This article is authored by Janaki Nair, a 3rd year B.A LL.B student in Symbiosis Law School Pune. The following article talks about Part IV of the Indian Constitution – the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) from a detailed analytical point of view. 


During the period of independence, India heavily incorporated most of its governance features from already established democracies all across the world, due to the naïve status with its new ’emerging democracy’ status. In this manner, India had also certain basic principles of governance that it wanted the country to be governed by. Out of these, a country governed partly by socialist principles was agreed upon as the makers of the constitution were in consensus ad idem on the notion that democracy took care of its citizens in every possible manner. In this manner, India had borrowed the Directive Principles of State Policy (hereinafter referred to as DPSP) from Ireland.

These directive principles have been enshrined in Part IV of the Indian Constitution and it aims to maintain a delicate balance between individualistic and socialist principles of the country. These principles give India the title of a welfare state under the constitution-makers who believed that a true balance as well as development, can only be achieved when the public sector, that is, the state, is given more space and opportunities to act in a way that benefits the people.  

However, true to its name, DPSP is mere directives that the state needs to take into consideration when making legislative and administrative decisions regarding the country. They are not legally enforceable in a court of law if any state fails to follow through with them. That does not stop the Indian judiciary by making it clear that these principles form one of the basic guidelines that every state is supposed to adhere to.

Non- Justiciability of DPSP

As mentioned above, the DPSP are principles that do not have any legal backing or enforceability. The reason behind which they are still enshrined in the constitution even with their non-justiciable character is that these guidelines reflect the spirit and aim to obtain the ultimate ideals of the preamble of the Constitution. DPSP was created to have a basis for the successful execution of the four pillars of the Indian Constitution – Justice, Equality, Liberty, and Fraternity. Justice in all forms, especially, is the main purpose of the DPSP. The makers thought that justice can be achieved by the birth of a welfare state that was solely devoted to the people of the country which was absent during the pre-independence era.

Another reason for DPSP being non – justiciable could be the following:

  1. The newly independent India would not have been able to take the mounting pressure of following through with all these principles right after its birth. 
  2. During the pre-independence as well as the post-independence era, there is a lack of proper resources needed for the successful execution of these guidelines. This might have been because of an imbalance between the population and the necessary resource. 

Composition of the DPSP

The principles are contained in Articles 36 to 51, which makes up for Part IV of the Constitution of India. The DPSP can be said to have broadly been divided based on three principles – Socialist, Gandhian, and Liberal principles. Socialist principles are ones that focus on justice and equality in the society, Gandhian principles are ones that focus on rural reconstruction and national development and Liberal principles are ones that focus on freedom and separation of individuals and organs in the society that will lead to a developed as well as a globalized nation. 

Following is a detailed explanation of the socialist principles by way of the articles:

Article 36 

As Part IV talks about the principles that a state needs to follow for proper governance, this article explains what a state is. It holds the same meaning as a state does under Part III of the Constitution. A state, therefore, consists of the following:

  1. The Central Government and the State Governments,
  2. The Parliament at the Centre and the different state legislatures,
  3. Any other local body or authority that is under the control of India or is a part of its territory.

In the case of Rajasthan State Electricity Board v. Mohan Lal, 1967 AIR 1857, 1967 SCR (3) 377, it was held by the court that the term other authorities under the definition of a state can be extended to any and every organ that is created by the Constitution or a statute or any other law provision and that it cannot be restricted to bodies that only execute government functions. 

Article 37 

This article talks about the non-enforceable nature of the Directive Principles of State Policy. DPSP cannot be enforced in a court of law; however, it does not mean that the states do not have a duty to follow through with the principles. 

In the case of Akhil Bharatiya Soshit Karamchari Sangh v. Union of India, (1981) 1 SCC 246, the court highlighted the major differences between the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution and the Direction Principles under Part IV. The court said that the main goal of Part III is to provide political freedom to the citizens by way of preventing excessive state control over individuals. This freedom will only hold value if the citizens can exercise these rights before the judiciary. On the other hand, the main aim of Part IV is to ensure some economic and state freedom by suitable state actions. They are mere guidelines that the states are supposed to consider throughout their governance. It is therefore clear that DPSP, because of its very nature, cannot be made enforceable in a court of law. Again, the court emphasized that their non-enforceability does not do make them any less important than the Fundamental Rights. 

Article 38

The current article is the one that reflects the characteristics embedded in the Preamble of the Constitution, especially Justice and Equality. Sub-clause (1) states that the ultimate goal of the DPSP is to secure justice in all forms – social, political, and economic, across the country. Subclause (2) talks about how the state has to ensure that there are low to nil inequalities among the public with relation to income, facilities, and services, opportunities, etc. The 44th Amendment Act in the year 1978 expanded sub-clause (2) to state that efforts should be made to reduce inequalities not only among individuals but also among different groups of people residing in different areas of the country. This particular article shows the socialist status of the DPSP in which the main characteristic of a state is that it is societal -welfare-oriented. 

The concept of livelihood also came into question before the court about A.38. In the case of S. Subramaniam Balaji v. the State of T.N., (2013) 9 SCC 659, the court stated that the concept of livelihood has changed from the previous good food, clothing, and shelter, to also encompass medicines, transport, preliminary education, etc. 

Article 39 

This article lays down some basic and general principles that the DPSP proclaims. They are the following:

  1. Presence of equal means to a sufficient livelihood. Livelihood, as mentioned in the case of S. Subramaniam, consists of food, clothing, medical facilities, education, etc. 
  2. Ownership and authority over material resources should be distributed in a utilitarian manner. 
  3. There should not be any concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people/groups of people that might result in a detriment of the common good of the public. 
  4. Presence of equal pay for equal work done, no matter if it is a man, a woman, or any other gender. 
  5. The health as well as the strength of the public workers that can be man, woman, child, etc. should not be abused. The people should not be compelled to enter into vocations that are not suitable for either their age or strength simply by economic necessity. 
  6. As inserted by the 42nd Amendment, the state should ensure that children have a healthy environment around them for their holistic growth and development into able adults in the future. 

Though given under A.39(d) of the Constitution, the concept of equal pay for equal work is not enforceable under a court of law. As stated in the case Harbans Lal v. the State of H.P., (1989) 4 SCC 459, this principle is not enforceable as a separate fundamental right. It can only be read with articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution that are subjected to certain conditions. 

Article 39A

This Article was inserted by the 42nd Amendment and talks about free legal aid that is provided by the state to administer justice in the country by creating schemes, programs, and provisions and ensuring that people do not lose the opportunity to secure justice just because of economic disadvantages. In the case of Anokhilal v. State of M.P., (2019) 20 SCC 196, the court reiterates the fact that the right to a free legal service is an inalienable right of every Indian citizen. The court also stated that the state is duty-bound to provide a lawyer to an accused person if circumstances of the case and needs of justice so require such as poverty, indigence, etc. as long as the accused does not object to the provision of providing a lawyer.

Article 41 

The State plays the role of a welfare government under this Article by focusing on the parts of society that needs its help to flourish. Therefore, issues such as unemployment, food scarcity, old age, disability, etc. are looked after by the government through schemes and programs such as MGNREGA, Pension schemes, Social assistance programs, etc. The state also ensures that adequate education and job opportunities are available to the best of its current economic abilities. 

Article 42

The Article talks about the working conditions of the citizens. The state needs to ensure that the conditions and fair, just, and humane to every employee. The state also needs to ensure that people who can be pregnant are given maternity relief. 

Article 43

This goes back to the fair and equal wages principle under A.39 (d). The state, under this article, states that the wages and salaries of people working in any kind of job – agricultural, industrial, etc. should be fair and enough to provide them with a decent standard of living and be able to enjoy the luxuries of their lives. In particular, under this article, the state should give more focus and help to the cottage industries of the country either on its own or on a co-operative basis. The 97th Amendment Act of 2011 has inserted A. 43 B so that the state would also promote the co-operative societies on their formation and functioning.

Article 47

This article brings about the duty of the state to ensure that the country has moderate to high standards of nutrition and public health. Steps need to be taken by the state to provide nutrition to the poor and deserving, and also to prohibit or limit the consumption of drinks and drugs that are injurious to public health. Through these steps, the state tries to promote the standard of living of people in the country. Programs such as the mid-day meal scheme, National Health Mission, etc. are already in function to achieve these objectives. 

The next set of articles adhere to the Gandhian principles of rural reformation and restructuring:

Article 40

This article talks about the creation and establishment of Panchayats. Under this, the state should grant the necessary powers for these Panchayats that would result in them being self–governing units of small areas in the country. 

Article 46 

This article is about the protection of the minority and weak communities of the country such as the SCs, STs, etc. against any exploitation. As they are the weaker sections of the society, they may find it more difficult to prosper as compared to their counterparts. Therefore, the state needs to ensure that they are received with enough care and adequate economic and educational opportunities are also available to them. 

Article 48

The current article talks about the need of the state to engage in the promotion of agriculture and animal husbandry through scientific lines and methods. Through this manner, the state shall also ensure that unnecessary slaughtering of cows, calves, and other milch and draught cattle is prohibited as well as take scientific steps to improve the breeds of the cattle. In the case of State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Jamat, (2005) 8 SCC 534, the court had held that the term ‘milch and draught cattle’ was used to distinguish other kinds of cattle that neither belong to milch or draught. It is simply a form of classification. 

Article 48 A talks about the protection and safeguard of the environmental surroundings as well as the flora and fauna of nature. In the case of Municipal Corpn. Of Greater Mumbai v. Hiraman Sitaram Deorukhar, (2019) 14 SCC 411, the court had held that preservation and protection of open spaces such as parks are of vital interest to the public. The state authorities are dutybound to act in trusteeship for common spaces such as air, water, forests, etc. 

The final set of articles adhere to the liberal and intellectual development principles that the country wants to focus on. They propagate the ideology of liberalism:

Article 44 

This article is quite controversial in its time. According to this article and according to the case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, (1985) 2 SCC 556: 1985 SCC (Cri) 245, the state should endeavor to secure a uniform civil code (UCC) to all citizens throughout the territory of India. It means that there would be one law that would apply to all the various diverse communities and religions of India with regards to civil matters such as marriage, divorce, property, etc. However, many religious communities protested against UCC as they believe that it would lead to a violation of their fundamental right to freedom of religion under A.25 of the Constitution. These communities do not want to let go of their laws of practicing religion. 

Article 45

The current article was inserted by the 86th Amendment. This article talks about the right of children to obtain compulsory and free pre-school education up to 6 years of age for their holistic growth and development. It shall also provide free and compulsory education up to 14 years of age within which the child would have basic education to survive.

Article 49

This article talks about preserving and protecting monuments and objects that are of national importance from any sort of destruction, disfigurement, etc. Examples can be the Taj Mahal, Qutab Minar, etc. that hold the memories and history of Indian culture. 

Article 50

This is the only direct evidence of separation of powers between at least two organs of the state that is present in Part IV of the Constitution. It states that the state should ensure that the executive and judiciary work as separate organs concerning public services. In the case of S.P Gupta v. Union of India, 1981 Supp SCC 87, the court had reiterated the importance of the independence of the judiciary from executive pressure and influence. 

Article 51

The last directive principle is about the international dealings of the state. According to it, the state’s main international aim is to maintain and preserve peace and security across borders, foster healthy relationships with other states, respect international law and other treaty obligations with another state, etc. 

Fundamental Rights Versus DPSP

Several precedents debate on the importance and legality of fundamental rights and DPSP embedded in the Constitution. In the case of State of Madras v. Champakam (1951), the court held the supremacy of Fundamental Rights over the DPSP in case any conflict occurs between the two. In the case of Golaknath (1967) the court had held that the Fundamental Rights cannot be changed in any manner to include or implement the DPSP. However, it incorporated A. 31 C into the Constitution which gave away wider powers to DPSP. This article got overruled and restricted under the celebrated Minerva Mills v. Union of India, 1980 AIR 1789, 1981 SCR (1) 206, wherein the court restricted the widened scope of A. 31 C by allowing it to only be of use with regards to two directive principles. The court also stated that the Indian Constitution exists on the bedrock of the balance between Part III and Part IV of the Constitution. The harmony that exists between them forms a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

Criticism of DPSP

Needless to say, DPSP has many criticisms from both laymen and legal scholars alike. Some of them are:

  1. It has no legal force or backing behind it. 
  2. Neither explicit nor properly classified. The vague classification makes it seem like a collection of morals that cannot serve as a firm basis for the working of the state. 
  3. Some directives can only be successfully executed in a utopian society. They are therefore not ideal. 
  4. Gaining support through these vague moral promises and not through appropriate firm actions makes it useless. 


Although some of the criticisms hold good, the DPSP continues to be an important part of India. Though they are moral codes, the absence of such principles might hamper the very functioning of a democratic society. DPSP does not change with every new government. Thus, they act as a source of continuity for the proper and linear governance of India by acting as guides that the state and its leaders should follow while making important decisions that affect the people’s lives. It can also act as a measure of good or bad governance by seeing how many government rulers follow these principles. To conclude, the DPSP act as reflections of the vision and mission of a country and should only be taken as guides or principles that the government can take into consideration for more positive governance.  

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