Directive Principles: A Fundamental Right

Directive Principles of State Policy are embodied in Part IV (Articles 36-51) of the Constitution of India. They relate to economic and social objectives that the Constitution seeks to achieve. State action should strive towards the attainment of these objectives. Directive Principles are binding on the state though they cannot be enforced in a court of law.

It is generally mentioned that our Constitution makers borrowed directive principles of state policy from the Irish Constitution (Article 45). Sir B. N. Rau located the indigenous origins of these principles by referring to certain duties of the king in Kautilya’s Arthasastra, such to help the needy and the destitute. Sir Ivory Jennings traces the ultimate source of the Directive Principles to the Constitution of Spain (1931) and even earlier than that to the Papal Bulls (Official document issued by the Pope). Constitutions of Liechtenstein (1921), Philippines (1935) and Spain (1945) incorporated economic and social obligations of the state which were very much parallel to the Directives of the Indian Constitution. The probable reason why the Constitution of Ireland of 1937 is generally cited as the inspiration and genesis of Directive Principles in India could be because the Irish Constitution has given them an analogous title ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’.

Dr. Ambedkar called the DPSPs as ‘Instruments of Instructions’ thereby giving them a place in the Fundamental Principles to be embodied in the Constitution of India. He believed that the Constitution is a mere mechanism and no political principles or policies should be incorporated in it. However, these principles were not mere pious declarations. DPSPs should be made the basis of all executive and legislative action since these principles are fundamental to the governance of a country. He said that he was not willing to concede that DPSPs are useless because they have no legally binding force in law. Whoever comes to power may not have to answer for their breach in a Court, but he will certainly have to answer for them before the electorate at time of elections. It is not a court but rather the strength of public opinion that can enforce these provisions or rights.

The dissenting view of Kazi Syed Karimuddin should also be given importance. He states that if these principles (DPSPs) are not enforceable or binding, they are meaningless. It is necessary that the word ‘Directive’ be deleted and should be made ‘Fundamental Principles of State Policy’. It is very necessary that all these principles should be made mandatory such that a scheme embodying these principles could be brought into operation within ten years.

The recent historic victory of Nitish Kumar in Bihar’s elections is evident of the fact that good governance carried out through implementation of the DPSP will eventually lead to electoral success. Not only has he successfully, cut across the caste barriers inherent in Bihar politics, but more importantly, established that if the DPSP are implemented by the government, they can single handedly ensure victory of the party.

Anuradha Arputham

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