Directive Principles of State Policy: The vision for our nation

- By Aryaki Sethi

When the constituent assembly set out to draft the constitution for an independent India, they aimed to create a document that would meet the needs of the present and allow for growth in the future. Due to the limited resources, they enacted fundamental rights that citizens could seek direct protection under, simply by filing cases in court. However, the desire to draft guidelines to shape laws for the future socio-economic and political needs and for the evolution of the legal framework, lead to the Part IV of the constitution, ranging from articles 36 to 51, the directive principles of state policy.

While fundamental rights protect the political freedom of citizens, the directive principles of state policy(DPSP) provide guidelines for social and economic welfare. Even though the constitution groups all the DPSPs under one category, we can observe three overarching goals:

  • The Social guidelines include the right to work, safe working conditions, maternity leave, free legal aid, promoting cooperative societies, improving public health, etc.

  • The Gandhian principles focus on the demands of the nationalist movement such as organizing panchayats, minimum wages for workers, promoting agriculture and allied are and uplifting Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes.

  • The liberalisation directives were intended to make India a global citizen with uniform civil code, right to education, separation of organs of the government, protecting sites of national importance, international peace, and environment.

While the goals are inspiring, one may wonder that if a person can not file cases under DPSPs how are they helpful to the lives of the ordinary Indian? All laws and amendments after independence must uphold these guidelines. So, the importance of DPSPs is that they approach the future with optimism and hope. This leads us to the question, are fundamental rights more important than directive principles because they are enforceable? In many cases, it has been debated whether either have supremacy over the other. Finally, in Minerva Mills vs Union of India, 1980, the supreme court held that the doctrine of harmonious construction should be applied because they are both complementary to each other, therefore, need to be balanced.

In reality, Directive Principles are applicable and upheld through amendments. This began with the 42nd Amendment in 1976 that established two laws- the Free Legal Aid Act under article 39A and the Environmental Protection Act under article 48A. This was a testament to the power of DPSPs that could cause substantial change. Following this, the 44th Amendment in 1978 that aimed at reducing inequalities in income. Village panchayats were also set up due to the 73rd Amendment under article 40. Right to education enacted under article 45 by the 86th amendment. Most recently, the 97th Amendment under article 43B has allowed for cooperative societies. As we can see, a lot of changes that are fundamental to the Indian democracy have been possible due to the provision of DPSPs.

The Indian constitution is an amalgamation of rigidity and flexibility. While it stood strong against the unacceptable evils of society, the assembly had the vision to understand that unforeseen needs might arise in the future. To stand by this ideology, the directive principles were the perfect opportunity for growth. Thus, many political analysts believe that the constitution has largely been a success due to the limited amendments, despite its length, as it allows for learning and encourages change for the better.

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About the Author

Aryaki Sethi is a content writer and mental health advocate. She is currently pursuing Bachelor of Applied Science , Psychology and Health Sciences from the University of Toronto Scarborough.