Fundamental Rights And Directive Principles Are Complementary And Supplementary To One Another


Fundamental Rights are the rights given by the people of India it has been mostly inspired from The Magna Carta (England) and Bill of Rights (United States Constitution). But the first time concept of Fundamental rights in India was spoken by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru during the period of the freedom struggle that there are certain rights which are of the citizen of India and no outside force could come in between.

The concept of Fundamental right is also inspired from Professor Dicey concept of Natural Justice, he laid down three principles for the same:

  1. Nemo Judex In Causa Sua- which means that a man could not be the judge in his own case.
  2. Audi Alteram Partem- which means that every person must be heard or given the opportunity to be heard.
  3. Reasoned Decision- the judgement given must be based on valid reasons.

Whereas Directive Principle of State Policy is borrowed from the Constitution of Ireland, it sets out the aim and objective that the country wants to achieve.


Both Fundamental Rights and Directive Principle have a common goal and objective i.e. welfare of the citizen which is also stated in Preamble. Fundamental Rights are guaranteed for individuals and the State, as defined under Article 12, is responsible to provide the same, whereas Directive principle lays down the path which state wants to achieve but it is not guaranteed.

Since the Directive Principles lay wide objectives of the State which cannot be legally enforced, while the Fundamental Rights are judicially enforceable, the question as to what happens if one is inconsistent with another, or one is in contravention of another naturally arises. The judiciary in such case held that the Directive Principles are subservient to the Fundament Rights, while the later and more recent development has been towards avoidance of any conflict by applying the principles of reconciliation and harmonious construction.

Fundamental Rights are judicially enforceable whereas Directive Principles are not. According to Article 37 Directive Principle are Fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws, but they are not judicially enforceable by court,. On the other hand, Fundamental Rights are enforceable by the Courts under Article 32 and 226 of the Constitution and the Courts are bound to declare any law as void that is inconsistent with Fundamental Rights.

It has always been a bone of contention that when a State does wants to enforce Directive Principles, whether it has to follow requirements of Fundamental Rights. In the case of State of Madras v. Champakm Doirajan[1] the Supreme Court held that Directive Principles are subordinate to Fundamental Rights and has to be enforced in conformity to Fundamental Rights. A government order of the Madras government divided seats in colleges on the basis of religion and caste. This was repugnant to article 29(2). But it was argued that the government order could be supported on the basis of article 46 of the constitution which makes the state responsible for promoting the educational interests of the weaker sections of people. The Supreme Court held that the fundamental rights under Article 29(2) over the Directive principle under article 46. So the government order was struck down. It was held that in case of any conflict between part III and part IV, the part III would prevail. These observations of the court were based on the literal interpretation of the provision of article 37 which declares the directive principle not justifiable.

In Inre Kerala Education bill[2] the Supreme Court observed: “though the directive principles cannot override the fundamental rights, the court could not entirely ignore the directive principle but should adopt the principle of harmonious construction and should attempt to give effect to both as much as possible”. Applying this doctrine, the Supreme Court came to adopt the view that in determining the ambit of Fundamental Rights themselves, the court might look at relevant Directive Principles. They are complementary and supplementary to each other. After sometimes, Parliament had passed 25th Amendment Act, 1971 and added Article 31C which contained provisions that if the state makes any law to implement Article 39(b) and (c) then-

  • It will not be deemed void on grounds of violation of Article 14, 19 and 31.
  • The validity of this law cannot be challenged in court.

In Kesavanada Bharti v. State of Kerela[3], Supreme Court held that validity of Part (i) of Article 31C but invalidity of part (ii) as it takes away the power of judicial review, which is the basic structure of the constitution. Again Parliament had passed 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 and amended Article 31C which states that state may make any provisions to implement Directive Principles, it cannot be challenged on the grounds of Article 14, 19 and 31.

In Minerva Mills Limited v/s Union of India, the amendment was challenged. The court observed that the constitution was founded on the bed-rock of balance between part III and part IV. To give absolute primacy to one over the other was to disturb the harmony of the constitution. This harmony and balance between fundamental rights and the directive principles is an essential feature of the basic structure of the constitution. Both the fundamental and directive principles of the state policy are embodying the philosophy of our constitution, the philosophy of justice social economic and political. They are the two wheels of the chariot as an aid to make social and economic democracy a truism.

Supreme Court has always strive to strike balance between Directive Principle and Fundamental Rights, in Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India[4],  it was held that the Supreme Court cannot enforce Directive Principles but if State makes any legislation on it enforcement the n they can direct government to enforce the same.

Right to life includes the right to enjoy pollution-free water, air and environments. The court has derived this right by reading article 21 with article 48A. Right to health has been recognized as fundamental rights of the workers under article 21. Article 23 and 24 deal with right against exploitation, these articles reflect the principles of article 39(c).[5] The directive principles that the tender age of children and not abused and the children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment are supported. Right to education under Article 21A is to be understood by taking into consideration directive principles contained in Article 41 and 45[6]. Right to Education formulated because of it in the Fundamental Right.

Various Cases That Reflect Upon The Relationship:

In Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation[7],the Supreme Court held that Directive Principles are fundamental in the working of the country so equal standing should be given to meaning and concept of fundamental rights

In Ashok Kumar Thakur v. Union of India[8], the Supreme Court said that no difference can be made between the two sets of rights. Fundamental rights deal with Civil and political rights whereas Directive Principles deals with social and economic rights. Directive Principles are not enforceable in a court of law doesn’t mean it is subordinate.

Therefore, court had tried to establish that Fundamental rights and directive principles are complementary and supplementary to each other. It helped in the socio-economic development of nation from micro to macro level. It had taken into consideration public interest and development of nation. Though the Directive Principles are unenforceable, and a State cannot be compelled to undertake a legislation to implement a Directive, the Supreme Court has been issuing directions to the State to implement the Principles. It also establishes the evolutionary process in the sphere of the rights.

[1] AIR 1951 SC 226


[3](1973) 4 SCC 225

[4] AIR 1984 SC 802

[5] Constitution of India, V.N.Shukla- 13th Edition

[6] Unni Krishnan v. State of A.P; (1993) 1 SCC 645

[7] AIR 1986 SC 180

[8] (2008) 6 SCC 1

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