to Articles 14, 19.
  • Though they are not justiciable automatically, the parliament can make laws to give effect to these.

Verma Committee Observations

Verma Committee (1999) identified existence of certain legal provisions to implement the fundamental duties. These legal provisions were:

  • Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act 1971 prevents disrespect to constitution, national anthem and national flag.
  • Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 provides punishment for caste and religion offences.
  • UAPA provides declaration of communal organizations as an unlawful organisation.
  • RPA 1951, provides for disqualification of MPs/MLAs for indulging in corrupt practices.
  • WPA 1972 prohibits trade in rare and endangered species.
  • FRA 1980 checks indiscriminate deforestation.

Relationship between Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties

Rights and duties are co-related. Since man lives in a society, he has to take care of interests of others for his own freedom. In part -III reasonable restrictions are mentioned to limit fundamental rights.

Fundamental duties can be considered as reasonable restrictions . Persons rights can be restricted in the wider interest of the society. Though fundamental duties are not enforceable yet the courts can deny the enforcement of fundamental rights of person who doesn’t fulfil his fundamental duties.

Critical Analysis

  • It is feature of socialist countries. In liberal democracy, the Constitution is to limit the powers of the state and not the rights of persons.
  • When they were added in the constitution they were not made enforceable.
  • Constitution is the fundamental law of the country, and it is duty of courts that constitution is followed in letter and spirit. The non-enforceable part creates problem for courts.
  • Duties are vaguely worded.
  • Some duties were added but there is no clarity about how these are to be followed by people. E.g. promotion of scientific temper without basic education for masses.
  • Fundamental duties were added with objective to create responsible citizens. The nature of political culture hasn’t changed even after inclusion of these duties. 

Supreme Court Judgements

  1. AIIMS Student Union vs AIIMS: Supreme Court held, Fundamental Duties are equally important like Fundamental Rights and strike down internal reservation.
  2. In National Anthem Case: The Kerala HC held that though students didn’t recite the National Anthem and stood up in its respect. Non recital is not an offense and reversed the suspension of those students.
  3. In MC Mehta v Union of India: Supreme Court asked the educational institutions to dedicate atleast one hour per week to sensitise students for protection of environment.

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