Historical Directive Principles of State Policy

The leaders of India’s freedom movement visualized that in the new dispensation following political freedom, the people should have the fullest opportunities for advancement in the social and economic spheres and that the state should make suitable provisions for ensuring progress. [1] The Directive Principles of State Policy, embodied in Part IV of the constitution, are directions given to the central and state governments to guide the establishment of a just society in the country. The Directive Principles commit the State to promote the welfare of the people by affirming social, economic and political justice, as well as to fight economic inequality. According to the constitution, the government should keep them in mind while framing laws, even though they are non-justiciable in nature. The idea of Directive Principles of State Policy has been taken from the Irish Republic. They were incorporated in our Constitution in order to provide economic justice and to avoid concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people. Therefore, no government can afford to ignore them. They are infact, the directives to the future governments to incorporate them in the decisions and policies to be formulated by them. The directives were meant to be the fundamental principles which should necessarily be made the basis of all executive and legislative actions that might be taken in future in the governance of the country. [2] If directives is not obeyed or implemented by the state, its obedience or implementation cannot be secured through judicial proceedings. [3] Directive Principles mean that they will not be binding on the State; in any case, they would not be enforceable in a court of law. [4] It was the intention of the Constituent Assembly that in future both the legislature and the executive should not merely pay lip service to these principles enacted but they should be made the basis of all executive and legislative action that may be taken in the matter of governance of the country. [5] The Directive Principles commit the State to raise the standard of living and improve public health. It should also organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines by improving breeds and prohibiting slaughter of cows, calves, other milch and draught cattle. [6] The State must safeguard the environment and wildlife of the country. [7] The Directive Principles exhort the state to ensure that citizens have an adequate means of livelihood, that the operation of the economic system and the ownership and control of the material resources of the country subserve the common good, that the health of the workers, including children is not abused, and that special consideration be given to the pregnant women. Among the primary duties of the state is the raising of the level of nutrition and the general standard of living of the people. The Principles expressed the hope that within ten years of the adoption of the Constitution there will be compulsory primary education for children up to the age of fourteen years. The other provisions of the Principles seek equally to secure the renovation of Indian society by improving the techniques of agriculture, husbandry, cottage industry, etc. The core of the commitment lies in the fundamental rights and the directive principles of state policy. [8] 


The Constitution makers had, among others, one dominant objective in view and that was to ameliorate and improve the lot of common man to bring about a socio-economic transformation based on the principle of social justice. While the Constitution makers envisaged development in social, economic and political fields, they did not desire that it should be a society where a citizen will not have the dignity of the individual.

The Directives lay down the lines on which the State of India should work under this Constitution. Their contents may be divided into several groups:

(1) Certain ideals, particularly economic, which the framers of the Constitution wished that the State should strive for.

(2) Certain directions to the future Legislature and the future Executive to show in what manner they should exercise their legislative and executive powers.

(3) Certain rights of citizens should not be enforceable by the courts like the ‘Fundamental Rights’ but which the State shall nevertheless aim at securing, by regulation of its legislative and administrative policy.

If the Preamble is the key to understanding of the Constitution or to open the mind of its makers, the Directive Principles of State Policy as enshrined in part IV, are its basic ideal. It is here that the Constitution makers poured their mind by setting forth the humanitarian socialist principles which epitomized the hopes and aspirations of the people and declared them as fundamental in the governance of the country. They are affirmative instructions from the ultimate sovereign to the State authorities, which are creatures of the Constitution established by them, to secure to all citizens justice, social, economic and political; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status opportunity; and to promote among them all fraternity, assuring dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the nation.

B. R Ambedkar told the Constituent Assembly that every government, Central, State and local “shall be on the avail, both in the daily affairs and at the end of a certain period when the voters and the electorate will be given an opportunity to assess the work done by the Government. While we have established political democracy, it is also the desire that we should lay down our ideal economic democracy. There are various ways in which people believe that economic democracy can be brought about, we have deliberately not introduced in the language that we have used in the Directive Principles something which is fixed or rigid. We have left enough room for the people of different ways of thinking, with regard to the reacting of the ideal of economic democracy. [9] The Indian Constitution is the first and foremost social document. The majority of its provisions are either directly aimed at furthering the goals of the social revolution or attempt to foster this revolution by establishing the conditions necessary for its achievements. Yet, despite the permeation of the entire Constitution by the aim of national renaissance, the core of the commitment to the social revolution lies in parts III and IV, in the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. These are the conscience of the Constitution. [10] The Directive Principles had their roots deep in the struggle for independence. And they are included in the Constitution in the hope and expectation that one day the tree of true liberty would bloom in India. The Rights and Principles thus connect India’s future, present, and giving strength to the pursuit of the social revolution in India. [11] In the Directive Principles, however, one finds an even clear statement of social revolution. They aim at making the Indian masses free in the positive sense, free from the passivity engendered by centuries of coercion by society and by nature, and free from the object physical conditions that had prevented them from fulfilling their best selves. [12] By establishing these positive obligations of the State, the members of the Constituent Assembly made it the responsibility of the future of the Indian governments to find a middle way between individual liberty and the public good between preserving the property and the privilege of the few and bestowing benefits on the many in order to liberate “the powers of all men equally for contribution to the common good." [13] The leaders of India’s freedom movement visualized that in the new dispensation following political freedom, the people should have the fullest opportunities for advancement in the social and economic spheres and that the State should make suitable provisions for ensuring such progress. Among the Fundamental Rights adapted by All Parties Conference [14] was a provision entitling every citizen to free elementary education and another which required the enactment of suitable laws for the maintenance of health and fitness for work of all citizens, a living wage for every worker, the protection of motherhood, the welfare of children and provisions for assistance in old age, infirmity and unemployment. [15] Similar provisions were also contained in the Declaration of Fundamental Rights, adopted by the Indian National Congress in 1931, which, in addition, specifically declared that “in order to end the exploitation of the masses, political freedom must include real economic freedom of the starving millions", and that the organization of economic life must confront to the principles of justice. [16] The 1937 Constitution of Ireland made a distinction between the “fundamental rights" strictly so called, and the “directive principles of social policy", the latter being expressly excluded from the purview of the courts. A similar distinction was also recognized by Lauterpacht in his “International Bill of Rights" published in 1945. In India, the idea of the division of rights to be incorporated in the Constitution into justiciable and non-justiciable rights was for the first time envisaged in the report of Sapru Committee in 1944-1945. [17] 


The Directive Principles of State Policy possess two characteristics. Firstly, they are not enforceable in a court of law and therefore, if a Directive is not obeyed or implemented by the State, its obedience or implementation cannot be secured through judicial proceedings. The reason behind the legal non-enforceability and non-justifiability of these principles is that they impose positive obligation on the state. While taking positive action, government functions under several restraints, the most crucial of these being that of financial resources. The Constitution makers therefore taking a pragmatic view refrained from giving teeth to these principles. They believed more in an awakened public opinion, rather than in court proceedings, as the ultimate sanction for the fulfillment of these principles. [18] This characteristic has been diluted in practice by court decisions which have enforced some the directive principles in support of the fundamental rights. Secondly, they are fundamental in the governance of the state and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws. The expression ‘laws’ must be construed in a generic sense and should include all normative exercise of power including the decision making. [19] Directive Principles of State Policy aim to create social and economic conditions under which the citizens can lead a good life. They also aim to establish social and economic democracy through a welfare state. They act as a check on government, theorized as a yardstick in the hands of the people to measure the performance of the government and vote it out of power if it does not fulfill the promises made during the elections. Directive Principles mean that they will not be binding on the State in any case; they would not be enforceable in a court of law. [20] Since the Directive Principles are not enforceable by court, it has been advocated that they are not law and therefore their non-observance by the state does not entail any legal consequences. [21] Directive Principles of State Policy direct to work for an egalitarian society, where there is no concentration of wealth, where there is plenty, where there is equal opportunity for all, to education, to work, to livelihood and where there is social justice. [22] The Directive Principles Emphasizes, in amplification of the Preamble, that the goal of the Indian polity is not laissez, faire, but a Welfare State, where the State has a positive duty to ensure to its citizens social and economic justice and dignity of the individual. It would serve as an “Instrument of Instruction" upon all future governments irrespective of their party creeds. [23] Part IV of the Constitution aims to end poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality of opportunity. [24] Though the provisions of part IV are not enforceable by the courts, the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country. It shall be the duty of State to apply these principles in making laws. [25] Whenever action is taken by the State in consonance with the provisions laid down in the Directive Principles of State Policy, as envisaged in Part IV of the Constitution, the same is considered as to be reasonable action. However, this does not amount to saying that any action which is not in consonance with the provision of Part IV will be ultra vires. There cannot be any doubt whatsoever that the principles contained in Part IV would form a relevant consideration for determining a question in regard to price fixation of an essential commodity. Directive Principles of State Policy provides for guidance to interpretation of fundamental rights of a citizen is also the statutory rights. [26] 

Merely because the Directive Principles of State Policy are not enforceable in a court of law, it does not mean that they cannot create obligation or duties binding on the State. The crucial test which has to be applied is, whether the Directive Principles impose any obligations or duties on the State; if they do, the State would be bound by Constitutional mandate to carry out such obligations or duties, even though no corresponding right is created in any one which can be enforced in a court of law. The state is under a Constitutional mandate to carry out the mandate in Art. 37. [27] 


The concept of Directive Principles of State Policy was borrowed from the Irish Constitution. The makers of the Constitution of India were influenced by the Irish nationalist movement. Hence, the Directive Principles of the Indian constitution have been greatly influenced by the Directive Principles of State Policy. The idea of such policies "can be traced to the Declaration of the Rights of Man proclaimed Revolutionary France and the Declaration of Independence by the American Colonies." The Indian constitution was also influenced by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Though the makers of our Constitution drew the inspiration for including in the Constitution non-justiciable provisions in the shape of Directive Principles of State Policy from Constitution of Eire, in the text of provisions as well as their working, certain differences may be noted.

Art. 45 of the Constitution of Eire, 1937 says:

“The principle of social policy set forth in this article are intended for the for the general guidance of the Oireachtas. The application of those principles in making laws shall be the care of the Oireachtas exclusively, and shall not be cognizable by any court under any of the provisions of this constitution."

While, Art. 45 of the Irish Constitution addresses the Directives to the legislature only, Art. 36 of the Indian Constitution issues the Directives to the State as defined in Part III, which obviously comprehends all the organs of the State. [28] While, Art. 45 of the Irish Constitution says that the Directive ‘shall not be cognizable’ by any court, ‘under any provision of this Constitution’, Art. 37 of Indian Constitution use the words ‘shall not be enforceable’ by any court. [29] The result is that so far as the courts in Eire are concerned, the Directive provisions of the Constitution are a closed chapter. But so far as the Indian courts are concerned, though they cannot legally enforce the Directives or the rights or duties arising therefrom, they are not debarred from taking cognizance of the Directives, as a part of Constitution, for other purposes, e.g., for the purpose of interpreting other provisions of the Constitution or laws made by the Legislature.

The duty of the State to implement the Directives has also been laid down in the Constitution of India in stronger terms: while the Irish Constitution says that the Directives “are intended for the general guidance of the Oireachtas", Art. 37 of the Indian Constitution provides that the Directives are to be “fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws." [30] 

The idea of incorporating in the Constitution non-justiciable Directives was, of course, taken from the Constitution of Eire. [31] As Dr. Ambedkar explained the precedent under the Government of India Act, 1935, of issuing Instruments of Instructions to the Governor General also influenced the makers of the Constitution:

“The Directive Principles are like the Instrument of Instructions which were issued to the Governor General and the Governors of Colonies, and to those of India by the British Government under the 1935 Government of India Act. What is called ‘Directive Principles’ is merely another name or the Instrument of Instructions. The only difference that they are instructions to the legislature and the executive. Whoever captures power will not be free to do what he likes with it. In the exercise of it he will have to respect these instruments of instructions which are called Directive Principles." [32] The sanction behind the Directives is of course political not juridical. Though these are not cognizable by the court and, if the Government of the day fails to carry out these objectives, no court can make the Government implement them, yet, these principles have been declared to be “fundamental in the governance of the country." [33] 


It cannot be denied that the Directives are part of the Constitution as much as the mandatory provisions, it follows that according to the rule of ‘harmonious construction’ all part of the Constitution must be read together, so that in the matter of interpreting the mandatory provisions, the court cannot ignore the Directive Principles. To consider the reasonableness of restrictions on fundamental rights of any legislation especially the rights guaranteed under Arts. 14, 19 and 21, the Directive Principles of State Policy would serve as standard for testing the same. [34] The Directive Principles should serve the court as a code of interpretation. Fundamental Rights should be interpreted in the light of Directive Principles and the same should read in Fundamental Rights. [35] The theory that Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles supplement each other, and that directive principles indicate the ends of Government and fundamental the rights means by which they are to be achieved, is clearly unfounded. First this is because fundamental rights and directive principles do not cover the same field. Directive principles cover one part of the very wide field covered by fundamental rights. Secondly fundamental rights cannot be the means by which the ends prescribed by directive principles are to be achieved, because the ends are optional and have been ignored from time to time Legislature and Executive. [36] 


The Supreme Court has discussed about the history and development of law regarding the conflict and irreconcilability between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles. It was observed: “If the history of conflict and irreconcilability between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles is traced, it will be found that the development of law has passed through three distinct stages. To begin with Art. 37 [37] was given a literal meaning holding the provisions contained in Part IV of the Constitution to be unenforceable by any court. With Golak Nath v. State of Punjab, [38] the Supreme Court departed from the rigid rule of subordinating the Directive Principles and entered the era of harmonious construction. The need for avoiding a conflict between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principle was emphasized, appealing to the legislature and courts to strike a balance between the two as far as possible. Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, [39] is a turning point in the history of Directive Principles jurisprudence. This decision clearly mandated the need for bearing in mind the Directive Principles of State Policy while judging the reasonableness of the restriction imposed on Fundamental Rights. The interest of a citizen or a community, however important, is secondary to the interest of the country or the community as a whole. Post Kesavananda Bharati so far as the determination of the position of the Directive Principles vis-à-vis Fundamental Rights are concerned, it has been an era of positivism and creativity. The several clauses of Art. 37 themselves need to be harmoniously construed assigning equal weightage to all of them. The end part of Art. 37 “It shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws", is not a pariah, but a Constitutional mandate. For judging the reasonability of restrictions imposed on Fundamental Rights, the relevant considerations are not only those stated in Art. 19 itself, or in part III of the Constitution; the Directive Principles contained in Part IV of the Constitution are within the expression of “restrictions in the interests of general public". Changing factual conditions and State Policy have to be considered and given weightage to by the courts while deciding the Constitutional validity of legislative enactments. A restriction place on any Fundamental Rights, aimed at securing Directive Principles will be held reasonable and hence intra vires subject to two limitations, first, that it does not run in clear conflict with the Fundamental Rights, and secondly, that it has been enacted within the legislative competence of the enacting legislature under Part XI Chapter I of the Constitution. Even the dissenting judgment concurred with the above view wherein it was held “The court should zealously guard Fundamental Rights guaranteed to the citizens of the society, but at the same time, strike a balance between the Fundamental Rights and the larger interest of the society. But when such rights clash with the larger interest of the country, it must yield to the latter. Therefore, wherever an enactment is made for advancement of Directive Principles and it runs counter to Fundamental Rights, an attempt should be made to harmonise the same if it promotes a larger interest. [40] 


Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala [41] 

In the above case, the nature and object of Directive Principles is stated thus: “The Directive Principles set forth the humanitarian socialist percepts that were that were the aims of the Indian social revolution. Part III and IV form a basic element of the Constitution without which its identity will completely change. A number of provisions in Part III and IV are fashioned in U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, Part III of the Constitution shows that the faunding fathers were equally anxious that it should be a society where citizens will enjoy the various freedoms and such rights as are the basic elements of those freedoms without which there can be no dignity of the individual. Our Constitution makers did not contemplate any disharmony between Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles. It can be well said that the Directive Principles prescribed the goal to be attained and the Fundamental Rights laid down the means by which the goal was to be achieved. The Directive Principles and Fundamental Rights mainly proceed on the basis of human rights. Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better. It is this liberty to be better that is the theme of the Directive Principles of State Policy in Part IV of the Constitution. (PER HEGDE AND MUKHERJEE JJ.)

The scheme of the Constitution generally discloses that the principles of social justice are placed above individual rights and whenever or wherever it is considered necessary, individual rights have been subordinated or cut down to give effect to the principles of social justice. Social justice means various concepts which are evolved in the Directive Principles of State Policy. (PER RAY J.) The object of Directive Principles of State Policy is to establish a welfare state where there is economic and social freedom without which political democracy has no meaning. (PER JAGMOHAN REDDY J.) The significant thing to note about Part IV is that, although its provisions are expressly made unenforceable, that does not affect its fundamental character. Enforcement by a court is not the real test of law. (PER MATHEW J.) Fundamental Rights are the ends of the endeavours of the Indian people for which the Directive Principles provided the guidelines. (PER BEG J.) The basic object of conferring freedoms on individuals is the ultimate achievement of the ideals set in Part IV. Fundamental Rights which are conferred and guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution undoubtedly constitute the ark of the Constitution and without them a man’s reach will not exceed his grasp. But it cannot be overstressed that the Directive Principles of State Policy are fundamental in the governance of the country. What is fundamental in the governance of the country cannot be surely be less significant than what is fundamental in the life of an individual. (PER CHANDRACHUD J.)

Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union of India [42] 

In this case, it dawned on the majority of four judges in a judgment delivered by Chandrachud C.J. that all states, whether communist or democratic, purported to govern for the welfare of the people. What distinguished a democratic State like ours from a totalitarian State was that a free democratic State respected certain basic human rights or fundamental rights such as are conferred by Part III of our Constitution. The majority judgment held that the amended Art. 31C, inserted in the Constitution by an amendment, was void as it was beyond the constituent power of the Parliament to give primacy to directive principles over fundamental rights. It followed that law implementing directive principles in Art. 39 (a) and (b) would be invalid if they violated Art. 14, 19 and 21. [43] 

V. Markandeya v. State of A.P. [44] 

Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles constitute “Consciences of the Constitution". The Constitution aims at bringing about a synthesis between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy by giving the former a place of pride and to the latter a place of performance, together they form the core of the Constitution. They constitute its true conscience and without faithfully implementing the Directive Principles, it is not possible to achieve the Welfare State contemplated under the Constitution. [45] 


From the legislative history of the drafting and final enactment of fundamental rights in Part III, and directive principles in Part IV of our Constitution the following conclusions can be drawn:

The Drafting Committee and the Constituent Assembly did not accept the amendments proposed by Sir B. N. Rau which would have given primacy to laws made to implement directive principles where such laws directly conflicted with one or more fundamental rights.

Once Part III of the Draft Constitution, which contained both the fundamental rights and directive principles was re-drafted by putting fundamental rights in Part III, and directive principles in Part IV of our Constitution, this separation brought out in sharp relief the distinction between judicially enforceable fundamental rights and judicially unenforceable directive principles. [46] 

In his speech Dr. Ambedkar admitted that the directive principles had no legal force. But he was not prepared to admit that they were useless. [47] He said that governments in power would b obliged to have regard to directive principles for if they did not, they would face a day of reckoning when fresh elections were held. This answer was on the political plane, but his hope that failure to implement directive principles would fare badly at the fresh elections has not been realized. [48] 

In the observation which Sir B. N. Rao made in his article in The Hindu, he gave an answer on the moral plane, namely, that such moral percepts had an educative value. But this answer necessarily implied that the directive principles had no legal force. [49] 

In the result, the Drafting Committee and the Constituent Assembly by not incorporating Sir B. N. Rau’s amendments showed clearly that they wanted to enact legally enforceable fundamental rights and legally unenforceable directive principles. Dr. Ambedkar, who was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, and who sponsored the Constitution formed the basis of the discussion in the Drafting Committee and in the Constituent Assembly admitted that once his amendments had been rejected, directive principles had no legal force but had moral effect by educating members of the Governments and the Legislatures. [50]