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Difference between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy

Difference between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy

Parts III and IV, that is, chapters on Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles, together constitute the “conscience” of the Indian constitution. But, the differences between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State policy are significant. The differences are discussed below:

Firstly, the fundamental rights constitute a set of negative injunctions. The state is restrained from doing something’s. The directives on the other hand are a set of positive directions. The state is urged to do something to transform India into a social and economic democracy. As Gladhill observes, Fundamental Rights are injunctions to prohibit the government from doing certain things, the Directive principles are affirmative instructions to the government to do certain things.

Secondly, the Directives are non-justiciable. Courts do not enforce them. A directive may be made enforceable by the courts only when there is a lam on it. Fundamental rights, on the other hand are justiciable. They impose legal obligations on the state as well as on individuals. Courts enforce them. If a law violates a fundamental right, the law in question will be declared void. But no law will be declared unconstitutional on the ground that it violates a directive principle against violation of a fundamental right, constitutional remedy under Art. 32 are available which not the case is when a directive is violated either by the state or, by individual. For this reason Prof K. T. Shah deprecates the Directive Principles as “Pious wishes” or a mere window dressing for the social revolution of the country.

Whenever conflicts arise between fundamental rights and directive principles, fundamental rights prevail over the directive principles because, in terms of Arts. 32 and 226, fundamental rights are enforceable by the courts. If a law is in conflict with a fundamental right, it is declared void by the Supreme Court. But no law can be declared void on the ground that it is violative of a directive principle. In 1951, in Champakam Dorairajan vs. the state of Madras, the Supreme Court held “The chapter on Fundamental Rights is sacrosanct and not liable to be abridged by any legislative or executive act. The Directive Principles of State Policy have to conform and are subsidiary to the chapter on Fundamental Rights.”

The 25th constitution amendment Act in 1971 by Article 31(c) provided that laws enacted to implement directives in Article 39 (b) and (c) shall not be declared void on ground of contravention of fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14 and 19. In 1976, during emergency, the 42nd amendment, sought to widen the scope of Article 31 (c), to place all laws passed for the implementation of any or all directive principles beyond judicial review.

But the Supreme Court struck down this attempt at total exclusion of all laws to implement directives from judicial review on the ground that this will offend the ‘basic structure’ of the constitution. Thus Article, 31(c) is restored to pre-1976 position. The position today is that, in general, the fundamental rights enjoy priority over the directives. But the laws passed to implement Article 39 (b) and (c) cannot be declared void on ground of violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14 and 19.

Implementation of the Directive Principles of State Policy


The Directive Principles of State Policy are embodied in Part IV of the Constitution from Articles 36 to 51. The features have been borrowed from the Irish Constitution. The Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part III of the Constitution from Articles 12 to 35, and the features have been adopted from the Constitution of USA. Granville Austin has described the Directive Principles and Fundamental Rights and the ‘Conscience of the Constitution. They together may reflect the constitutional conscience of India, but there are differences among them as well.

Fundamental Rights are negative as they act as limitations on the state but the Directive Principles are positive as they require the state to do certain things.

The Fundamental Rights are justiciable i.e., legally enforceable by courts in case of their violation but the Directive Principles are non-justiciable. The Rights aims at establishing political democracy but social and economic democracy is sought to be secured by the principles.

The Rights have legal sanctions and the principles ensure moral and political sanctions. The Rights tend to secure welfare of the individual while welfare of the community is promotes by the principles. Almost all the Rights are directly enforceable but separate legislation is required for implementing the principles.

A law may be declared invalid if it violates any Fundamental Rights but a law violative of any of the Directive Principles cannot be declare as invalid. Considering the various decisions of the Supreme Court regarding the primacy of Fundamental Rights and Directive principles of State Policy, at present the Fundamental Rights enjoy supremacy over the Directive Principles.

However, this does not imply that Directive Principles cannot be implemented. Fundamental Rights may be amended by the Parliament to give effect to any Directive Principles so far the amendment is not affecting the basic structure of the Constitution.

  1. The Minimum Wages Act (1948), Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act (1986) etc seeks to protect the interests of the workers.
  2. The Maternity Benefit Act (1961) and Equal Reneration Act (1976) have been implemented to protect the interests of women workers.
  3. Handloom Board, Handicrafts Board, Coir Board, Silk Board have been set up for the development of cottage industries.
  4. Integrated Rural Development Programme (1978), Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (1989), Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (1999), Sampoorna Gram Rozgar Yojana (2001), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programmes (2006) etc have been implemented to improve the living standard of the people.
  5. The National Forest Policy (1988), aims at the protection, conservation and development of forests, etc.

There are several other enactments by the Central and State Governments to give effects to these principles. In spite of the above steps by the central and state governments, the Directive principle of state policy have not been implemented fully due to lack of resources, socials, economic condition, and population.


 The Directives thus constitute the national objectives and portray the national conscience. Whosoever is victorious at the polls will not be free to violate them. According to Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar, “No minister responsible to the people can afford lightheartedly to ignore the provisions in Part IV of the Constitution.” They have served as a signpost for the Union Parliament and State Legislatures. They are cited by the courts to support their decisions.

M.C. Setalvad rightly said, “These fundamental axioms of State Policy though of no legal effect have served as useful beacon-lights to the courts.” The governmental bodies thus have been invariably guided by these provisions.

If we make a critical estimate of the achievements of the Governments at the Centre in implementing these directives, we feel encouraged. Panchayats have been established in the remotest villages of our country covering about 98% of the rural population. They are being restored to their pristine glory. Nationalization of certain industries, setting up of corporations, heavier taxation of bigger incomes, recovery of deliberately concealed taxes, courageous steps to bring Dalmias in the clutches of law, abolition of zamindari system, nationalization of banks, abolition of privy purses of native rulers, acquisition of private property, curtailing the right to private property, reflect that the State has been doing its best to avoid concentration of wealth and furthering the cause of socialism in the past.

The establishment of the poor house at the capital to wipe out begging—a great slur on the fair name of Indian democracy—was a substantial step towards provision of adequate means of livelihood to the poor. The state-owned factories, industries, and government corporations have been gradually expanding; hence more and more people have been getting employed. The Employees’ State Insurance Act and the Workmen’s Compensation Act are very significant steps to provide assistance to the workers during old age disablement or undeserved want. Cottage industries have been encouraged.

Several Statutory Boards have been set up for the development of cottage and small scale industries. The Minimum Wages Acts have been passed to ameliorate the lot of labourers of various categories.

To benefit the weaker sections of the society, a former Prime Minister launched 20 Points Programme first in 1975 and again in 1982. The Community Development Programmes followed by Rural Development Programmes (1978-79). National Rural Employment Programme, Desert Development Programmes help in raising standard of living. Efforts have been consolingly made to make available primary education to the children below the age of 14 years.

The inclusion of right to education through an amendment has cleared the intentions of the government to educate children up to 14 years of age. The assistance to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Classes and lately OBC’s in the form of stipends, scholarships, remission of their school and college fees, concession in the age, for employment in the Governments—Central or State, fees limits and up to 27% reservation in central educational institutions including IITs and IIMs to the OBCs except the creamy layers (as per Supreme Court decision on April 10, 2008), job reservations for those applying for jobs through Public Service Commissions or Service Selection Boards are significant steps to uplift down-trodden castes of Hindus. Agriculture is being organized on scientific lines.

The attempts to improve the breed of the cattle are being made. Slaughter of cows and calves in some of the States has been prohibited. The passages of Ancient Monuments Acts are steps in the direction of the fulfillment of the Directives enshrined in Article 49. In some of the States namely Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, Judiciary has been separated from the Executive.

The Criminal Procedure Amendment’ Act of 1973 has gone a long way in realizing the aim of separating judiciary from the Executive. Andhra Pradesh tried for prohibition followed by Haryana but it proved to be a drain on the State exchequer.

In the fulfillment of principles pertaining to international peace and security, the efforts of our successive Prime Ministers can hardly be minimized. “Panch Sheel” is a laudable step in this direction. Pt. Nehru was hailed as a cultural ambassador of spiritual East to the material West, ever craving for fostering peace and amity and making sincere efforts for its attainment. Pt. Nehru was raised to the pedestal of glory even by the pseudo-democrats of U.S.A. and Britain and bulk of orthodox and fanatic Muslims of the Arab world. Our policy of Non-alignment aimed at extending friendship to all nations with malice to none and play constructive role for striving for ushering in era of peace and amity in the world.

Still much is to be achieved. Economic imbalances and social disparities still persist. Standard of living of the people is far from satisfactory due to back-breaking inflation. Unemployment is yet to be eradicated though a beginning has been made in Punjab, Haryana and some other states to introduce unemployment benefits for the unemployed. The efforts of present UPA Government headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh are also laudable in this direction. However Socialism has become a far cry.

In the current era, the concepts of free market economy, globalization and liberalization are getting a boost which is a great setback to Socialism as envisaged by the founding fathers. This switch over to liberalization and modernization stand for at stabilizing our hither-to-four shattered economy. Consequently, the GDP is fast going up Dollar goes down and our rupee appreciates. Hence it can be concluded that, Government’s efforts in the implementation of these objectives have not proved futile. In fact they are considerably fruitful.

Despite the points of criticism raised by some critics, the majority view has all along been in favor of the Directive Principles.

A large majority of scholars accepts the importance of Directive Principles:

  1. Provide for a Welfare State:
  2. The Directive Principles clearly lay down the philosophical foundations of a welfare polity. These make it a responsibility of the State to secure it through welfare legislation. These also provide that a welfare state stands for securing of Justice—social, economic and political for all the people.

  1. Importance as Moral Ideals:
  2. Directive Principles are indeed of the nature of moral ideals. They constitute a moral code for the State. This does not reduce their value. Through these the founding fathers placed before the nation the goals and ideals which are to be achieved through future legislation.
  3. The State is a human social institution. Government is always made and managed by the people. Just as people have a moral code which guides their behaviour in society, likewise there is every justification for the existence of a moral code for the men who form and run the government of the state.

  1. Directives Constitute a Guide for the State:
  2. Directive Principles act as a guide to the government for making policies and laws for the purpose of securing justice and welfare.

  1. Source of continuity in Policies:
  2. The Directive Principles are a source of continuity in the policies of the government. In a democratic system, the governments change after regular intervals and each new government has to make policies and laws. The presence of Directive Principles ensures that every government, whether it is formed by a rightist or a leftist party, will exercise its power for implementing Directive Principles.

  1. Directive Principles are Supplementary to the Fundamental Rights:
  2. Directive Principles are the positive directions to the State for securing and strengthening the socio-economic dimension of Indian democracy. These aim at the establishment of socio-economic democracy. These are supplementary to Fundamental Rights which provide for civil and political rights and freedoms.

  1. Yardstick for measuring the Worth of the Government:
  2. Directive Principles of State Policy constitute a yardstick with which the people can measure the worth of a government. A government which ignores the task of implementing the Directive Principles can be rejected by the people in favour of a government by another political party which can be expected to give due importance to the task of securing the Directive Principles.

  1. Helpful in the interpretation of the Constitution:
  2. The Directive Principles constitute a manifesto of the aims and goals of the nation. These reflect the wisdom and views of the founding fathers of the constitution. These reflect the philosophy of the Constitution and hence provide useful help to the courts in their task of interpreting the Constitution.

  1. Ambiguity of Directive Principles is Useful:
  2. The Directive Principles have been couched in words which are not very rigid in their meanings. This ambiguity has been helpful in so far as it helps the State to interpret and apply these principles in accordance with the socio-economic environment which prevails at a given time.
  3. Thus, the inclusion of Part IV containing the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution has been a welcome, worthwhile and useful decision. The Directive Principles provide for necessary and good foundations for the Indian state as a democratic and welfare polity. The securing of Directive Principles alone can complete our democratic system, supplement the Fundamental Rights of the people and build a welfare state characterised by Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. In the words of M.C. Chagla,: “If all these principles are carried out, our country would indeed be a heaven on earth.”
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