Part IV of the Constitution dealing with the “Directive Principles of State Policy” provides one of the most novel and striking features of modern constitutional government. The framers of the Constitution were in this respect influenced most by the Constitution of the Irish Republic which embodies a chapter on “Directive Principles of Social Policy”.
The Irish themselves had, however, taken the idea from the Constitution of Republican Spain which was the first ever to incorporate such principles as part of a constitution. But the idea of such principles can be traced to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen proclaimed by Revolutionary France and the Declaration of Independence by the American colonies.
The influence of these declarations was so profound on millions of people in Europe and America that they inspired organised efforts, on the one hand, to overthrow all forms of political tyranny, and, on the other, to compel the State to take positive measures for the removal of many anti-social practices which had been considered as normal in those days.
In more recent times, thinkers on political and social reforms, who did not agree with the Marxian approach for the removal of the ills and evils of modern society, advocated such principles to be made the guiding force of State activity.
The ideas of Jeremy Bentham, the political and social stand of the Liberal and Radical Parties of Western Europe, the major principles of Fabian Socialism and, to some extent, those of Guild Socialism, are all akin to much of what is embodied in this Part of the Constitution.
Sir Ivor Jennings claims that the ghosts of Sidney and Beatrice Webb stalk through the pages of the entire text and this Part of the Constitution expresses Fabian Socialism without the word “socialism”, “for only the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange is missing.”
But this would be to give an exaggerated importance to the Fabian influence, for one finds other documents and proclamations, of more recent date, that have influenced the framers even more. Mention has already been made of the Irish constitution.
The Constitution Act of India (1935) itself provided “for Instruments of Instructions” which were a fruitful idea. Ambedkar provides a clue to this in the following passage:
“The Directive Principles are like the Instruments of Instructions which were issued to the Governor-General and the Governors of colonies, and to those of India by the British Government under the 1935 Government of India Act. What is called Directive Principles is merely another name for the Instruments of Instructions.
The only difference is that they are instructions to the legislature and the executive. Whoever captures power will not be free to do what he likes with it. In the exercise of it he will have to respect these instruments of instructions which are called Directive Principles. He cannot ignore them.”
But there were other influences too. The Charter of the United Nations as well as the Universal Human Rights Charter influenced the Constitution- makers. The discussions on the Charter of Human Rights were in progress during the same period as the Constituent Assembly was deliberating upon the Constitution.
It would however be wrong to suppose that the various principles embodied in this chapter are mere foreign borrowings or adaptations of principles of recent Western Political and Social Philosophy. In fact, a number of these principles are entirely Indian, particularly those which formed an integral part of the very foundations of the National Movement.
Provisions dealing with village panchayats, cottage industries, prohibition, protection against cow-slaughter, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other socially and educationally backward classes, are all formally and essentially Indian and some of these were the cherished ideas for the recognition of which Gandhiji had striven throughout his life.
As the title itself indicates, the principles embodied in this chapter are directives to the various governments and government agencies (including even village panchayats) to be followed as fundamental in the governance of the country. It shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.
Thus, they place an ideal before the legislators of India while they frame new legislation for the country’s administration. They lay down a code of conduct for the administrators of India while they discharge their responsibilities as agents of the sovereign power of the nation. In short, the Directive Principles enshrine the fundamentals for the realisation of which the State in India stands.
They guide the path which will lead the people of India to achieve the noble ideals which the Preamble of the Constitution proclaims: Justice, social, economic and political; Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
It is this realisation that impelled a member in the Constituent Assembly to demand the placing of this chapter immediately after the Preamble in order to give it “greater sanctity” than others. There was also a suggestion to change the title of the chapter to “Fundamental Principles of State”.
There are sixteen articles of the Constitution, from 36 to 51, that deal with the Directive Principles. These cover a wide range of State activity embracing economic, social, legal, educational and international problems. The most important of these are the following:
(1) The State shall strive to secure and protect a social order which stand for the welfare of the people. In particular, it shall strive to minimise the inequalities in income, and endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations [Art. 32 (2)].
(2) In particular, the State shall direct its policy towards securing:
(a) adequate means of livelihood to all citizens; (b) a proper distribution of the material resources of the community for the common good; (c) the prevention of concentration of wealth to the common detriment; (d) equal pay for equal work for both men and women; (e) the protection of the strength and health of workers and avoiding circumstances which force citizens to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength; and (f) that children are given opportunities and facilities to be developed in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and the protection of childhood and youth against exploitation of moral and material abandonment (Art. 39).
The State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall in particular provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reasons of economic or other disabilities (Article 39-A).
(3) To organise village panchayats as units of self-government (Art. 40).
(4) To secure the right to work, (Art. 40) and public assistance in cases of undeserved want, such as unemployment, old age, sickness, etc. (Art. 41).
(5) To secure just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief (Art. 42).
(6) To secure work, a living wage, a decent standard of life, leisure and social and cultural opportunities for people, and in particular to promote cottage industries (Art. 43).
(7) The State shall take steps, by suitable legislation or in any other way, to secure the participation of workers in the management of undertakings, establishments or other organisations engaged in any industry (Art. 43-A).
(8) To secure a uniform civil code applicable to the entire country (Art. 44).
(9) To provide, within ten years from the commencement of the Constitution, free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 years (Art. 45). The 87th Amendment of the Constitution made primary education a Fundamental Right.
By a constitutional Amendment in 2002, this Directive Principle has been made a Fundamental Right.
(10) To promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, especially the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Art. 46).
(11) To secure the improvement of public health and the prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs (Art. 47).
(12) To organise agriculture and animal husbandry on scientific lines and preserve and improve the breeds and prohibit the slaughter of cows, calves and other mulch and drought cattle (Art. 48).
(13) The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country (Art. 48-A).
(14) To protect all monuments of historic interest and national importance (Art. 49).
(15) To bring about the separation of the judiciary from the executive (Art. 50).
(16) To endeavour to secure (a) the promotion of international peace and security; (b) the maintenance of just and honourable relations between nations ; and (c) the settlement of international disputes by arbitration (Art. 51).
Taken together, these principles lay down the foundations on which a new democratic India will be built up. They represent the minimum of the ambitions and aspirations cherished by the people of India, set as a goal to be realised in a reasonable period of time. Indeed, when the State in India translates these principles into reality, she can justly claim to be a “welfare State”.
In the words of Justice K.S. Hegde of the Supreme Court: “The purpose of the Fundamental Rights is to create an egalitarian society, to free all citizens from coercion or restriction by society and to make liberty available to all.
The purpose of Directive Principles is to fix certain social and economic goals for immediate attainment by bringing about a non-violent social revolution. Through such a social revolution the Constitution seeks to fulfill the basic needs of the common man and to change the structure of our society. It aims at making the Indian masses free in the positive sense.”
The decisions of the Supreme Court, especially from the seventies onwards amply testify the positive aspects of the Directive Principles. These have been held to supplement the Fundamental Rights for achieving the objective of a welfare State.
The Court said from time to time that even the Fundamental Rights might be amended by Parliament to implement the provisions embodied in the Directive Principles and such legislation may be held valid unless it offends any of the basic features of the Constitution. 1
How far the State has moved, so far, towards the realisation of these principles is a question that deserves an answer in this context. It may be stated in general that the achievements of the last five decades have not yet made the country a welfare State. Nevertheless, no impartial observer can miss the direction towards which it is moving, if not fast, at least at a reasonable pace.
The efforts of the State to translate the Directive Principles into reality are concentrated primarily in the national Five-Year Plans, the first of which was initiated soon after the inauguration of the Constitution.
The central objective of public policy and national endeavour as evinced through these plans has been the promotion of rapid and balanced economic development which will raise living standards and open out to the people new opportunities for a richer and more varied life.
Such development is intended to expand the community’s productive power and to provide the environment in which there is scope for the expression and application of diverse faculties and urges. It follows therefore, that the pattern of development must be related to the basic objective which the Constitution has kept in view.
These objectives are defined and explained from time to time in order that they may guide the State in planning as well as ensure their conformity with the Directive Principles. The basic objectives may be summed up in the phrase “socialist pattern of society”. What it stands for is explained by the Second Five-Year Plan in the following terms:
“Essentially this means that the basic criterion for determining the lines of advance must not be private profit but social gain, and that the pattern of development and the structure of socioeconomic relations should be so planned that they result not only in appreciable increases in national income and employment, but also in greater equality in incomes and wealth.
Major decisions regarding production, consumption and investment in fact all significant socioeconomic relationships must be made by agencies informed by social purpose. The benefits of economic development must accrue more and more to the relatively less privileged classes of society, and there should be a progressive reduction of the concentration of incomes, wealth and economic power.
The problem is to create a milieu in which the small man who has so far had little opportunity of perceiving and participating in the immense possibilities of growth through organised effort is enabled to put in his best in the increase of a higher standard of life for himself and increased prosperity for the country.
In the process, he rises in economic and social status. For creating the appropriate conditions, the State has to take on heavy responsibilities as the principal agency speaking for and acting on behalf of the community as a whole…”
The Third Five-Year Plan spells out even more explicitly the meaning and implications of the Indian concept of socialist pattern. In the first chapter of this document 2 entitled the Objectives of Planned Development, it is stated:
“Progress towards socialism lies along a number of directions, each enhancing the value of others. Above all, a socialist economy must be efficient, progressive in its approach to science and technology, and capable of growing steadily to a level at which the well-being of the mass of the population can be secured.
In the second place a socialist economy should ensure equality of opportunity to every citizen. In the third place, through the public policies it pursues, a socialist economy must not only reduce economic and social disparities which already exist, but must also ensure that rapid expansion of the economy is achieved without concentration of economic power and growth of monopoly.
Finally, a society developing on the basis of democracy and socialism is bound to place the greatest stress on social values and incentives and developing a sense of common interest and obligations among all sections of the community.”
This statement of objectives makes it clear that the Directive Principles are not allowed to remain in the Constitution as platitudes, but are systematically put into application with a view to transforming Indian society and bringing about a social order in conformity with these principles.
It is difficult to bring within the scope of this discussion a detailed survey of the concrete measures the State has taken so far and the results achieved there from. Yet, one may broadly indicate the trends which would help the better appreciation of the situation.
For example, there has been a substantial increase in the vesting of both ownership and control of material resources of the community in the State during the last five decades.
The great multi-purpose river valley projects such as Bhakra-Nangal, Damodar Valley and Hirakud, iron and steel producing concerns such as Bhilai, Rourkela Durgapur and Bokhara, ship-building centers like Vizag and Cochin and other concerns such as the Sindri-Fertilizers, Hindustan Machine Tools, Chittaranjan Locomotives, Hindustan Aircrafts and many defense-oriented industries which contribute substantially to the basic economic development of the country, are owned and managed by the State.
The choice in fact, is being forced on the State almost continuously and as a result new economic functions are being undertaken by the State machinery. According to one estimate, by 1977 the total investment in the public sector had risen to nearly 100,000 million rupees from a negligible figure in 1950. The corresponding figure in 1990 was almost ten times 4 .
It is true that the State has not yet moved very far on the road of achieving objectives such as full employment, public assistance during old age, sickness, etc. Nevertheless, most of them have found a place in the development plans.
Great emphasis is now being laid on the creation of employment opportunities. Steps are being taken to bring into being a scheme of unemployment insurance. A limited scheme of workmen’s insurance against sickness, accident and disease is already in operation. Minimum wages are fixed in a number of spheres of employment. Equal wages for equal work are being paid to both men and women in almost every area of activity.
The community development programme which has been in operation in many parts of the country seeks the transformation of the rural economy, particularly the reorganisation of agriculture and animal husbandry on scientific lines. Besides, most of the States have passed laws designed to prohibit the slaughter of cows, calves and other mulch and drought cattle.
Mention has already been made of a number of laws which have been passed with a view to protecting children and youth against exploitation. The Central Council of Health established in 1952 deals with matters connected with health, hygiene, nutrition, etc., on a national basis. Most of the villages in India have now their own panchayats which form the primary units of administration.
In fact, the Constitution itself was amended in 1992 to provide for a comprehensive Panchayati Raj system embracing the entire country.
The passing of a uniform civil code is not an easy measure in India where adherents of every religion have their own personal laws. The Hindu Code that is being passed in installments (e.g., the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Hindu Succession Act, 1956) is a right move towards the ultimate realisation of a uniform civil code for the entire country.
In the field of free and compulsory Primary Education for children, great strides have already been made. But it is now widely realised that the ten-year limit that was set in the Constitution to make such education available to every child in the country was too ambitious. It seems that India will require another decade to make this principle, a practical proposition.
A number of measures have already been taken to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, especially the Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
With a view to specially benefiting the backward classes of citizens economically, efforts are being made for the setting up more and more cottage and small scale industries and also to give liberal financial aid for such activities undertaken by them.
A vigorous policy of prohibition was inaugurated with the adoption of the Constitution, and at least a few of the States have achieved the goal of complete prohibition of intoxicating liquors throughout their territory. The remaining States have made considerable progress in this direction.
The principle of complete separation of the judiciary from the executive is yet to be fully realised. But every State has adopted a definite programme in this respect and according to this every year a certain number of districts are being brought under the scheme.
Finally, it is perhaps unnecessary to detail the efforts made by India towards the promotion of international understanding, peace and security. Suffice it to say that her contribution in this field is widely and generously acknowledged by almost all nations of the world.
According to Article 37, Directive Principles, though they are fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws, are expressly made non-justiciable.
It means that the courts in India including the Supreme Court have no power to enforce them. This is in contrast with the position of Fundamental Rights which are justiciable and, therefore, enforceable by the courts of law. Thus, while there is a judicial remedy for every violation of a Fundamental Right, there is none for the enforcement of Directive Principles.
Would this mean that these are a set of platitudes designed by clever politicians to hoodwink the credulous Indian masses? Is there no remedy at all if the government that is in power ignores and even flagrantly violates these principles which are of a fundamental character in the governance of the country?
The answer is “no” to the first and “yes” to the second. No doubt, there is no direct judicial remedy, except when Parliament has made special provision under Article 31-C of the Constitution. There are however other remedies and they are reasonably effective.
It must be remembered in this connection that the Constitution establishes a democratic form of government, a representative government. It is also a responsible government, one that is continuously and always responsible for all its actions to the representatives of the people and through them to the people in general.
Those who are in power are there because the people of India, who have been guaranteed universal adult suffrage, have given them that power. They are not the masters of the people but their “servants”. They are voted into power to translate into practice the provisions of the Constitution which the people have given unto themselves.
If they fail in this solemn duty, then they have no right to continue in office and they can be and should be removed from office when the stocktaking of their work is done at the end of every five years at the time of the General Election in the country.
Since the Constitution ensures free choice by the people from amongst competing candidates with differing policies and programmes, the electorate can choose those who, in their opinion, are likely to transform these principles into reality.
These directives, thus seen, constitute a kind of basic standard of national conscience and those who violate its dictates do so at the risk of being ousted from the positions of responsibility to which they have been chosen.
The agents of the State at a given time may not be answerable to a court of law for their breach of these principles, but they cannot escape facing a higher and more powerful court which will at regular intervals do the reckoning. When a member in the Constituent Assembly moved an amendment which sought to make the Directive Principles justiciable, another pointed out:
“There is no use being carried away by sentiments. We must be practical. We cannot go on introducing various provisions here which any government, if it is indifferent to public opinion, can ignore. It is not a court that can enforce these provisions or rights.
It is the public opinion and the strength of public opinion that is behind a demand that can enforce these provisions. Once in four (or five) year’s election will take place and then it is open to the electorate not to send the very same persons who are indifferent to public opinion. That is the real sanction and not the sanction of any court of law.”
He further said that “a state just awakened from freedom with its many preoccupations might be crushed under the burden unless it was free to decide the order, the time, the place and the mode of fulfilling them.”
There are, however, two important questions that are intimately related to the non-justiciable character of these principles and have created some confusion in the minds of those interested in India’s Constitutional law.
Of these, the first deals with the attitude of the President or the Governor towards a Bill containing provisions that contravene any of these principles. One view is that since the President, or the Governor, as the case may be has taken oath to defend and uphold the Constitution, he should refuse to give his assent to a Bill which violated a Directive Principle.
Ambedkar is opposed to this view and characterised it as a “dangerous doctrine” and contended that “the Constitution does not warrant it”. The apprehension that these principles might lead to a conflict between the President and the Prime Minister or between the Governors and the Provincial Ministers was expressed in the Constituent Assembly itself. “What happens if the Prime Minister of India ignores these Instructions?”
There have so far been no such occasions for such a conflict. Yet the problem has to be faced if and when it arises. The main factor that should be remembered in this context is the system of government which the Constitution establishes a parliamentary system under which the executive is responsible to the legislature. So long as the executive has the confidence of the legislature, a Constitutional head of the State will find it difficult to go against the will of the legislature.
It is also relevant to remember in this context that the President is not directly elected by the people and hence can claim no direct mandate. If at any time Parliament or a State legislature decides to pass a law which contravenes a Directive Principle, there must be weighty reasons for it.
And if it is the considered opinion of the legislature to pass such a law and if the voting on it reflects a substantial majority in its favour, the President will have little justification to withhold his assent to the Bill.
Perhaps the President could send the Bill back to Parliament for reconsideration in the light of his objections to it. And if Parliament passes it a second time, the President will have no justification to withhold his assent.
After all, Parliament alone is competent to change even the Directive Principles by a constitutional amendment. Moreover, however fundamental these principles might be today, they can have no claim to permanent sanctity.
They cannot be considered as embodying eternal verities. As society changes in character, its needs also undergo corresponding changes. What is considered as fundamental today may become inessential and unimportant a few decades hence or earlier.
Under a democratic system, all these questions are first to be determined by the representatives of the people and finally by the people themselves. Hence, it would seem wise for the President not to use his veto power over a Bill that is passed by the legislature merely on the ground that it violates a Directive Principle.
The second question is this: Where there is a conflict between a Fundamental Right and a Directive Principle, which should prevail? This question was answered by the Supreme Court, for the first time in Champakam Dorairajan’s case (1952). Speaking for a unanimous Court, Justice S.R. Das said:
“The Directive Principles of State Policy which by Article 37 are expressly made unenforceable by a court cannot override the provisions found in Part III which, notwithstanding other provisions, are expressly made enforceable by writs, orders or directions under Article 32.
The chapter on Fundamental Rights is sacrosanct and not liable to be abridged by any legislative or executive act or order except to the extent provided in the particular Article in Part III. The Directive Principles of State Policy have to conform to and run subsidiary to the chapter on Fundamental Rights. In our opinion, that is the correct way in which the provisions found in Part III and Part IV have to be understood.”
It was mainly this decision of the Court that led to a constitutional amendment to Article 15 in 1951, under which the State was permitted to make special provisions to protect the interests of socially and educationally backward classes. A year later, when the Court dealt with the Zamindari Abolition cases, its attitude was considerably modified.
In the State of Bihar vs. Kameswar Singh, the Court used the Directive Principle for its guidance in determining a crucial question on which the validity of the Bihar Act hinged. The question was whether there was any “public purpose” to justify the legislation which acquired compulsorily vast lands of private owners. Answering the question, Justice Mahajan said, after quoting Article 37:
“Now it is obvious that the concentration of big blocks of land in the hands of a few individuals is contrary to the principles on which the Constitution of India is based.
The purpose of the acquisition contemplated by the Act, therefore, is to do away with the concentration of big blocks of land and means of production in the hands of a few individuals and to distribute the ownership and control of the material resources which come in the hands of the State, so as to sub-serve the common good as best as possible.”
Here the Judge was guided absolutely by the Directive Principles.
Justice S.R. Das substantially reproduced the same language in the same case. After quoting Articles 38 and 39 of the chapter on Directive Principles, he said:
“In the light of this new outlook, what I ask is the purpose of the State in adopting measures for the acquisition of Zamindaris and the interests of intermediaries.
Surely, it is to subserve the common good by bringing the land which feeds and sustains the community and also produced wealth by its forest, mineral and other resources, under State ownership or control. This State ownership or control over land is a necessary preliminary step towards the implementation of Directive Principles of State Policy and it cannot but be a public purpose.”
The question came up again in the course of arguments in the President’s Reference to the Supreme Court of the Kerala Education Bill (1958). The Court had no hesitation to uphold its earlier stand in the Zamindari abolition cases, namely, that the Directive Principles cannot be altogether ignored by it in spite of their non-justiciable character.
Speaking on the motion by which he introduced the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution in Parliament, Prime Minister Nehru observed that where there was conflict between a Fundamental Right and a Directive Principle, the latter should prevail.
This opinion may appear to be in direct conflict with the view of the Supreme Court. But on closer examination it will be seen that the conflict is apparent rather than real. For, as far as the Supreme Court is concerned, where there is a clear conflict between the two, it should uphold the Fundamental Right being justiciable, against the Directive Principle which is a non-justiciable right.
But this solution is only a judicial solution of the matter. The courts cannot go further than that, but Parliament can. The final solution is arrived at only when the social conflict arising out of the competing claims of a justiciable and a non-justiciable right are resolved.
The guiding principle here is the superiority of the social interest over that of the individual. To facilitate the putting into effect of this principle, the Constitution may have to be amended and the Directive Principle allowed prevailing. The Constitution was amended several times with this object in view.
It should, however, be added that whenever the court is called upon to resolve a conflict between a Fundamental Right and a Directive Principle, it is the duty of the court to resolve the conflict with an eye on the spirit of the Constitution and with a view to harmonising differences to the extent that is possible and feasible.
It is now fairly clear from the judgments of the Supreme Court that there is no essential dichotomy between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles. They complement and supplement each other. As justice K.K. Mathew has pointed out in the Kesavananda Bharati case:
“The Fundamental Rights themselves have no fixed content; most of them are mere empty vessels into which each generation must pour its content in the light of its experience.
Restrictions, abridgment, curtailment, and even abrogation of these rights in circumstances not visualised by the Constitution- makers might become necessary; their claim to supremacy or priority is liable to be overborne at particular stages in the history of the nation by the moral claims embodied in Part IV.
Whether at a particular moment in the history of the nation, a particular Fundamental Right should have priority over the moral claim embodied in Part IV or must yield to them is a matter which must be left to be decided by each generation in the light of its experience and its values.
And, if Parliament in its capacity as the Amending Body, decides to amend the Constitution in such a way as to take away or abridge a Fundamental Right to give priority value to the moral claims embodied in Part IV of the Constitution, the Court cannot adjudge the constitutional amendment as bad for the reason that what was intended to be subsidiary by the Constitution-makers has been made dominant.
Judicial review of a constitutional amendment for the reason that it gives priority value to the moral claims embodied in Part IV over the Fundamental Rights embodied in Part III is impermissible.” (1973 (4) SCC 225).
The significance of Directive Principles in relation to that of Fundamental Rights can be determined only by making a reference to the object of the Constitution-makers in making these principles an integral part of the Constitution. As has already been pointed out, they represent the basic principles which aim at the creation of a welfare State.
Taken together, these principles form a charter of economic and social democracy in India. On the one hand, they are assurances to the people as to what they may expect, while on the other, they are directives to the governments, Central and State, as to what policies they ought to pursue.
It is unfair to the people as well as inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution to allow these principles to remain pious wishes. Every effort should be made by the representatives of the people and the agents of the government to translate them into reality. Nothing should be allowed to stand in their way, even the fundamental rights guaranteed to the individual.
After all, the progress and welfare of society as a whole should not be hampered by the rights of the individual. This is why every fundamental right is subject to reasonable restrictions in the interests of the general public, whether such restrictions are on account of public order, morality, decency, health or anything else. It is in this sense that the Fundamental Rights are to sub-serve the Directive Principles.
Indeed, there can be no real conflict between the two. They are intimately related to and inseparably bound up with each other.
A Constitution framed in the middle of the twentieth century could hardly do without a chapter on Directive Principles of the type the Indian Constitution has. The establishment of political democracy is a fundamental aim of a Constitution.
But that in itself is not enough. The sustaining forces of that political democracy have to be carefully built up. The most effective force which will sustain a political democracy is the simultaneous existence of an economic democracy. Where there is no economic democracy, political democracy is bound to degenerate soon into a dictatorship.
If the Fundamental Rights guarantee a political democracy in India, the Directive Principles ensure the eventual emergence of an economic democracy to sustain the former. Thus, the Directive Principles of State Policy become the greatest guarantee for a genuine democracy in India.
In the light of these considerations, it would betray a lack of discernment to consider these directives as a mere political manifesto without any legal sanction, or to characterise them as vague and indefinite serving no useful purpose or to dismiss them as a mere moral homily.
The last six decades demonstrate that such criticism has neither substance nor relevance today. If K.T. Shah were alive now, he should certainly have revised the opinion that he expressed in the Constituent Assembly that these principles “are like a cheque on a bank payable when able only when the resources of the bank permit.”
Another apparently weighty criticism of the Directive Principles is implied in the question whether it is worthwhile to insert in a Constitution of today a collection of political principles taken from the experience of nineteenth century England or Western Europe, and to deem them to be suitable for India in the middle of the twentieth century.
The question whether they would be suitable for the twenty-first century when the Constitution is hoped to be still in operation is difficult to answer. It is probable that they may become outmoded by then. Who can predict the precise nature of the potentialities of an atomic or a hydrogen age?
It may revoluntionise the whole economic system of the present day and converts India into a land of plenty where all human wants in the material field are fully satisfied. In such a state of affairs, the Directive Principles will indeed look not only outmoded but even reactionary!
But as far as the twentieth century was concerned, India had yet to reach in many spheres of economic activity a standard comparable to that which existed in the nineteenth century in Western Europe.
Thus, even assuming that the Directive Principles reflect the nineteenth century political ideas of the West, their value in twentieth century India was not lost. Besides, it is not quite correct to characterise these principles as borrowings from abroad.
As has been pointed out elsewhere, there are many provisions in this chapter which prove the originality of the Constitution- makers and reflect the genius of the Indian people.
If and when the Directive Principles become outmoded, they can be suitably amended or altogether abolished. The process of amending these provisions is simple.
But by the time such amendments take place, India will have benefited immensely by the Directive Principles, and an economic democracy will have sent its roots deep into the Indian soil and the present form in which these principles are embodied will have realised its goal.
Moreover, these principles would have become part and parcel of the Indian heritage. Thus one can see the immense educative value of these principles. They will instill in the minds and thoughts of the coming generations of Indian youth the fundamental values of a stable political order and dynamic economic system.
A Constitution is primarily concerned with the present. The future will take care of itself if the present is built on solid foundations. It is quite unnecessary, therefore, to think of the distant future with reference to certain provisions of a constitutional document.
The real importance of the Directive Principles is that they contain the positive obligations of the State towards its citizens. No one can say that these obligations are of an insignificant type or that even if they are fulfilled, the pattern of society in India will still remain more or less the same.
In fact they are revolutionary in character and yet to be achieved in a constitutional manner. Herein lays the real value of embodying these principles as an integral part of the Constitution.
Through the Directive Principles of State Policy, the Constitution of India will steer clear of the two extremes, a proletarian dictatorship which destroys the liberty of the individual and a capitalist oligarchy which hampers the economic security of the masses.