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Balancing Fundamental Rights and Duties

Which features make Indian Constitution unique?

1. The basic structure and framework of India’s polity have been laid down in the Indian Constitution.

2. It is the longest written constitution in the world.

3. It is built on the foundation of fundamental values that are embedded in it by the makers of the Constitution.

4. This was done to ensure that there should be fairness and justice for every citizen of India.

5. Fundamental Rights have been incorporated in the Constitution to ensure non-violation of certain essential rights against political change of circumstances.

What are the conditions in the exercise of Rights?

1. A lot of restraint is required while exercising this freedom.

2. Absolute freedom is an illusion and cannot survive alone.

3. The fundamental rights need to be paired with fundamental duties.

Why were the Fundamental Duties introduced?

The Constitution introduced Fundamental Duties in the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 by adding Part IV-A (Article 51A):

1. To reduce the increasing tendency of indifference towards the business of the government amongst the citizens.

2. To check divided growth of the nation.

3. To mark the 70th year of adoption of the Constitution, more emphasis is laid to create awareness on Fundamental Duties through various initiatives.

4. This is being done to make the Fundamental Duties a part and parcel of every Indian’s thoughts and actions.

5. Balancing fundamental rights is a constitutional necessity as every right gives rise to a corresponding duty.

6. These duties strike a balance between individual freedom and social interests.

7. They do not cast any public duties but are applicable only to individual citizens.

8. With the introduction of Article 51A (k) along with Article 21A in 2002 the State and the parents were made to share obligation with regard to education of the children-

 1. The state with free education

 2. The parents with compulsory education

9. The courts use Duties to examine the reasonableness of any legislative restriction on the exercise of freedom.

How has Supreme Court enforced Article 51A?

1. The Supreme Court has held that the Fundamental Duties are as important as Fundamental Rights.

2. In the Union of India vs. Naveen Jindal case, the Supreme Court has observed that fundamental duties are implicit in the fundamental rights.

3. Article 51A is regarded as a yardstick for assessing against the action of the state.

4. In Shyam Narayan vs. Union of India case, the court ruled Article 51A (a) enjoins a duty on every citizen of India the duty to respect ideals and institutions including the national flag and the national anthem.

5. It also made display of the national anthem prior to the screening of any movie in cinema halls or theatres compulsory.

6. The court tried to standardize the way people portrayed their love for the country and provided set actions and procedures to fulfill the underlying idea of Article 51A.

7. The court relied on Article 51A (d) to allow citizens to notify the court of any Act of the legislature providing shelter and protection to illegal foreign nationals.

8. Courts can hold the state responsible to ensure compulsory education under Article 51A (k).

9. Right to hoist the national flag has been granted to the citizens subject to restrictions specified in Article 51A(c).

Where the focus should be?

1. In 1999, Justice Verma committee suggested ways to make fundamental duties more effective.

2. Different crises related to environment, mob-violence, terrorism, etc., could be regulated to a large extent if human values are inculcated from the formative period of life.

3. There is a need to lay a strong foundation for making the Fundamental Duties more effective along with strong desires to avail the rights.

4. There is a need to remind that entitlements come with duties and responsibilities as well.

5. Grassroot approach should be followed to work earnestly and give practical expression to both rights and duties.