Fundamental Rights vs Directive Principles

It is possible to see both Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles as complementary to each other.

Fundamental Rights restrain the government from doing certain things while Directive Principles exhort the government to do certain things.

Fundamental Rights mainly protect the rights of individuals while directive principles ensure the well-being of the entire society.

However, at times, when government intends to implement Directive Principles of State Policy, it can come in conflict with the Fundamental Rights of the citizen. This problem arose when the government sought to pass laws to abolish zamindari system. These measures were opposed on the ground that they violated right to property. However, keeping in mind the societal needs that are greater than the individual interests, the government amended the Constitution to give effect to the Directive Principles of State Policy. This led to a long legal battle. The executive and the judiciary took different positions. The government claimed that rights can be abridged for giving effect to Directive Principles. This argument assumed that rights were a hindrance to welfare of the people. On the other hand, the court held the view that Fundamental Rights were so important and sacred that they cannot be limited even for purposes of implementing Directive Principles.

This generated another complicated debate. This related to the amendment of the Constitution. The government was saying that Parliament can amend any part of the Constitution. The court was saying that Parliament cannot make an amendment that violated Fundamental Rights.

This controversy was settled by an important decision of the Supreme Court in Kesavananda Bharati case. In this case, the court said that there are certain basic features of the Constitution and these cannot be changed by Parliament.

Parliament can amend any part of the Constitution so long as it did not alter or amend “the basic structure or essential features of the Constitution”.

Right to Property

Behind the controversy about the relationship between rights and directive principles, there was one important reason: in the Constitution, originally, there was a fundamental right to ‘acquire, possess and maintain’ property. But the Constitution made it clear that property could be taken away by the government for public welfare. Since 1950, government made many laws that limited this right to property. This right was at the centre of the long debate over the relationship between rights and directive principles.

Finally, in 1973, the Supreme Court gave a decision that the right to property was not part of the basic structure of the Constitution and therefore, parliament had power to abridge this right by an amendment.

In 1978, the 44th amendment to the Constitution removed the right to property from the list of Fundamental Rights and converted it into a simple legal right.


Bibliography : NCERT – Indian Constitution At Work


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s