Fundamental duties is a section of the Constitution of India that prescribes the fundamental, moral, and obligatory duties of the citizens to the nation. This is considered as one of the vital sections of the constitution, which was developed between 1947-1949 by the Constituent Assembly of India.
Fundamental duties are intended to serve as a constant reminder to every citizen that while the constitution specifically conferred on them certain Fundamental Rights, it also requires citizens to observe certain basic norms of democratic conduct and democratic behaviour because rights and duties are co-relative.
The Fundamental duties are set out in Part IV-A of the constitution and cannot be forced on the citizens until made as a parliamentary law. They were added to the constitution by the 42nd Amendment in 1976 by the recommendation of the Swaran Singh Committee. Originally, there were only 10 fundamental duties, the 11th was added by the 86th Amendment in 2002, which states that every parent or guardian to ensure that their child or ward was provided opportunities for education between the ages of six and fourteen years.
What are the obligations put-forth by the fundamental duties?
The fundamental duties requires all citizens to respect the national symbols of India, the constitution, its heritage and to preserve its culture and assist in defence. The duties mandate the spirit of brotherhood, protect public property, and the environment, avoid violence and strive towards excellence in all spheres of life.
In case of violation of fundamental duties, it is held in contempt of the constitution and is punishable under Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.
The fundamental duties noted in the constitution are as follows:
It shall be the duty of every citizen of India —
- To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;
- To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
- To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
- To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
- To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
- To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
- To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures;
- To develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
- To safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
- 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;
- Who is a parent or guardian, to provide opportunities for education to his child, or as the case may be, ward between the ages of six to fourteen years.
The concept of Fundamental Duties was borrowed by India from the 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.
The duties enumerated in Article 51A of the Constitution are unique to the Indian ethos and value systems. However, the concept of fundamental duties is also seen in the constitutions of the Dmocratic Republic of Vietnam enjoins that “the public property of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam is sacred and inviolable.
It is the duty of every citizen to respect and protect public property”. The Japanese constitution also lays down the duties of the citizen as against the rights he can exercise. Similar is the case with the Constitution of Netherlands.
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 in Part IVA of the Constitution.
Available Legal Provisions
Justice Varma Committee was constituted in 1998 “to work out a strategy as well as the methodology of operationalizing a countrywide programme for teaching fundamental Duties in every educational institution as a measure of in-service training”.
The Verma Committee was conscious of the fact that any non-operationalization of Fundamental Duties might not necessarily be the lack of concern or non-availability of legal and other enforceable provisions, but it was more a case of lacuna in the strategy of implementation.
It, therefore, thought it appropriate to list in brief some of the legal provisions already available in regard to enforcement of Fundamental Duties. A summary of such legal provisions is given below:
- 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, inter alia, to prevent improper use of the National Flag and the National Anthem.
- In order to ensure that the correct usage regarding the display of the National Flag is well understood, the instructions issued from time to time on the subject have been embodied in Flag Code of India, which has been made available to all the State Governments, and Union territory Administration (UTs).
- 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 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
- Imputations and assertions prejudicial to the national integration constitute a punishable offence under Section 153 B of the IPC.
- 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 IPC (Chapter XV).
- 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.
- Article 51A (g) regarding protection of environment has received particular attention from the various courts. The JS Verma committee on Fundamental Duties has listed and documented as many as 138 Supreme Court cases in the area of environmental protection.
The fundamental duties are in consonance with Article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says, “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible”.
Recommendations additions to the fundamental duties
The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, 2002, recommended addition of the following fundamental duties in Article 51A of the Constitution:
- Duty to vote at elections
- Duty to actively participate in the democratic process of governance
- Duty to pay taxes
- Duty to foster family values and responsible parenthood
- Duty of industrial organizations to provide education to children of their employees