Fundamental Duties: Meaning, Evolution, Features, Significance & Criticism

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Fundamental Duties
Fundamental Duties

While much discourse centers on the rights granted to citizens, it is the concept of fundamental duties that inculcates the essence of responsible citizenship and collective welfare. The Fundamental Duties, as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, is a beacon guiding citizens towards a harmonious and productive relationship with their country and fellow beings. This article of Next IAS delves into the origins, features, and significance of these duties, and the nuanced interplay they share with fundamental rights, all while exploring the judicial perspective and criticisms that accompany them.

In the context of a nation, the Fundamental Duties of Indian Constitution refer to a set of duties prescribed for the citizens of that nation. They act as a reminder to the citizens that in addition to the enjoyment of rights, they also have to perform certain duties towards the nation they live in. In essence, Fundamental Duties can be summarised as a set of moral and ethical obligations that citizens are expected to uphold towards a nation.

Article 51A in Part IV-A provides eleven Fundamental Duties of Indian Constitution. These fundamental duties are mentioned below:

  • To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem,
  • To cherish and follow the noble ideals that inspired the national struggle for freedom,
  • To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India,
  • To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so,
  • 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,
  • To value and preserve the rich heritage of the country’s composite culture,
  • To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures,
  • To develop a scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform,
  • To safeguard public property and to abjure violence,
  • 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, and
  • To provide opportunities for education to his child or ward between the age of six and fourteen years (added by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002).
Note: The Fundamental Duties in the Indian Constitution are inspired by the Constitution of the erstwhile USSR.

Originally, the Indian Constitution did not contain Fundamental Duties. However, their need and necessity were felt during the operation of the internal emergency from 1975 to 1977. Accordingly, steps were taken by the government that led to the incorporation and evolution of the Fundamental Duties in India:

  • In 1976, the Government of India appointed the Sardar Swaran Singh Committee to make recommendations about Fundamental Duties.
    • The Committee observed that in addition to the enjoyment of rights, the citizens should also perform certain duties.
    • Accordingly, it recommended the inclusion of a separate chapter on Fundamental Duties in the Constitution, which would contain a list of 8 Fundamental Duties.
  • The Central Government accepted the recommendations of the Sardar Swaran Singh Committee and decided to incorporate a list of fundamental duties in the Constitution of India.
    • Accordingly, it enacted the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act in 1976, which added a new part (Part IVA) to the Constitution. This new part consists of only one Article (Article 51A) which specifies a code of ten fundamental duties of the citizens of India.
    • It is to be noted that though the Swaran Singh Committee recommended the incorporation of eight Fundamental Duties, the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act included ten Fundamental Duties.
  • The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002 added one more Fundamental Duty (to provide opportunities for education to his child or ward between the ages of six and fourteen years).
  • The list of Fundamental Duties in the Indian Constitution has been constant since then.

The Fundamental Duties of Indian Constitution outlined in Article 51-A possess several distinct features which are as follows:

  • Non-Justiciable – These duties are non-justiciable, meaning they are not enforceable by law through the judiciary. However, they serve as moral obligations and guiding principles for citizens.
  • Scope of Applicability – These duties are confined to citizens only and do not extend to foreigners.
  • Derived from Various Sources– These duties draw inspiration from various sources, including the Constitution of the erstwhile Soviet Union, the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi, and other constitutional experts. They reflect a blend of national and international values.
  • Directive Nature – These duties guide the behavior and conduct of citizens and serve as a moral compass for shaping a responsible and law-abiding society.
  • Codification of Indian Values – They refer to values that have been a part of Indian traditions and practices. Thus, they essentially are a codification of tasks integral to the Indian way of life.
  • Moral and Civic – Some of them are moral duties e.g. cherishing noble ideals of national freedom struggle, while others are civic duties e.g. respecting the Constitution.

The significance of the fundamental duties of Indian Constitution lies in their role in fostering a sense of responsibility, patriotism, and social cohesion among citizens. The points highlighting their significance are:

  • Promotes Civic Consciousness – These duties instill a sense of civic consciousness and responsibility among citizens toward the nation and society. For example, they remind them of their obligations to uphold the values enshrined in the Constitution.
  • Educational and Cultural Promotion – Some Fundamental Duties emphasize the importance of promoting education, scientific temper, and the development of scientific knowledge, while also cherishing the rich cultural heritage of India.
  • Harmonization with Rights – These duties complement the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution. While Fundamental Rights confer entitlements upon citizens, Fundamental Duties remind them of their reciprocal obligations towards society and the nation.
  • Promotes People’s Participation – They create a feeling among the citizens that they are not mere spectators but active participants in the realization of national goals.
  • Preservation of National Unity and Integrity – These duties emphasize the importance of respecting the ideals of the Constitution and promoting a shared commitment to the welfare of the country beyond individual interests.
  • Inculcation of Moral and Ethical Values – These duties encourage the cultivation of moral and ethical values among citizens by promoting integrity, honesty, and respect for others.
  • Promotes Democratic Principles – These duties reinforce the principles of democracy through civic engagement and responsible citizenship, essential for the functioning of a vibrant democracy.
  • Promotes Social Welfare – These duties encourage citizens to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood, fostering social cohesion and inclusivity.
  • Complements Fundamental Rights – While fundamental rights empower individuals, fundamental duties remind citizens of their responsibilities towards society and fellow citizens. They strike a balance between rights and responsibilities, ensuring that individual freedoms are exercised responsibly.
  • Legal and Constitutional Framework – These duties serve as guiding principles for lawmakers and policymakers in shaping laws and policies for the betterment of society.
  • Aids Judiciary – 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 fundamental duty, it may consider such law to be ‘reasonable’ in relation to Article 14 (equality before law) or Article 19 (six freedoms). Thus, they help the judiciary in examining and determining the constitutional validity of a law.
  • Global Recognition – The inclusion of fundamental duties enhances India’s standing on the global stage by showcasing its citizen’s dedication to democratic values and constitutional principles.
  • Shri Ranganath Mishra vs Union of India (2003): In this case, the Supreme Court stated that Fundamental Duties should be upheld not merely through legal sanctions but also through social sanctions. Furthermore, the court directed the implementation of Justice J.S. Verma Committee’s recommendations regarding the widespread dissemination of knowledge about Fundamental Duties to the public.
  • In AIIMS Students Union v. AIIMS (2001): The Supreme Court ruled that Fundamental Duties hold the same level of importance as Fundamental Rights. The court observed that both being designated as ‘Fundamental’ underscores their equal significance.

The relationship between Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties can be summarised as correlative and complementary. The performance of Fundamental Duties by citizens is necessary for creating an enabling environment for others to enjoy their Fundamental Rights. Similarly, rights are precursors to duties, and without fulfillment of rights, individuals can’t perform their duties. e.g. without fulfillment of the Right to Education, it is difficult to expect the duty to respect the dignity of women.

The inseparable relationship between Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties is illustrated as follows:

Fundamental RightsFundamental Duties
Article 19 provides for Freedom of Speech & Expression. However, it also provides that the state can impose reasonable restrictions on this right on the grounds of sovereignty and integrity of India, and security of the state among others.Article 51A(c) casts a Fundamental Duty on citizens “to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India”.
Article 21 contains within its ambit the right of women to be treated with decency and dignity.Article 51A(e) directs the citizens “to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women”
Article 21A guarantees free and compulsory education to all children of age 6-14 years.Article 51A(k) asks the citizens “to provide opportunities for education to his child/ward between the age of 6-14 years”.
Article 23(2) provides that the State can impose compulsory service for public purposes such as military service.Article 51A(d) asks the citizens “to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so”.

Albeit non-justiciable in nature, the DPSPs also form a type of rights to be enjoyed by the citizens. Thus, the relationship between DPSPs and Fundamental Duties is also of a correlative and complementary nature.

The same is illustrated as follows:

Directive Principles of State Policies (DPSPs)Fundamental Duties
Article 48A directs the state “to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forests and wildlife”.Article 51A(g) provides for a fundamental duty of citizens “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, wildlife, etc.”
Article 45 directs the state “to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of 6 years”Article 51A(k) asks the citizens “to provide opportunities for education to his child/ward between the age of 6-14 years”.
Article 49 directs the state “to protect monuments, places, and objects of artistic and historic interest which are declared to be of national importance”Article 51A(f) asks the citizens “to value and preserve the rich heritage of country’s composite culture”

The relationship between the Fundamental Duties and the Preamble is rooted in their mutual reinforcement of the ideals and aspirations enshrined in the Indian Constitution. While the Preamble outlines the objectives and guiding principles of the Constitution, the Fundamental Duties articulate the responsibilities of citizens towards achieving these objectives.

Fundamental DutiesPreamble
Article 51A(a) states to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag, and the National Anthem.The Preamble has mentioned the ideals of the Constitution as ‘Justice’, ‘Liberty’, ‘Equality’, and ‘Fraternity’. Therefore, in every word, deed, and thought we must remember and practice these ideals of the Constitution.
Article 51A(c) states “to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India”.These core values have been mentioned in the Preamble of India.
Article 51A(e) states “to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities”.The Preamble to the Constitution mentions about ‘Fraternity’ assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.
  • Non-Justiciability – Non-justiciability of Fundamental Duties raises questions about their effectiveness and utility, as there are no legal repercussions for failing to adhere to them.
  • Non-Exhaustive – The list of duties is not exhaustive as it does not cover some very important duties such as casting votes, paying taxes, etc.
  • Subjectivity and Ambiguity – Some critics argue that the language used to articulate fundamental duties is vague, subjective, and ambiguous which makes it challenging to determine the exact scope and nature of these duties. For example, different interpretations can be given to phrases like ‘noble ideals’, ‘composite culture’, etc.
  • Imbalance with Rights – Critics argue that while the Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to citizens, the imposition of fundamental duties creates an imbalance with the rights. They argue that citizens should have enforceable rights without the imposition of corresponding duties, as duties may infringe upon individual autonomy and freedom.
  • Inadequate Promotion and Awareness – Many citizens are unaware of their duties or perceive them as secondary to their rights, undermining their effectiveness in fostering a sense of civic responsibility.
  • Reduce Significance – The inclusion of Fundamental Duties as an appendage to Part IV of the Constitution is seen as reducing their value and significance. Critics argue that they should have been added after Part III to keep them on par with the Fundamental Rights.

Despite some criticisms, the Fundamental Duties of Indian Constitution remain integral to fostering a sense of civic consciousness, patriotism, and social cohesion. By guiding the citizens towards responsible citizenship, they contribute to the collective well-being and progress of the nation. Overall, they aid in fulfilling the vision of a harmonious and democratic society envisioned by the framers of the Constitution.

What are Fundamental Duties?

The Fundamental Duties of Indian Constitution refer to a set of duties prescribed for the citizens of that nation.

How many Fundamental Duties are there in the Indian Constitution?

There are a total of 11 Fundamental Duties of Indian Citizens in the Indian Constitution.

What are the 11 Fundamental Duties?

The 11 Fundamental Duties of Indian Citizens are a set of guiding principles enshrined in the Constitution to remind individuals of their responsibilities toward the nation. These duties include respecting the Constitution, upholding the unity and sovereignty of India, fostering harmony among all citizens, protecting the environment, promoting scientific temper and humanism, and striving for excellence in personal and collective endeavors, and so on.

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