Directive Principles of State Policy: A novel feature of the Indian Constitution

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An individual lives in a nation and is governed according to the rules and regulations of that nation. These rules and regulations determine his relationship with those who make these rules and regulations. A nation which provides more freedom, whose leaders are not authoritarian and where people are given equal rights and opportunities would be preferred more by an individual than a nation where political leaders exercise their power beyond control. 

What are Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)?

Directive Principles of State Policy are the principles which direct the state when it makes policies for its people. They are enumerated in part VI of the Constitution from article 36 to 51. Actually, DPSP are mentioned in articles 38 to 51. Article 36 deals with the definition of the state and article 37 deals with the nature and significance of Directive Principles. The makers of Indian Constitution borrowed DPSP from the Constitution of Ireland. Dr. B R Ambedkar described these principles as ‘novel features’ of the Indian Constitution. Granville Austin has described the DPSP as the ‘Conscience of the Constitution’[1]. These principles can be classified into three categories, though this classification has not been mentioned in the Constitution and they are classified solely on the basis of their content and direction.

  • Socialist Principles

As the name itself suggests, they represent the ideology of socialism. These principles lay down the framework of a democratic socialist state which aim at providing social and economic justice and set the path towards welfare state.

  • Gandhian Principles

To fulfill the dreams of Gandhiji some of his ideas were incorporated as Directive Principles of State Policy. They are solely based on the ideology of Gandhiji and represent the programme of reconstruction represented by Gandhiji during the national movement.

  • Liberal-Intellectual Principles

These principles represent the ideology of liberalism.

Sanction Behind Directive Principles

Sir B N Rau, the Constitutional Advisor to the Constituent Assembly, recommended that the rights of an individual should be divided into two categories: justiciable and non-justiciable. Consequently, the Fundamental Rights are justiciable in nature which are contained in part III of the Constitution and the DPSP are non-justiciable in nature which are contained in part IV of the Constitution. The framers of the Indian Constitution made the Directive Principles non-justiciable and legally non-enforceable because:

  1. The country did not possess sufficient financial resources to implement them.
  2. The presence of vast diversity and backwardness in the country would stand in the way of their implementation.
  3. The newly born independent Indian state with its many preoccupations might be crushed under the burden unless it was free to decide the order, the time, the place and the mode of fulfilling them.[2]

Amendments and New Directive Principles

  1. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 added four new Directive Principles. These are:
  2. Children are given opportunity and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom (Article 39).
  3. Equal justice and free legal aid to the poor (Article 39A).
  4. Participation of workers in the management of industries (Article 43A).
  5. Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wild life (Article 48A).
  6. The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 added one more Directive Principle.
  7. State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people (Article 38).
  8. The 86th Amendment Act of 2002 changed the subject matter of Article 45- Provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years.
  9. The 97th Amendment Act of 2011 added a new Directive Principle:
  10. Promotion of co-operative societies (Article 43-B).

Directive Principles Outside Part IV

Though the Directive Principles are contained in part IV of the Constitution, there are some principles which are contained in other parts as well. Some of the principles which are outside part IV are as follows:

  1. Claims of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to services and posts (Article 335 in Part XVI).
  2. Facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at primary stage (Article 350-A in Part XVII).
  3. Directive for development of the Hindi language (Article 351 in Part XVII).

Implementation of Directive Principles

Government at both central as well as state level has made several laws and provisions for the implementation of these principles. These are as follows:

  1. In 1950 the Planning Commission was established to take up the development of the country. Under its five-year plans were initiated which aimed at securing socio-economic justice and reducing inequalities. The planning commission was replaced by a new body known as NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) in the year 2015.
  2. In order to improve the condition of rural masses various land reform laws have been passed by the state governments of various states. Some of them are as follows:
  3. Abolition of intermediaries like zamindars, jagirdars, inamdars.
  4. Tenancy reforms like security of tenure, fair rents.
  5. Imposition of ceilings on land holdings.
  6. Distribution of surplus land among the landless laborer.
  7. Cooperative farming.
  8. In order to protect the interests of the labor section various acts have been passed. Some of these acts are as follows:
  9. The Minimum Wages Act 1948.
  10. The Payment of Wages Act 1936.
  11. The Payment of Bonus Act 1965.
  12. The Contract Labor Regulation and Abolition Act 1970.
  13. The Child Labor Prohibition and Regulation Act 1986.
  14. The following acts have been made to protect the interests of women workers:
  15. The Maternity Benefit Act 1961.
  16. The Equal Remuneration Act 1976.
  17. Various measures have been taken to utilize the financial resources for promoting the common good.
  18. Nationalization of life insurance 1956.
  19. Nationalization of fourteen leading commercial banks 1969.
  20. Nationalization of general insurance 1971.
  21. Abolition of privy purses 1971.
  22. Following schemes and programme have been launched for raising the standard of people:
  23. Community development programme 1952.
  24. Hill area development programme 1960.
  25. Drought-Prone areas programme 1973.
  26. Minimum needs programme 1974.
  27. Laws to prohibit the slaughter of cows, calves and bullocks have been enacted in some states.
  28. Some states have initiated the old age pension schemes for people above 65 years.

Justiciability of Directive Principles

The reason behind the legal non-enforceability and non-justiciability of these principles is that they impose positive obligations 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 fulfilment of these principles. Nevertheless, the Constitution declares that the Directive Principles, though not enforceable by any court, are fundamental in the governance of the country, and the state has been placed under an obligation to apply them in making laws. The state has thus to make laws and use its administrative machinery for the achievement of these Directive Principles.

Inter-Relationship Between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles

The question of the relationship between the Directive Principles and the Fundamental Rights has caused some difficulty, and the judicial attitude has undergone transformation on this question over time.

The Supreme Court in Kerala v. NM Thomas[3] said that the Directive Principles and Fundamental Rights should be construed in harmony with each other and every attempt should be made by the court to resolve any apparent inconsistency between them.

In Ashok Kumar Thakur v. UOI[4], Balakrishnan CJ said that no distinction can be made between the two sets of rights. The fundamental rights represent the civil and political rights and the directive principles embody social and economic rights. Merely because the directive principles are non-justiciable by the judicial process does not mean that they are of subordinate importance.

Chandrachud CJ in Minerva Mills[5], said that the Fundamental Rights are not an end in themselves but are means to an end. The end is specified in the Directive Principles. It was further observed in the same case that the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles together constitute the core of commitment to social revolution and they together, are the conscience of the Constitution. The Indian Constitution is founded on the bedrock of the balance between the two. To give absolute primacy to one over the other is to disturb the harmony of the Constitution. This harmony and balance between fundamental rights and directive principles is an essential feature of the Constitution.

Features of DPSP

  1. It denotes the ideals that the state should keep in mind while formulating policies and enacting laws.
  2. The Directive Principles are non-justiciable in nature which means they are not enforceable by the courts for their violation.
  3. The Directive Principles though non-justiciable in nature, help the courts in examining and determining the constitutional validity of a law.
  4. The Directive Principles constitute a very comprehensive economic, social and political programme for a modern democratic state.

Criticism of Directive Principles

  1. No Legal Force

These principles have been mainly criticized due to their non-justiciable character. Nassiruddin, a member of a constituent assembly characterized them as a set of new years resolution. KC Wheare called them as a manifesto of aims and aspirations. Sir Ivor Jennings thought they are only as pious aspirations.

  • Illogically Arranged

Critics opine that the Directives are not arranged in a logical manner based on a consistent philosophy. According to N Srinivasan, the Directives are neither properly classified nor logically arranged. The declaration mixes up relatively unimportant issues with the most vital economic and social questions. It combines rather incongruously the modern with the old and provisions suggested by the reasons and science with provisions based purely on sentiment and prejudice.

  • Conservative

According to Sir Ivor Jennings, the Directives are based on the political philosophy of the 19th century England. He remarked: The ghosts of Sydney webb and Beatrice Webb stalk through the stages of the text. Part IV of the constitution expresses Fabian Socialism without socialism. He opined that the Directives are deemed to be suitable in India in the middle of the twentieth century. The question whether they are suitable for the twenty-first century cannot be answered; but its quiet probable that they will be entirely out moded.

Case study on Directive Principles

There are some judicial decisions which tried to answer the question “whether fundamental rights precede DPSP or the latter takes the higher position than the former”.

  • Kerala Education Bill[6]

The court said that if a conflict arises between Fundamental Rights and DPSP, the harmony between the two should not be disturbed, but if, even after applying the doctrines of interpretation the conflict doesn’t resolve then the former should be upheld and given more importance over the other, that is, DPSP.

  • Madras v. Champakan[7]

If any law is in contravention to the provisions mentioned under Part III of the Indian Constitution, it would be held void but this is not applicable in case of DPSPs. This shows that Fundamental rights are on a higher pedestal than DPSPs as far as this case is concerned.

  • Kesavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala[8]

The Apex Court placed DPSPs on a higher position than Fundamental Rights. 


The significance of DPSP cannot be looked down just because it is not enforceable in any court of law. These principles were added to facilitate the governance and smooth functioning of the country. It was added to meet the main objectives and the ultimate goal of a country.

[1] Granville Austin, The Indian Constitution Cornerstone of a Nation (Oxford,1966).

[2] M. Laxmikanth, Indian Polity (McGraw Hill, 5th edn.)

[3] AIR 1976 SC 4090: (1976) 2 SCC 310

[4] (2008) 6 SCC

[5] AIR 1980 SC 1789: (1980) 2 SCC 591

[6] 1959 1 SCR 995

[7] 1951 SCR 525

[8] AIR 1973 SC 1461: (1973) 4 SCC 225: (1974) 1 SCC (JI.) 3

Author: Anubhav Jindal

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.