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Meaning and Significance

The Constitution of India affirms that every individual is entitled to enjoy certain basic rights. Part III of the Constitution deals with these rights, which are known as Fundamental Rights.

Originally there were seven categories of rights, but now there are only

six. These are:

  1. Right to equality
  2. Right to freedom
  3. Right against exploitation
  4. Right to freedom of religion
  5. Cultural and educational rights
  6. Right to constitutional remedies

Right to Property (Article 31), originally a fundamental right, was omitted by the 44th Amendment Act, 1,978.

The right to move straight to the Supreme Court for the enforcement of fundamental rights has been guaranteed under Article 32 (Right to Constitutional Remedies). However, it needs to be kept in mind that no individual right can come at the cost of the greater good, and that national interest always supersedes individual rights.

Originally, the constitution of India did not contain any list of fundamental duties. In other words, enjoyment of fundamental rights was not conditional on the performance of fundamental duties.

It was on this Soviet model that fundamental duties were added to the Indian Constitution by the 42nd amendment of the constitution in 1976. The fundamental duties are contained in Art. 51A.

List of Fundamental Duties: 

Art. 51A, Part IVA of the Indian Constitution, specifies the list of fundamental duties of the citizens. It says “it shall be the duty of every citizen of India:

  1. To abide by the constitution and respect its ideal and institutions;
  2. To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
  3. To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
  4. To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
  5. To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional diversities, to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
  6. To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
  7. To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wild-life and to have compassion for living creatures;
  8. To develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
  9. To safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
  10. To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity, so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement.

Further, one more Fundamental duty has been added to the Indian Constitution by 86th Amendment of the constitution in 2002.

“Who is a parent or guardian , to provide opportunities for education to his child, or as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.”

The fundamental duties however are non-enforceable and non-justiciable in character. This means that no citizen can be punished by a court for violation of a fundamental duty. In this respect the fundamental duties are like the directive principles of the constitution in part IV. The directive principles lay down some high ideals to be followed by the state. Similarly, the fundamental duties in Art 51A, lay down some high ideals to be followed by the citizens. In both cases, violation does not invite any punishment. It is significant that the fundamental duties are placed at the end of part IV rather than at the end of part III of the constitution. While part III containing fundamental rights is justiciable, part IV containing the directive principles is not.

These fundamental duties are not mere expressions of pious platitudes. Courts will certainly take cognizance of laws seeking to give effect to fundamental duties.

Finally, the very fact that these duties figure in the constitution, keeps the door open for the duties to be given higher constitutional at status in future through constitutional amendments.

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