Directive Principles of State Policy


In the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, India is described as a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”. Accordingly, the Constitution has extensive provisions to ensure the social and economic welfare of the people of India. In this regard, two specific provisions have been made, one in the form of Fundamental Rights and the other as Directive Principles of State Policy. The Fundamental Rights embodied in Part III of the Indian Constitution act as a guarantee that all Indian citizens can and would enjoy civil liberties and basic rights. These civil liberties take precedence over any other law of the land. They are individual rights commonly included in the Constitutions of liberal democracies. Some of these important rights are: equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and freedom of religion.

But this was not enough. Indian citizens also needed opportunities for economic and social development. That is why Part IV on Directive Principles of State Policy was included in the Indian Constitution. The framers of the Indian Constitution borrowed this idea from the Irish Constitution. The Directive Principles came from the concept of a welfare state. The meaning of the term “welfare state” is that it is a concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of economic and social well-being of its citizens. A welfare state is based on the principles of equality of opportunity and equitable distribution of wealth. Under this system, the welfare of its citizens is the responsibility of the state.

Most of these Directives aim at the establishment of the economic and social democracy which is pledged for in the Preamble. It should be the duty of the State to ensure these directive principles both in the matter of administration as well as in the making of laws. The Directive Principles aims at making the Indian masses free in a positive sense. While the purpose of the fundamental rights is to create an egalitarian society, to free all citizens from coercion or restriction by society and to make liberty available for all. The Directive Principles of State Policy have been listed in the Constitution under articles 36 to 51.

Features of the Directive Principles

The Directive Principles of State Policy have the following features:

  1. The Directive Principles of State Policy are guidelines to the central and state governments of India. The purpose of these directive principles is to fix certain social and economic goals for the state. It is the duty of governments to ensure the implementation of these directive principles both in the matter of administration and in the making of laws. Therefore, governments must keep these principles in mind while framing laws and policies.
  2. According to Article 36, the term ‘State’ in Part IV has the same meaning as in Part III dealing with Fundamental Rights. Hence, it includes the legislative and executive organs of the Central and State governments, all local authorities and all other public authorities in the country.
  3. The Directive Principles aim to create a comprehensive economic, social, and political programme for a modern democratic state. The aim is to realise the high ideals of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity as outlined in the Preamble to the Constitution. These directive principles seek to establish economic and social democracy in the country. 
  4. The Directive Principles are non-justiciable in nature. In other words, they are not legally enforceable by the courts for their violation. Therefore, the government (central, state, and local) cannot be compelled to implement them. However, Article 37 says that these principles have been declared to be “fundamental in the governance of the country, and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.”
  5. The main aim of these principles is to create social and economic conditions under which all citizens can lead a good life. In other words, it aims to establish social and economic democracy in the country. All executive agencies have to be guided by these principles. Even the judiciary has to keep them in mind while deciding cases. The Directive Principles help the courts in examining and determining the constitutional validity of a law. 

Classification of the Directive Principles

The Constitution does not contain any classification of directive principles because they are of different types. Some are concerned with socio-economic development, some are related to Gandhian thought, and some are related to foreign policy. For our better understanding, we may classify them under the following specific categories:

  1. Principles promoting Social and Economic Equality Many people in India have been suffering from social and economic inequalities for ages. These principles lay down the framework of a democratic socialist state, aim at providing social and economic justice, and set the path towards a welfare state. In other words, we can say that these principles reflect the ideology of socialism. The following principles, in particular, are aimed at ensuring economic and social equality:
    • To promote the welfare of the people by securing a social order permeated by justice—social, economic, and political and to minimise inequalities in income, status, facilities, and opportunities (Article 38). 
    • The state should ensure for its people adequate means of livelihood (Article 39-a).
    • The state should distribute the wealth in such a way that the wealth is not concentrated in a few hands (Article 39-b).
    • The state should ensure an equitable distribution of the material resources of the country for the common good (Article 39-c).
    • The state should ensure equal pay for equal work for both men and women (Article 39-d).
    • Youth and children should be protected against exploitation. Men, women, and children should not be forced by economic necessity to enter jobs and vocations not suited to their age or strength (Article 39-e).
    • To secure opportunities and facilities for healthy development of children (Article 39-f).
    • To promote equal justice and to provide free legal aid to the poor (Article 39 A).
    • The state should ensure to people the right to work, the right to education, and the right to state assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement (Article 41).
    • The state should make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work for the workers and maternity relief for women (Article 42).
    • The state should take steps to ensure that all workers receive a living wage as well as reasonable leisure and cultural opportunities (Article 43).
    • To take steps to secure participation of workers in the management of the factory/industry (Article 43 A).
    • To provide early childhood care and education to all children until they complete the age of 6 years (Article 45).
    • The state should make efforts to raise the standard of living for people and public health (Article 47).
  1. Gandhian Principles: These principles are based on Gandhian ideology. Swaraj (self-rule), Sarvodaya (welfare for all) and svavlambam (self-reliance) are the basic principles of Gandhian thought. His philosophy and actions guided not only our freedom movement but also the framing of the Indian Constitution. The following directive principles, in particular, reflect Gandhian thought:
    • To organise village panchayats. These panchayats should be given such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government (Article 40). 
    •  To promote cottage industries on an individual or co-operation basis in rural areas (Article 43).
    • The state should promote the voluntary formation, autonomous functioning, democratic control, and professional management of co-operative societies (Article 43 B).
    • To promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of society and, in particular, the interests of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (Article 46).
    • To prohibit the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs that are injurious to health (Article 47).
    • To ban the slaughter of cows, calves and other milch and draught cattle and to improve their breeds (Article 48).
  1. Principles related to International Peace and Security: The framers of the Indian Constitution included some principles in the Constitution which provide guidelines for our foreign policy. These principles are:
    • To promote international peace and security (Article 51-a).
    • To endeavour to maintain just and honourable relations with other nations (Article 51-b).
    • To foster respect for international laws and treaty obligations (Article 51-c).
    • To encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration, i.e., mutual agreement (Article 51-d).
  1. Miscellaneous Principles: There are some notable directive principles that do not fall under any of the above-mentioned categories. These principles are as follows:
    • To establish a uniform civil code for all citizens throughout the country (Article 44).
    • To perform agriculture and animal husbandry in modern and scientific ways (Article 48).
    • To protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country (Article 48 A).
    • To protect and maintain historical monuments, places, or objects of national importance (Article 49).
    • To separate the Judiciary from Executive in the public services of the State (Article 50).

New Directive Principles

The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 added four new Directive Principles to the original list. These directive principles are:

  •  To secure opportunities and facilities for children’s healthy development (Article 39-f).
  • To promote justice in the legal system on the basis of equal opportunity and to provide free legal aid in the event of economic or other disability (Article 39 A).
  • To secure the participation of workers in the management of industries (Article 43 A).
  • To protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forests and wild life (Article 48 A).

The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 added a clause to Article 38 to say that the State should try to reduce inequalities of income and eliminate inequalities in status, facilities, and opportunities among individuals and among groups of people living in different areas or engaged in different vocations.

Originally, Article 45 provided for free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14. But the 86th Amendment Act of 2002 made education a fundamental right for children aged 6 to 14 years by inserting a new article 21A. Then, Article 45 was replaced in a new directive principle providing for early child care and education for children under 6 years.

The 97th Amendment Act of 2011 added a new Directive Principle related to co-operative societies. It promotes the voluntary formation, autonomous functioning, democratic control, and professional management of co-operative societies (Article 43 B).  

Directive Principles Outside Part IV of the Constitution

Besides the Directives contained in Part IV, there are certain other Directives in other Parts of the Constitution. These Directives are also non-justiciable in nature.  These are:

  • Claims of SCs and STs to Services: Article 335 in Part XVI says that the claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs) shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State. 
  • Instruction in Mother Tongue: Article 350A in Part XVII says that every State and every local authority within the State must provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups.
  • Development of the Hindi Language: Article 351 in Part XVII enjoins the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language and to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India.

Though the above Directives are not included in Part IV of Constitution. The courts have given similar attention to them on the application of the principle that all parts of the Constitution should be read together.

 Sanction of Directives Principles in the Constitution

The Constitutional Advisor of the Constituent Assembly was Sir B. N. Rau. He recommended that the rights of an individual should be divided into two categories: justiciable and non-justiciable, which was accepted by the Drafting Committee.  Hence, the Fundamental Rights which are justiciable in nature and incorporated in Part III of the Constitution. Whereas the Directive Principles which are non-justiciable in nature and incorporated in Part IV of the Constitution.

Though the Directive Principles are non-justiciable, in Article 37 of the Constitution it is made clear that “these principles are fundamental in the governance of the country, and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws”. Thus, they impose a moral obligation on the state authorities for their application, but the real force behind them is political, that is, public opinion.

The framers of Indian Constitution made the Directive Principles non-justiciable and legally non-enforceable because:

  • At that time, the country did not possess sufficient financial resources to implement them.
  • The presence of vast diversity and backwardness in the country would stand in the way of their implementation.
  • The framers of the Constitution wanted the newly born independent Indian State to be free to decide the order, the time, the place, and the mode of fulfilling Directive Principles.

Therefore, the Constitution framers, taking a pragmatic view, refrained from giving teeth to these principles.

Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Rights

The objective of the Directive Principles is to establish a welfare state. The objective of Fundamental Rights is also the same, but there are some basic differences between the two. In spite of these differences, there is a close relationship between the two. Moreover, it is also apparent that the aim of both the Fundamental rights and Directive Principles is the same. They are not contradictory but complementary to each other. Whereas the Fundamental Rights establish political democracy, the Directive Principles establish economic and social democracy. The Directive Principles cannot be ignored even if these do not have the same kind of constitutional sanction as the Fundamental Rights. Implementation of Directive Principle enhances the credibility and popularity of any government. 

The below table represents the difference between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles.

Fundamental RightsDirective Principles
  Fundamental rights are justiciable and enforceable. Fundamental rights cannot be denied to any citizen. These are protected by the Supreme Court and High Courts. Directive Principles are non-justiciable. No constitutional provision or law binds the government to implement these.
 Fundamental Rights have been ensured by the Constitution, and the state is bound to protect the rights of all its citizens. These principles are only instructions or directions for the state to frame policies to implement them. 
These are negative as they prohibit the State from doing certain things.These are positive as they require the State to do certain things.
Its aim is to establish political democracy in the country.Its aim is to establish social and economic democracy in the country.
These have legal sanctions.These have moral and political sanctions.
 They promote the welfare of the individual. Therefore, they are personal and individualistic. They promote the welfare of the community. Hence, they are socialistic.
They do not require any legislation for their implementation.They require legislation for their implementation.
 The courts are bound to declare a law violative of any of the Fundamental Rights as unconstitutional and invalid. The courts can not declare a law violative of any of the Directive Principles as unconstitutional and invalid.

Implementation of Directive Principles of State Policy

Since 1950, successive governments at the centre and in the States have made several laws to implement these Directive Principles. Many of them have been implemented very successfully. Actually, no government can afford to ignore these instructions as they are the mirror of public opinion and also reflect the basic spirit of the Preamble of our Constitution. Some of the implemented principles are:

  • Land reforms have been introduced and Jagirdari and Zamindari systems have been abolished.
  • A ceiling has been placed on land and property to fix the limit of a person’s holdings.
  • Equal wages for equal work for both men and women have been enacted.
  • National Commission for the Welfare of Women has been established.
  • Several laws have been passed to protect children from exploitation.
  • Various programmes have been launched to boost rural employment.
  • Panchayati Raj has been given constitutional status. At village level, Panchayats have been set up and are functioning.
  • Small scale and village industries and Khadi Gram Udyog have been encouraged to bring prosperity to the rural areas.
  • Subsidized public distribution schemes have been launched to help the poor.
  • Cottage industries have been established and protected by giving tax concessions.
  • Many laws and welfare schemes have been launched to protect women from exploitation.
  • A number of welfare schemes have been implemented for the poor and backward classes, as well as for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
  • Seats are reserved for SCs, STs and other weaker sections in educational institutions, government services and representative bodies. Untouchability has been abolished.
  • The ancient and historical monument has been protected.
  •  Primary health centres and hospitals have been established throughout the country to improve public health.
  • Laws to prohibit the slaughter of cows, calves, and bullocks have been enacted in some state.
  • The Government of India supports and works for world peace.
  • Our foreign policy is in consonance with the principles of international peace and security and maintains just and honourable relations between nations. 

From the above steps, it is clear that the governments at central, state, and local levels are working for the implementation of the Directive principles. A lot of work has been done, but there are still problems of poverty, unemployment, poor health, and illiteracy. The spirit of the directive principles is to improve the quality of life of people. This is a continuous process, and the efforts of the government are showing some results.

To know about the Article Related to Directive Principles of State Policy, refer to the table.

Article No.Subject Matter
36Definition of State
37Application of the principles contained in this part
38State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people
39Certain principles of policy to be followed by the State
39 AEqual justice and free legal aid
40Organisation of village panchayats
41Right to work, to education and to public assistance in certain cases
42Provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief
43Living wage, etc., for workers
43 AParticipation of workers in management of industries
43 BPromotion of co-operative societies
44Uniform civil code for the citizens
45Provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years
46Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections
47Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health
48Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry
48 AProtection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife
49Protection of monuments and places and objects of national importance
50Separation of judiciary from executive
51Promotion of international peace and security


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