Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs)

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directive principles of state policy
Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs)

The Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), as a unique feature of the Indian Constitution, aims to guide the nation toward the establishment of a just and equitable society. Embodying the ideals of social and economic democracy, they serve as a compass for the governance of the country. This article of NEXT IAS aims to study the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), its meaning, constitutional provisions, classification, features, significance, criticism, and other related aspects.

The Directive Principles of State Policy, in the context of India, refers to a set of guidelines or principles contained in the Indian Constitution.

They denote the ideals that the governments in India, both Central as well as State, should keep in mind while formulating policies and enacting laws.

They constitute a very comprehensive socio-economic and political program that would aid in achieving socio-economic justice and setting the foundation for a modern and welfare state.

directive principles of state policy

Articles 36 to 51 in Part IV of the Indian Constitution contain detailed provisions regarding the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs).

Note: The idea of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) in the Indian Constitution has been borrowed from the Irish Constitution.

The salient features of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) in the Indian Constitution are as follows:

  • Constitutional Instructions: They denote the constitutional instructions to the State in dealing with legislative, executive, and administrative matters. Thus, they serve as ideals to be kept in mind by the state while formulating policies and enacting laws.
  • Non-Justiciable: Unlike the Fundamental Rights, which are legally enforceable, the DPSPs are non-justiciable. Thus, they are not legally enforceable by the courts for their violation and the governments cannot be compelled to implement them.
  • Aimed at Welfare State: They aim at realizing the ideals of Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity as envisaged in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution. Thus, they embody the concept of a ‘Welfare State’.
  • Aimed at Socio-Economic Democracy: They constitute very comprehensive economic, social, and political programs that seek to establish socio-economic democracy in the country. Thus, they aim to establish a modern democratic state.
  • Promote Good Governance: They allow for adaptation and innovation in governance to meet the objectives of socio-economic development. Thus, they promote good governance practices.
  • Resemblance to ‘Instrument of Instructions’: As noted by Dr. Ambedkar, they resemble the ‘Instrument of Instructions’ enumerated in the Government of India Act of 1935.
  • Aids Judiciary: Though non-justiciable, they help the courts in examining and determining the constitutional validity of a law.
    • As ruled by the Supreme Court, in determining the constitutionality of any law, if a court finds that the law in question seeks to give effect to a Directive Principle, it may consider such law to be ‘reasonable’ in relation to Article 14 (Equality before Law and Equal Protection of Laws) or Article 19 (Protection of Six Freedoms).
Note:

1. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar described the Directive Principles of State Policy as ‘Novel Features’ of the Indian Constitution.
2. Granville Austin has described the Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Rights as the ‘Conscience of the Constitution’.

The provisions related to the DPSPs, as mentioned in Articles 36 to 51 in Part IV of the Indian Constitution are described in detail as follows.

As per Article 36, the term ‘State’ in Part IV (DPSP) has the same meaning as in Part III (Fundamental Rights). Thus, the term ‘State’ for the purpose of Part IV (DPSP) includes the following:

  • The Government and Parliament of India i.e. the executive and legislative organs of the Union Government.
  • The Government and Legislature of States i.e. the executive and legislative organs of the State Government.
  • All local authorities i.e. municipalities, panchayats, district boards, improvement trusts, etc.
  • All other public authorities in the country.

As per Article 37, the provisions contained in Part IV (DPSP) shall not be enforceable by any court, nevertheless, these principles are fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.

The rest of the provisions related to the DPSP are mentioned in detail in the sections that follow.

Though the Constitution has not classified the Directive Principles, based on their content and orientation, they can be classified into three broad categories:

  • Socialistic Principles
  • Gandhian Principles
  • Liberal-Intellectual Principles.

Embodying the ideology of socialism, these principles lay down the framework of a democratic socialist state. Overall, they strive to establish a welfare state by providing for social and economic justice.

ArticlesDescriptionRelated Initiatives Taken
Article 38To promote the welfare of the people by securing a social order permeated by justice—social, economic, and political—and to minimize inequalities in income, status, facilities, and opportunities.– Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana
– Public Distribution System
– MNREGA
– Establishment of the National Commission of Schedule Castes (NCSC)
– Establishment of the National Commission of Schedule Tribes (NCST)
Article 39To 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 for men and women,
– Preservation of the health and strength of workers and children against forcible abuse,
Opportunities for the healthy development of children.
– Maternity Benefit Law
– Integrated Child Development Scheme
– Minimum Wages Act of 1948
– Equal Remuneration Act of 1976
– Rural Livelihood Mission, and Urban Livelihood Mission
– Promotion of Self-Help Groups (SHGs)
– Mission Indradhanush
Article 39ATo promote equal justice and to provide free legal aid to the poor.– National Legal Services Authority
– Pro Bono Legal Service
– Nyaya Mitra Scheme
Article 41To secure the right to work, to education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disablement.– National Social Assistance Program- Annapurna.
– MGNREGA Act of 2005
– Persons with Disabilities Act of 1995
– Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizen Act 2007
Article 42To make provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.– PM Maitritva Vandana Yojana
– Maternity Benefit Act of 2017
Article 43To secure a living wage, a decent standard of living, and social and cultural opportunities for all workers.– 4 Labour Codes
– MGNREGA Act
– Social Security Act of 2008
– Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana
Article 43ATo take steps to secure the participation of workers in the management of industries.– Labour Laws such as Factories Act 1948, Industrial Dispute Act 1947, Contract Labour Act 1970, etc.
– Trade Union Act of 1926
– Amalgamation of Labor Courts
Article 47To raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of people and to improve public health.– National Food Security Act of 2013
– Poshan Abhiyan
– One Nation One Ration Card

These principles are based on the Gandhian ideology and represent the program of reconstruction enunciated by Gandhi during the national movement.

ArticlesSubject-MatterRelated Initiatives Taken
Article 40To organize village panchayats and endow them with the necessary powers and authority to enable them to function as units of self-government.– 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act 1992
– Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996
Article 43To promote cottage industries on an individual or cooperative basis in rural areas.– Khadi and Village Handloom Boards
– Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC)
Article 43BTo promote voluntary formation, autonomous functioning, democratic control, and professional management of cooperative societies.– Establishment of the Ministry of Cooperation
– Yuva Sahakar-Cooperative Enterprise Support and Innovation Scheme 2019
– 97th Constitutional Amendment, 2011
– National Cooperative Development Corporation Act, 1962
Article 46To promote the educational and economic interests of SCs, STs, and other weaker sections of society and to protect them from social injustice and exploitation.– National Historic Preservation Act of 1966
– The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958
– Antiquities and Art Treasure Act of 1972
Article 47To prohibit the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs that are injurious to health.– Doctrine of Separation of Powers is a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution
– Independence of Judiciary is a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution
Article 48To prohibit the slaughter of cows, calves, and other milch and draught cattle and to improve their breeds.– Non-Alignment Movement (NAM)
– Panchsheel Doctrine
– UN Peacekeeping Operations

These principles reflect the ideology of liberalism:

ArticlesSubject-MatterRelated Initiatives Taken
Article 44To secure for all citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the country.– Special Marriage Act of 1954
– Hindu Code Bill of 1956
Article 45To provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.– Integrated Child Protection Scheme
– Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme
Article 48To organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines.– e-NAM
– Soil Health Card Scheme
– Rashtriya Gokul Mission
Article 48ATo protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forests and wildlife.– Indian Forest Act of 1927
– Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972
– Environment (Protection) Act of 1986
– Biological Diversity Act of 2002
– Green India Mission
Article 49To protect monuments, places, and objects of artistic or historic interest which are declared to be of national importance.– National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
– The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958
– Antiquities and Art Treasure Act of 1972.
Article 50To separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the State.– Doctrine of Separation of Powers is a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution
– Independence of Judiciary is a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution
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 the settlement of international disputes by arbitration.
– Non-Alignment Movement (NAM)
– Panchsheel Doctrine 
– UN Peacekeeping Operations

The list of Directive Principles, as contained in the original constitution, has undergone some changes over the period of time. Various constitutional amendments have added some new Directive Principles to the original list. Also, some existing Directive Principles were modified through constitutional amendments.

These changes and developments can be seen as follows:

The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 added four new Directive Principles to the original list. The new Directive Principles added by this Constitutional Amendment are listed below:

ArticlesSubject Matter
Article 39To secure opportunities for the healthy development of children.
Article 39ATo promote equal justice and to provide free legal aid to the poor.
Article 43ATo take steps to secure the participation of workers in the management of industries.
Article 48ATo protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forests and wildlife.

The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 added one new Directive Principle as shown below:

ArticleSubject-Matter
Article 38To minimize inequalities in income, status, facilities, and opportunities.

The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002 made two changes w.r.t. DPSPs:

  • Changed the subject matter of Article 45. The amended directive requires the State to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.
  • Made elementary education a Fundamental Right under Article 21A.

The 97th Amendment Act of 2011 added a new Directive Principle as listed below:

ArticleSubject-Matter
Article 43BTo promote voluntary formation, autonomous functioning, democratic control, and professional management of cooperative societies.

The framers of the Constitution deliberately kept the Directive Principles of the State Policy non-justiciable. Some of the prominent reasons behind this are as follows:

  • Two Categories of Rights: The discussions and debates in the Constituent Assembly led to the decision that the rights of an individual should be divided into two categories – Justiciable (incorporated in the form of the Fundamental Rights) and Non-Justiciable (incorporated in the form of the Directive Principles).
  • Insufficient Financial Resources: At the time of independence, the nation lacked adequate financial resources to fully implement them.
  • Foreseen Hurdles: The presence of immense diversity and socio-economic backwardness across the country were seen as significant challenges to their effective implementation.
  • Need for Flexibility: The newly-born nation had numerous pressing priorities. Making the Directive Principles legally enforceable could potentially overwhelm the state’s capacities.
    • Therefore, the Constitution makers opted for flexibility in determining when, where, and how to implement these principles.
  • Non-Justiciability: The non-justiciable character of the DPSPs means that most of them have remained merely as ‘pious declarations’.
  • Illogically Arranged: DPSPs are neither properly classified nor logically arranged based on a consistent philosophy. The way they are arranged mixes up relatively unimportant issues with the most vital socio-economic issues and modern issues with old issues.
  • Conservative in Nature: Critics argue that the Directives are mostly based on the political philosophy of 19th-century England and are not suitable for 21st-century India.
  • Ignoring Social Realities: Some argue that DPSPs fail to address the complexities of India’s diverse socio-economic realities, resulting in policies that may not effectively address the needs of all citizens.
  • Constitutional Conflict: They lead to several kinds of constitutional conflicts as can be seen below:
    • Between Center and the States – The Center can give directions to the state governments regarding the implementation of these principles, and in case of non-compliance, can dismiss the concerned state government.
    • Between the President and Parliament – The President may reject a bill that violates any DPSP.
    • Between the Governor and State Legislature – The Governor of a state may reject a bill that violates any DPSP.
  • Conflict with Fundamental Rights: Some DPSPs often conflict with Fundamental Rights, creating challenges of balancing competing interests.

Despite some criticisms, the Directive Principles hold significance and utility for the following reasons:

  • Instrument of Instructions: They function as “Instruments of Instructions” or general recommendations to all authorities within the Indian Union, and remind them of the aim of building a new socio-economic order.
  • Framework for State Actions: They constitute the overarching framework, guiding all actions (legislative and executive) undertaken by the State.
  • Aid Judiciary: They help the judiciary in determining the constitutional validity of a law. Thus, they act as guiding lights to the courts.
  • Help Realize Constitutional Objectives: They elaborate upon and aim to realize the ideals envisaged in the Preamble – Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity – for all citizens of India.
  • Stability and Consistency in Policies: They facilitate stability and consistency in both domestic and foreign policies across political, economic, and social spheres.
  • Supplement Fundamental Rights: They supplement the fundamental rights by filling the vacuum in Part III by providing for social and economic rights.
  • Help Realize Socio-Economic Democracy: By striving to establish socio-economic democracy, these principles create a conducive environment for citizens to enjoy their fundamental rights fully and properly.
  • Help Measure Government Performance: They serve as parameters to measure the performance of the government. Thus, they aid the citizens as well as the opposition examine the policies and programs of the government.
  • Lack of Accountability: Due to their non-binding nature, critics argue that there is a lack of accountability in ensuring compliance with DPSPs, allowing governments to neglect their obligations.
  • Political Expediency: There is criticism that governments often prioritize short-term political gains over the long-term objectives outlined in DPSPs, undermining their significance.
  • Inadequate Financial Resources: Lack of sufficient financial resources is one of the prominent reasons holding the government from the fuller implementation of the DPSP.
  • Population Explosion: Ever-increasing population of the country is breeding various new socio-economic issues, which need priority attention. Thus, the implementation of DPSP keeps on taking a backseat.
  • Strained Center-State Relations: Inadequate spirit of cooperative federalism results in a lack of coordination and cooperation between the Center and the States for the implementation of DPSP.

Implementing some of the Directive Principles might require the state to impose restrictions on certain Fundamental Rights. This means that the State has to impose restrictions on justiciable rights (Fundamental Rights) to implement non-justiciable rights (DPSP). This contradiction has led to a conflict between the two since the commencement of the Constitution.

The evolution of the conflict between Fundamental Rights and DPSP, over the years, can be seen as follows:

  • Champakam Dorairajan vs. the State of Madras (1951): In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that in the event of any conflict between the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles, the Fundamental Rights would prevail.
    • It declared that the Directive Principles act as a subsidiary of the Fundamental Rights.
    • However, it held that Fundamental Rights could be amended by the Parliament only by enacting Constitutional Amendment Acts.
  • Golaknath vs. the State of Punjab (1967): In this case, the Supreme Court held that Fundamental Rights, being sacrosanct in nature, could not be amended by the Parliament.
    • It meant that the Fundamental Rights could not be amended for implementation of Directive Principles.
  • 24th Constitutional Amendment Act (1971): In response to the Supreme Court verdict in the Golaknath Case, the Parliament passed the 24th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1971.
    • It declared that the Parliament can take away or abridge any of the Fundamental Rights through a Constitutional Amendment Act under Article 368.
  • 25th Constitutional Amendment Act (1971): This amendment inserted a new Article 31-C containing the following provisions:
    • No law which seeks to implement DPSP contained in Article 39 (b) and (c) shall be void on the ground of contravention of Fundamental Rights under Article 14, Article 19 and Article 31.
    • No law containing a declaration for giving effect to such policy shall be questioned in any court on the ground that it does not give effect to such a policy.
  • Kesavananda Bharati vs. the State of Kerala (1973): In this case, the Supreme Court declared the second provision of Article 31C as unconstitutional. It, however, upheld the first provision of Article 31C.
  • 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act (1976): It extended the scope of the first provision of Article 31C to include within its scope any law to implement any of the DPSP and not just Article 39 (b) and (c).
    • Thus, it sought to accord supremacy to all DPSPs over Fundamental Rights under Articles 14, 19, and 31.
  • Minerva Mills vs. the Union of India (1980): In this case, the above extension of the scope of the first provision of Article 31C made by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
    • Thus, the Directive Principles were once again made subordinate to the Fundamental Rights. However, the Directive Principles specified in Article 39 (b) and (c) were accepted as having supremacy over the Fundamental Rights conferred by Article 14 and Article 19.
  • 44th Constitutional Amendment Act (1978): It abolished Article 31 (Right to Property).
  • Present Position: The present position w.r.t. DPSP vis-a-vis Fundamental Rights is as follows:
    • The Fundamental Rights enjoy supremacy over DPSP.
    • However, DPSP contained in Articles 39 (b) and (c) enjoy supremacy over Fundamental Rights under Articles 14 and 19.
    • Parliament can amend Fundamental Rights for implementing a DPSP so long as the amendment does not destroy the basic structure of the Constitution.
Fundamental RightsDirective Principles
These are negative as they prohibit the State from doing certain things.These are positive as they require the State to do certain things.
These are justiciable in nature.These are non-justiciable in nature.
They aim to establish political democracy in the country.They aim to establish social and economic democracy in the country.
These have legal sanctions.These have moral and political sanctions.
They are individualistic in nature as they promote the welfare of the individual.They are societarian in nature as they promote the welfare of the community.
They are automatically enforced and hence do not require any legislation for their implementation.They are not automatically enforced, and require legislation for their implementation.
The courts can declare a law unconstitutional and invalid if it violates any of the Fundamental Rights.The courts cannot declare a law unconstitutional and invalid if it violates any of the Directive Principles. However, they can uphold the validity of a law on the ground that it was enacted to give effect to a directive.

In conclusion, the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) aim to realize the ideals of Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity as outlined in the preamble of the Constitution. Thus, they embody the concept of a welfare state. It is because of this significance that Dr Ambedkar has called the DPSP the ‘novel features’ of the Indian Constitution.

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