WHAT ARE CONSTITUTIONAL DUTIES?
The core of the Indian Constitution is held together by the two unmovable pillars of Fundamental Rights and the Fundamental Duties. In the Constitution of India, Part III provides Fundamental rights to every citizen of India, i.e right to life, liberty, equality, freedom of speech, religion, and so on. However, to uphold this relationship between the State and the Citizen, every citizen of the country is obliged to protect the unity and integrity of the Nation by following certain Fundamental Duties conferred on them.
The Forty Second Amendment, 1976.
In 1976, Part IV-A of the 42nd Amendment introduced the list of Fundamental Duties into the Constitution.
The Fundamental Duties as enlisted in Article 51A states that every citizen has:
a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions along with the National Flag and the National Anthem.
b)to cherish and follow the ideals which inspired our National Struggle for freedom.
c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of the Nation.
d) to defend the country and render national services when called upon to do so.
e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities, to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women
f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture
g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for the living creatures
h) to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform,
i) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence,
j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individuals and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement.
The Eighty-Sixth Amendment 2002
There are a very few constitutions in the world who actively provide guideline or framework of the obligations and duties of citizens. Britain and Canada lay emphasis in the Common Law and its judicial decisions to govern rights and duties of its citizens. It is argued by that if the ethic and principle of elementary duties that one should follow as a citizen is imbibed from a young age through proper education then not listing the duties in the Constitution might not affect its implementation.
The Supreme Court in M.C Mehta (2) v Union of India, (1988) 1 SCC471, the role of education was recognized by the court in creating awareness. The Supreme Court held that under Article 51-A (g), it was the duty of the Central government to impart lessons on the importance of the protection of the natural environment. With the Unnikrishnan Judgement in 1993 that stated that children under the age of 14 years have the right to free education, successive governments on the urge of public demand worked to make education a fundamental right. In 2002, the 86th Amendment inserted an amendment in the Article 51A:
In Article 51A of the Constitution, after clause (j), the following clause be added, namely:-
“(k) every citizen of India who is a parent or a guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child, or as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.”
WHY ARE CONSTITUTIONAL DUTIES IMPORTANT
The importance of constitutional duties lies in where we stand as a nation. It is essential to create a strong foundation; a strong National character with an emphasis on human dignity and the feeling of creating a community in harmony. If we forget distinctions and identities of caste, color, religion, and creed, and uphold the ethics of our duties above all else, then we would be able to uplift our society and eliminate the gaps that are present and ever-widening in our society.
It should be remembered that Article 51 A, like the Directive Principles, does not have any provision to enforce the duties enshrined in the Constitution. There have been judicial reforms that have helped to enforce the said responsibilities and duties time and again. This only further complicates the picture on the ground and the gap that exists between our constitution and the people. It is important to understand in order for every person’s fundamental right to be realized, everyone has an obligation to fulfill their duties.