Directive principles are guidelines or principles that form the basis of the center and state’s governance. They are to be kept in mind while framing laws and policies. The provisions with respect to the DPSPs are mentioned in Part IV of the Constitution (Article 36 – Article 51) and are also known as non-justifiable rights, meaning that they cannot be enforced by a court of law. However, they serve a unique purpose. They are aimed at facilitating and enabling the creation of such social and economic conditions, as will make leading a prosperous life more convenient for citizens. They aim to establish social and economic democracy through a welfare state. While the fundamental rights are a negative obligation on the government (meaning that the state must ensure they are not violated), the directive principles are a positive obligation of the government. The directive principles were adopted from the Irish Constitution.
Article 37 of the Constitution of India states that the provisions contained in Part IV shall not be enforceable in any court. The logic behind this is that it would be very harsh on a government to expect it to realize every single one of the DPSPs. Say for example, if the government failed to, within its term, eradicate illiteracy completely, it would be held liable to pay compensation in the court, if the DPSPs were enforceable. Or it would be held liable for any inflation, terrorist attack or any significant issue that affects the general public at large. This would hinder the spirit of goodwill that forms an essential part of a country’s governance. Good intentions would be punished if it resulted in undesirable consequences and this was not what the framers of the Constitution wanted. Moreover, if laws were made to give effect to DPSPs over fundamental rights, it would be a violation of the fundamental rights and would thus be held constitutionally invalid. Nonetheless, in case of a conflict between fundamental rights and directive principles that benefit the interests of the society at large, the court is duty bound to uphold the directive principles over the former. Moreover, the judiciary is also duty bound to bear the directive principles in mind while deciding other cases.
What the directive principles do though, is keeping a check on the ruling government. Though unenforceable, the DPSPs form a sort of parameter to analyze the effectiveness of the government. This helps during election to determine the government that would be in the best interests of the country. Due to this, the present government is always kept on its toes delivering what it has promised to the people. While many objectives of the DPSPs such as free legal aid and free education have been achieved to a major extent, other objectives have a long way to go yet due to various factors that are outside the control of the government.
As our country climbs newer heights of development and our governments become more stable, self-sufficient and economically sound, there is hope that one day the directive principles will be made enforceable, as nothing is a better yardstick to measure the prosperity of the country and its people.