Democracy, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity form the bedrock on which our Republic stands. These are the values that form our collective inheritance. These values have been accorded primacy in our Constitution in the form of fundamental rights and fundamental duties of the citizens.

Observance of the fundamental duties mentioned in the Constitution by the citizens creates the proper environment for the enjoyment of fundamental rights. Roughly speaking, duty is an act, that one ought to do. In other words, it is an obligatory act. Duties may either be moral or legal. For example, there is a legal duty upon the owner of a motor vehicle to have valid vehicle insurance.

Since this duty is irrespective of knowledge and negligence it is exclusively legal and not a moral duty. On the other hand, there is no legal duty to refrain from offensive curiosity about one's neighbour, even if the satisfaction of it does them harm. Not stealing is both, one's moral and legal duty. Law enforces the performance of a legal duty or punishes the disregard of it.

To ascribe a duty, man is to claim that he ought to perform a certain act. However, not all acts that a man ought to perform constitute duties. Under Article 51A of the Indian Constitution, 11 Fundamental Duties are enumerated. These duties are important for every citizen of India.

We have been granted Fundamental Rights and it is appropriate to reciprocate by doing our Fundamental Duties with a sense of commitment. With duties, we may contract obligations. A typical example is an obligation that results from making a promise. Our Fundamental Duties clearly state that we must honour the Constitution, and respect the National Flag and National Anthem. We must be patriotic and defend our country. We must not damage public properties. We must preserve our precious natural environment. We must pursue education with a scientific mind. We must avoid violence. We must strive for excellence.

By doing our Fundamental Duties we are building our nation. We are making our communities live in harmony. No matter how diverse we are, we can live in unity. We can live with one another with a spirit of tolerance. Everyone wins if we are carrying out our Fundamental Duties. The sum of it all will result in an ideal citizen, being a great asset to the community and contributing to nation-building.

Fundamental duties were added by the Forty-second Amendment of the Constitution in 1976. Such duties are generally not found in the Constitutions-based Western liberal traditions. They are invariably found in socialist constitutions. But they are also found in non-socialist constitutions. To some extent, their Constitution may also be associated with the cultural traditions of a society.

Thus, Asian and African societies give greater emphasis to duties than Western Societies. Before the inclusion of fundamental duties, it was criticised that, the Constitution ignored the Indian tradition of duties and spoke only about rights[1]. Reference to duties however finds a place even in international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[2].

Inclusion of duties in the Constitution is not found necessary because they can always be imposed by the State in the absence of or consistently with fundamental rights. Their inclusion, however, reminds us that the Constitution presents an integrated scheme of which the fundamental or any other constitutional rights are only a part. The scheme must be so seen as one. Constitution and its scheme envisage responsible citizens.

In that sense, fundamental duties perform an educative role. They also have legal value in the sense that any laws which implement fundamental duties cannot be invalid on the ground of conflict with fundamental rights unless such conflict is irreconcilable. The rights must be reconcilable with duties. The reconciliation may be on the same lines between fundamental rights and directive principles because like them duties also constitute a scheme of rights.

A duty in one citizen implies the rights of other citizens. Thus, the duty to renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of women implies a right in every woman not to be subjected to such practices. The same is the case with other duties[3]. It may be said that duties are not self-executing. The State must make laws for their implementation. In the absence of such laws, for example, a mandamus cannot be sought against an individual who does not observe his duties under Article 51A[4]. But, in appropriate cases, as in Visakha[5], if non-observance of duty by one citizen can be established as a violation of the right of another appropriate remedy may be provided by the courts.

Concerning the duty under clause (a) to Article 51A, it has been held that proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung. It will not be right to say that disrespect is shown by not joining in the singing[6]. Similarly, flying of National Flag freely with respect and dignity is consistent with the duty in clause (a) of Article 51A[7].

While the pandemic was widespread, it was a sacred national duty of every citizen to follow the precautions suggested by our scientists and experts. As our nation is celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav and marching towards Amrit Kaal, we must discharge this duty till the crisis is behind us.

Patriotism strengthens the sense of duty among citizens. Whether you are a lawyer or doctor, a shopkeeper or office worker, a sanitation employee or labourer, doing one's duty well and efficiently is the first and foremost contribution you make to the nation.

Only if we express our affection and gratitude to our nation, we can emerge as a strong and sensitive new India. All of us must serve our place of birth and our country in whatever way we can. If all our work is sincerely for the development of our birthplaces, then the whole country will benefit from the outcome of such local development. India is an ancient civilisation but a young republic.

For us, nation-building is a constant endeavour. We should be confident that India is better placed today to meet the challenges of the future. The moral value of fundamental duties would not be to smoothen rights but to establish a democratic balance by making people conscious of their duties equally as they are conscious of their rights.

The author is an alumnus of NLIU, Bhopal and the University of Mysore. He is an independent researcher and author of many books.

[The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Verdictum does not assume any responsibility or liability for the contents of the article.]

[1]Kane, P. V. (1962). History of Dharmasastra (Ancient and Medieval Religious and civil law in India)-Vol V, Part II. pp. 1664-65.

[2]See Article 29 of UDHR read with Preamble to the ICCPR

[3]Union of India v. Naveen Jindal, (2004) 2 SCC 510

[4]Surya Narain v. Union of India, AIR 1982 Raj 1

[5]Visakha v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1997 SC 3011

[6]Bijoe Emmanuel v. State of Kerala, AIR 1987 SC 748

[7]Union of India v. Naveen Jindal, (2004) 2 SCC 510