Fundamental Duties — A Forgotten Chapter of the Constitution; Justice R C Lahoti (Former Chief Justice of Bharat); Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi; Pp 60; Rs 125.00
Intro : Many books on the Constitution of Bharat exist but still the importance of Fundamental Duties remains as a scarcely discussed topic. Fundamental Duties—A Forgotten Chapter of the Constitution discusses the importance of Article 51A.
We crave for the rights, but oblivious of our duties. Though we justly claim a culture which is underpinned by Dharma and Karma, this notion is more or less accurate in the contemporary social milieu of Bharat. In the realm of public discourse, we rarely speak of duty. Whether it is in private or public life, the sense of duty brings discipline and ultimately shapes the destiny of a nation. In our Constitution, Part IVA, Article 51A enumerates the Fundamental Duties in consonance with Article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 51A is indeed a forgotten chapter of our Constitution. Many books on the Constitution of Bharat exist but still the importance of Fundamental Duties remains as a scarcely discussed topic. Hence this book, Fundamental Duties—A Forgotten Chapter of the Constitution becomes significant. The book is in fact a lecture (Justice K T Desai memorial lecture) delivered by Justice R C Lahoti. He provides a clear overview of the formation, evolution, importance and validity of the Fundamental Duties in the context of the Constitution of Bharat.
The Fundamental Duties were not a part of our Constitution until 1976. The Article was introduced in the Constitution by the 42nd amendment. Why did our Constitution makers omit the Fundamental Duties? Was it because the founding fathers of our Constitution seemed to have taken it for granted that a man must be aware of his duties as they were simply basic human duties?
On pondering this, he rightly observes that the culture of Bharat did not believe in duties being performed under threat of penalty. Eleven Fundamental Duties (11th Fundamental Duty has been included in the constitution by the 86th amendment in 2002), are enshrined in Article 51A. It is evident that several cases in which the courts have drawn liberal support and backing of the Fundamental Duties. Though they are non-justiciable, even Honourable Supreme Court has drawn support of the Fundamental Duties. The another cites many cases like AIIMS Students Union vs AIIMS, Ms Aruna Roy vs Union of India etc. So it is immature if someone identifies them as dead letters.
According to the noted Constitutional expert DD Basu, The Fundamental Duties can monitor Fundamental Rights. For instance, violation of the duty in Article 51A should not be protected by the freedom of expression or assembly guaranteed by Article 19. Article 51A can be a powerful instrument to be utilised in interpreting Constitution and laws of the land just as the Directive Principles of the State Policy are being used in resolving several Constitutional issues. The Constitution of a nation should be in consonance with the culture and social values of its society. We should take legitimate pride in our richest and noblest civilisation and culture. So of all, it is relevant to take a special notice on the sixth Fundamental Duty—To value and preserve the rich heritage of our culture—in the present socio-cultural scenario of Bharat.
It is widely believed that the Hindu culture has an aversion towards duty and the people of Bharat have traditionally been attributed to lacking sense of duty. But the teachings of Bhagavad Gita gives a diverse view to this popular belief. Bhagavad Gita gives a precise and unambiguous view of Hindu view of duty. Justice Lahoti quotes, Niyatam Kuru Karma Tvam (Do Your Prescribed Duty). And he also notes that the concept of duty has been philosophically, but precisely codified in Shrimad Bhagavad Gita.
In the epilogue, he concludes his scholarly articulated speech by indicating that the unity and integrity of a nation can survive only when each citizen proceeds to do his own duty. The book, rather the speech, is to be considered as a tribute not only to Justice KT Desai, an eminent jurist, but also to the Constitution of Bharat, to this neglected chapter. In spite of the gravity of the topic, the book is presented in a highly legible and readable way. So this book never falls into a genre which is beyond the comprehension of a common man. At the same time, the gist remains intact. To build up a society with a strong foundation of Constitutional awareness and Constitutional morality, every Bharatiya citizen is bound to be aware and to educate themselves about the Fundamental Duties of our Constitution.
Ganesh Krishnan R