Isn’t It Time We Abolished “Fundamental Duties”?

One thing has bothered me no end about the Indian Constitution – the concept of fundamental duties. Every Indian I know takes it for granted that because we have “fundamental rights”, we should have “fundamental duties”. As if one is a counterbalance to the other. As if we require a certain moral responsibility to counteract the privilege of receiving certain rights.

"Rights" do NOT have to be earned!

"Rights" do NOT have to be earned!

These so-called “fundamental duties” occupy a curious position in the Constitution. They are not laws in the normal sense of the word. There is no punishment or penalty for violating them. Many of them are ridiculously vague such as the injunction to “strive for excellence”. Suppose I don’t want to strive for excellence? What if I’m perfectly content the way I am and with the way my life is going? Am I less of a citizen of India? Should I leave the country? What the hell does it mean?

This dangerous concept of fundamental duties has poisoned the minds of Indians. It has made  them feel that the state is doing them a favor by giving them a set of fundamental rights. Indians do not feel entitled to their rights. They look on them as privileges at best – something that must be paid for through a kind of moral obligation.

Think for a moment how absurd the concept is. Suppose you and I have a contract. The terms of the contract are quite specific laying down what I’m supposed to do, what you’re supposed to do and what consequences will arise if either of us violates the agreement. Now imagine that I come up to you and say “This contract is all very well. But guess what? You also have a moral obligation to do this, and this, and this! It’s not there in the contract. There are no penalties or consequences for you not doing them. But I’d like you to do them any way!”

Wouldn’t you laugh in my face?

As citizens of India, we have a contract with the state. The state guarantees our fundamental rights like freedom of expression etc., provides us with facilities such as a police force, printed currency, and certain public amenities. In return we agree to pay our taxes and follow the laws. Nothing else. We have no other obligation. There is no other “moral duty”.

And yet, many Indians will trot out the standard dialogue of “with freedom comes responsibility” as if we are not already paying the price with our taxes and by following the law. Let me be clear here – I have NO moral obligation to India or to any other country I live in other than the bare terms of the social contract. I do not view my fundamental rights as privileges. They are RIGHTS. I pay for them. And I demand them. Don’t come to me and try and tell me that I have to exercise my rights “responsibly” from a legal point of view. I might indeed choose to restrict the use of my rights – but that is my choice and my choice alone. No one, least of all the government, has the right to claim otherwise.

So what do you think this absurd concept of fundamental duties means? Isn’t it time we got together and abolished them? To my knowledge, no other free country has such a nebulous, and purposely vague set of injunctions meant to make a population of citizens feel guilty and privileged. Why should we have it?

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Comments

  1. Reema says:

    Hmm you have raised an interesting point..food for thought.

  2. What better way to keep a population in control then curtail their rights by non binding reminders of some vague duties :\

  3. Lara Prerna says:

    I agree with you about the duties. They are really stupid. I would really go a step further. I have no contract whatsoever with my State/Country/Government. I am a citizen merely because I was born here and I had no choice in that. I have my rights by my birth alone just as anybody else, and not because my State/Country/Government gave them to me.

    It is another matter that some States have usurped the rights of their citizens. All I can say to this is that I am lucky that I am born in a country where my rights (at least some of them) are not usurped by the State. But that does not mean that I owe anything to my country the way JFK meant. Obviously, he did not understand what he was saying.

    lp

    • bhagwad says:

      That’s true. None of us chose to be born where we are and none of us were given a choice as to whether or not we wanted to be bound by the laws etc.

  4. Lara Prerna says:

    Addendum

    If a State cannot ensure safety, liberty and justice to its citizens without a quid pro quo, what is the need for a State at all?

    As far as ethics is concerned, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a simple enough maxim that is understood by every human being. And it is the “duty” of the state to see that it is followed.

    lp

  5. anil shetty says:

    according to me in every case duty comes first and then rights. You pay the tax and claim ur rights. But how can u exchange fundamental rights for money? Let’s say I m saying I have a freedom of speech I paid tax to get it but at the same time I have the moral responsibility use this right to speech. If i do a hatred speech law will punish me. You pay money and buy a computer it comes with a manual to operate, you can’t use however u want. There r certain things u need to follow. Similarly u pay tax n get ur rights but it comes with a manual which talks about moral responsibility.

    • bhagwad says:

      Sorry – what is that manual? There is only one manual. The law. “Duties” are not my manual. It’s just sermonizing. And if I buy a computer, I can do whatever I want with it – even break it with a hammer. Because I bought it. It belongs to me.

      “Duties” are just an excuse invented by the Indian government to control you for free to try and make you feel grateful for your rights which belong to you by default. No other free country has them.

  6. Gopal Shankar Prasad says:

    Fundamental Duties as enshrined in Article 51 A of the Constitution of India simply work as reminders to the citizens to be aware of certain things relating to the fact that whatever be the circumference of law, at the centre of it is morality.It is just to show you the kernel hidden in the husk of your rights and obligations.

  7. ThE dEcIdEr says:

    I THINK OUR GOVERNMENT SHOULD REMOVE LINES FROM RELEVANT CHAPTER .THEN MAKE IT NECESSARY FOR THE CITIZENS OF INDIA TO ABIDE IT .I THINK WE SHOULD NOT ACT LIKE CUSTOMERS AND NEITHER GOVERNMENT SHOULD ACT LIKE A SHOPKEEPER.IT IS NECESSARY FOR US TO HAVE RESPECT FOR OUR MOTHERLAND.IF IN SOMEWAY CONSTITUTION IS TRYING IS TRYING TO MAKE US TO RESPECT HER WE SHOULD NOT FEEL GUILTY IN IT .

    • bhagwad says:

      Except that we are customers. We shop around with all the countries to find out which one gives us the best deals, laws, taxes, and freedoms.

  8. mAk says:

    hm.. Yes, FR’s are our RIGHT, and even if you are not capable to paying taxes, you still get them, with no exception. FD’s are just given for people to understand what being citizen of a democratic country means. To highlight the principals of democracy, and this is done by including them in the constitution. If you still have a doubt, try to look at it from the success of Right to Education. It was earlier just a Directive principle for state policy, now its a fundamental right. Just because it was their. Politicians and public can no longer ignore it. And thinking that these duties will be enforced by law in future would be height of analogy.

  9. Dipin says:

    There was a time when the so called fundamental rights couldn’t be bought for money or even demanded. If our freedom fighters had taken the stance of not being morally obliged towards our country, we wouldn’t be having these basic fundamental rights. Moral obligation is not a duty. It is an expression of gratitude towards our freedom fighters. This post reflects the change in attitude of the people compared to some seventy years back.

    • bhagwad says:

      The freedom fighters were Indians too. They were fighting for their own rights as well. It wasn’t some charity case where they selflessly sacrificed themselves. If I was living in those times, I would be a freedom fighter too. Because the fundamental rights I demanded would apply to me as well.

  10. Srinivasan says:

    No. It is irresponsible for a citizen to not strive for excellence or to not abide by our fundamental duties. Our country is always in competition with other countries of the world. If we slow our progress or dont care about it, then other countries will overtake us. The disadvantages of not striving for excellence or not being patriotic (taking pride in and defending our land and people ) are multi-faceted – If our people do not work hard and do good business, our economy will suffer leading to people becoming poorer ; If our armies are not strong and not keeping up with current technology the country will become weak and prone to foreign invasions. We all know what happened the last time the country was conquered by the British- they oppressed us, disunited us, and exploited our resources for the good of their own country and even forced our soldiers born to Indian mothers to fight their wars. We cannot allow that to happen once again. Thus it certainly is our duty to fight for progress and strive for excellence to prevent other countries from enslaving us.
    I realize that what i say might be hard to understand, so i suggest the following situation to help you understand better:
    You belong to a tribe of 10 people in the jungle. There are rival tribes in the jungle also with approximately same no. of people per tribe. Now when you stay with your tribe and do your duties such as hunting for food, gathering wood, building shelters etc. you will be an integral part of the tribe, and other members of the tribe will help you with all their heart when you are sick or hurt and will fight for you when you are attacked by a foreigner from another tribe. But what if you say, i deserve these rights and dont need to work for them but just sit around all day and do nothing . When you are attacked, why should anyone from your tribe even raise a finger to protect you ?
    Always remember, human rights are not a guarantee to anyone. People all around the world are being sold into brothels through the flesh trade and other horrifying practices such as child labour in factories. We must work hard and perform the duties of an Indian to enjoy these rights.

    • bhagwad says:

      Either something is illegal or its not. Moralizing means nothing. We can simply ignore the fundamental duties and not go to jail. In which case, there’s no point in having them cluttering up the Constitution.

      In any case, I don’t agree that it’s irresponsible to “not strive for excellence”. If I want to live a useless life doing nothing, that is my right. I have no legal obligation to do squat.

      I already hold up my part of the bargain by following the laws, spending money (thus giving business to others), and paying my taxes. All of these are legal obligations. I don’t have to do anything more.

      My fundamental rights on the other hand, are guaranteed legal rights. Nowhere does it say that I lose my fundamental rights if I don’t follow the fundamental duties. I challenge you to show me where that is written.

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