Difference between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy

Parts III and IV, that is, chapters on Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles, together constitute the “conscience” of the Indian constitution. But, the differences between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State policy are significant. The differences are discussed below :

  • Firstly, the fundamental rights constitute a set of negative injunctions. The state is restrained from doing something’s. The directives on the other hand are a set of positive directions. The state is urged to do something to transform India into a social and economic democracy. As Gladhill observes, Fundamental Rights are injunctions to prohibit the government from doing certain things, the Directive principles are affirmative instructions to the government to do certain things.
  • Secondly, the Directives are non-justiciable. Courts do not enforce them. A directive may be made enforceable by the courts only when there is a lam on it. Fundamental rights, on the other hand are justiciable. They impose legal obligations on the state as well as on individuals. Courts enforce them. If a law violates a fundamental right, the law in question will be declared void. But no law will be declared unconstitutional on the ground that it violates a directive principle against violation of a fundamental right, constitutional remedy under Art. 32 are available which not the case is when a directive is violated either by the state or, by individual. For this reason Prof K. T. Shah deprecates the Directive Principles as “Pious wishes” or a mere window dressing for the social revolution of the country.

Whenever conflicts arise between fundamental rights and directive principles, fundamental rights prevail over the directive principles because, in terms of Arts. 32 and 226, fundamental rights are enforceable by the courts. If a law is in conflict with a fundamental right, it is declared void by the Supreme Court. But no law can be declared void on the ground that it is violative of a directive principle. In 1951, in Champakam Dorairajan vs. the state of Madras, the Supreme Court held “The chapter on Fundamental Rights is sacrosanct and not liable to be abridged by any legislative or executive act. The Directive Principles of State Policy have to conform and are subsidiary to the chapter on Fundamental Rights.”

25th constitution amendment Act in 1971 by Article 31(c) provided that laws enacted to implement directives in Article 39 (b) and (c) shall not be declared void on ground of contravention of fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14 and 19. In 1976, during emergency, the 42nd amendment, sought to widen the scope of Article 31 (c), to place all laws passed for the implementation of any or all directive principles beyond judicial review. But the Supreme Court struck down this attempt at total exclusion of all laws to implement directives from judicial review on the ground that this will offend the ‘basic structure’ of the constitution. Thus Article, 31(c) is restored to pre-1976 position. The position today is that, in general, the fundamental rights enjoy priority over the directives. But the laws passed to implement Article 39 (b) and (c) cannot be declared void on ground of violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14 and 19.

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