Following the Irish example, our Constitution has incorporated a number of ‘Directive Principles’ in chapter IV. Many countries like Austria, Spain, Brazil, France, Italy etc. have adopted this practice of inserting some Directives to the Government through the Constitution. India too accepted this lession during the making of the Constitution. These directives are ‘a unique feature’ in the Constitution.
The Founding Fathers in India intended to create a welfare state. Moreover, some of them were deeply influenced by the concept of socialism. But, they were reluctant to accept a cut and dried scheme or theory for making a new India.
This is why they did not borrow everything of this chapter from outside. As a stark reality, a number of these principles were purely Indian. They actually dealt with some Indian problems which badly needed the necessary solution after independence, according to Dr VD Mahajan.
In fact, the bulk of these principles aim at shaping a welfare state and socialism. For example, it is declared that adequate means of livelihood should be provided to all; the ownership and control of the resources of the community should be so distributed as best to subserve the common good; equal pay is to be given for equal work for both men and women; the health of people is not to be abused; childhood of the poor should be saved by material plenty etc.
Also, there are some liberal principles in this chapter. For example, different Articles have pledged to separate the judiciary from the executive; to enact a uniform civil code for all; to protect every monument and to promote international peace and so on.
Finally, there are, as well, some Gandhian principles such as the development of village Panchayats; uplift of the Scheduled castes and Tribes; prohibition of the consumption of intoxicating drugs and drinks which are injurious to health; development of cottage industries and co-operative schemes etc.
On the whole, the objective of all these provisions is to create an affluent state on socialistic lines. This is why Sir Ivor Jennings has observed that ‘the ghosts of Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb stalk through the text of part IV of the Constitution’.
Significantly, chapter III of the Constitution has guaranteed, in its original form, seven Fundamental Rights. As such, it has formed the solid basis of political democracy. But, as a matter of fact, political democracy is meaningless without virtual economic democracy. So, the makers have incorporated this chapter.
In the words of PB Gajendragadkar, a former Chief Justice of India, “The ultimate object of the Directive Principles is to liberate the Indian masses in a positive sense.” However, some critics have bitterly criticised the makers of the Constitution for inserting this chapter in the written document.
First of all, Article 37 has expressly declared that “these principles shall not be enforceable by any court.” This obviously means that even if a Government keeps them at bay on the plea of financial inability, it cannot legally be brought to book. Thus, Prof. KT Shah’s doctrine of ‘payable when able’ may ultimately come up in the polity.
Secondly, they are the moral precepts for the ruling authorities without any legal standing. So, according to Sir BN Rau, the Adviser to the Constituent Assembly, the Constitution is not the proper place for moral precepts. Similarly KC Wheare characterised them as ‘a manifesto of aims and aspirations.’ According to him, they have no legal value and, hence, they should not have been placed in the Constitution which is regarded as the ‘highest law of the land.’
Thirdly, in a conflict between the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principle, the former shall eventually prevail. In the case of Champakam Dorairajan v. Madras (1951), the apex court ruled that the Directive Principle ‘are sub-ordinate to and should run subsidiary to the chapter on Fundamental Rights’.
In Kerala Education Bill (1954), the court held that the law must subserve and not override the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Similarly, in the case of Quareshi v. Bihar (1958). SR Das, CJ held that no Directive Principle can override a Fundamental Right as enshrined in Chapter III.
Last, but not the least, some critics have opined that, when these principles would be totally implemented, the entire chapter would be redundant and obsolete.
Of course, there are some truths in these criticisms. But, we should also look at the other side of the coin.
First, it is true that Art. 37 has declared that these directives are non-enforceable. But, the same Article has asserted that ‘they are fundamental in the governance of the country and, it shall be the duty of the state to apply them when making laws. Thus, they are not at all merely moral precepts – rather, they are the real guide to the authorities in administering the affairs of state.
Secondly, they have not, by any means, been ignored by the judiciary. In the case of Bihar v. Kameshwar (1952), the apex court cited such a Directive in support of the abolition of Zamindari system. Similarly, in the case of Bijoy Cotton Mills v. Ajmir, the court upheld the fixation of Minimum Wage Act based on a Directive.
Thirdly, DD Basu has held that the Constitution itself has been amended successively and they curtailed some fundamental rights in order to implement the Directive Principles. For example, the scope of the right to property (Art. 31) was largely modified and, then deleted by the 42nd amendment (1976) in order to implement a Directive enshrined in Art. 38. In that sense, they are really ‘dynamic in character’.
Fourthly, Dr MV Pylee has pointed out that most of these principles have been translated into reality by our Five Year Plans. In other words, the pattern of economic development has always been aptly related to the objectives as embodied in them.
Fifthly, it is also argued that when these Directives would be carried out, the entire chapter would be redundant and obsolete. But, a simple amendment of the Constitution would suffice to delete the entire chapter from the Constitution. And, in the meantime, the country would come up under the broad light of enrichment and prosperity. As such, they can show the beacon-light to our confused rulers.
But, above all, these directives have an educative value. As they exist, people know well what the rulers are bound to do for them. If a Government keeps the Directives at arm’s length, it is likely to be thrown out in the following election. So, Dr BR Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Constitution, opined that if the Directives are ignored, the people at the helm of affairs would have to pay the price for the gross dereliction of duty to the people.
Thus, in spite of their non-enforceable nature, the Directives stand as the ‘greatest guarantee for a genuine democracy in India’, according to S L Sikri. Their objective is to bring about a silent recolution without open bloodshed and governmental tyranny for the achievement of happiness, prosperity and justice in the impoverished polity.
The writer is an author, Griffith Scholar and Former Reader, New Alipore College