Our Constitution Fundamental Duties and Rights of Citizen
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TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Indian Constitution
Article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”
India & Fundamental Duties: Historical Background
India is one of the few countries in the world with a glorious tradition of democracy since ancient times. Eminent historian K P Jayaswal remarks that the concept of republic in ancient India is older than of the Roman or Greek republican system. The ancient republics or janpadas such as Vaishali, Kapilavastu and Mithila — and their constitutions — date back to 600 BC. These form the foundation for the constitutional democracy that India is today — as well as for the role of Indian citizens in making democracy a success in India.
Traditionally, the fundamental impulse to accept responsibilities and perform duties, in every society, has been religious. Performing one’s duties with sincerity, is in fact, a worship mechanism. As a a line from the Rig Veda notes,”O, citizens of Bharat! As our ancient saints and seers, leaders and preceptors have performed their duties righteously, similarly, you shall not falter to execute your duties”. (Rig.10.191.2)
The Bhagwad Gita and Ramayana also ask people to perform their duties. In the Gita, Lord Krishna ordains, “One should do one’s duties without expectation of any fruits”. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I learnt my duties on my mother’s lap. She was an unlettered village woman… She knew my dharma. Thus, if from my childhood we learn what our dharma is and try to follow it our rights look after themselves… The beauty of it is that the very performance of a duty secures us our right. Rights cannot be divorced from duties. This is how satyagraha was born, for I was always striving to decide what my duty was.” Gandhiji further said that the true source of right is duty. He said, “If we all discharge our duties, rights will not be far to seek”. Swami Vivekananda rightly observed, “it is the duty of every person to contribute in the development and progress of India”.
A very significant feature of our Constitution is that it balances citizens’ rights and duties. These are social concepts that have grown through time, tradition and usage. The citizens’ duties as enshrined in the Constitution are essentially a codification of tasks integral to the Indian way of life — they focus on tolerance, peace and communal harmony. A close scrutiny of the clauses of Article 51A of the Constitution, indicate that a number of them refer to values, which have been part of Indian tradition, mythology, religion and practices.
The chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Constitution itself recognises the essence of duties. One pertains to freedom of speech but Clause 2 to 6 of Article 19 permits reasonable restrictions on the exercise of such rights in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, and the security of the state, public order, decency and morality. This implies that while exercising one’s rights must remember one’s duties towards these constitutional concepts.
How were Fundamental Duties incorporated in the Constitution?
The Fundamental Duties were incorporated in Part IV-A of the Constitution by the Constitution 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, during Emergency under Indira Gandhi’s government. Today, there are 11 Fundamental Duties described under Article 51-A, of which 10 were introduced by the 42nd Amendment and the 11th was added by the 86th Amendment in 2002.
These are statutory duties, not enforceable by law, but a court may take them into account while adjudicating on a matter. The idea behind their incorporation was to emphasise the obligation of the citizen in exchange for the Fundamental Rights that he or she enjoys. The concept of Fundamental Duties is taken from the Constitution of Russia.
What are the Fundamental Duties?
- To abide by the constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem
- To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom
- To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India — it is one of the preeminent national obligations of all the citizens of India.
- To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so
- 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
- To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture — our cultural heritage is one of the noblest and richest, it is also part of the heritage of the Earth
- To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures
- To develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform
- To safeguard public property and to abjure violence
- 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
- It is the one on children’s education that was added in 2002 by the 86th Amendment that provided for the Right to Free and Compulsory Education for children in the age group 6-14, with the insertion of Article 21A. It also cast an obligation on parents to provide such opportunities under Article 51A(K), between the age of six and fourteen years.
Note: Apart from adding the Fundamental Duties, the 42nd Amendment also changed the Preamble to the Constitution to include the words ‘Socialist and Secular’ to describe India, in addition to its being ‘Sovereign Democratic Republic’.
Fundamental Duties must serve as a constant reminder of our national goals as well as inculcate, in all of us, a profound sense of social responsibility. It is only through the fulfillment of our duties in the most earnest way, that we can live life to our truest potential and help lead our nation towards prosperity and development.
Connecting the Dots:
- Development of scientific temper is one of the Fundamental Duties enshrined in the Constitution of India. Comment.
- “Fundamental duties are only ethical or moral duties and should not form a part of the Fundamental law.” Critically comment.