Describing the Directive Principles of State Policy as the “most magnificent Magna Carta of social and economic transformation”, President Pranab Mukherjee Saturday said the principles’ history goes back to 1937.
The Congress gained majority in eight states that year after elections were held under the Government of India Act, 1935. And with elections, the Congress was faced with the challenge of delivering on its promises, the president said.
At that time, Subhash Chandra Bose wrote a letter to all the Congress governments on how to go about their task. That was “core of the present directive principles, Mukherjee said in his inaugural address at a seminar here on “Directive Principles of Indian Constitution and Inclusive Growth” organised by the Confederation of Indian Bar.
The president said that although the directive principles are not justiceable (meaning they cannot be enforced by the courts), because of several pronouncements of the apex court they have come closer to fundamental rights.
He said that in the Keshvanand Bharti case, the apex court had ruled that the directive principles of state policy and the fundamental rights of citizens are equally fundamental to the constitution even though the directive principles are not enforceable.
The “raison d’etre for our founding fathers to include the directive principles in the constitution was the attainment of inclusive growth of the country through the development of every individual”, the president said
“It is the cherished goal of every democracy to ensure that each individual feels empowered to not only participate in the political process but also become a part of the economic development and social change,” he said.
The president said the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Right to Information Act, Right to Education Act and the National Food Security Act were legislated in conformity with the spirit of the directive principles.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Justice P. Sathasivam said: “The directive principles of state policy are not only an essential feature of the constitution”, they are also the “conscience of the constitution”.
Explaining that the directive principles and fundamental rights were both meant to balance and harmonise each other, Chief Justice Sathasivam said the principles were fundamental to governance.
Senior counsel Harish Salve, in his vote of thanks address, said that the primary aim of policy should be to make those who are “have-nots” into “haves” and to set high the bar for minimum living standards.
Salve said that there was a quantum shift in the perception of growth from Gross Domestic Growth to the Human Development Index.
Salve also warned against certain people being “above the law” and said it was a mark of enduring feudalism. Increasing crime against women too was a manifestation of the feudal mindset, Salve said, adding that the march to progress would be hastened by shedding feudalism.
In his introductory address, the president of the Confederation of Indian Bar, Pravin H. Parekh, said that in the 1950s it was believed that the directive principles had a second class status in the constitution.
However, the scenario has undergone a sea change with amendments in law and new laws being introduced. “Fundamental rights and directive principles are on talking terms,” he said, adding that pronouncements of the apex court have interpreted them harmoniously.