The concept of duty is not a new one, specially, when it comes to Indian society. Since time immemorial there has been a stress on performing one's "Kartavya" towards the society, parents and the country. Where there is right there exists a corresponding underlying duty and therefore rights and duties are correlative. The Fundamental duties, nudge every citizen of the country, time and again to ensure that they do acknowledge the fact that while the Constitution specifically confers upon them certain fundamental rights but, however it also requires them to observe certain rudimentary norms of democratic conduct and behaviour.
The chapter pertaining to the fundamental duties of citizens was incorporated in the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, as ushered by the The Swaran Singh Committee that was constituted by the government earlier that year. Article 51-A of the Constitution lays down the various fundamental duties of the citizens of India, which were originally ten in number, but later the Fundamental Duties were further increased to eleven by the 86th Amendment in 2002, which imposed a duty on every parent/guardian to ensure that their child/ ward between the age of six and fourteen years are provided with adequate opportunity for education. Whereas, the other Fundamental Duties obligate all citizens to respect the national symbols of India, The Constitution of India, to cherish its heritage, preserve its composite culture and assist in its defence. They also obligate all Indians to promote the spirit of common brotherhood, protect the environment and public property, develop Scientific temper abjure violence, and strive towards excellence in all spheres of life. Nevertheless, citizens are under a moral obligated as per the provisions of the Constitution to perform these duties. However, like the Directive Principles, there exists no legal sanction in case of violation or non-compliance of these duties.
Duties similar to those mentioned under the Article 51-A are generally not found in the Constitutions based on the western liberal traditions as none of the constitution of the western countries specifically provide the duties and obligations of its citizens for example the American Constitution provides for the fundamental rights of the citizens whereas the fundamental duties of the citizens are way beyond its gamut. The Constitution of Socialist countries, however, lay great emphasis on the duties of the citizens for example Chapter 7 Article 59 of the Soviet Constitution lays down that it is the duty of the citizens of USSR to uphold the honour and dignity of Soviet citizenship and observe the various proviso of the Constitution and the Soviet laws. Among the democratic constitutions of the world, we do find mention of Fundamental Duties of the citizens in Japanese Constitution, whereas in countries like Britain, Canada, and Australia the duties of citizens are largely governed by the Common Law principles and judicial pronouncement. Before the inclusion of Fundamental duties, P.V. Kane was critical of the Constitution that it ignored the Indian tradition of Kartavya (Duties) and spoke only of the Rights1.
Part IV of the constitution which consists of one Article i.e. Article 51-A was added to the constitution by the 42nd Amendment, 1976. Article 51-A lays down a list of duties of every citizen of India to:
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;
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;
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
The Constitution (86thAmendment) Act,2002 added a new clause (k) to Article 51-A which provides that it is duty which vests in any person "who is a parent or a guardian to provide opportunity to education to his child or as the case be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years"
Nevertheless it interesting to note that while many Constitutions law down duties of the people it also guarantees "Right to Work" also; like the Constitution of Republic of China which under Article 118 lays down that "Citizens of China have the Right to work, the right to guaranteed employment and payment for the work in accordance with its quality and quantity." This is an important omission in the Indian constitution even today. As we know that poverty is a curse and there exists no contradicting force to the principle of "Necessity knows no Law" so to avoid imperilling our country any further there is a dire need of such provision as it palpable that a poor and unemployed person cannot be expected to perform his duties towards the society.
The Fundamental duties incorporated in the Constitution are statutory duties and shall be enforceable by law. Parliament, by law will provide for the penalties to be inflicted for the failure to fulfil those duties. However the success of this proviso would, rely much upon the manner in which and the person against whom these duties would be enforced2. Therefore it can be clearly derived from the above arguments that duties are not self-executing and therefore just as person with an injured leg needs a shoulder to walk similarly fundamental duties need the support of the State for its proper implementation by enacting laws for the same. This can be understood easily with the help of an illustration, mandamus cannot be sought against an individual who does not observe his duties under the Article 51-A3. Further in Vishaka V. State of Rajasthan4, the court laid down that if non observance of duty by one citizen can be established as violation of the right of another, appropriate remedy may be provided by the courts.Further awareness about Fundamental duties is also of the most important apparatus for the proper enforcement of the Fundamental duties and this can be only achieved by spreading awareness through a systematic and planned process.
In M.C. Mehta V. Union of India5, the Hon'ble Supreme court lad down that under Article 51-A, the Central government is under an obligation to introduce compulsory teaching of lessons for a minimum of sixty minutes a week on protection and improvement of environment in all the educational institutions across the country. The Government of India announced the setting up of a Committee under the Chairpersonship of Justice J.S Verma, former Chief justice of India, and presently Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), "to work out a strategy as well as methodology of operationalizing a countrywide programme for teaching fundamental Duties in every educational institution as a measure of in service training" in accordance with the Terms of Reference stated below:
To develop a package for teaching Fundamental Duties at primary secondary, senior secondary and university levels.
To decide the activities as part of curriculum and co-curricular activities.
To review the exiting programme already being implemented by the NCERT under the national Curricular Framework and the need for identifying additional inputs into it.
To develop programme packages for the training of citizens through non-formal education / adult education programme / media (print, electronic, etc.)
The Committee attempted to analyse the issue of teaching of Fundamental Duties at all levels of education through improvement of the content and process, particularly of school education and teacher education, including interventions through curricular, co-curricular and media inputs, both print and electronic.
The recommendations made by Justice Verma Committee on Operationalization of Fundamental Duties must be reiterated forcefully. Moreover, it is solicited that there is no reason to impede wider dissemination of information and generating greater awareness in regard to the Fundamental Duties of citizens and obligations of citizenship. This can be done through - organization of advocacy and sensitization programmes, display of the text of article 51A 'Fundamental Duties' prominently in government publications, diaries calendars, offices and at public places, radio and video spots highlighting important messages related to Fundamental Duties on AIR, Doordarshan and other channels, setting up an autonomous body to act like ombudsman on citizenship values and for overseeing operationalization or effectuation of Fundamental Duties, publication of small booklets on various aspects of Fundamental Duties written in simple language and aimed at different levels of citizens through non-formal education, open schooling, adult education, and universalisation of literacy programmes circumspection by electronic media on programmes, serials, pictures, news and advertisement affecting morality, decency and cultural values and heritage of the country, activist role by electronic and print media in the matter of Fundamental Duties like protection of the environment, Media avoiding the glorification of acts of violence, armed robberies, and terrorist activities, and the state machinery ensuring the effectuation of Fundamental Duties, where necessary, by prompt legislation.
The benefits from the already existing schemes need to be optimised by monitoring work of NGOs and other institutions operating government-funded schemes focussed on aspects of national integration, communal harmony, culture and values, and environment, in tune with the spirit of clauses (e), (f) and (g) of article 51A and making mid-course corrections where necessary. The Directive Principle of State Policy in article 48A, the Fundamental Duty in article 51A (g) and the existing laws in the area need to be implemented and enforced in the light of the judgments of the Supreme Court. There is need for fundamental transformation in the direction and approach to curricular and co-curricular activities for imparting education in schools and teacher training institutions. This can be done by -
publishing the content of Fundamental Duties through books published by the NCERT and School Textbook Bureaus,
presenting each clause of article 51A through anecdotal talks, at morning assemblies at schools,
organising seminars, debates, competitions on different aspects of Fundamental Duties of citizens, and
designing an instructional design for education in Fundamental Duties that fits into the present day multi-channel environment where learning accrues from a variety of sources at home, school, community, print and electronic media.
In order to ensure dignity of women, gender biases and sex-stereotyping must be eliminated from all textbooks both at state and national levels. Programmes of education for school teachers and higher and professional courses have to be so designed as to enable communication of the content of Fundamental Duties of citizens and the value of abiding by them. What is needed is a vigorous advocacy with state educational agencies, teacher education institutions and university departments for inclusion of Fundamental Duties component in curricula. All courses in Human Rights should also include Fundamental Duties. An independent comprehensive unit encompassing familiarisation with the Constitution of India and Fundamental Duties of citizens thereunder need to be incorporated in the elementary and secondary teacher education courses. NCC should be made compulsory in all pre-service teacher education institutions. This would promote the values of sovereignty, unity and integrity of the nation.
The need to shift emphasis from rights to duties in all walks of life is indeed urgent. Undue emphasis on one's own rights without any awareness of one's duties is not a sign of good citizenship. The Fundamental Duties set out in article 51A were not intended to be legally enforced by one citizen against the other. They are like the Ten Commandments which every citizen is expected to bear in mind and conduct himself towards the State and society accordingly. Therefore, the endeavour of the State should be not so much to give teeth to the Fundamental Duties but to spread awareness of the duties among the people6.
In the end it can be epitomized, that the picture of India at the time of independence has been morphed to a one which is way better than what it used to be, now a fewer children are employed in hazardous environments, but their employment in non-hazardous jobs, prevalently as domestic help, violates the spirit of the constitution in the eyes of many critics and human rights advocates which owes its origin to a fiendish problem of over-population and poverty. Nevertheless there is a long way to go yet and one of the primary tasks to be undertaken by the central and the state government is to sensitize the people of India about their duties and their obligations7. Further the powerful impact of media including electronic and print media has to be fully exploited to transmit messages on Fundamental Duties to all levels of citizenry. Media should constantly educate people that Constitution and the symbols of sovereignty could only be preserved by the public spirit and vigilance of its citizens and these could also be destroyed by its citizens also in order to spread awareness various program should be conducted both at national and regional level by the concerned authorities which may include observance of a "Fundamental Duty week" so as to create awareness and a positive attitude for inculcating the duties laid down by Article 51-A of the Constitution of India.
A Judicial Academy should be instituted so as to provide necessary infrastructure and to promote the judges to continue their education, so as to focus their attention on Constitutional Values and Fundamental duties, moreover Bar councils and their affiliated Bar Associations must also share responsibility to ensure and promote their members not only appreciate the value of Fundamental duties rather take necessary steps for their implementation while pursuing their profession. It is also suggested that a few more Fundamental Duties, namely, duty to vote in an election, duty to pay taxes and duty to resist injustice may be added in due course to article 51A in Part IVA of the Constitution.The only impediment in protecting and maintaining women dignity is gender biases and sex-stereotyping and misogynistic and the same must be eliminated from all school and colleges and this should be given as a mandate to all curriculum development agencies, both at national and state levels.
Table of cases
1 P.V. Kane, History of Dharmasastra, Vol. V, Pt. II (1962) 1664-65
2 Dr. J.N. Pandey, The Constitutional Law of India
3 Surya NarainChoudhary v. Union of India, AIR 1982 Raj 1.