Enforcement of Directive Principles of State Policy – A Perspective

India, after its independence from years of colonial rule, was looking to establish itself as a country which had its foundational structures strong. As a country, the founding fathers of the nation wanted to govern the nation with a set of rules and regulations that were supreme to undo the years of social and economic injustice that was done to them. The constitution was not just a document with legal provisions in it but was drafted in a way to fulfil the aspirations of the Indians. However, the drafters of the Indian Constitution focused on a variety of issues. They focused on providing citizens with civil and political rights (CPR) depicting the western world, and not much emphasis was laid on the economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) depicting the socialist or communist world in theory. The civil and political rights were mostly enforceable in the court of law while the latter was not.

Mere reading and understanding of the constitution would entirely prove that the emphasis of the framers of the constitution was more on civil and political rights. This, however, does not mean that the economic, social and cultural rights were not given equal importance, as India’s foundation was laid down as a welfare state. The ESCR rights were labelled as Directive Principles with an instruction that these principles would not be enforceable in any court of law, unlike the fundamental rights which were guaranteed to the citizens. Although certain principles are read individually at times, and there seems to be a difference between the two. However, both of these principles are inseparable which have been highlighted by way of various judicial pronouncements by the Supreme Court of India. It has also been said that the difference in the enforceability of these principles was temporary.

Another vital thing to be noted is that though the principles are non-enforceable in the court of law, these principles form an essential part in the governance of India, where it makes it compulsory for the state to make laws by keeping in mind these principles, basically keeping in mind the welfare of its people. The sole reason behind keeping the principles separate was that at the time of independence, India was just at an embryonic stage, and the country was not in a state to provide ESCR to its citizens.

Moreover, Dr B. R. Ambedkar was of the view that DPSP was nothing but a mere obligation or commitment imposed by the constitution. Mostly all scholars have traced the existence of DPSPs to the freedom struggle of India. It was the suggestion of the Sapru Commission dating back to 1945 which happened to be influenced by the constitution of Ireland, like much of our other principles. Borrowed from the Irish Constitution Directive Principles of State Policy finds its place in Part IV of the constitution from Article 36 – Article 51.

Article 37 talks about the applicability of DPSPs where the governments shall have the duty to imbibe these principles while framing the laws for the welfare of its people, however, the provisions cannot be enforced in any court of law.

Article 38 talks about the state to promote welfare measures for its people. Article 39 highlights the principles that the state has to follow in terms of economic welfare. Article 39A provides for access to justice even for the not so privileged class of people by providing them access to justice free of cost. Article 40 talks about the organisation of village panchayats economic. Article 41 provides for the right to work, Right to education and right to public assistance. Article 42 provides for the state to push for just and humane working conditions and for maternity relief for its workers. Article 43 and 43A provides for an adequate living wage for workers along with their existence in the organisations and industries. Article 44 talks about a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for the nation.

Article 45 provides for free and compulsory education for the children. Article 46 provides for the state to support or take due care of the interests of the not so privileged classes of the society be it in terms of education or monetarily. Article 47 is more related to the nutrition of the citizens and imposes a duty on the state to take care of public health. Article 48 and 48 A directs the state to organise animal husbandry and agricultural process and protection of the natural resources including wildlife and forests respectively.

Article 49 provides for safeguarding and preserving the monuments of the country. Article 50 provides for an independent judiciary and an independent executive. Article 51 provides for upholding global security and maintaining peace. [1]

The DPSPs have been classified into three main categories; these classifications are not formally mentioned in the constitution but are interpreted into Gandhian Principles, Liberal Principles and Socialistic Principles. These classifications are based on the kind of provisions and the objective that it is trying to fulfil with the ideology.  Although, the very nature of DPSPs of not being enforceable in any court of law makes it a controversial part of the constitution and raises questions on its existence itself.

The main problem that here lies is with its enforceability and implementation. Jeffrey Usman, in his book, says that there is a defect in the very idea of DPSP which somewhere downgrades the dominance of the grundnorm that is the constitution. He goes on to say that, ‘when legislators fail to do their jobs efficiently, the public comes to rescue, but when the majority themselves are not able to do the job, there needs a non-majoritarian institution such as courts to help enforce the problem. Nevertheless, when the principles themselves are non-enforceable, there is no solution to this problem. Furthermore, when a constitutional provision does not serve any person, that provision is generally repealed.’[2] Thus, even at the time of constituent assembly debates some of the members contended that since the principles are non-enforceable yet deal the political nature, they should not be a part of the constitution.

The main problem with the DPSP is not the very existence of it but the non-enforceability because this somehow compromises the predominance of the constitution. On the other hand, the constituent assembly debates, the framers felt that ‘[…] we are going to enter into a new life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality in social and economic life; we will have inequality. In politics, we will recognise the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, because of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one vote. How long shall we continue to live with this life of contradictions?’ [3]

The first and the most logical argument that can be given for the enforcement of DPSPs is that it keeps the ruling power in check. By keeping ruling power in check, the author means to say that almost all of the provisions enshrined in Part IV of the constitution can find its place in their manifestos and their election promises. However, these promises remain unfulfilled and thus bringing DPSP under the ambit of judicial reach holds them accountable in the court of law, which is a way to help the country progress. Article 44, which talks about bringing UCC in the country, has been promised by several political parties over the years but has not been implemented yet.

There have been many studies which talk as to how the majority of the DPSPs have been implemented or progress has been made in the field of food security, health, education. However, is it just the implementation that we are talking about or the reality as well. Most of the legislation or welfare schemes that we are talking about has been implemented by way of judicial outreach only. For example, even after bringing the Right to Education under the ambit of Article 21, the conditions of the government schools can be seen. When we talk about a welfare scheme, it is not the mere implementation of it but also the ground reality of it.

Another example where the role of judiciary can be seen in the implementation of DPSP is in the case of PUCL v Union of India and Ors[4], where only through the judicial pronouncements Right to Food was recognised. There have been several other judicial pronouncements in the same line. However, it is to be noted that all of the judicial pronouncements have come by way of Judicial overreach or Judicial Activism. Moreover, it depends on the court whether to accept a case or to reject it, since DPSPs are unenforceable in the courts. Thus, bringing DPSPs under the direct ambit of judiciary solves this problem of judicial activism.

Conclusion

Directive Principles of State Policy very well come under the framework of the constitution to extend the ESCR to its citizens. Moreover, DPSP acts as a guiding light to the governments and its citizens towards Economic, Social and Cultural justice. The enforcements of the principles are always kept in check by the public in democracies by means of regular elections and by means of the Judiciary by crossing its jurisdiction at times at least in India which has a rich jurisprudence behind the enforcement of DPSPs.

Moreover, there are several judicial pronouncements which have time and again proved that Fundamental Rights and DPSPs are inseparable and both of them advance the principles of ESCR. Moreover, at the time of bringing the constitution into the force, the country could not give its citizens ESCR, however in the present situation the country is well equipped and ready for its enforceability for upholding the human rights of the citizens as well as fulfilling the dream of a welfare state.


[1] Part IV, Constitution of India, Article 36 – Article 51

[2] Jeffrey Usman, ‘Non-Justiciable Directive Principles: A Constitutional Design Defect’ (2007) 15 Mich. St. J. Int’l L. 643.

[3] Constitutional Assembly Debate Vol. 11 as cited by Garry Jeffry Jacobsohn, ‘The Permeability of Constitutional Borders’ (2004) Texas Law Review, Vol. 82: 1763, 1772.

[4] PUCL v Union of India and Ors (W.P. (C) No. 196 of 2001)

Find him here – khannaarnav97@gmail.com
Linkedin

Arnav Khanna from School of Law, CHRIST (Deemed to be) University, Bangalore

“I am enthusiastic about Data Privacy Laws, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Rights of Women, Rights of LGBTQ community. Love reading books, Politically Aware”

May the Law be with you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: