Difference Between Fundamental Rights And Directive Principles Of State Policy


The Indian Constitution is the world’s lengthiest Constitution, with 448 Articles, 25 Parts and 12 Schedules. It is the supreme law of the land and governs various areas, some of which are absolute and mandatory for the working of the nation. The various parts of the Constitution present a particular heading under which different laws related to that subject are given. The most prominent parts of the Indian Constitution, which are also the most talked about, are Parts III and IV, the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy, respectively. Where the Fundamental Rights are the rights that are available to the citizens of the country, the Directive Principles are the mandates which the State needs to keep in mind while formulating laws and policies. Each has a distinct role to play and each part is detailed extensively.

However, there may arise certain situations where both these parts come into conflict with each other. A situation may demand that one be chosen over the other, i.e. one override the other. In such a case, it not only becomes difficult to choose between the two, but it also reduces the one not chosen in value. It is often argued that Fundamental Rights being fundamental, will override the Directive Principles, but it is also argued that Directive Principles are fundamental too in the sense that they provide the basis for the functioning of the State. To ascertain their true nature and functions, it is important to examine both the parts in detail and understand the points of difference between the two.

The Fundamental Rights

Rights are a very important part of an individual. Rights help in the development of personality and arms a person with reasonable claims that can be enforced against the State in case any of his fundamental beliefs have been violated. The Fundamental Rights envisaged in Part III of the Indian Constitution are the basic rights that are guaranteed to every citizen of the country, irrespective of his/her caste, creed, gender, religion, place of birth etc. There are six fundamental rights, mentioned in Articles 12 to 35 of the constitution:

  1. The Right to Equality, which promotes equality among the citizens and prohibits discrimination on certain grounds
  2. The Right to Freedom, which lists various freedoms, including the freedom of speech, freedom of profession etc.
  3. The Right to Freedom of Religion, since India is a mix of various religious groups, it is important to prevent the interests of the religious minorities from being undermined
  4. The Right against Exploitation, which prohibits forced labour, child labour and other forms of human exploitation
  5. Cultural and Educational Rights, because India is a diverse nation with so many cultures and beliefs, so it is essential to preserve the culture of every group
  6. The Rights to Constitutional Remedies, under which a person can approach the courts of the country if he/she feels that his/her Fundamental Rights have been violated

These rights further branch out and give us various other fundamental rights, such as the Right to Privacy, the Right to Education, the Right to Life and Personal Liberty etc.

Although the rights are fundamental in nature, they can be taken away in certain situations, for example, if there is a situation of emergency under Articles 358 and 359 of the Constitution. Even then, the Right to Life and Personal Liberty cannot be taken away by the State.

The Directive Principles of State Policy

The Directive Principles of State Policy run from Article 36 to 51 of the Constitution. They were borrowed from the Constitution of Ireland which in turn, had got it from the Spanish Constitution. The Directive Principles are sort of guidelines that the government needs to follow while drafting laws for the country. They fulfil the concept of a Welfare State, which can only be achieved if these Principles are applied in the sense that they are mentioned. Article 37 of Part IV states that although these principles are not enforceable in any court of law, they are fundamental in the governance of the country and the government has a duty to apply these principles while formulating laws.

As opposed to the Fundamental Rights, the Constitution of India does not classify the Directive Principles. Still, for a better understanding, they are generally classified into Socialistic principles, Gandhian principles, and Liberal-Intellectual Principles.

  1. Articles 38 to 39A, Articles 41 to 43A, and Article 47 are composed of socialistic principles, and they lay down the framework for the development of a democratic socialist state.
  2. Articles 40, 43, 43B, and 46 to 48 include Gandhian principles, which promote the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi during the movement for Independence.
  3. Articles 44, 45, and 48 to 51 are inclined towards the ideas of liberalism and intellectualism. The Uniform Civil Code is also covered under these Articles.

The Directive Principles do promote the guarantee of some rights, such as the right to equal pay for equal work, and also promote equality and justice, but they are more of regulations than rights. They can be categorised as the duties of the people who are responsible for running the country.

Points of Difference Between Fundamental Rights And Directive Principles Of State Policy

Apart from the facts that both the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy stand for different things and constitute different parts and articles of the Constitution, they are inherently different when it comes to their objectives and implementation. The Between Fundamental Rights And Directive Principles Of State Policy are as follows:

1. The Fundamental Rights are rights available to the citizens of India, so in that sense, they represent an individualistic approach. They are the basic rights of every individual citizen in the country and they can be enforced against another individual or the State if violated. The Directive Principles represent a more social approach. They exist because of the welfare of the whole population of the country instead of individuals. They are collective in nature.

2. The scope of Fundamental Rights is essentially limited, because granting limitless rights to the citizens may result in anarchy. They are to be read strictly. But the scope of Directive Principles is limitless. They can be read and interpreted extensively and can give birth to more principles.

3. Fundamental Rights are negative in nature, which means that they are prohibitions on the State. The State is required from doing certain things that would lead to the violation of an individual’s Fundamental Rights. They are legally enforceable in a court of law of the country. This also implies that Fundamental Rights are of such a nature that they can be violated. Directive Principles, on the other hand, do not possess the characteristic of being violated. They exist as a basis for the laws that are formulated for the country and this implies that they cannot be legally enforced in a court of law of the country. This renders the Directive Principles positive in nature, i.e. the State is obliged to do certain things for the welfare of the country.

4. Since India is a democratic country, there exist elements of democracy in its laws. Both, the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles propagate the idea of democracy, but the kind of democracy they propagate is different. Fundamental Rights propagate a political democracy, whereas Directive Principles propagate social and economic democracy. It is simply because the objectives of both parts are different. Furthermore, Fundamental Rights stand for welfare of the individual, whereas Directive Principles stand for social and economic welfare.

5. For the implementation of Directive Principles, appropriate legislations are required. It is through legislation only that the Directive Principles can be achieved. They cannot be brought into force automatically and in the language that they are incorporated in the Constitution. However, Fundamental Rights are enforceable as they are. They don’t require any law in order to be implemented. But that does not mean that Fundamental Rights are devoid of sanctions. Directive Principles have legal and political sanctions, but Fundamental Rights also have legal sanctions.

6. If any law is violative of the Fundamental Rights, a court can declare that law as being unconstitutional and invalid. But the courts do not have the power to declare any law violative of a Directive Principle to be unconstitutional or invalid. However, a law can be upheld by a court if it gives effect to a Directive Principle.

7. The Constitution makers awarded a place of pride to the Fundamental Rights. They are the basic rights guaranteed to every citizen. The Directive Principles are given a place of permanence in the Constitution because they form the basis for the legislative activity that takes place in the country.

8. Violation of the Fundamental Rights results in punishment, as per the Indian Penal Code, 1860. These rights can be enforced against the State or against any individual(s). There is no punishment for the violation of Directive Principles.

9. Fundamental Rights can be suspended during a period of emergency, except the Fundamental Right to Life and Personal Liberty, which cannot be suspended even in an emergency. Directive Principles can never be suspended or restricted, under any circumstance.

10. The Constitution of India was formulated at a time when a lot of countries had their own constitutions. Thus, many parts of our Constitution have been borrowed from other constitutions. While the Directive Principles have been borrowed from the Irish Constitution, the Fundamental Rights have been borrowed from the Constitution of the United States of America.

These are the main differences between the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy, both being essential parts of the Constitution of India. It must be noted that both have a distinct role to play in the smooth functioning of the country, and that both are in coherence to each other, rather than in conflict. In Champak Dorairajan v. State of Madras[1], the Supreme Court held that the Directive Principles could not have an overriding effect on the Fundamental Rights. Instead, they are subsidiary to the Rights and have to run in coherence with the Rights. Earlier attempts to resolve the unapparent conflict between the two focused mor eon the importance of the Fundamental Rights and neglected the Directive Principles. But in Chandra Bhawan Boarding and Lodging, Bangalore v. State of Mysore[2], it was held that even though Part III of the Constitution encompasses the Fundamental Rights, Part IV of the Constitution is vital in the governance of the nation and both these parts are supplementary to each other. Further, in Kesavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala[3], it was observed that both the parts of the Constitution could be harmoniously construed in case there is any conflict between them. The Directive Principles are important as they help to achieve the various welfare goals but the Fundamental Rights can be amended to meet the need of the hour, provided that a harmonious construction is possible.


The differences between the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy suggest that the aims and objectives of both are different but somewhat similar. Each part of the Constitution compliments another, and so do they. It is necessary to understand the importance of each and apply/use them accordingly. Fundamental Rights are rights in the sense that they are available to the people, and Directive Principles act as duties upon the State, which the State is required to fulfil, even though the Directive Principles incorporate some elements of social and economic rights. Together, they aim at promoting the principles of democracy and welfarism, which can be achieved only when both the parts go hand in hand, without any conflict.

[1] 1951 AIR 226.

[2] (1969) 3 SCC 84.

[3] (1973) 4 SCC 225.

Zara Suhail Ahmed

Zahra is a student at Aligarh Muslim University, pursuing a 5-year B.A. LLB course. Currently in her 4th year, Zahra opted for Law after completing most part of her schooling from Cambridge School, New Delhi. Zahra has interned under a few lawyers and firms, participated in various moot courts and similar events, and is proficient in research and written content. A strong believer that education is the greatest virtue, Zahra seeks to learn from every platform and individual, whether working alone or as a team. Although Zahra is keenly interested to pursue ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolution) as a career, she has kept her options open and is interested in examining the different career prospects that her profession has to offer. Zahra has diversified interests apart from her professional life as well. Not only a successful lawyer, but she also aspires to become a productive human being.