Fundamental Duties

Our Constitution has provided us with various rights and expects us to perform certain duties as a return. Fundamental Duties were described in the Constitution of India in the infamous 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. They were introduced in the emergency era by the Indira Gandhi government. The 42nd amendment added Article 51A which contained ten fundamental duties and later on one more duty was added in the 86th Amendment Act, 2002. The Fundamental duties are essentially taken from the Indian tradition, mythology, religions, and practices. Essentially these were the duties that are the codification of tasks integral to the Indian way of life. Swaran Singh Committee, the committee which was responsible to bring the fundamental rights said that these will ‘strengthen democracy’. During the emergency when the fundamental rights were suspended the government reminded the citizens that “with rights shall come duties”. The rule of jurisprudence is that every right has a corresponding duty. Mahatma Gandhi while commenting on the performance of duties by the citizens once said that: “The true source of right is a duty. If we all discharge our duties, rights will not be far to seek. If leaving duties unperformed we run after rights, they will escape us like will-o’-the-wisp, the more we pursue them, the farther they fly.”


Western democracies don’t support fundamental duties, when we brought this concept in 1976 only Japan was the democratic nation that had fundamental duties other than socialist and communist countries like USSR and China. The concept of Fundamental Duties was adopted from the Soviet Constitution. This concept has its origin in the Vedas and they are in the form of religious commands. Epics like Ramayana, Bhagavad Geeta, and Mahabharat also enshrine duty as part of one’s Dharma, this is what gave birth to the initial concept of duties and it’s essentiality.

On June 25th, 1975, Indira Gandhi Government imposed a national emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution because of the prevailing "internal disturbance”. During the emergency, most of the opposition leaders were in jail and the government by taking advantage of this situation passed the controversial 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. This amendment is also known as the ‘Mini Constitution’ because many new articles were added and many were changed. Article 51-A under part-IVA was added in the amendment which consists of 10 fundamental duties, and citizens were morally obligated by the Constitution to perform these duties. Although, the duties are non-justiciable in the court of law in the broader sense.

Swaran Singh Committee

Swaran Singh was a union minister in Indira’s government.

He was India's longest-serving union cabinet minister. In 1976, the Congress party set up the ‘Sardar Swaran Committee' to make recommendations about fundamental duties, the need, and necessity for which was felt during the operation of the internal emergency. The committee recommended the inclusion of a separate chapter on fundamental duties in the constitution. The objective to add fundamental duties was to remind the citizens that they should become conscious about the very integral fact that in addition to the enjoyment of rights they also have certain duties to perform as well. The Government accepted the recommendations and enacted the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. A new part was added in the constitution, which is the Part-IVA. This part consists of only one article, Article 51A.

Article 51A specified a code of ten fundamental duties of and for the citizens. Although the Swaran Singh Committee suggested the incorporation of eight Fundamental Duties in the Constitution, however the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976 included ten Fundamental Duties instead of 8.

Interestingly, certain recommendations of the Committee were also not accepted by the Congress Party and hence, not incorporated in the Constitution at all.

The Fundamental Duties are –

  1. Abide by the Indian Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.

  2. Cherish and follow the noble ideals that inspired the national struggle for freedom.

  3. Uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India.

  4. Defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so.

  5. Promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India; transcending religious, linguistic, and regional or sectional diversities and renouncing practices derogatory to the dignity of women.

  6. Value and preserve the rich heritage of the country’s composite culture.

  7. Protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and have compassion for living creatures.

  8. Develop scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform

  9. Safeguard public property and abjure violence.

  10. Strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement.

  11. Further, the 11th duty was added in the 86th Amendment Act, 2002. It stated that- Strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement.

Some of the fundamental duties are moral duties while others are civic duties. For instance, cherishing noble ideals of freedom struggle is a moral precept and focuses majorly on respecting the Constitution, National Flag, and National Anthem. Thus, rendering it a civic duty.

Although Fundamental Duties do not have any legal devour for its violation. There are six positive duties that are expected to be done by the citizens and there are five negative duties that are not awaited to be carried out by the citizens.

Moreover, unlike fundamental rights, the fundamental duties are only applied to the citizens of India. Fundamental Duties are only enforceable for the citizens holding public offices. There are appropriate sanctions for the breach of Fundamental Duties in Public Offices. In addition to that, fundamental duties as stated above with points mentioned under 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 have abiding laws. They are also known as negative duties as they stop citizens from doing something. For example, if you disrespect Indian Flag then under THE PREVENTION OF INSULTS TO NATIONAL HONOUR ACT, 1971 you shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. And duties 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 are considered primarily philosophical. They are also known as positive duties as they promote the citizens to do something.

These fundamental duties remind Indian Citizens of their duty towards their society, fellow citizens, and the nation, while also warning citizens against anti-national and anti-social activities. Eventually, it helps in inspiring citizens to promote a sense of discipline and commitment among them.

In the sense of legal perspective, fundamental duties help the courts in examining and determining the constitutional validity of a law and are enforceable by law. Being the duties that are only confined to Indian Citizens and like DPSPs are non-justiciable in the court of law, upholding them is a mandatory right.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “A duty well performed creates a corresponding right”. No democratic country could ever prosper if the citizens are not willing to participate actively by discharging their duties which are awaited to be done by them. No one can derive the privilege for a certain right if they are not willing to perform the duty assigned to them and dispense their services accordingly.

In today's world, it has become increasingly essential to inculcate civic obligations among citizens. Our constitution provides us rights and excepts us the citizens to perform certain duties as a return and it is upon us as responsible citizens of the biggest democracy that we should try to perform all 11 of the fundamental duties judicially.

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