The NDA government is dusting off an Emergency-era provision introduced in the Constitution by Indira Gandhi via her controversial 42nd Amendment — it’s invoking “Fundamental Duties” and asking Ministries to spread awareness about them.
Sources said this was discussed during the meeting of the Council of Ministers earlier this month.
The Fundamental Duties, inducted as Article 51A under Part-IV A of the Constitution, include the need to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, respect the National Flag and the National Anthem, cherish and follow ideals which inspired the freedom struggle, uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India, promote harmony and brotherhood, promote scientific temper and provide education to a child between 6-14 years. Only one of the 11 fundamental duties mentioned under Article 51A was inducted during the Vajpayee government as the 86th Constitution Amendment in 2002 about educational opportunities for children.
Incidentally, the idea of Fundamental Duties is inspired from the Constitution of Russia. This emphasis on fundamental duties will play out as part of the year-long celebration of the 70th anniversary of Constitution Day that falls on November 26. On Constitution Day, the Preamble of the Constitution will be read out at various government offices, a circular for which has already been issued by Secretary, Justice Department, earlier this week.
Fundamental Duties (except the one on education) were incorporated in Part IV-A of the Constitution by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976. This was also the amendment that inserted the words “socialist” and “secular” in the Preamble. In 2015, the Information and Broadcasting ministry set off row when official Republic Day advertisements in newspapers did not include these two words.
Under Article 51-A, the fundamental duties are statutory and not enforceable by law. The idea behind their incorporation was to emphasise the obligation of the citizens in exchange of the fundamental rights enjoyed by them. Part IV of the Constitution deals with Directive Principles of State Policy that includes among its many items, the state’s obligation to enforce a uniform civil code and prevent cow slaughter.
Sources said an official note has outlined which duties should be handled by which Ministries:
* Home Ministry: respect institutions, executive, legislature and judiciary; maintain dignity of Constitution; the national anthem and flag.
* Home and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment: “Cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired the freedom struggle: “freedom, equality, non violence, brotherhood and world peace.” If citizens remain committed to these ideals, a note says, “we will be able to rise above the various separatist tendencies raising their ugly heads now and then, here and there.”
* Home and I&B: Given India’s diversity of caste, religion, sex and language, “if freedom and unity of the country are jeopardized then united nation is not possible”; uphold sovereignty and integrity of nation
* Home & Defence: Defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so. “All citizens are bound to be conscious of any such elements (external enemies) entering India and also when in need, they should be ready to take up arms to defend themselves. It is addressed to all the citizens other than those belonging to army, navy and the air force.”
* Home & Women and Child Development and Culture: “Promote harmony and 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.”
* Science and Technology, Culture, HRD: “Value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.”
* Environment and forests, Home, S&T, Tourism: “Protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures.”
* S&T and HRD: “Develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform
* Home, HRD: “Safeguard public property and abjure violence,” during strike or bandh or rally when “citizens who are protectors become mute spectators.”
* Home, HRD and Skill Development: “Strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity.”
The Ministry of Law and Justice, meanwhile, has sent out a letter to all ministries, Chief Secretaries of states and PSUs: “It has been decided by the government that Preamble to the Constitution be read out in all the offices/establishments/units of government ministries/subordinate offices/autonomous bodies on 26.11.2019 at 11 am this year, and every year. It is suggested that a banner regarding Samvidhan Divas may also be put up at the place where Preamble is being read out by everybody.” Ministries need to send reports photographs of the event to the justice department, or upload it on their website.