Enforcing fundamental duties

JUL 29

Mains   > Constitution   >   Indian Constitution   >   Fundamental duties

IN NEWS:

  • The Supreme Court recently allowed the Centre’s request for two months’ time to file a reply to a petition seeking the enforcement of fundamental duties of citizens.

FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES:

  • The framers of the Constitution did not feel it necessary to incorporate the fundamental duties of the citizens in the Constitution.
  • Later in 1976, the fundamental duties of citizens were added, based on the recommendations of Swaran Singh committee.
  • The Fundamental Duties in the Indian Constitution are inspired by the Constitution of erstwhile USSR.
  • The fundamental duties were incorporated in Part IV-A of the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, during Indira Gandhi’s tenure. This new part consists of only one Article, that is, Article 51A.
  • Article 51A describes 11 fundamental duties: 10 came with the 42nd Amendment; the 11th was added by the 86th Amendment in 2002, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister.
  • These duties are not enforceable by law. However, a court may take them into account while adjudicating on a matter.

LIST OF FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES:

According to Article 51 A, 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 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 the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the 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 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 endeavour and achievement
  11. to provide opportunities for education to his child or ward between the age of six and fourteen years.

ARGUMENTS FAVOURING ENFORCEABILITY:

  • Balancing rights with duties:
    • Duties serve as a reminder to the citizens that while enjoying their rights, they should also be conscious of duties they owe to their country, their society and to their fellow citizens.
  • Counter anti-social activities:
    • Fundamental Duties are warning the people against anti-social activities that disrespect the nation. The enforcement of Fundamental Duties will restrict the people who go against the basics of respect towards a nation.
  • Promote national wellbeing:
    • Fundamental duties promote a sense of discipline and commitment towards the nation from its citizens.
  • Global success stories:
    • Many nations across the world have transformed into developed economies by embodying the principles of “responsible citizenship”. Eg: Japan and Singapore.
  • Present in international legislations:
    • Universally, great emphasis has been laid on citizens’ duties. Article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”
  • Part of Indian culture:
    • Since ancient times, people in India have had a tradition of performing their duties - “kartavya”. The citizens’ duties as enshrined in the Constitution are essentially a codification of tasks integral to the Indian way of life — they focus on tolerance, peace and communal harmony.

ARGUMENTS OPPOSING ITS ENFORCEMENT:

  • Threat to individual liberty:
    • Modern constitutions are aimed at shielding the individual from the excesses of the State. Enforcing duties could lead to state encroaching upon individual’s rights, especially those on speech and expression.
  • Lack of clarity:
    • Some of the duties are vague, ambiguous and difficult to be understood by the common man. For example, different interpretations can be given to the phrases like ‘noble ideals’, ‘composite culture’, ‘scientific temper’ and so on.
  • Questions individual’s love to the nation:  
    • Enforcing Fundamental Duties are an offence to a citizens’ discernment and dignity, as its underlying presumption is that they ought to be constitutionally reminded of such nice things.
  • Several legislations exist:
    • There are many laws like Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, Environmental Protection Act, Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Remains Act and Right to Education Act that already cover some of the fundamental duties. Hence, there is no necessity to enforce the duties as a whole.  
  • Superfluous:
    • 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 in the Constitution.

WAY FORWARD:

The Supreme Court in Ranganath Mishra judgment 2003 held that fundamental duties should not only be enforced by legal sanctions but also by social sanctions. Hence, there should be efforts to develop consensus among the public before the duties are made enforceable. For this, the recommendations made by Justice Verma Committee on Operationalisation of Fundamental Duties of Citizens deserve to be reiterated. In particular, it is suggested that there is imperative need for wider dissemination of information and generating greater awareness in regard to the Fundamental Duties of citizens and obligations of citizenship.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. “The rights and duties of the citizens are correlative and inseparable”. In this regard, critically analyse the need to enforce fundamental duties?