The Conflict Between Fundamental Rights and DPSPs
Updated: Nov 19
The conflict between fundamental rights and Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs) is an ongoing debate that lies at the heart of India's constitutional framework. While fundamental rights guarantee individual liberties and are justiciable, DPSPs represent the state's socio-economic objectives and are non-justiciable in nature. This essay aims to explore this conflict, examine relevant case laws, and present a vision of how the balance between these two pillars of the Indian constitution can be achieved.
Fundamental rights, enshrined in Part III of the Indian Constitution, are essential for safeguarding an individual's dignity, liberty, and equality. They are enforceable against the State and provide citizens with a mechanism to seek legal redress for any infringement. However, the exercise of fundamental rights must be subject to reasonable restrictions, ensuring that they do not misuse the rights and impact on the well-being of others or compromise public order, morality, or national security.
On the other hand, DPSPs, outlined in Part IV of the Constitution, articulate the social and economic goals that the state aspires to achieve. These principles direct the government to strive towards building a just society by eradicating poverty, promoting education, providing healthcare, and ensuring equitable distribution of resources. Unlike fundamental rights, DPSPs are not directly enforceable by the courts and depend on legislative action for implementation.
The conflict between Fundamental Rights and DPSPs:
The conflict between fundamental rights and DPSPs arises when the exercise of individual liberties, such as freedom of speech, religion, or expression, comes into conflict with the state's pursuit of socioeconomic objectives. While fundamental rights prioritize individual interests, DPSPs emphasize the collective welfare of society. Resolving this conflict requires an intricate balance that ensures the protection of individual rights while also addressing broader social needs.
Supporting Case Laws
One of the significant cases that illustrates this conflict is Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973). The Supreme Court, in this landmark judgment, upheld the basic structure doctrine, which limits the power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution. The court held that while fundamental rights are inviolable, they are subject to reasonable restrictions to give effect to the DPSPs. This decision recognized the significance of harmonizing these two pillars of the Constitution and ensuring that neither overrides the other. Another case that highlights this conflict is the Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978) case. The Supreme Court expanded the scope of Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty) and held that any law that deprives a person of their personal liberty must meet the test of reasonableness and fairness. This judgment reinforces the idea that the exercise of fundamental rights cannot be curtailed arbitrarily and must be in line with the principles enshrined in the DPSPs.
The conflict between fundamental rights and DPSPs is inherent in the Indian constitutional framework, but it is not something impossible to be solved. The judiciary plays a crucial role in striking a balance between individual rights and, collective welfare by interpreting and harmonizing these provisions. While fundamental rights are sacrosanct and provide a safeguard against state overreach, they must be exercised responsibly, respecting the broader society. The government, on its part, must actively pursue policies and enact laws that bridge the gap between individual liberties and socio-economic objectives, ensuring that the rights of citizens are not sacrificed in the name of development or societal goals.