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DOCTRINE OF FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES – AT A GLANCE

-Justice D. Murugesan

A common man is very concerned about his right rather than the corresponding duty he owes to the fellow individual and to the country. Rights cannot be ensured unless there exist corresponding duties.

The objectives of the State can be realized only by and through individuals. Part III of the Constitution of India guarantees certain fundamental rights to the citizens. The fundamental rights are aimed, as they possess intrinsic value. While the rights conferred under Part III are fundamental, the directives given in Part IV are fundamental in the governance of the country.

India became a Sovereign Democratic Republic to secure to all its citizens fraternity, assuring dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation and to secure to the citizens certain rights. The State could enact laws to safeguard and guarantee such fundamental rights. While conferring such fundamental rights on the individuals, Part IV of our Constitution gives certain directives to the State by way of Directive Principles of State Policy. As against the enforceability of fundamental rights in the Courts, the directive principles of State policy are not enforceable. At the time when the Constitution was framed, both the fundamental rights and the directive principles of State policy were considered to complement each other. The makers/founding fathers of our Constitution have never contemplated any controversy between the fundamental rights and fundamental duties.

While the fundamental rights are absolute in some countries, it is not so in our absolute in some countries, it is not so in our country, as it is restricted by reasonableness. While an individual expects the guarantee of fundamental rights, he cannot overlook the corresponding duty to the community in exercise of the fundamental rights. Having realised the requirement of a specific provision for fundamental duties and accepting the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee on limited governmental and judicial review, Par IV-A was inserted, by which Article 51-A relating to the fundamental duties was introduced by the Constitution (42md Amendment) Act, 1976. Article 51-A initially contained ten clauses relating to fundamental duties. In fact, the Supreme Court made the following observation, even prior to the insertion of Article 51-A to the Constitution of India, saying:

“It is a fallacy to think that under our Constitution there are only rights and no duties.”

By the Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, Clause (k) was inserted into Article 51-A providing a fundamental duty on a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of 6 and 14 years. The Supreme Court held that the right of every child to full development should be recognized as fundamental right in various judgments.

Article 21-A was also inserted into Part III by the very same Amendment Act, where the State is mandated to provide free and compulsory education to all the children between the age of 6 and 14 years in such manner as the State may by law determine. The right to primary education is considered to be a fundamental right within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution, as held by the Supreme Court in the judgments in Modern School v. Union of India, (2004)5 SCC583; Superstar Education Society v. State of Maharashtra, (2008)3 SCC315.

The fundamental duties are recognized as moral obligations, which only help in upholding the spirit of nationalism and to support the harmony of the nation as well as citizens. They serve a useful purpose. It may be noticed that the right to pollution free water and air has been recognized as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in the judgments in Subhash Kumar v.State of Bihar, AIR 1991 SC420; M.C.Mehta v. Union of India, (2003) 5 SCC 376. The Supreme Court has also recognized the right to decent environment to be a fundamental right in Shantistar Builders v. Narayan Khimalal Gotame and othes, (1990) 1 SCC 520/ On the other hand, an individual cannot have a pollution free water and air, unless he protects and improves natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife. Apparently, for that reason, Article 51-A(g) contemplates a fundamental duty on every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife.

The rehabilitation of bonded labour is declared to be a fundamental right. Article 51-A(e) therefore casts a fundamental duty on every citizen to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people. To some extent, clause (h) of Article 51-A may be refered, where every citizen shall develop humanism as well. Though the right to property was not considered to be a fundamental right, as it is only a constitutional right in terms of Article 300-A, keeping in mind the importance of public property, clause (i) was inserted into Article 51-A stating that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to safeguard the public property and to abjure violence. These fundamental duties were aimed to achieve the golden words set out in the preamble to the Constitution. Finally, it reminds me of the saying that “every right implies the corresponding duty, but every duty does not imply the corresponding right”.

Courtesy : 150th Year Souvenir Of High Court

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