Utility of Directive Principles

Utility of Directive Principles

As we all know that the Directive Principles of State Policy, mentioned in Part IV of the Indian Constitution, from Articles 36-51, denotes the ideals that the State should keep in mind while formulating policies and enacting laws. In other words, the Directive Principles are ‘Constitutional instructions or recommendations ‘ to the State in legislative, administrative, and executive matters. But however, the Constitution also provides that these Directive Principles are non-justiciable in nature, which means that they are not legally enforceable by the Courts in case of their violation. So, this non-justiciable nature of the Directive Principles of State Policy surely raises a question mark regarding their utility. And in this article, we’d be answering this question by discussing the utility of Directive Principles.

Utility of Directive Principles
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Utility of Directive Principles

What are the Directive Principles of State Policy

Before understanding their utility, let’s have a brief understanding of the Directive Principles.

As discussed earlier, the Directive Principles are mentioned in part IV of the Indian Constitution, from Articles 36 to 51. Our Constitution Framers borrowed these from the Irish Constitution, which in turn borrowed these principles from the Spanish Constitution. According to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Directive Principles are the ‘novel features’ of the Indian Constitution. The Directive Principles, along with the Fundamental Rights, contain the philosophy of the Constitution and are the soul of the Constitution.

The Directive Principles are basically the guiding principles governing state policies in the social sector. They are interpreted as social and economic rights and are classically socialist in nature and fulfill the social revolution agenda of the Preamble. The provisions are not enforceable by any court of law but provide guidance in carrying out and drafting laws regarding human and social development.

Exceptions to Fundmental Rights
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Some of the Directive Principles mentioned in Part IV are:

  • Right to an adequate means of livelihood
  • Right to equal pay for equal work for both men and women
  • Right to healthy working conditions for men, women, and children; protection to children against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment
  • Provision for equal justice and free legal aid
  • Organization of village panchayats or local village bodies as units of self-government
  • Right to work, to education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disablement
  • Provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief
Criticisms of the Directive Principles

The Directive Principles of State Policy provides for a range of noble ideas and principles on the basis of which the State shall formulate its policies and legislations. However, these principles are still not free from criticisms, and many serious questions were raised about the utility of Directive Principles, even by the members of the Constituent Assembly on various grounds.

Non-Justiciable nature 

The non-justiciable nature is the foremost reason why the Directive Principles are criticized and their utility is questioned. As discussed earlier, the Directive Principles are not enforceable by law, hence, no one could approach the courts in case of their violation. So, it could even be stated that the enforcement of these noble principles was left at the discretion of the government. K.T. Shah, a member of the Constituent Assembly, raised the same concerns and compared these principles with ‘a cheque on a bank, payable only when the resources of the bank permit.’ And Nasiruddin Ahmad went to the extent of comparing the Directive Principles with ‘new year’s resolutions, he stated the Directive Principles are ‘no better than the new year’s resolutions, which are broken on the second of January.’ Even T.T. Krishnamachari described the Directives as a ‘veritable dustbin of sentiments.’


Sir Ivor Jennings (British lawyer and academic) stated that the Directive Principles are based on the political philosophy of 19th Century England. He remarked, ‘The ghosts of Sydney Webb and Beatrice Webb stalk through the pages of the text. Part IV of the institution expresses Fabian Socialism without the socialism.’

Conflicts with the Constitution

Utility of Directive Principles
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One of the most influential cases in India, the Kesavananda Bharati Case, was also based on the conflicts within the Constitution, between the Directive Principles of State Policy and the Fundamental Rights. (Click here to read about another case related to the conflict).

Moreover, K Santhanam pointed out that the Directives lead to a constitutional conflict, (a) between the Centre and the States (b) between the President and the Prime Minister and (b) between the governor and the chief minister. He recommended a system in which the Centre can give direction to the States with regard to the implementation of these principles, and in case of non-compliance, can dismiss the State Government. And when the Prime Minister gets a Bill passed by the Parliament, which violates the Directive Principles, the President may reject the Bill on grounds that it contravenes with the Directive Principles and that these Principles are fundamental to the governance of the country and hence, the ministry has no right to ignore them. (Click here to read about the actual veto powers of the President).  And the same could be done by the Governor of the State if the Chief Minister gets a Bill passed that contravenes with the Directive Principles.

Hence, it could be stated that K. Santhanam questioned the utility of Directive Principles and recommended a few measures to enhance the utility of Directive Principles.

Utility of Directive Principles

After reading all these criticisms mentioned above, you’d surely question the utility of Directive Principles. Being non-justiciable, we cannot force the Government to enforce them; and considering these statements by the prominent politicians, it could be stated that the implementation of the Directive Principles is left at the discretion of the Government, and the Government would implement them when it’s feasible to it and when it’ll gain politically from their implementation, and if the Government doesn’t see the political benefits, maybe the Directives would remain mere Principles envisaged in a document, deeming it unnecessary.

However, the Directive Principles of State Policy, in spite of its shortcomings and criticisms, aren’t unnecessary appendages to the Constitution of India. And the Constitution itself declares that these Principles are fundamental to the Governance of the country. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, stated that these Principles have great value because they lay down that the goal of Indian Polity is economic democracy.

The Significance of Directive Principles in the Indian Polity

Utility of Directive Principles
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Part III of the Indian Constitution provides for a wide range of Fundamental Rights, however, these fundamental rights are political and civil rights. Part III does not provide for rights in the social and economic spheres to the citizens of India. This vacuum is filled by Part IV of the Indian Constitution, which provides for a wide range of social and economic rights to the Indian Citizens.

As stated by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Directive Principles facilitate economic democracy. This is necessary as it creates a favorable atmosphere for the full and proper enjoyment of Fundamental Rights by the citizens. Moreover, Political democracy, without economic democracy, has no meaning.

One of the major significance of Directive Principles in the democratic politics of the country is that it enables the opposition to criticize the Government, on grounds that its actions are opposed to the Directive Principles.

Moreover, through these Directive Principles, the people could hold the Government accountable, on grounds that its policies and programs must be consistent with the Directive Principles of State Policy.

The Directive Principles also serve as a ‘political manifesto.’ A ruling party, irrespective of its political ideology, has to recognize the fact that these principles are intended to be its guide, philosopher, and friend in its legislative and executive acts.

The Directive Principles also facilitate stability and continuity in domestic and foreign policies in political, economic, and social spheres in spite of the changes of the party in power.

Utility of Directive Principles according to the leading politicians and jurists

L.M. Singhvi (Indian Jurist, writer, and diplomat) stated that the Directives are the life-giving provisions of the Constitution. They constitute the stuff of the Constitution and its philosophy of social justice.

M.C. Chagla (Former Chief Justice of India) stated that if all these principles (Directive Principles) are fully carried out, our country would indeed be heaven on earth. India would then not be only a democracy in the political sense, but also a welfare state looking after the welfare of its citizens.

Utility of Directive Principles
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Granville Austin (American historian of the Indian Constitution) stated that the Directive Principles are aimed at furthering the goals of social revolution or fostering this revolution by establishing the conditions necessary for its achievement.

B.N. Rau (Constitutional Advisor to the Constituent Assembly) stated that the Directive Principles are intended as moral precepts for the authorities of the State. They have at least an educative value.

Utility of Directive Principles according to M.C. Setalvad

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M.C. Setalvad, the former Attorney General of India, asserted that even though the Directive Principles of State Policy confers no legal rights and create no legal remedies, they are still useful and significant. He stated certain points in support of the Directive Principles, about their utility and significance. They are:

  • M.C. Setalvad suggested that the Directive Principles are like an ‘Instrument of Instructions’ or general recommendations addressed to all authorities in the Indian Union. They remind them of the basic principles of the new social and economic order, which the Constitution aims at building.
  • The Directive Principles form the dominating background to all state action, legislative or executive, and also a guide to the Courts in some respects.
  • They have served as useful beacon-lights to the courts. They have helped the courts in exercising their power of judicial review, that is, the power to determine the constitutional validity of a law.
  • The Directive Principles amplify the Preamble, which solemnly resolves to secure to all citizens of India justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity.
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Election System in India: Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha

Elections to Rajya Sabha: Proportional Representation System

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Central Vigilance Commission of India: Composition and Functions

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Subordinate Courts of India: Structure and Constitutional Provisions

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Lok Adalats: Lok Adalats and Permanent Lok Adalats

Gram Nyayalayas: Composition and Functions

Unitary Features of the Indian Constitution

Laws Inconsistent with Fundamental Rights

Features of Parliamentary Government

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Financial Relations between Centre and State

Sarkaria Commission: Overview and Recommendations

Legislative Relations between Centre and State

Administrative Relationship between Centre and State

Rajamannar Committee: Overview and Recommendations

Zonal Councils: Structure and Functions

Veto Powers of the President

Parliamentary Forums: Structure and Functions

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