Are Fundamental Duties Enforceable by Law?

by  Adv. Priyanka Sampathy  




4 mins


Fundamental duties which are Enforceable by Law


  • Recently, the Supreme Court gave the Centre and the states a notice to reply to a petition requesting that the Fundamental Duties are Enforceable by Law, including patriotism and national unity, by precise regulations.
  • Article 51A (Part IVA) of the Constitution outlines Fundamental Duties that aim to protect the nation’s goals and support its development, though not all are legally enforceable.

Historical Background of Fundamental Duties in the Indian Constitution

The concept of Fundamental Duties is not indigenous to the Indian Constitution. When the Constitution was originally framed in 1950, it did not contain any section on Fundamental Duties. The framers of the Constitution, with their vision focused on ensuring fundamental rights to the citizens, perhaps believed that the duties of citizens would be inherent to the rights they were granted.

However, the 1970s witnessed a period of significant political and social upheaval in India. The nation faced challenges in the form of internal strife, anti-national activities, and a general sense of rights without responsibilities. It was during this period, under the leadership of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, that the need for specifying the duties of citizens was felt. The government believed that in order to preserve the unity and integrity of the nation, it was essential to remind citizens of their responsibilities alongside their rights.

To address this, the Swaran Singh Committee was constituted in 1976. The committee recommended the inclusion of a separate section in the Constitution dedicated to Fundamental Duties. Acting upon these recommendations, the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976 was introduced, which led to the insertion of Part IV-A into the Constitution, outlining the Fundamental Duties under Article 51A. These duties served as a reminder to citizens that while they have rights, they also have responsibilities towards the nation and society.

Which Fundamental Duties Are Enforceable by Law?

  • The Russian Constitution inspired the concept of Fundamental Duties, which are enforceable by Law. (erstwhile Soviet Union).
  • On the advice of the Swaran Singh Committee, they were added to Part IV-A of the Constitution by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976, i.e., Fundamental Duties, which are enforceable by Law. 
  • One more Fundamental Duty that is enforceable by Law was introduced by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002, bringing the total number of Fundamental duties which are enforceable by Law to 11.
  • The Fundamental obligations are non-justiciable, just like the Directive Principles of State Policy.

Fundamental Duties and the Law: Consult Legal Experts to Understand Their Enforceability

Significance of Fundamental Duties in a Democratic Society

The inclusion of Fundamental Duties in the Indian Constitution is not merely a list of obligations for its citizens; it carries profound significance, especially in the context of a vibrant democratic society like India.

  1. Promotion of Discipline and Commitment: Fundamental Duties serve as a constant reminder to every citizen about their responsibility towards upholding the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution. By adhering to these duties, citizens exhibit discipline and commitment to the nation’s ideals.
  2. Active Participation in Nation-building: These duties, though non-justiciable, encourage citizens to participate in the process of nation-building actively. Whether it’s respecting national symbols, promoting harmony, or safeguarding public property, each duty contributes to building a cohesive and united nation.
  3. The balance between Rights and Responsibilities: While the Constitution grants citizens certain rights, it’s equally important to be aware of one’s responsibilities. Fundamental Duties emphasize this balance, ensuring that rights are not exercised at the expense of duties.
  4. Moral and Civic Foundation: The duties act as a moral compass, guiding citizens daily. They instil civic sense and promote values like harmony, respect for diversity, and scientific temper.
  5. Guard Against Anti-social Activities: By emphasizing duties like promoting harmony and renouncing practices derogatory to women’s dignity, the Constitution aims to curb anti-social activities and foster a sense of brotherhood among citizens.
  6. Reinforcement of National Identity: In a diverse country like India, Fundamental Duties play a crucial role in reinforcing national identity. They remind citizens of the shared values and principles that bind them together, transcending regional, linguistic, or communal differences.

In essence, the Fundamental Duties are not just a set of obligations; they are the backbone of a thriving democracy, ensuring that citizens are active participants in the country’s progress and not just passive beneficiaries of their rights.

Criticism of Fundamental Duties

While the inclusion of Fundamental Duties in the Constitution was a significant step towards reminding citizens of their responsibilities, over the years, several criticisms have been levelled against them:

  1. Non-Justiciable Nature: One of the primary criticisms is the non-justiciable nature of these duties. Unlike Fundamental Rights, which are enforceable by courts, Fundamental Duties lack legal backing. This means that no legal action can be taken against a person for not adhering to these duties, which raises questions about their effectiveness.
  2. Absence of Important Duties: Critics argue that the list of Fundamental Duties is not exhaustive. For instance, duties like paying taxes or voting, which are crucial for the functioning of a democracy, are not mentioned. The absence of such vital duties diminishes the comprehensiveness of the list.
  3. Vagueness of Provisions: Some of the duties mentioned, such as “to develop the scientific temper” or “to strive towards excellence”, are considered vague and open to interpretation. This lack of clarity can lead to varied interpretations, making understanding and adhering to them challenging.
  4. Overemphasis on Traditional Values: Some critics believe that the duties emphasize traditional values and practices, which might not resonate with modern, progressive thought. For instance, the duty to value and preserve the rich heritage might be seen as an emphasis on traditionalism over modernity.
  5. Lack of Awareness: Despite being a crucial part of the Constitution, there’s a general lack of awareness about Fundamental Duties among the masses. This defeats the purpose of having them in the first place.
  6. No Mechanism for Promotion: Unlike Fundamental Rights, which are widely promoted and discussed, there’s no mechanism to promote or educate citizens about their Fundamental Duties. This further contributes to the lack of awareness.

While the idea behind introducing Fundamental Duties was noble and well-intentioned, their current form and implementation have left room for critique and calls for a more comprehensive and actionable approach.

Case Laws About Fundamental Duties

Over the years, the judiciary has played a pivotal role in interpreting and emphasizing the importance of Fundamental Duties. Here’s a look at some landmark judgments that have shaped the discourse around these duties:

  1. AIIMS Students Union vs. AIIMS (2001): In this case, the Supreme Court emphasized the significance of Fundamental Duties, stating that while rights are essential for the individual’s growth, duties are equally vital for a cohesive and harmonious society. The court highlighted the duty to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst India’s people.
  2. Ranganath Mishra vs. Union of India (2003): The apex court, in this judgment, reiterated the importance of Fundamental Duties, especially in the context of preserving the rich heritage of our composite culture. Though non-justiciable, the court observed that these duties are essential for nation-building.
  3. M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India (1988): In the context of environmental protection, the Supreme Court emphasized the duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment. The court stated that this duty is a legislative mandate and a demand for socio-economic justice.
  4. Bijoe Emmanuel vs. State of Kerala (1986): This case revolved around expelling three students for not singing the national anthem in school. The Supreme Court held that while it’s a duty to respect the national anthem, not singing it due to religious beliefs does not violate the Fundamental Duties.
  5. Aruna Roy vs. Union of India (2002): In this case, the court highlighted citizens’ duty to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity. It emphasized that this duty is crucial for the nation’s advancement.

These case laws underscore the judiciary’s role in interpreting and emphasizing the importance of Fundamental Duties. They serve as precedents and guideposts for future interpretations and discussions around these duties.

Interrelation with Other Constitutional Provisions

The Indian Constitution is a harmonious blend of rights and duties, and this interplay is evident when we examine the relationship between Fundamental Duties, Fundamental Rights, and Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP):

  1. Fundamental Duties and Fundamental Rights: While Fundamental Rights (Part III of the Constitution) are the privileges granted to the citizens, ensuring individual freedoms, the Fundamental Duties (Article 51A) act as a reminder of their responsibilities. For instance, the duty to promote harmony (Article 51A(e)) complements the right to equality (Articles 14-18) by discouraging practices derogatory to the dignity of women. Similarly, the duty to safeguard public property and to abjure violence (Article 51A(i)) aligns with the right to life and personal liberty (Article 21).
  2. Fundamental Duties and DPSP: The Directive Principles (Part IV of the Constitution) set the governance’s guiding principles, ensuring social and economic justice. Many of the Fundamental Duties resonate with these principles. For example, the duty to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture (Article 51A(f)) aligns with the DPSP’s objective to promote the educational and economic interests of minorities (Article 46). Similarly, the duty to protect the natural environment (Article 51A(g)) mirrors the state’s responsibility to protect and improve the environment (Article 48A).
  3. Balancing Rights and Duties: The Constitution beautifully balances individual rights with collective responsibilities. While Fundamental Rights empower citizens, Fundamental Duties remind them of their obligations toward nation-building. This balance ensures that individual freedoms do not overshadow societal welfare.
  4. Judicial Interpretations: The judiciary has often emphasized this interrelation. In several judgments, courts have highlighted that citizens should also be mindful of their duties while enjoying rights. The harmonious interpretation of these provisions ensures that the Constitution’s essence is upheld, promoting a balanced societal structure.

The Indian Constitution, through its various provisions, creates a symphony of rights and duties, ensuring that individual freedoms coexist with collective responsibilities, leading to a holistic and progressive society.

List of Enforceable Fundamental Duties

The following are the Fundamental duties enforceable by Law:

  • To uphold the Constitution, its principles, and institutions, as well as the National Anthem and Flag, is one of the Fundamental duties enforced by Law. 
  • One of the Fundamental duties enforced by Law is to uphold and adhere to the lofty principles that motivated the nation’s fight for freedom.
  • To safeguard and defend India’s sovereignty, unity, and integrity is one of the Fundamental duties enforced by Law.
  • To protect the nation and provide national service when required is one of the Fundamental duties enforced by Law.
  • To value and preserve the rich heritage of the nation’s composite culture, including its forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife; 
  • To protect and improve the natural environment, including its forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife; 
  • To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all Indians transcending religious, linguistic, regional, and sectional diversities;
  • To cultivate a scientific mindset, humanism, and the spirit of reform,
  • Protecting public property and abstaining from violence are Fundamental duties that are enforceable by Law. 
  • To pursue excellence in all areas of personal and societal endeavour so that the country continually climbs to new heights of endeavour and accomplishment and
  • Providing his kid or ward between the ages of six and fourteen the opportunity to pursue an education (added by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002) is also a Fundamental duty that the Law enforces.

These are the Fundamental duties that are enforceable by Law. 

What Matters Are Fundamental Duties are enforceable by Law?

  • Rights and obligations are related to each other. 
  • The Fundamental duties, which are enforceable by Law, are meant to serve as a constant reminder to every citizen that while the Constitution specifically grants them certain fundamental rights, it also requires citizens to observe basic norms of democratic behaviour and conduct. 
  • These warn the people against anti-social activities that disrespect the nation, like burning the flag, destroying public property, or disturbing public peace.
  • These aid in fostering a feeling of discipline and loyalty to the country. They assist in achieving national goals by encouraging residents to participate rather than merely watch actively.
  • It aids the Court in deciding whether the statute is constitutional. For instance, any law issued by the legislatures would be considered reasonable if it upheld any Fundamental duty that is Enforceable by Law when challenged in court for its constitutional legitimacy.

    Discover the legal enforceability and importance of Fundamental Duties as a responsible citizen through a marketing lens

Why is it necessary to enforce Fundamental Duties by Law?

  • According to the ancient texts, the Indian civilization has strongly focused on an individual’s “Kartavya” from the beginning.
  • Fulfilling one’s obligations to society, one’s nation, and especially one’s parents.
  • People are urged to carry out their obligations without regard for their rights in the Gita and the Ramayana.
  • The rights and obligations were treated equally under the former Soviet Union Constitution.
  • It is urgent to uphold and carry out at least some of the core obligations.
  • For instance, to support and protect India’s sovereignty, unity, and integrity; to defend the nation and do national duty when required; to spread a sense of nationalism; and to encourage the spirit of patriotism to preserve India’s unity.
  • These essential responsibilities become more important due to China’s rise to superpower status.
  • The Verma Committee on Fundamental Duties, which are enforceable by the Law of the Citizens (1999), noted that the Fundamental Duties were subject to legal restrictions. 
  • The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1971 prohibits insults to the national anthem, the Indian Constitution, or the flag, and the committee included measures to that effect.
  • The Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955) established penalties for any offence involving caste or religion.
  • It was contended in the petition that failure to uphold the Fundamental Duties directly affects the Fundamental Rights protected by Articles 14 of the Indian Constitution (equality before the Law), Article 19 (protection of certain rights related to free expression), and Article 21 (right to life).
  • For instance, the emerging criminal trend of protest by demonstrators disguising their actions as exercising their right to free speech and expression necessitates enforcing fundamental obligations.

Explore enforceability of fundamental duties & its impact on individual rights with a legal expert


The blog discusses Fundamental duties which are enforceable by Law. A unified approach is required to “properly sensitise, fully operationalize, and enforce” essential obligations that “significantly enable citizens to be responsible.” 

Legal consultation must be taken in case of any dispute. Legal consultation not only makes your task easier but also makes you properly guided you. 

Legal consultation must be taken for any issue which cannot be solved without consulting a lawyer.

Adv. Priyanka Sampathy

Adv. Priyanka Sampathy


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Priyanka Sampathy is a legal consultant who prioritises ethical and professional conduct while striving to achieve desired outcomes. With over 15 years of independent practice, she has significant expertise in handling legal cases. Her exceptional communication skills enable her to express arguments in a clear and persuasive manner, both in writing and verbally, in Hindi, English, and Telugu.

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