Legacy of Freedom Struggle

The genesis of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles is to be found in the freedom struggle which the people of India waged against the British rule under the aegis of the Indian National Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and other national leaders. These great leaders realised the supreme importance of the political and civil rights of the individual. because they knew from their experience of the repression under the British rule as also from the recent events of history including the two World Wars that these rights are absolutely essential for the dignity of man and development of his full personality.

But, at the same time, they were painfully conscious that in the socio-economic conditions that prevailed in the country only an infinitesimal fraction of the people would be able to enjoy these civil and political rights. There were millions of people in the country who were steeped in poverty and destitution and for them, these civil and political rights had no meaning.

It was realised that to the large majority of people who are living an almost sub-human existence in conditions of object poverty and for whom life is one long unbroken story of want and destitution, notions of individual freedom and liberty, though representing some of the most cherished values of free society, would sound as empty words bandied about only in the drawing rooms of the rich and well-to-do and the only solution for making these rights meaningful to them was to re-make the material conditions and usher in a new social order where socio- economic justice will inform all institutions of public life so that the pre-conditions of fundamental liberties for all may be secured.

Object of Directive Principles

It was necessary to create socio-economic conditions in which every citizen of the country would be able to exercise civil and politically rights and they will not remain the preserve of only a fortunate few. The national leaders, therefore, laid the greatest stress on the necessity of bringing about socio-economic regeneration and ensuring social and economic justice. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, said in his inimitable style in words, full of poignancy:

“Economic equality is the master key to non-violent independence. A non-violent system of Government is an impossibility so long as the wide gulf between the rich and the hungry millions persists. The contrast between the palaces of New Delhi and the miserable hovels of the poor labouring class cannot last one day in a free India in which the poor will enjoy the same power as the rich in the land. A violent and bloody revolution is a certainty one day, unless there is voluntary abdication of riches and the power that riches give and sharing them for common good”.

Jawaharlal Nehru also said in the course of his presidential address to the Lahore Congress Session of 1929:

“The philosophy of socialism has gradually permeated the entire structure of the society, the world over and almost the only point in dispute is the phase and methods of advance to its full realisation. India will have to go that way too if she seeks to end her poverty and inequality, though she may evolve her own methods and may adapt the ideal to the genius of her race.”

Then again, emphasizing the intimate and inseverable connection between political independence and social and economic freedom, he said:

“If an indigenous Government took the place of the foreign Government and kept all the vested interests intact, this would not be even the shadow of freedom ………………………………………………. ……………….. India’s immediate goal can only be considered in terms of the ending of the exploitation of her people. Politically, it must mean independence and cession of the British connection, economically and socially, it must mean the ending of all special class privileges and vested interests.”

The Congress Resolution of 1929 also emphasized the same theme of socio-economic reconstruction when it declared:

“The great poverty and misery of the Indian people are due, not only to foreign exploitation in India, but also to the economic structure of society, which the alien rulers support so that their exploitation may continue. In order therefore to remove this poverty and misery and to ameliorate the condition of the Indian masses, it is essential to make revolutionary changes in the present economic and social structure of society and to remove the gross inequalities.”

The Resolution passed by the Congress in 1931 proceeded to declare that in order to end the exploitation of masses, political freedom must include social and economic freedom of the starving millions. The Congress Election Manifesto of 1945 also reiterated the same thesis when it said that “the most vital and urgent of India’s problems is how to remove the curse of poverty and raise the standard of masses” and for that purpose it is “necessary……………………… to prevent the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of individuals and groups and to prevent vested interests inimical to society from “growing”.

This was the socio- economic philosophy which inspired the framers of the Constitution to believe that the guarantee of individual freedom was no doubt necessary to be included in the Constitution, but it was also essential to make provisions for restructuring the socio-economic order and ensuring social and economic justice to the people.

The Determinations of Constituent Assembly

This was emphasized by Jawaharlal Nehru when, speaking on the resolution regarding the aims and objectives before the Constituent Assembly, he said:

“The first task of this Assembly is to free India through a new Constitution, to feed the starving people and clothe the naked masses and give every Indian fullest opportunity to develop himself according to his capacity.”

In fact, as pointed out by K. Santhanan, a prominent southern member of the Constituent Assembly, there were three revolutions running parallel in India since the end of the First World War The political revolution came to an end on 15th August, 1947 when India became independent but clearly political freedom cannot be an end in itself, it can only be a means to an end,

“that end being” as eloquently ex- pressed by Jawaharlal Nehru “the raising of the people,…………….. to higher levels and hence the general advancement of humanity.”

It was therefore necessary to carry forward and accomplish the social and economic revolutions. The social revolution was meant to get India “out of the medievalism based on birth, religion, custom and community and reconstruct her social structure on modern foundations of law, individual merit and secular education,” while the economic revolution was intended to bring about “transition from primitive rural economy to scientific and planned agriculture and industry.”

Dr. Radhakrishnan who was a member of the Constituent Assembly and who later became the President of India also emphasised that India must have a socio-economic revolution designed not only to bring about the real satisfaction of the fundamental needs of the common man hut to go much deeper and bring about “a fundamental change in the structure of Indian society.”

It was clearly realised by the framers of the Constitution that on the achievement of this great social and economic change depended the survival of India. “If we cannot solve this problem soon”, Jawaharlal Nehru warned the Constituent Assembly “all our paper Constitutions will become useless and purposeless.”

The objectives Resolution which set out the and objectives before the Constituent Assembly in framing the Constitution and which was passed by the Constituent Assembly in January 1947 before embarking upon the actual task of Constitution making, therefore, expressed the resolve of the Constituent Assembly to frame a constitution,

“wherein shall be guaranteed and secured to all the people of India justice, social, economic and political, equality of status and of opportunity before the law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action subject to law and public morality and wherein adequate safeguards shall be provided for minority, backward and trial areas and depressed and other backward classes.”

These objectives were incorporated by the Constitution makers in the Preamble of the Constitution and they were a sought to be secured by enacting Fundamental Rights in Part III and Directive Principles in Part IV.

Fundamental Rights represent civil and political rights while Directive Principles embody social and economic rights

It is not possible to fit Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles in two distinct and strictly defined categories, but it may be stated broadly that Fundamental Rights represent civil and political rights while Directive Principles embody social and economic rights. Both are clearly part of the broad spectrum of human rights.

If we look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 18th December 1948. we find that it contains not only rights protecting individual freedom (See Articles 1 to 21) but also social and economic rights intended to ensure socio-economic justice to every one (See Articles 22 to 29).

There are also two International Covenants adopted by the General Assembly for securing human rights, one is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the other is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Both are international instruments relating to human rights. It is therefore not correct to say that Fundamental Rights alone are based on human rights while Directive Principles fall in some category other than human rights.

Socio-economic rights embodied in the Directive Principles

The socio-economic rights embodied in the Directive Principles are as much a part of human rights as the Fundamental Rights. Together, they are intended to carry out the objectives set out in the Preamble of the Constitution and to establish an egalitarian social order informed with political, social and economic justice and ensuring dignity of the individual not only to a few privileged persons but to the entire people of the country including the have-nots and the handicapped, the lowliest and the lost.

Now it is interesting to note that although Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles appear in the Constitution as distinct entities, there was no such demarcation made between them during the period prior to the framing of the Constitution. If we may quote the words of Granville Austin in his book;

“Both types of rights had developed as a common demand, products of the national and social revolutions, of their almost inseparable intertwining and of the character of Indian politics itself”.

They were both placed on the same pedestal and treated as falling within the same category compendiously described as “Fundamental Rights“.

Justiciable and non-justiciable

The Sapru Committee in its Constitutional Proposals made in 1945, recommended that the declaration of Fundamental Rights in its wider sense was absolutely necessary and envisaged these rights as falling in two classes; one justiciable and the other non-justiciable-the former being enforceable in Courts of law and the latter, not. The Committee however, felt difficulty in dividing the Fundamental Rights into these two classes and left the whole issue to be settled by the Constitution-making body with the observation that though the task was difficult, it was by no means impossible.

This suggestion of the Sapru Committee perhaps drew its inspiration from the Irish Constitution of 1937, which made a distinction between justiciable and non- justiciable rights and designated the former as Fundamental Rights and the latter as Directive Principles of Social Policy.

Dr. Lauter-pacht also made a similar distinction between justiciable and non-justiciable rights in his “International Bill of the Rights of Men”. The substantial provisions of this Bill were in two parts; Part I dealt with personal or individual rights enforceable in Courts of Law while Part II set out social and economic rights incapable of or unsuitable for such enforcement.

Sir B. N. Rau, who was the Constitutional Adviser to the Government of India, was considerably impressed by these ideas and he suggested that the best way of giving effect to the objectives set out in the objectives Resolution was to split-up the objectives into Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Principles of State Policy, the former relating to personal and political rights enforceable in Courts of Law and the latter relating to social and economic rights and other matters, not so enforceable and proposed that the Chapter on Fundamental Rights may be split- up into two parts; Part A dealing with the latter kind of rights under the heading “Fundamental Principles of Social Policy” and Part dealing with the former under the heading “Fundamental Rights”.

The Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee also recommended that “the list of fundamental rights should be prepared in two parts, the first part consisting of rights enforceable by appropriate legal process and the second consisting of Directive Principles of Social Policy”. A week later, while moving for consideration, the Interim Report of Fundamental Rights, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel said:

“This is a preliminary report or an interim report because the Committee when it sat down to consider the question of fixing the fundamental rights and its incorporation into the Constitution, came to the conclusion that the Fundamental Rights should be divided into two parts-the first part justiciable and the other non-justiciable.”

This position was reiterated by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel when he said while presenting the Supplementary Report: “There were two parts of the Report; one contained Fundamental Rights which were justiciable and the other part of the Report referred to Fundamental Rights which were not justiciable but were directives…”

It will, therefore, be seen that from the point of view of importance and significance no distinction was drawn between justiciable and non-justiciable rights and both were treated as forming part of the rubric of Fundamental Rights, the only difference being that whereas the former were to be enforceable in Courts of Law, the latter were not to be so enforceable. This proposal of dividing the fundamental rights into two parts, one part justiciable and the other non-justiciable, was however not easy of adoption, because it was a difficult task to decide in which category a particular fundamental right should be included.

The difficulty may be illustrated by pointing out that at one time the right to primary education was included in the draft list of Fundamental Rights, while the equality clause figured in the draft list of Fundamental Principles of Social Policy. But ultimately a division of the Fundamental Rights into justiciable and non-justiciable rights was agreed-upon by the Constituent Assembly and the former were designated as “Fundamental Rights” and the latter as “Directive Principles of State Policy”.

The social and economic rights and other matters dealt with in the Directive Principles are by their very nature incapable of judicial enforcement and moreover, the implementation of many of those rights would depend on the state of economic development in the country, the availability of necessary finances and the Government’s assessment of priority of objectives and values and that is why they are made non-justiciable. But merely because the Directive Principles are non-justiciable, it does not follow that they are in any way subservient or inferior to the Fundamental Rights.


Minerva Mills ltd. v. Union of India (1980)