The Forty-second Amendment of the Constitution added a new part to the Constitution Part IV-A incorporating ten fundamental duties of the citizen under Article 51-A. “What is the use of mere enumeration of such duties in the Constitution in the absence of suitable provisions to enforce them?”
It may be asked and it is not easy to give a very satisfactory answer. However, the intention is quite clear and that is to place before the country a code of conduct which the citizens are expected to follow in their actions and conduct. The Fundamental Duties are as follows:
It shall be the duty of every citizen of India
(a) To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;
(b) To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
(c) To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
(d) To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
(e) 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;
(f) To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
(g) To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;
(h) To develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
(i) To safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
(j) 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.
In May 1998, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Government of India to enquire about the Government’s plan to operationalise the suggestions to teach Fundamental Duties to the citizens of the country. The Court’s notice was based on a letter which it received from Justice Ranganath Misra (former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) stating that “all of us are experiencing to our horror degrading human behaviour in society every day.
The deterioration is gradually becoming sharper and unless this fall is immediately arrested and a remedial measure found out and enforced, the situation would not improve. Fundamental Duties have remained in the Constitution Book and have not come out to reach even the class of people who handle the Constitution”.
It had been further stated that “the Constitution within a quarter of a century, brought about a right-oriented society. The Indian approach of ensuring rights through performance of one’s duties was totally abandoned.
Article 51-A in its ten clauses covers several aspects, the lack of which has been responsible for today’s evil. If society becomes duty-based, every one in India should turn attention on performance of duties and through such performance ensure and be entitled to the rights of a citizen.”
As a nation-building measure, teaching Fundamental Duties in every educational institution and as a measure of in-service training everywhere is necessary as these cannot be inculcated in our citizens unless these are brought into their minds and living process through teaching and education. It is the obligation of the State to educate the citizens in the matter of Fundamental Duties so that a right balance between rights and duties may emerge.
In response to the Supreme Court’s notice, the Government of India set-up a committee to examine all aspects of operationalisation of Fundamental Duties for an effective inculcation of the same by the citizens.
The terms of reference of the Committee were as follows:
(i) To develop a package for teaching Fundamental Duties at primary, secondary, senior secondary and university levels.
(ii) To decide the activities as part of curriculum and co-curricular activities.
(iii) To review the existing programme already being implemented by the NCERT under the National Curricular Frame-work and the need for identifying additional inputs into it.
(iv) To develop programme packages for pre-service/ in-service training of teachers at various levels.
(v) To develop a separate package for the training of citizens through non-formal education/ adult education programme/media (print, electronic, etc.)
In its Interim Report submitted in 1999, the Committee has emphasised the following:
Standards in Public Life:
It is the duty of every citizen to obey the constitutional mandate. Every holder of a public office has superadded to his duties, as a citizen, the additional duties imposed by virtue of the office she/he holds. Sensitivity of all enforcement agencies is essential for realising the promise held out in the Constitution.
It is important to draw our attention to ‘ ‘The Seven Principles of Public Life” contained in the First Report of the United Kingdom’s Committee on Standards in Public Life-Vol. I by Lord Nolan – Chairman, which is reproduced below:
Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family their friends.
Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.
In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
National Policy on Education 1986/1992:
A significant exhortation in the National Policy on Education (1986) with modifications undertaken in 1992 incorporates the basic spirit of Article 51-A and reads thus: “The National System of Education will be based on a national curricular framework which contains a common core along with other components that are flexible.
The common core will include the history of India’s freedom movement, the constitutional obligations and other contents essential to nurture national identity.
These elements will cut across subject areas and will be designed to promote values such as India’s common cultural heritage, egalitarianism, democracy and secularism, equality of the sexes, protection of the environment, removal of social barriers, observance of the small family norm and inculcation of the scientific temper. All educational programmes will be carried on in strict conformity with secular value.”
Against the conceptual backdrop of such deliberations, the Committee applied its mind to a multiplicity of issues concerning Fundamental Duties. It took stock of some of the judicial decisions relevant to enforcement of Fundamental Duties, studied schemes or programmes related to National Integration and Communal Harmony, Culture and Values, and Environment as already in operation.
It undertook analysis of school curriculum, programmes of Non-Formal and Adult Education, as well as teacher education curriculum from the standpoint of Fundamental Duties and also attempt ascertaining the status of Fundamental Duties in higher and professional education.
The Committee noted that a number of judicial decisions are available towards enforcement of several provisions of Articles 51-A. What is needed to be operationalised is compliance of the provisions of the various Acts. Also the educational system has to create proper and graded curricular inputs from early years of education to the higher and professional levels of education.
There is no finality in these efforts but a continuance of endeavour in achieving the objectives related to the values underlying the constitutional provisions. They require a constant reminder to the citizen to continue to strive towards display of better and better citizenship behaviour so necessary for a patriotic fervour. These aspects are to be nurtured through educational programmes, thro informal, non-formal, formal and media interventions.
Although the Fundamental Duties like the Directive Principles of State Policy cannot be enforced by the judiciary, the Courts can certainly take them into consideration while interpreting a law whichis amenable to more than one interpretation. For example, Article 51A (g) regarding protection environment has come up before the High Courts and the Supreme Court again and again, and Courts have been responding positively in the interest of environmental protection.
In the ultimate analysis, however, the only way to bring adherence to Fundamental Duties is through a vigorous public opinion all over the country. Our educational institutions and voluntary agencies can do much in highlighting the values of these duties and giving a lead in upholding the need to adhere to them for the orderly progress of our society. There has been too much emphasis on Fundamental Rights hitherto. Hereafter, we should have equal emphasis on Fundamental Duties also.