Directive Principles of State Policy: Features and Principles

The framers of the constitution provided every state with some guiding principles which are meant for promoting the ideal of social and economic democracy. These guiding principles have been named as Directive Principles of State Policy. These directive principles ensure to avoid the violation of fundamental rights of the citizen of a state. They are meant to establish a ‘welfare state’. The directive principles are non-justifiable in nature. They cannot be enforced by the court of law for their violation. However, these directive principles have been declared as the fundamental principles in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws. Hence, they impose a moral responsibility on the state authorities for their application.

Directive Principles of State Policy

The Directive Principles of State Policy are enumerated from Articles 36 to 51 in Part IV of the Constitution.

Features of The Directive Principles

  1. The term Directive Principles of State Policy signifies the ideals that the State should keep in mind while making policies and enacting laws. These are the constitutional instructions or recommendations to the State in legislative, executive and administrative matters. According to Article 36, the term ‘State’ in Part IV has the same meaning as in Part III dealing with Fundamental Rights. Therefore, it includes the legislative and executive organs of the central and state governments, all local authorities and all other public authorities in the country.
  2. The Directive Principles resemble the ‘Instrument of Instructions’ enumerated in the Government of India Act of 1935. According to Dr B. R. Ambedkar, ‘the Directive Principles are like the instrument of instructions, which were issued to the Governor-General and to the Governors of the colonies of India by the British Government under the Government of India Act of 1935. What is called Directive Principles is merely another name for the instrument of instructions. The only difference is that they are instructions to the legislature and the executive’.
  3. The Directive Principles constitute a highly extensive economic, social and political programme for a modern democratic State. They aim at realising the high ideals of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as outlined in the Preamble to the Constitution. They embody the concept of a ‘welfare state’ and not that of a ‘police state’, which existed during the colonial era. In brief, they seek to establish economic and social democracy in the country.
  4. The Directive Principles are non-justiciable in nature, that is, they are not legally enforceable by the courts for their violation. Therefore, the government (Central, state and local) cannot be compelled to implement them. Nevertheless, the Constitution (Article 37) itself says 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.
  5. The Directive Principles, though non-justiciable in nature, help the courts in examining and determining the constitutional validity of a law. The Supreme Court has ruled many a times that in determining the constitutionality of any law, if a court finds that the law in question seeks to give effect to a Directive Principle, it may consider such law to be ‘reasonable’ in relation to Article 14 (equality before law) or Article 19 (six freedoms) and thus save such law from unconstitutionality.

Classification of The Directive Principles

The classification of Directive Principles of State Policy have not been mentioned in the constitution of India. On the basis of their direction in various perspectives, we can divide them into three categories, i.e. socialistic, Gandhian and liberal–intellectual.

Socialistic Principles

These principles reflect the ideology of socialism. They lay down the framework of a democratic socialist state, aim at providing social and economic justice, and set the path towards welfare state.

Following Articles state the guidelines of Socialistic Principles of state policy:

  • Article 38: 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 39: To secure
    1. the right to adequate means of livelihood for all citizens;
    2. the equitable distribution of material resources of the community for the common good;
    3. prevention of concentration of wealth and means of production;
    4. equal pay for equal work for men and women;
    5. preservation of the health and strength of workers and children against forcible abuse; and
    6. opportunities for healthy development of children.
  • Article 39 A: To promote equal justice and to provide free legal aid to the poor.
  • Article 41: To secure the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement.
  • Article 42: To make provision for just and humane conditions for work and maternity relief.
  • Article 43: To secure a living wage7, a decent standard of life and social and cultural opportunities for all workers.
  • Article 43 A: To take steps to secure the participation of workers in the management of industries.
  • Article 47: To raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of people and to improve public health.

Gandhian Principles

These principles are based on Gandhian ideology. They represent the programme of reconstruction enunciated by Gandhi during the national movement. In order to fulfil the dreams of Gandhi, some of his ideas were included as Directive Principles.

Following Articles state the guidelines of Gandhian Principles of state policy:

  • Article 40: To organise village panchayats and endow them with necessary powers and authority to enable them to function as units of self-government.
  • Article 43: To promote cottage industries on an individual or co-operation basis in rural areas.
  • Article 43 B: To promote voluntary formation, autonomous functioning, democratic control and professional management of co-operative societies.
  • Article 46: To promote the educational and economic interests of SCs, STs, and other weaker sections of the society and to protect them from social injustice and exploitation.
  • Article 47: To prohibit the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health.
  • Article 48: To prohibit the slaughter of cows, calves and other milch and draught cattle and to improve their breeds.

Liberal–Intellectual Principles

The principles counted in this category signify the ideology of liberalism. Following articles state the guidelines of Liberal–Intellectual Principles of state policy:

  • Article 44: To secure for all citizens a uniform civil code throughout the country.
  • Article 45: To provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.
  • Article 48: To organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines.
  • Article 48-A: To protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forests and wild life.
  • Article 49: To protect monuments, places and objects of artistic or historic interest which are declared to be of national importance.
  • Article 50: To separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the State.
  • Article 51: To promote international peace and security and maintain just and honourable relations between nations; to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations, and to encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration.


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