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Directive principles of state policy: a vision for social change


The Indian Constitution is a multifaceted document, balancing individual rights with the government’s responsibility to create a just and equitable society. While the Fundamental Rights act as a shield against state overreach, the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs) serve as a guiding light for the government’s actions.

Unlike the enforceable Fundamental Rights, the DPSPs are non-justiciable, meaning courts cannot directly enforce them. However, they are far from insignificant. Imagine them as a detailed roadmap for the government, outlining the ideals it should strive towards in building a better India. These ideals encompass a wide range, promoting:

  • Social and economic justice: Reducing inequalities in income, status, and opportunities is a core principle, aimed at creating a level playing field for all citizens.
  • Welfare state: The DPSPs envision India as a welfare state, where the government actively works to ensure basic necessities like education, healthcare, and a decent standard of living for all.
  • Dignity and livelihood: The principles emphasize securing the right to work, fair wages, and protection against exploitation, ensuring citizens can live with dignity.

The DPSPs are further categorized into three main strands:

  • Socialist principles: These principles advocate for a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, drawing inspiration from socialist ideologies. Examples include promoting public ownership of key industries and minimizing wealth concentration.
  • Gandhian principles: Reflecting Mahatma Gandhi’s vision, these principles emphasize self-reliance, rural development, and empowering weaker sections of society. This is reflected in the focus on promoting village panchayats and protecting traditional industries like cottage crafts.
  • Liberal-intellectual principles: These principles draw upon liberal thought, advocating for individual freedom and a modern, scientific approach to development. Examples include promoting a uniform civil code and modernizing agriculture.

The DPSPs have undergone some evolution since their inception. New principles have been added, such as protecting the environment and promoting childhood education. This reflects the changing priorities and needs of the nation.

However, the DPSPs also face some challenges. Their non-justiciability can lead to a lack of accountability, and implementation can be hampered by resource constraints. Additionally, balancing the DPSPs with the Fundamental Rights can be complex.

Despite these challenges, the DPSPs remain a vital part of the Indian Constitution. They provide a moral compass for the government, reminding it of its long-term goals of building a just and equitable society for all. By continuously striving towards these ideals, India can truly fulfill the promises enshrined in its Constitution.

Background of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)

The Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) form an integral part of the Indian Constitution. They are enshrined in Part IV, from Articles 36 to 51. These principles are guidelines for the creation of a social order characterized by social, economic, and political justice. The DPSPs were inspired by the Irish Constitution and reflect the aspirations and vision of the framers of the Indian Constitution.

Historical Context

  1. Irish Influence: The DPSPs were inspired by the Irish Constitution of 1937, which included a section on the Directive Principles of Social Policy. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the chairman of the Drafting Committee, and other members of the Constituent Assembly drew from this example to frame the DPSPs.
  2. Indian National Movement: The ideas embodied in the DPSPs were influenced by the objectives of the Indian National Movement. Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi emphasized the importance of social justice, economic welfare, and rural development, which resonated in the DPSPs.
  3. Government of India Act, 1935: Although the Government of India Act, of 1935, did not include DPSPs, it laid the groundwork for the administrative and legislative framework of India. The Act influenced the constitutional design that was later incorporated into the Indian Constitution, including the principles of governance.

Constituent Assembly Debates

The inclusion of DPSPs in the Indian Constitution was extensively debated in the Constituent Assembly. The key points discussed were:

  1. Non-justiciability: It was agreed that these principles would not be enforceable by any court, meaning that no one could approach the judiciary for the enforcement of these principles. This was because making them justiciable would burden the judiciary and complicate governance.
  2. Moral and Ethical Guidance: Members like K.T. Shah argued that DPSPs should provide moral and ethical guidance for the government, ensuring that the State prioritizes the welfare of the people.
  3. Comprehensive Development: The DPSPs were seen as essential for ensuring comprehensive development, including social, economic, and cultural aspects, which could not be achieved through Fundamental Rights alone.

Philosophical Underpinnings

  1. Social Justice: The DPSPs aim to promote social justice by reducing inequalities in income, status, facilities, and opportunities.
  2. Economic Welfare: They emphasize the importance of securing adequate means of livelihood, equal pay for equal work, and the right to work, education, and public assistance.
  3. Gandhian Principles: Many of the DPSPs reflect Gandhian ideals, such as the promotion of cottage industries, living wages, and the organization of village panchayats.
  4. Modern Welfare State: The principles aim to create a modern welfare state where the government is responsible for ensuring the well-being of its citizens, especially the marginalized and disadvantaged sections of society.

Key Features of DPSPs

  1. Guidelines for Legislation: They serve as guidelines for the central and state governments in India to frame laws and policies aimed at achieving social and economic democracy.
  2. Non-justiciable Nature: While DPSPs are fundamental in the governance of the country, they are not enforceable by any court, meaning their implementation is at the discretion of the government.
  3. Moral Obligation: Despite being non-justiciable, DPSPs impose a moral obligation on the State to implement these principles through appropriate legislation and policies.
  4. Supplementary to Fundamental Rights: DPSPs complement Fundamental Rights, aiming to create a balanced approach to governance by addressing both individual liberties and the collective welfare of society.

The provisions related to the DPSPs, as mentioned inΒ Articles 36 to 51 in Part IVΒ of the Indian Constitution are described in detail as follows.

  1. Article 36: Definition of State: This article defines the “State” for the purposes of Part IV, including the government, Parliament, state legislatures, and local authorities.
  2. Article 37: Application of the Principles contained in this Part: While the DPSPs are not enforceable by any court, they are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and the state is expected to apply these principles in making laws.
  3. Article 38: Social Order for the Promotion of Welfare of the People: This principle emphasizes that the state should strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing a social order that fosters justice, social, economic, and political.
  4. Article 39: Certain principles of policy to be followed by the State: This article includes several sub-principles:
    • Article 39(a): Equal justice and free legal aid to ensure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity.
    • Article 39(b): The ownership and control of material resources of the community should be so distributed as to best subserve the common good.
    • Article 39(c): The operation of the economic system should not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment.
    • Article 39(d): Ensuring that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
    • Article 39(e): The health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.
    • Article 39(f): The children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity.
  5. Article 40: Organisation of village panchayats: This principle encourages the state to organize village panchayats and endow them with the powers and authority necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.
  6. Article 41: Right to work, to education, and to public assistance in certain cases: This principle states that the state shall make provisions for securing the right to work, to education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disablement.
  7. Article 42: Provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief: The state is directed to make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
  8. Article 43: Living wage, etc., for workers: The state is directed to secure for all workers, agricultural, industrial, or otherwise, a living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life, and full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities.
  9. Article 43A: Participation of workers in the management of industries: This article was inserted by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, and it directs the state to promote the participation of workers in the management of industries.
  10. Article 44: Uniform civil code for the citizens: The state shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.
  11. Article 45: Provision for free and compulsory education for children: The state shall endeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.
  12. Article 46: Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker sections: The state shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker sections of the society.
  13. Article 47: Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health: The state shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties.
  14. Article 48: Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry: The state shall take steps to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.
  15. Article 48A: Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife: This article was inserted by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, and it directs the state to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forests and wildlife.
  16. Article 49: Protection of monuments and places and objects of national importance: The state shall protect every monument or place or object of artistic or historic interest declared by or under law made by Parliament to be of national importance.
  17. Article 50: Separation of judiciary from executive: The state shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the state.
  18. Article 51: Promotion of international peace and security: The state shall endeavor to promote international peace and security, maintain just and honorable relations between nations, foster respect for international law and treaty obligations, and encourage the settlement of international disputes by arbitration.

These principles collectively form a framework for governance that emphasizes social justice, economic development, and the overall welfare of the people. While they are not enforceable in courts, they serve as guiding principles for policymaking and legislative action by the government.


The Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) and Fundamental Rights are two crucial components of the Indian Constitution, each serving distinct but interconnected purposes. Here’s a comparison between the two:

  1. Nature:
    • Directive Principles: DPSPs are non-justiciable in nature, meaning they are not enforceable by courts. They provide guidelines and ideals for the government to strive towards but cannot be legally enforced.
    • Fundamental Rights: Fundamental Rights are justiciable, which means they are legally enforceable. They are rights guaranteed to citizens and can be protected and upheld through legal action in courts.
  2. Purpose:
    • Directive Principles: DPSPs aim to guide the state in its policy-making and governance towards achieving a just and equitable society. They focus on social, economic, and political goals such as social justice, education, health, employment, and environmental protection.
    • Fundamental Rights: Fundamental Rights are individual rights guaranteed to citizens to ensure their freedom, dignity, and equality. These rights protect citizens from arbitrary actions by the state and promote personal liberties, equality before the law, and social justice.
  3. Enforceability:
    • Directive Principles: DPSPs are not legally enforceable, meaning citizens cannot directly go to court to enforce these principles against the government.
    • Fundamental Rights: Fundamental Rights are legally enforceable, and citizens can approach the courts if these rights are violated by the state or any other entity.
  4. Democracy and Governance:
    • Directive Principles: DPSPs contribute to the establishment of a welfare state by guiding the government in formulating policies and laws that promote social and economic justice.
    • Fundamental Rights: Fundamental Rights ensure that citizens have certain basic freedoms and protections against state actions that may infringe upon those freedoms. They are essential for upholding democratic principles and protecting individual liberties.
  5. Scope and Coverage:
    • Directive Principles: DPSPs cover a wide range of socio-economic and political objectives, including education, health, employment, social welfare, environmental protection, and cultural preservation.
    • Fundamental Rights: Fundamental Rights cover individual liberties such as the right to equality, the right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to life and personal liberty, the right against exploitation, the right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights, and the right to constitutional remedies.
  6. Hierarchy in Case of Conflict:
    • In case of a conflict between DPSPs and Fundamental Rights, the courts generally give precedence to Fundamental Rights over DPSPs. This is because Fundamental Rights are directly enforceable and form the cornerstone of individual freedoms and protections.

In summary, while Directive Principles provide a framework for governance and societal welfare goals, Fundamental Rights ensure the protection of individual liberties and freedoms. Both are integral to the functioning of a democratic and just society, with Fundamental Rights being legally enforceable and DPSPs serving as guiding principles for government policies and actions.

Criticism of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)

Criticism of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) often revolves around their non-justiciable nature and the challenges associated with their implementation. Here are some common criticisms:

  1. Non-Justiciability:
    • One of the primary criticisms of DPSP is that they are non-justiciable, meaning they cannot be legally enforced by courts. This leads to a lack of accountability as the government is not legally bound to fulfill these principles.
  2. Vagueness and Lack of Clarity:
    • Many DPSPs are criticized for being vague and lacking specificity. They often provide broad guidelines without clear directives on how they should be implemented, leading to ambiguity in policy-making.
  3. Conflict with Fundamental Rights:
    • There can be conflicts between DPSPs and Fundamental Rights, especially when the implementation of DPSPs infringes upon the Fundamental Rights of individuals. Resolving such conflicts becomes challenging due to the non-justiciable nature of DPSPs.
  4. Dependence on Morality:
    • Critics argue that DPSPs rely heavily on moral principles rather than legal enforceability. This raises questions about the practicality and effectiveness of implementing principles that are not legally binding.
  5. Repetition and Overlapping:
    • Some DPSPs are criticized for being repetitive or overlapping with other constitutional provisions or existing laws. This redundancy can lead to confusion and inefficiencies in governance.
  6. Old and Foreign Ideals:
    • Certain DPSPs are based on ideals that are considered outdated or derived from foreign philosophies that may not align with the current socio-economic context of India. Critics argue for the need to update and contextualize these principles.
  7. Lack of Implementation Mechanisms:
    • DPSPs do not specify clear mechanisms or timelines for their implementation. This lack of implementation frameworks can result in delays or ineffective execution of policies aimed at fulfilling DPSP objectives.
  8. Political Promises without Action:
    • Some critics view DPSPs as mere political promises without substantive action. Governments may use DPSPs as rhetoric during elections but fail to translate them into tangible policies and programs.
  9. Need for Legal Enforcement:
    • There are calls for making certain DPSPs justiciable or providing legal mechanisms to ensure their implementation. This would enhance accountability and ensure that governments actively work towards achieving DPSP objectives.


  1. Minerva Mills Ltd. and Ors. v. Union of India (1980): This case dealt with the conflict between Fundamental Rights and DPSPs. The Supreme Court held that Fundamental Rights and DPSPs are complementary and essential for a balanced constitutional scheme. It declared that while DPSPs cannot override Fundamental Rights, they are equally important for achieving socio-economic justice.
  2. Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973): In this landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that DPSPs are fundamental to the governance of the country and cannot be ignored by the government. The case also established the doctrine of basic structure, stating that Parliament cannot amend the Constitution in a way that alters its basic structure, which includes DPSPs.
  3. State of Kerala v. N.M. Thomas (1976): This case addressed the constitutional validity of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, which was challenged on the grounds of violating Article 14 (Right to Equality) and Article 31 (Right to Property). The Supreme Court upheld the Act, emphasizing the importance of DPSPs in promoting social justice and equitable distribution of resources.
  4. Indra Sawhney v. Union of India (1992): Commonly known as the Mandal Commission case, it involved the implementation of reservations in public employment based on caste. The Supreme Court upheld the government’s decision, citing DPSPs such as promoting social justice and equality of opportunity as valid grounds for affirmative action.
  5. Chameli Singh v. State of U.P. (1996): This case focused on the right to education and the state’s obligation to provide free and compulsory education to children under Article 45 of the Constitution (a DPSP). The Supreme Court emphasized the importance of DPSPs in guiding legislative action to achieve social welfare objectives.


In conclusion, Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) play a crucial role in shaping the governance and policy framework of India. While they are non-justiciable, meaning they cannot be enforced by courts, they serve as guiding principles for the government in formulating laws and policies that promote social justice, economic welfare, and overall development. DPSPs complement Fundamental Rights and together form the cornerstone of India’s constitutional ethos.

Criticism of DPSPs often revolves around their non-enforceability and the perception that they are merely moral directives without clear implementation mechanisms. However, their significance lies in providing a roadmap for a just and equitable society, reflecting the ideals and aspirations of the Constitution’s framers.

Recent amendments related to DPSPs would need to be verified from updated legal sources, as my information is current only up to January 2022. Overall, DPSPs remain an integral part of India’s constitutional framework, guiding the state towards fulfilling its responsibilities to its citizens and promoting the common good.

Also Read:Β 
Rights of undertrial prisoners in India
How To Send A Legal Notice In India

Sommya Kashyap
Sommya Kashyap
A law enthusiast


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