Definition of Fundamental Duties
Despite the fact that citizens’ rights and responsibilities are inextricably linked, the original constitution only included fundamental rights and not fundamental duties. In other words, the Constitution’s framers did not believe it was necessary to include the citizens’ fundamental responsibilities in the document. They did, however, include the State’s responsibilities in the Constitution as Directive Principles of State Polity. The Constitution was amended in 1976 to include people’ fundamental responsibilities. A new Fundamental Duty was added in 2002.
The Indian Constitution’s Fundamental Duties are based on the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. Notably, none of the main democratic countries’ constitutions, such as the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, and others, contain a list of citizens’ responsibilities. The Japanese Constitution is maybe the first democratic constitution in the world to include a list of citizen responsibilities. On the other hand, socialist countries valued citizens’ fundamental rights and responsibilities equally. As a result, the erstwhile USSR’s Constitution established that citizens’ exercise of their rights and freedoms was inextricably linked to their execution of their duties and obligations.
Recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee
The Congress Party established the Sardar Swaran Singh Committee in 1976 to make recommendations on fundamental duties, which were felt to be necessary during the internal emergency (1975–1977). The group suggested that the Constitution have a distinct chapter on fundamental duties. It emphasized that citizens should be aware that, in addition to exercising their rights, they also have responsibilities to fulfill. In 1976, the Congress-led federal government adopted these proposals and passed the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act. Part IVA of the Constitution was added as a result of this change. This new section contains only one article, Article 51A, which for the first time established a code of ten essential citizen duties. The ruling Congress party has declared the omission of fundamental obligations from the Constitution to be a historical error, claiming that what the founders of the Constitution failed to achieve is now being done.
Despite the Swaran Singh Committee’s recommendation that the Constitution have eight Fundamental Duties, the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act (1976) incorporated ten Fundamental Duties.
Surprisingly, several of the Committee’s proposals were not accepted by the Congress Party, and hence were not put into the Constitution. These are some of them:
1. Any non-compliance with or refusal to observe any of the responsibilities may be subject to the application of such penalty or punishment as the Parliament deems appropriate.
2. No law imposing such a penalty or punishment may be challenged in court on the basis of a violation of any of the Fundamental Rights or a violation of any other provision of the Constitution.
3. Taxation should be seen as a fundamental right of citizens.
According to Article 51A, every citizen of India has the responsibility to: (a) obey the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, as well as the National Flag and the National Anthem; (b) cherish and follow the noble ideals that inspired the national struggle for freedom; (c) uphold and protect India’s sovereignty, unity, and integrity; (d) defend the country and render national service when called upon; and (e) promote harmony and the spirit of the nation. The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002 added this duty.
The Characteristics of the Fundamental Duties
In terms of the qualities of the Fundamental Duties, the following elements should be noted:
1. Some are moral obligations, while others are civic obligations. For example, it is a moral precept to embrace great ideas of freedom struggle, and it is a civic responsibility to honor the Constitution, the National Flag, and the National Anthem.
2. They are ideals that have been a part of Indian tradition, mythology, faiths, and customs for a long time. In other words, they are essentially a list of duties that are vital to the Indian way of life.
3. Unlike some of the Fundamental Rights, which apply to all people, citizens and non-citizens alike, the Fundamental Duties apply solely to citizens and do not apply to non-citizens.
4. The fundamental duties, like the Directive Principles, are non-justiciable. Their direct enforcement by the courts is not provided for in the Constitution. Furthermore, there is no legal repercussion for their infringement. The Parliament, on the other hand, is free to enact appropriate legislation to enforce them.
The Importance of Fundamental Duties
Despite criticism and opposition, the essential responsibilities are important from the following perspectives:
1. They serve as a reminder to citizens that while exercising their rights, they must also be mindful of the responsibilities they bear to their country, society, and fellow citizens.
2. They serve as a deterrent to anti-national and anti-social behaviors such as flag burning, property destruction, and so on.
3. They serve as a source of motivation for citizens, encouraging them to be disciplined and committed. They give the impression that citizens are not passive observers but active players in the achievement of national objectives.
4. They assist courts in reviewing and determining whether a law is constitutionally valid. The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that when determining the constitutionality of a law, if the court finds that the law in question seeks to carry out a fundamental duty, the court may consider the law to be’reasonable’ in relation to Article 14 (equality before the law) or Article 19 (six freedoms) and thus save the law from being declared unconstitutional.
5. They are legally enforceable. As a result, the Parliament has the authority to impose suitable penalties or punishments if any of them are not met.
‘In post-independent India, particularly on the eve of emergency in June 1975, a section of the people showed no anxiety to fulfil their fundamental obligations of respecting the established legal order…. the provisions of chapter on fundamental duties would have a sobering effect on these restless spirits,’ said H.R. Gokhale, the then Law Minister.
Then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi defended the inclusion of fundamental obligations in the Constitution, claiming that doing so would assist to enhance democracy. ‘The moral purpose of fundamental obligations would be to achieve a democratic balance by making people aware of their duties in the same way that they are aware of their rights,’ she said.
The Congress government’s inclusion of fundamental obligations in the Constitution was vigorously challenged by the Opposition in Parliament. In the post-emergency period, however, the new Janata Government led by Morarji Desai did not repeal the Fundamental Duties. Through the 43rd Amendment Act (1977) and the 44th Amendment Act (1978), the new government attempted to reverse many of the modifications made to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act (1976). This demonstrates that the necessity and usefulness of putting the Fundamental Duties in the Constitution were eventually agreed upon. The 86th Amendment Act of 2002 added one more Fundamental Duty, making this further clearer.
Criticism Fundamental Duties
Part IVA of the Constitution’s Fundamental Duties has been criticized for the following reasons:
1. The list of responsibilities is not exhaustive, as it leaves out crucial responsibilities such as voting, paying taxes, and family planning. In fact, the Swaran Singh Committee advised that taxation be made a legal obligation.
2. Some of the responsibilities are hazy, confusing, and difficult to comprehend for the average person. For example, phrases like “noble ideals,” “composite culture,” “scientific temper,” and so on can all be interpreted differently.
3. Because of their non-justiciable nature, detractors have referred to them as a system of moral precepts. Surprisingly, the Swaran Singh Committee proposed a penalty or punishment for failure to fulfill Fundamental Duties.
4. Their inclusion in the Constitution was deemed unnecessary by opponents. This is because the people would undertake the tasks listed in the Constitution as fundamental even if they were not included in the Constitution.
5. The inclusion of fundamental duties as an appendix to Part IV of the Constitution, according to some, has diminished their meaning and relevance. To maintain them on pace with Fundamental Rights, they should have been introduced after Part III.
Observations of the Verma Committee
The Verma Committee on Citizens’ Fundamental Duties (1999) discovered that certain of the Fundamental Duties have legislative mechanisms for their implementation. The following are some of them:
1. The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act (1971) protects the Indian Constitution, the National Flag, and the National Anthem from being disrespected.
2. The many criminal laws in effect include penalties for inciting hatred amongst different groups of people on the basis of language, race, place of birth, religion, and other factors.
3. The Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1955 establishes penalties for crimes involving caste and religion.
4. Imputations and declarations that are harmful to national cohesion are illegal under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
5. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 allows a communal organization to be declared an unlawful association.
6. The Representation of People Act (1951) allows members of Parliament or state legislatures to be disqualified for engaging in corrupt practices, such as soliciting votes on the basis of religion or promoting enmity between different groups of people based on caste, race, language, religion, or other factors.
7. Trade in rare and endangered animals is prohibited under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972.
8. The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 prohibits indiscriminate deforestation and forest area diversion for non-forest activities.