Fundamental Duties: Constitutional Law Notes

Fundamental Duties: Rights and Duties are like two sides of a coin, absolutely inseparable. Whenever and wherever we have any rights, we must have corresponding duties. Whether it be the home, the society or the country, in every sphere of life we have rights and duties that go hand in hand. We have rights in the same measure as we have duties. The Fundamental Duties are a novel feature of the Indian Constitution. No democratic polity can ever succeed where the citizens are not willing to be active participants in the process of governance by assuming responsibilities and discharging citizenship duties and coming forward to give their best to the country.

ORIGIN: The Fundamental Duties of citizens were added to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment in 1976 by way of inserting PART IV-A upon the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee that was constituted by the government earlier that year. All the fundamental duties were incorporated in one article only i.e. Article 51-A. Originally, constitution had only 10 fundamental duties. Originally ten in number, the Fundamental Duties were increased to eleven by the 86th Amendment in 2002, which added a duty on every parent or guardian to ensure that their child or ward was provided opportunities for education between the ages of six and fourteen years. The idea for Fundamental Duties has been borrowed from erstwhile USSR.

Fundamental duties are obligatory in nature. But there is no provision in the constitution for
direct enforcement of these duties. There is no sanction either to prevent their violation. However the importance of fundamental duties can be gauged from the following facts:

  • As rights and duties are the two side of the same coin, it is expected that one should observe one’s duties in order to seek the enforcement of one’s fundamental rights, in the context if a person approaches the court for the enforcement of any of his fundamental rights, the court may refuse to take a lenient view of him if it comes to know that the concerned individual has no respect for what is expected of him by the state as a citizen of the country.
  • They can be used for interpreting ambiguous statutes. The court may look at the fundamental duties while interpreting equivocal statutes which admit of two constructions.
  • While determining the constitutionality of any law, if court finds that it seeks to give effect to any of the duties, it may consider such law to be ‘reasonable’, and thereby, save such law from unconstitutionality.

FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES IN INDIA

Under Article 51-A of Indian Constitution, every citizen has been obligated to perform certain duties called the Fundamental Duties. These duties are defined as the moral obligations of all citizens to help promote a spirit of patriotism and to uphold the unity of India.

The following are the Eleven Fundamental Duties of every citizen of India:

  1. To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
    The citizens of India must cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired the national struggle for freedom. The battle of freedom was a long one where thousands of people sacrificed their lives for our freedom. It becomes our duty to remember the sacrifices made by our forefathers for the cause of the country. But, what is much more important is to remember, imbibe and follow the ideals which pervaded our unique struggle. It was not a struggle merely for political freedom of India. It was for the social and economic emancipation of the people all over the nation. If we, the citizens of India remain conscious of and committed to these ideals, then only we will be able to do justice with the great struggle of our freedom fighters.
  2. To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
    It imposes a Fundamental Duty on every citizen of India that he shall not do anything derogatory of upholding or protecting the sovereignty, unity or integrity of India. It is a duty prohibitory in nature addressed to traitors and spies.
  3. To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
    In modern nation States, it is goes without saying that every citizen is bound to be ready to defend the country against war or external aggression. The present day wars are not fought on the battlefield only nor are they won only by the armed forces; the citizens at large play a most vital role in a variety of ways. Sometimes, civilians may be required also to take up arms in defence of the country.
  4. To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;The duty to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India essentially flows from the basic value of fraternity enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution. India is a country of different castes, languages, religions and many cultural streams but we are one people with one Constitution, one flag and single citizenship. Spirit of brotherhood should come very normally among the citizens of a country like India where the norm has been to consider the entire world as one family. The Constitution also casts upon us the Fundamental Duty of ensuring that all practices derogatory to the dignity of women are renounced. This again should come normally to a country where it is an saying that Gods reside where women are worshipped.
  5. To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
    The duty to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India essentially flows from the basic value of fraternity enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution. India is a country of different castes, languages, religions and many cultural streams but we are one people with one Constitution, one flag and single citizenship. Spirit of brotherhood should come very normally among the citizens of a country like India where the norm has been to consider the entire world as one family. The Constitution also casts upon us the Fundamental Duty of ensuring that all practices derogatory to the dignity of women are renounced. This again should come normally to a country where it is an saying that Gods reside where women are worshipped.
  6. To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
    Our cultural heritage is one of the noblest and the richest. What we have inherited from the past, we must preserve and pass on to the future generations. In fact, each generation leaves its footprints on the sands of time. We must hold precious and dear what our fore-fathers have created and their successive generations bequeathed to us as symbols of their artistic excellence and achievements. Generations to come will always draw an inspiration from past history which stimulates them to aim at ever greater heights of achievement and excellence. It becomes the ardent duty of every citizen to ensure that these monuments and pieces of art are not in any way damaged, disfigured, scratched or subjected to vandalism or greed of unscrupulous traders and smugglers.
  7. To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures;
    In the face of the menace of the increasing pollution and environmental degradation, it is the duty of every citizen to protect and improve natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures. The rising air, water and noise pollution and large-scale denudation of forest are causing immense harm to all human life on earth. The mindless and wanton deforestation in the name of needs of development is causing havoc in the form of natural calamities and imbalances. By protecting our forests, planting new trees, cleaning rivers, conserving water resources, reforesting wastelands, hills and mountains and controlling pollution in cities, villages and industrial units, we can help save the future of our coming generations and of planet itself. What is needed is a concerted effort at, an awareness campaign and a planned strategy to move forward through voluntary citizen initiatives. Governmental steps alone would not suffice.
  8. To develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
    It is the bounden duty of every citizen to preserve and promote a scientific temper and a spirit of inquiry to keep pace with the fast changing world.
  9. To safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
    It is most unfortunate that in a country which preaches non-violence to the rest of the world, we see from time to time instances of senseless violence and destruction of public property indulged in by a few of its citizens. This is why it became necessary to prescribe the responsibility “to safeguard public property and abjure violence” as a fundamental duty of the citizens.
  10. To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity, so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement;
    The drive for excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity is the demand of times and a basic requirement in a highly competitive world. This would include respect for professional obligations and excellence.
  11. To provide opportunities for education by the parent the guardian, to his child, or a ward between the age of 6-14 years as the case may be.

Significant points of Fundamental Duties

  • The Fundamental Duties of citizens were added to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, upon the recommendations of the Swarn Singh Committee that was constituted by the government earlier that year.
  • Fundamental duties are applicable only to citizens and not to the aliens.
  • India borrowed the concept of Fundamental Duties from USSR.
  • The inclusion of Fundamental Duties brought our Constitution in line with Article 29 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with provisions in several modern Constitutions of other countries.
  • Out of the ten clauses in Article 51A, six are positive duties and the other five are negative duties. Clauses (b), (d), (f), (h), (j) and (k) require the citizens to perform these Fundamental Duties actively.
  • It is suggested that a few more Fundamental Duties, namely, duty to vote in an election, duty to pay taxes and duty to resist injustice may be added in due course to Article 51A.
  • A number of judicial decisions are available towards the enforcement of certain clauses under Article 51A.
  • Comprehensive legislation is needed for clauses (a), (c), (e), (g) and (i). The remaining 5 clauses, which are exhortation of basic human values, have to be developed amongst citizens through the education system by creating proper and graded curricular input from primary level of education to the higher and professional levels.

Some legal provisions in consonance with the Fundamental Duties are-

  • In order to ensure that no disrespect is shown to the National Flag, Constitution of India and the National anthem, the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 was enacted.
  • The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 was enacted soon after independence to prevent improper use of the National Flag and the National Anthem.
  • There are a number of provisions in the existing criminal laws to ensure that the activities which encourage enmity between different groups of people on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. are adequately punished. Writings, speeches, gestures, activities, exercise, drills, etc. aimed at creating a feeling of insecurity or ill-will among the members of other communities, etc. have been prohibited under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • Imputations and assertions prejudicial to the national integration constitute a punishable offence under Section 153-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • A Communal organization can be declared unlawful association under the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
  • Offences related to religion are covered in Sections 295-298 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Provisions of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (earlier the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955).
  • Sections 123(3) and 123(3A) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 declares that soliciting of vote on the ground of religion and the promotion or attempt to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of citizens of India on the grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language is a corrupt practice. A person indulging in a corrupt practice can be disqualified for being a Member of Parliament or a State Legislature under Section 8A of the Representation of People Act, 1951.
  • Bijoe Emannuel v. State of Kerala [AIR 1987 SC 758] – The Supreme court held that proper respect was shown by the students to the National them by standing up in silence when the National anthem was sung. By not joining in the singing, the Court held, did not amount to committing disrespect to the National Anthem.

References

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