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Sanction behind Directive Principles

The Directive Principles are not enforceable by the courts and, if the government of the day fails to carry out these objectives, no court can make the government ensure them, yet these principles have been declared to be “Fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making taws.”

Article 355 of the constitution says: “It shall be the duty of the Union to ensure that the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.” There is no doubt that the Directive Principles constitute a part of the constitution. It is therefore, the duty of the Union to see that every state takes proper steps for implementing the Directive Principles. It can issue directions to states to implement the Directive Principles. If a state fails to comply with such directions issued by the union, it may apply Art. 365 against it.

Art 365 says: “Where arty state has failed to comply with, or to give effect to, any directions given in the exercise of the executive power of the Union under any of the provisions of the constitution, it shall be lawful for the President to hold that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state, cannot be carried on in accordance with the-provisions of this constitution. It makes it clear that the Union Government has the power to get the Directive Principles implemented by the states.

However, the most important sanction behind the Directive Principles is political. As Dr. Ambedkar observed in the Constituent Assembly, “if any government ignores them, they will certainly have to answer for them before the electorate at the election time. The opposition can use it as a weapon to discredit the government on the ground that it’s Executive or Legislative; acts have been opposed to the Directive Principles.

Criticism of Directive Principles


The following are the points of criticism advanced against the Directive Principles:

  1. Not Enforceable:
  2. Lack of legal force behind them is the main ground of criticism.
  3. Since they impose no legal obligations on the State, the critics denounce them as mere pious superfluities or political manifestoes devoid of any constitutional importance.
  4. Nassiruddin, a member of the Constituent Assembly, characterized them as a set of New Year resolutions. Prof. K.T. Shah described them as ‘a cheque payable by the bank concerned at its convenience.’
  5. It is emphasized that a constitution, is not a place for moral precepts.
  6. The inclusion of pro­visions, which are legally not enforceable, is, of no practical utility for the Indian masses.

  1. Vague and Mere Generalities:
  2. Jennings holds that the Directive Principles like Fundamental Rights are not based upon consistent philosophy. They are vague.
  3. Wheare describes these principles as “generalities.” They are neither properly arranged nor logically classified. Comparatively the unimportant issues like protection of monuments have been mixed up with very important economic and social questions.
  4. In the words of Prof. Srinivasan, “It combines rather incongruously the modern with the old and provisions suggested by reason and science with provisions based purely on sentiment and prejudice.” Ambiguity of some of these principles becomes self-evident when we critically analyze them. It is rather beyond comprehension of a student of political science as to how India can foster and maintain just and honorable relations among nations most of which suffer from superiority complex and are keen for hegemonic role in the world politics or in the economic domain.

  1. Misfit in a Sovereign State:
  2. It is rather unnatural for a sovereign state to adopt these principles.
  3. A superior government may lay down such instructions for an inferior government but there is hardly any necessity of such instructions or directions for a sovereign nation. Why should a nation give direction to itself?
  4. Moreover, how can these principles be followed and accepted in all times and climes? These principles constitute merely a political philosophy. Hence they are construed as a “parade of high sounding sentiments couched in vainglorious verbiage.”

  1. Neither Practicable nor Sound:
  2. Their practicability and soundness also has been challenged by some critics.
  3. The directive principle concerning ‘prohibition’, for instance, is very strongly criticized by the economists of our country.
  4. The so-called moralistic reform is a drain on the national exchequer. Money collected through ‘excise duty’ on liquor or other intoxicants is sizable and can easily be utilized for the benefit of the masses. Moreover, it is contended that prohibition can hardly turn drunkards into moralists.
  5. Morality cannot be enforced.
  6. Rather where ever practiced, it has given fillip to crimes of illicit distillation and illegal gratification of corrupt officials who keep their eyes shut to the continuance of this illegal trade when their palms are greased.
  7. The very fact that the policy of prohibition has been abandoned in the States like Haryana and Andhra Pradesh where it was initiated reflects that the Government has realized the futility of implementation of this principle. It proved to be a big drain on state funds and failed to dissuade people to drink.

  1. Possibility of Conflict between Head of the State and that of the Government:
  2. The President of India, as the guardian of the Constitution, may impose a penal dissolution on a council of ministers (which under the head ship of a Prime Minister got a law passed in contravention of the Directive Principles), by withholding his assent to such a Bill.
  3. He may like to justify his position on the ground that though the directives are ‘fundamental in the governance of the country’ yet, if frequently applied, they may result in mutual conflicts between the High ups that matter. However, there is no limit to such unfounded speculation.

  1. May Prove Reactionary and Regressive:
  2. Jennings expresses apprehensions that the ideals “may not simply become outmoded and antiquated in the next century. They might act as citadels of reaction as well and thus clog national progress”.
  3. It is realized that some of the directives like introduction of prohibition are not in tune with the times.
  4. The curtailment of excise duty on liquor may affect economic progress of the country adversely.

  1. They Embody British Experience of 19th Century:
  2. Jennings goes to the extent of emphasizing that, “Directive Principles are nothing but collection of political principles derived from English political experiences of the 19th century.
  3. They are deemed to be unsuited for India, in the middle of the 20th century.” In other words they embody philosophy of British liberalism devoid of clear-cut socialism.

  1. Detrimental to the Interest of Minorities:
  2. Article 44 enjoins on the State to take steps for establishing a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.
  3. The critics opine that it would amount to tyrannizing the minorities. The laws emanating from the minds of the majority would be thrust on the minorities whose culture, customs, rites, etc. differ fundamentally from the majority community.
  4. Hence such a step will sow the seeds of dissensions and cause communal feuds.

Evaluation of Directive Principles


Despite vehement criticism by some critics, these principles are not as meaningless as they are deemed to be. Their utility has been well established.

  1. Sanctions Behind the Principles:
  2. It is wrong to say that there is no force behind them. In this age of democracy, ‘vigilant public opinion’ is the real force behind an institution which stands for the benefit of the individuals.
  3. The Government in a Parliamentary system is under a Constant fire of criticism both at the hands of the press and the platform speakers. The actions of the government are subject to scrutiny by the masses and the distinguished leaders of the party.
  4. If the Government pursues a policy in accordance with the principles of the Constitution, people appreciate it; otherwise they oust it at the hustings.
  5. Since the Directive Principles have been embodied in the Constitution, the Governments are apt to implement them. They may not have the legal force behind them but the highest tribunal of the country i.e., the public opinion stands behind them. No party in power can afford to ignore these Directives, if it is not keen to doom its future for all times to come.
  6. Some of the amendments of the Constitution clearly reflect that Directive Principles pertaining to socialism have been implemented at the cost of our fundamental right—right to private property which has ceased to be a fundamental right now.
  7. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 made them justiciable as well. However the position stood reversed again after Supreme Court’s decision of May 9, 1980. It struck down section 55 of 42nd amendment act which vested unlimited powers with the Parliament to amend the Constitution. The Court also struck down section 4 of the Act which accorded primacy to the Directive Principles over the Fundamental Rights.
  8. Their Constitutional Sanctity not Challengeable:
  9. It is evident from the above fact that though the Directive Principles are not enforceable, their constitutional sanctity is an undisputed fact. Their violation contravenes the Constitution as violation of a constitutional principle, legally enforceable. In the words of Gledhill, “If the Indian Constitution becomes vested with the code of sanctity essential to its durability, it will be difficult for any public figure to propose any legislative measure without making an appeal to Fundamental Right or Directive Principles.” The contrary measures will be attacked by the opposition as unconstitutional to the directive principles.
  10. In Gopalan v. State of Madras, C.J. Kania opined that being a part of the Constitution, the Directive Principles do not “represent a temporary will of the majority, but the deliberate wisdom of the nation expressed through the Constituent Assembly…By declaring them to be fundamental in the country, the Constitution has invested them with a certain sanctity…”

  1. Guide to Succeeding Governments:
  2. The framers of our Constitution were judicious enough to realize that in a democratic system of Government, the swing of public opinion may put different parties in power at different times.
  3. At one time, the party at the helm of affairs may be conservative in outlook while at another time; the reins of Government may fall in the hands of a party radical in leanings.
  4. These principles will induce the conservatives to introduce reforms necessitated by the exigencies of the time and also exercise restraint on the radicals if they would be keen to introduce reforms of sweeping nature. Thus, the Directive Principles would act as signposts to all succeeding governments.
  5. In the words of Dr. Ambedkar, “They have left enough room for people of different ways of thinking with regard to reaching of the ideal of economic democracy.” According to Raghavachariar, “Whoever may capture the government power, he will have to respect these instruments of instructions. He may certainly have to answer for them before the electorate when the next election comes.”

  1. Their Significance as Moral Precepts:
  2. Even if the Directive Principles are to be considered as mere moral precepts or pious resolutions, their significance cannot be under-estimated Gledhill opines, “The lives of the countless millions have been shaped and directed by moral precepts impinging on their minds and it is not difficult to find instances of similar precepts directing the course of history and nations.
  3. Despite the fact that well known landmarks like Magna Carta, the French Declaration of Rights and the Preamble to the American Constitution do not have any legal sanction behind them, their impact in their respective countries cannot be considered less vital.
  4. Just as the provisions of these landmarks cannot be considered ineffectual, the principles contained in these directive principles are apt to shape the destiny of a developing nation and guide the policies of our future governments. Hence, they shall not be dismissed as idealistic moral precepts.
  1. Their Importance as Principles of Social and Economic Order:
  2. The ideals embodied in the Directives are conceived as the fundamental principles of a new social and which was the ultimate goal of the Fathers of Indian Constitution. It is clearly stated in the Constitution that these economic order principles though legally not enforceable are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.
  3. Article 38 prescribes, “The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting, as effectively as it may, a social order, in which justice, social, economic and political shall inform all the institutions of national life.” Article 39 goes further in enumerating certain principles of socialism.
  4. The framers of the Constitution were conscious of the fact that political democracy alone is not enough, hence they were endeavoring to promote the concept of welfare state by laying down these fundamental principles of social and economic order which the legislators and executives could not easily ignore. Dr. Ambedkar’s statement in the Constituent Assembly in this respect is revealing:
  5. ”Their intention was that howsoever adverse circumstances that stand in the way of government in giving effect to these principles and how-so-ever impropitious the time might be, they should always strive for the fulfillment of these principles.”
  6. The abolition of zamindari system, the nationalization of banks, the curtailment of the right to property through controversial 24th and 25th amendments, the abolition of the privy purses of the rulers of the princely states according to the 26th amendment reflect that these principles have not been reduced to mere musty parchments. They have been given weight by our Parliamentarians with a view to establish socialism in the country.
  7. In fact, they were given precedence over the right to property, emphasizing the importance of the Directive Principles vis-a-vis Fundamental Rights in the Kesavananda case. Niren Dev, the Attorney General of India said, “The amendments (24th or 25th) were enacted to achieve the primary objects of the Directive Principles of State Policy. Nothing in the Constitution should or can stand in the way of achieving these objectives.” However, as already stated, the Apex Court in 1980 reversed the position.

  1. A Panacea for Removal of Ambiguities of the Constitution:
  2. If we make an analytical appraisal of the decisions of the Supreme Court removing certain ambiguities of the Fundamental Rights provisions, we find that Directive Principles have come to the rescue of the judges.
  3. Since the Directive Principles constitute a part of the Constitution, whenever a question regarding the interpretation of a vague provision in the Constitution crops up, a reference to the Directive Principles is made to come out of the thicket of constitutional ambiguities. Article 19, for example, permits the imposition of reasonable restrictions on the Fundamental Rights.
  4. If a conflict on the interpretation of “reasonable restrictions” ensues, a reference to the Directive Principles can be easily made. A restriction promoting any objective embodied in the Directive principles is usually declared reasonable by court of law. If a question as to whether a certain matter is in the interest of the public or not arises, reference to the Directive Principles is made.
  5. In Gopalan v. State of Madras, Chief Justice Kania remarked, “It has no doubt been repeatedly made clear that the courts cannot uphold a Directive Principle when it comes in conflict with a specific provision of the Constitution, relating to Fundamental Rights. However, in the interpretation of these provisions, the Directive Principles can serve a very useful purpose. Most of the Fundamental Rights are subject to reasonable restrictions which may be imposed for public purpose or in public interest.
  6. The courts can be and have been guided by the Directive Principles in determining whether the actual restrictions placed by law in the exercise of Fundamental Rights are reasonable or in public interest or whether they sub serve a public purpose.” Prof. Alexandrowics opines that the courts “should give the greatest possible weight to the Directive Principles for the purpose of their interpretation of the provision relating to Fundamental Rights.”
  7. In Bombay. Vs.. F.M. Balsara, case, the Supreme Court gave weight to Article 47—aiming at prohibition to support its decision that the restriction imposed by the Bombay Prohibition Act was a reasonable restriction on the right to acquire any profession or carry on any trade.
  8. In Bijoy Cotton Mills v. State of Ajmer the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Minimum Wages Act 1948, by taking into consideration Article 43. In the opinion of the Court, the fixation of wages for labourers did not violate freedom of trade under article 19(5).
  9. C. Setalvad, Attorney General of India, summed up the utility of the Directive Principles: “…These fundamental axioms of state policy though of no legal effect have served as a useful beacon light to courts…Restrictions imposed by law on the freedom of citizens may well be reasonable if they are imposed in furtherance of the Directive Principles…”
  10. The decision of the Supreme Court on the 24th and 25th amendments which aimed at giving precedence to the Directive Principles over the Fundamental Rights clarified a constitutional anomaly as to whether or not Parliament through an amendment can amend the Fundamental Rights. It further makes it evident that constitutional ambiguities can be removed by invoking the Directive Principles.
  11. The latter decision of the Supreme Court delivered on May 9, 1980 in Minerva Mills’ case however complicated the matter, as it reversed the earlier decision of the Apex Court.

  1. Nominal Executive Heads cannot Misuse them:
  2. The President or the Governor might refuse to assent to a Bill passed by their respective legislatures on the plea that such a bill is inconsistent with the Directive Principles. It might, therefore, lead to deadlocks between the President and the Union Council of Ministers or the Governor and the State Council of Ministers, since the council of Ministers are responsible for passing an important legislation.
  3. Though Basu’s fears are genuine, yet we must not efface from our mind a naked reality that the President’s or Governor’s power to veto a Bill passed by a Legislature is only limited, a sort of suspensive veto. In the words of Dr. Ambedkar, “The Directive Principles cannot be pressed into service either by the President or the State Governor for the purposes of vetoing a law passed by the legislature.” In a Parliamentary form of government, a constitutional ruler like President at the Centre and Governor in the state can hardly be assertive if they are keen to retain their respective offices.

  1. Their Impact on Planning Commission:
  2. In the words of Venkataraman, “The importance of the Directive Principles is increasingly realized by Planning Commission set up by the Government of India.” The Planning Commission has realized that economic pattern to be achieved through National Planning has been very well portrayed by the Directive Principles of State Policy. Hence the formulators and executors of Five-Year Plans can hardly ignore these principles, as they usher in an era of economic democracy.
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