Fundamental Duties of Indian Citizens: Nature, Scope and Criticism

Rights and Duties always go together. These are inter-related. These represent the two sides of the same coin.

The constitution-makers were fully aware of this recognized principle of Political Science. However, while providing for Fundamental Rights they chose to ignore the inclusion of a separate chapter on fundamental duties because of a deep faith in the people of India and Indian Democracy.

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They felt that fundamental duties constituted an implied and inseparable part of the chapter on fundamental rights and there was no need for a separate chapter on Fundamental Duties.

However, after the operation of the Constitution for nearly four decades, it was felt that there was a definite need to make the people fully conscious of their duties towards the nation. In February 1976, the Swaran Singh Committee was established for suggesting constitutional reforms. In its report, published in May 1976, this Committee recommended, the incorporation, of a list of fundamental duties of the people of India.

Accepting the recommendation of this Committee, the Parliament passed the 42nd Amendment (1976) and by it introduced a new part. Part IVA, in the Constitution. Article 51A was added to the Constitution and it described Fundamental Duties of the people of India.

Critical Evaluation:

Thus, Part IVA enumerates Fundamental Duties of every citizen of India. While incorporating these duties in the constitution, several leaders defended and praised the step. They felt that the objective was to make the people increasingly conscious of their duties towards the nation. The then Law Minister Mr. H.R. Gokhley and Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi strongly defended the decision to incorporate a list or fundamental duties in the Constitution.

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However, several other scholars, statesmen, leaders, lawyers and judges strongly criticised the incorporation of fundamental duties in the Constitution. Some critics observed that more than 99% of the people were law-abiding. There was no need to tell them to obey laws and abide by their duties. They felt that the description of duties of citizens was not only superfluous but also derogatory to the people and the government.

The main points on which the critics criticise the Fundamental Duties have been:

1. Lack of Clarity:

Lack of clarity in the enumeration of the Fundamental Duties is a major defect.

2. Unnecessary and non-enforceable Duties:

Superfluousness of the incorporation of non-enforceable moral duties in the text of the Constitution is most evident.

3. Inpractiability:

Lack of possibility for the implementation of several duties.

4. Mere Declarations:

Fundamental Duties are mere pious declarations- platitudes without substance.

5. Incomplete and Inadequate:

The non-inclusion of such duties as compulsory exercise of franchise, faithful payment of taxes, compulsory military training, compulsory family planning etc., has been another weakness of Part IVA. At the time of-inclusion of these duties in the Constitution, some critics felt disturbed by the decision of the Government to make these duties non-justiciable. Sh. A.K. Sen condemned the decision of the government to incorporate non-justiceable and vague duties as Fundamental Duties of the citizens.

Despite such critical observations by several critics, several supporters of the concept justified the step. D.K. Barooah defended the decision and observed:”In a democratic country what was wrong in telling the citizens about their fundamental duty of upholding the sovereignty and integrity of the nation.”

Despite criticism, the Part IVA has come to remain a feature of the Constitution ever since its incorporation in 1976. No one has till today raised any serious objection to the presence of Part IVA. It has now become accepted as a part of the Constitution, continues to remain a part without much substance and force. Its existence stands accepted as a part of constitutional morality.

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