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After the efforts of the Constituent Assembly for 2 years 11 months and 18 days the Constitution of India was adopted on 26th of November 1949. Originally it consisted of 22 Parts, 8 Schedules and 395 articles. Now it consists of 25 Parts, 12 Schedules and 448 articles. Fundamental rights are contained in part III of the Constitution and the Directive Principles Of State Policy in part IV of the Constitution.

In this article we'll understand what are Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles Of State Policy and whether there is any conflict between the two or whether they are complementary to each other.

India being a democratic country it was necessary to protect the basic rights of people and so the makers of the Constitution enshrined the Fundamental rights in the Constitution. The source of these rights is the 'Bill of Rights' of the USA. The purpose behind this was to put certain limitations on the State and to ensure that the State acts in conformity to the law of the land. Fundamental rights are justiciable in the court and enforcing one's Fundamental rights in itself is a Fundamental right given in Article 32 i.e. 'Right to Constitutional Remedies'. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar rightly called this article as 'The heart and soul of the Constitution'.

They can be enforced in the Supreme Court and the High Courts as well.

The Directive Principles Of State Policy are the directives that the State should follow while governing the people. They were taken from the Irish Constitution. These directives are more positive in nature compared to the Fundamental Rights which put limitations on the State. They are non justiciable as mentioned in the Article 37 and cannot be enforced in the court. Though not classified in the Constitution they consist of socialistic, gandhian and liberal principles.

Difference between the two

The major difference between them is with respect to their enforceability. Fundamental rights can be enforced in the court but the Directive Principles Of State Policy are non enforceable.

The Fundamental rights cover mostly civil and political rights of an individual whereas the Directive Principles cover social and economic rights. Rights which could be given immediately were enshrined in the part III and the rights which the makers wanted the State to ensure in the future were put in the part IV as the Directive Principles. Being a new nation it was difficult for the State to provide for and guarantee all rights and so some of them were put as directives for the future governments.

Relationship between the two

Now we'll understand the relationship between the Fundamental rights and the Directive Principles and how their judicial interpretation has evolved over the period of time through various case laws.

In the State of Madras vs Srimathi Champakam Dorairajan (1951) case the question was whether reservation can be given in educational institutions. It was held that the communal government order which allowed for reservation was violative of the Fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens of India. The Supreme Court held that whenever there is a conflict between the two, part III will prevail over part IV. Article 46 of the Constitution directs the State to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections particularly the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. On the other side article 15, a Fundamental right prohibited discrimination based only on religion, race, Caste, sex or place of birth. So the Parliament through an amendment inserted Article 15(4) allowing the State to make special provisions for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes or for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

Further in the case of Golaknath vs State of Punjab (1967), the court held that the Fundamental rights cannot be amended. The Parliament in reaction to this brought the 24th and 25th amendment acts. The former one gave the Parliament power to amend anything in the Constitution including the fundamental rights. The 25th amendment inserted article 31 C which contained two provisions. The first one stated that any law made to give effect to the Directive Principles in articles 39(b) and 39(c) even if violative of Articles 14, 19 and 31 would not become unconstitutional. The second provision stated that whether the law made is for the implementation of the Directive Principles shall not be questionable in the court. In the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala (1973), it was held that the Constitution can be amended without destroying the basic structure. In this case the first provision made by the 25th amendment was upheld but the second provision was not upheld by the court as it restricted the power of judicial review which forms a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The Parliament through the 42nd amendment broadened the scope of the above first provision by using the word 'any of the DirectivePrinciples' instead of only 39(b) and 39(c). This meant that any law made for any of the directives would now be valid even if violative of Articles 14, 19 and 31.

This amendment was further challenged in the Minerva Mills vs Union of India (1980). The court in this case held that only 39(b) and 39(c) can be protected against the above mentioned rights and not all the directive Principles. It was also held that Directive Principles Of State Policy are Fundamental in the governance but destroying the guaranteed Fundamental rights to achieve these would be like destroying its basic structure. It is necessary to have a balance between Parts III and IV. Giving absolute importance to one would disturb the harmony of the Constitution was also held.

As we have seen above, in the earlier judgements the Fundamental rights were considered superior to Directive Principles Of State Policy. But in the later judgments importance is also given to the Directive Principles. The government has also converted some of the directives into fundamental rights, thus expanding the scope of the Fundamental rights. For example, Right to free legal aid in article 21, Right to free and compulsory education given in Article 21 A, etc.


Through the above judicial interpretations we can say that the Fundamental rights would generally prevail over the Directive Principles Of State Policy. The only exception to this is that to implement Articles 39(b) and 39(c), the fundamental rights in Article 14 and 19 can be compromised. The Directive Principles are also very important in the State's functioning. Fundamental rights and Directive Principles both aim at protecting the individual's rights and welfare of the state. As opined in the Re Kerala Education Bill case, the courts should apply the principle of harmonious construction between the two and try to give effect to both the Parts III and IV as far as possible.

This article is written by Radhika Prakash Talekar of ILS Law College, Pune.

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