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Insights into Editorial: Expanding the Idea of India

Insights into Editorial: Expanding the Idea of India

16 July 2016

The Fundamental Duties are an important part of Indian Constitution. The duties prescribed, embody some of the highest ideals preached by our great saints, philosophers, social reformers and political leaders.

Background:

No Duties of the Citizen were incorporated in the original constitution of India at the time of its commencement in 1950. These duties were inserted subsequently by amending the constitution in 1976 (42nd Amendment Act) to regulate the behaviour of the citizens and to bring about excellence in all the spheres of the citizens.

Just as the directive Principle of State Policy lay down guidelines for the various governments, similarly the fundamental duties are calculated to draw the attention of the citizens towards the duties they owe to the nation and to one another.

Scope:

Fundamental duties are obligatory in nature. But there is no provision in the constitution for direct enforcement of these duties. There is no sanction either to prevent their violation. However the importance of fundamental duties can be gauged from the following facts:

  • As rights and duties are the two side of the same coin, it is expected that one should observe one’s duties in order to seek the enforcement of one’s fundamental rights, in the context if a person approaches the court for the enforcement of any of his fundamental rights, the court may refuse to take a lenient view of him if it comes to know that the concerned individual has no respect for what is expected of him by the state as a citizen of the country.
  • They can be used for interpreting ambiguous statutes. The court may look at the fundamental duties while interpreting equivocal statutes which admit of two constructions.
  • While determining the constitutionality of any law, if court finds that it seeks to give effect to any of the duties, it may consider such law to be “reasonable”, and thereby, save such law from unconstitutionality.

Significance of FDs:

  • They 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.
  • They serve as a warning against the anti-national and antisocial activities like burning the national flag, destroying public property and so on.
  • They serve as a source of inspiration for the citizens and promote a sense of discipline and commitment among them. They create a feeling that the citizens are no mere spectators but active participants in the realisation of national goals.
  • They help the courts in examining and determining the constitutional validity of a law. In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that 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) and thus save such law from unconstitutionality.
  • They are enforceable by law. Hence, the Parliament can provide for the imposition of appropriate penalty or punishment for failure to fulfill any of them. The importance of fundamental duties is that they define the moral obligations of all citizens to help in the promotion of the spirit of patriotism and to uphold the unity of India.

Drawbacks:

  • The fundamental duties are not precisely defined. Their ambiguity and vagueness confound the citizens as to what they are supposed to do.
  • Most significantly, they are merely moral postulates and do not have justiciability. They are not enforced by Law.
  • Place in the constitution: It has been added in the Part IVA i.e. after Part IV (Which belongs to the Directive Principles of State Policy which are non-enforceable even with the court of law). It has given the Fundamental Duties a nature of non-obligation.
  • Fundamental Duties prescribe duties for the citizens and not for the Government for better life and social progress.
  • Fundamental duties miss some important duties such as cast vote, pay taxes, family planning etc.

List of FDs:

  • 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 which inspired our 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 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 our composite culture.
  • To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.
  • To develop the 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 endeavour and achievement.
  • Subsequently, another duty was added by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002: for a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education of the child or ward between the age of six and fourteen (It was added when under Article 21A Right to education was made a FR).

What needs to be done now?

The scope of Fundamental Rights under Part III of the Constitution has seen significant expansion through judicial pronouncements; the right to free legal services to the poor, right to speedy trial and right to live in a clean and healthy environment are just a few examples. As a result, an imbalance has been created between the current set of Fundamental Rights and Duties. Hence, to balance this few additional Fundamental Duties should be added. This could help in balancing out the rights of its citizens and further make them more responsible towards the country’s development.

Following duties can be considered in this regard:

Duty to vote: The state can take several steps to ensure that this duty to vote is made operational and effective. One method through which this may be achieved is by developing a system of incentives for voters and conversely disadvantages for those who abstain from performing their duty to vote. A very large section of people can be motivated to vote this way.

Duty to pay taxes: The incorporation of the right to pay taxes as part of Fundamental Duties in the Constitution will shift the onus onto the taxpayer to pay taxes rather than the tax department to collect them.

Duty to help accident victims: With the increase in the number of accidents, it has become pertinent for India to recognise this duty as one owed by its citizens towards each other.

Duty to keep the premises clean: The most effective mechanism to tackle uncleanliness is to sensitise people about this duty. Therefore, it is imperative that a Fundamental Duty to this effect be added to the Constitution.

Duty to prevent civil wrongs: It is not enough that a citizen refrains from committing wrong; he has a duty to see that fellow citizens do not indulge in the commission of wrongs.

Duty to raise voice against injustice: The duties of a victim or a witness can be classified into two main categories, viz. duty to report a crime and duty to testify in court. The state must also on its part work to ensure that the fight to bring the offender to book does not become a Kafkaesque nightmare for the victim or witness.

Duty to protect whistle-blowers: With the coming into force of the Right to Information Act, 2005, every citizen has become a “potential whistle-blower”. While the state has a great deal of responsibility in providing for their protection through appropriate legislative instruments, the responsibility to protect torchbearers of transparency vests on each one of us.

Duty to support bona fide civil society movements: Citizens have a moral duty to organise themselves or support citizen groups so that the gaps in governance left by the executive can be filled and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution are made available to every citizen. Therefore, it is proposed that there must be an addition to Part IV-A of the Constitution to that effect.

Reinvigorating civic responsibility: In the modern context, it has become increasingly important to instil a reinvigorated sense of civic responsibility among Indian citizens. This can be achieved by adding new duties to the existing list of Fundamental Duties while also laying emphasis on the performance of the existing ones.

Conclusion:

The significance of Fundamental Duties is not diminished by the fact that there is no punishment prescribed for not following them. Fundamental Duties constitute the conscience of our Constitution; they should be treated as constitutional values that must be propagated by all citizens.