This article is written by Mohammad Sahil Khan of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya, National Law University, Lucknow. The article explains the difference between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy under the Constitution of India, with landmark case laws.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Table of Contents


The Preamble of the Indian Constitution states that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic. Being a democratic republic, India confers certain Fundamental Rights to its citizens and some rights to the non-citizens of the country. Fundamental Rights are the rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution of India to safeguard the interests of the people.

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Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) are certain principles which are given to the institutes of the State in order to carry out effective governance of the country. Unlike, Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles are not enforceable by the courts of law. However, it does not imply that they do not have any significance; they are fundamental guidelines which the State should follow for effective governance.

Fundamental Rights 

Fundamental Rights are guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution of India. Articles 12 to 35 of the Constitution of India deal with the various Fundamental Rights. Fundamental Rights are not absolute in nature (reasonable restrictions can be imposed), yet it is useful in providing justice to the people. The power of the rights can be gauzed by the fact that a person can directly approach the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.

Origin of Fundamental Rights

In order to understand the needs of the Fundamental Rights, it is pertinent to understand its origin. 

  • The seed of Fundamental Rights was sown in the Swaraj Bill of 1895, which talked about the concept of Freedom of Speech, Right to Privacy and other such concepts.
  • England Bill of Rights (1689), United States of Bill Rights (1791), and France Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789) were some of the concepts that gave inception to the thought of having Fundamental Rights in place. 
  • The brutal acts committed by the Britishers under the Rowlatt Act, 1919; further paved the way for having Fundamental Rights to save the people from the injustice that was meted out to them. 
  • Further, the Nehru Commission of 1928 discussed the need of having certain rights which were deemed fundamental and people at the same time, we’re also intrigued by the independence of Ireland. The Directive Policy of Ireland particularly impressed people and they wanted whenever the self-government of India would be formed, they should follow in the footsteps of Ireland’s directive policies.  
  • Eventually, Fundamental Rights were incorporated in the first draft of the Constitution which was prepared by the Drafting Committee, whose chairman was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. After the first draft, Fundamental Rights were included in the second and third drafts as well and finally into the present Constitution.

Rights provided under Part III of the Constitution

Right to Equality (Articles 14-18)w

Articles 14 to 18 of the Constitution of India are all about the concept of the Right to Equality. Right to Equality means that everyone should be treated equally before the law thereby preventing discrimination on the grounds of caste, creed, religion, sex, and place of birth. The concept also talks about providing equal opportunity for employment to all people and abolishing untouchability and titles.

Right to Freedom (Articles 19-22)

Articles 19 to 22 give citizens the right to live their lives with dignity. Some of the basic rights such as Freedom of Speech and Expression, Freedom to Form Associations, etc; are essential in maintaining human dignity. These rights are consciously introduced in the Constitution to provide freedom to individuals which were curtailed in the pre-independence era. 

Right against Exploitation (Articles 23-24)

Articles 23 and 24 of the Constitution prohibit human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children. Begar, slavery and any other form of forced labour is prohibited under the Constitution. Right against Exploitation also prohibits employment of children aged below 14 in hazardous activities; such as factories or mines. 

Right to Freedom of Religion (Articles 25-28)

Right to Freedom of Religion is not only available to individuals but also to religious groups. This Fundamental Right provides for freedom of practising religion to various religious groups and individuals. This guarantees the freedom of conscience, freedom to practice, profess and practice religion to all the citizens. The Article provides for a provision that the State can make laws in order to regulate and restrict any financial, economic, or secular activity in association with any religion. Under this Fundamental Right, religious institutions are allowed to form and maintain their religious institutions, they can acquire any moveable and immovable property and these properties must be administered in accordance with the law.

Cultural and Educational Rights (Articles 29-30)

This Fundamental Right has been exclusively included for linguistic and religious minorities in order to safeguard the interests of linguistic and religious minorities. India is known for its vast diversity and in order to protect it, it is pertinent to provide some safeguards to linguistic and religious minorities. Cultural and Educational Rights provide an avenue for linguistic and religious minorities to protect, preserve and propagate their culture. The right provides that all religious and linguistic minorities can establish and administer the educational institutions and the State cannot deny admission to any individual on the basis of caste, creed, religion, etc.

Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32-35)

Right to Constitutional Remedies (Articles 32 to 35) empowers the citizens to move to a court of law in case of any denial of the Fundamental Rights. For example: If any citizen is imprisoned, he has the right to move the court to ensure that imprisonment was made as per legal provision by lodging a Public Interest Litigation (PIL). If it comes out that the imprisonment was not as per the procedure established by law or was in contravention of any legal provision then the court can issue various kinds of writs in order to protect the citizen.

Directive Principles of State Policy

Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) are the principles or guidelines mentioned in Part IV of the Constitution. Directive Principles of State Policy of India have been adopted from the Irish Constitution, influenced by the Irish National Movement especially Irish Home Rule Movement. Articles 36-51 discuss various Directive Principles of State Policy. Directive Principles of State Policy, unlike Fundamental Rights, are not enforceable in a court of law, but that does not undermine their importance. Despite not being enforceable, DPSPs are extremely important as they give certain guidelines to the State for carrying out effective governance. 

Directive Principles of State Policy are highly inspired by the concepts of social justice, foreign policy and economic welfare. The need for these principles in India stems from the fact that the people of the country were highly inspired by the independence of Ireland from the control of Britishers. The Indian people who were striving for independence looked up to Irish Constitution and they wanted to adopt a similar model of governance, once the country achieved independence. Looking at the diversity and vastness of India, people felt the Irish Constitution should be emulated in India as well because it comprehensively tackled social and economic challenges. DPSPs look for the welfare of the citizens by providing them with good social and economic conditions.

Significance of Directive Principles of State Policy

  • Directive Principles of State Policy strive to promote the social, and economic welfare of the individuals by securing social order. They work towards promoting the concepts of equality, liberty and justice which are enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution.
  • Swaying away from the colonial period, which was referred to as a “police state,” to a modern “welfare state,” where there is a social democracy.
  • Although DPSPs are not enforceable in a court of law, still they are instrumental in establishing the constitutional viability of a law. The Supreme Court has ruled that if a law is in question regarding its constitutional viability then if it seeks to give effect to Directive Principles of State Policy then the law might be held constitutional in relation to Article 14 of the Constitution.  

Type of Directive Principles of State Policy

Articles 36-51 elucidate everything regarding the Directive Principles of State Policy. The essence of DPSPs is divided into four core principles:

1. Socialistic Principles

Socialistic principles are aimed at tackling complex social and economic issues and look to pave a model pathway toward a modern welfare state.

  • Article 38: Under Article 38 the aim is to secure a social order throughout the country by using tools of social, economic and political justice. Reducing income inequality, status imbalance and other social issues are at the core of this principle.
  • Article 39: This Article aims at securing adequate means of livelihood for the citizens by providing equitable material resources to everyone, and striving for equal work pay for both men and women. This DPSP is also beneficial in preventing the concentration of wealth and also looks for the healthy development of children. Article 39A gives out guidelines for promoting equal justice and providing free legal aid to the poor.
  • Article 41: Article 41 relates to the discussion regarding unemployment. The core value of this article is to provide the Right to Work, Right to Education and Right to Public Assistance in cases of unemployment, old age and sickness.
  • Article 42: This Article guides the State to make provisions regarding just and humane working conditions for workers. The Article extends such provisions for maternity relief as well.
  • Article 43: Like Articles 41, and 42; this Article also lays emphasis on workers. Under this article, the State is guided to give a decent living standard and social and cultural opportunities to workers. Article 43A seeks to increase the participation of workers in various industries.
  • Article 47: In its effort to further the cause of social justice, Article 47 talks about raising the levels of nutrition and the standard of public health.

2. Gandhian Principles

Principles under this part of Directive Principles of State Policy are dedicated to the ‘Father of Nation’ Mahatma Gandhi. The principles mentioned in this Part are closely associated with Gandhian ideology that seeks a plan of reconstruction that Gandhiji has preached during the National Movement.

  • Article 40: Village panchayats have been touted as a self-government authority under the Article. The Article preaches that village panchayats should be given some powers to function as independent authorities.
  • Article 43: As was popular in the Gandhian era, the concept of promoting cottage industry, same has been iterated under Article 43 of the Directive Principles of State Policy. Article 43 B is all about promoting autonomous functioning, and professional management of cooperative societies.
  • Article 46: This Article is dedicated to weaker sections of the society or rather communities that have been through various oppressions. Educational and economic interests of SC, STs and other weaker sections have been propagated under the article. The State has been guided to ensure that there is no social injustice and exploitation against the weaker sections.
  • Article 47: The State should work to prohibit the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are harmful to health.
  • Article 48: Slaughtering of cattle should be prohibited and work should be done for improving their breeds.

3. Liberal Intellectual Principles

The ideology of liberalism has been reflected in the Liberal Intellectual Principles.

  • Article 44: A much talked and deliberated article is Article 44 of DPSP. Article 44 talks about Uniform Civil Code (UCC). Article 44 states that the State shall endeavour to secure a secure uniform civil code throughout the territory of India. Goa has often been referred to as a ‘shining example’ of the Uniform Civil Code, in fact, it is the only state in India that has UCC.
  • Article 45: This Article can be seen with reference to Article 21A. Article 45 states that the State should provide early childhood care and education to children up till they complete the age of fourteen years.
  • Article 48: Agriculture and animal husbandry shall be organised on the scientific lines.
  • Article 49: Monuments, places and objects of historic and artistic importance should be protected to conserve the heritage of the country.
  • Article 50: Article 50 is about the separation of the judiciary from the executive when it comes to the public service of the State.
  • Article 51: Under Article 51, international peace and security should be promoted; there should be an honourable relation between nations. International disputes should be settled by means of arbitration and there should be respect and obligation of international treaties.

Difference between fundamental rights and directive principles

1. Part in the Constitution in which they are mentioned 

Fundamental Rights are mentioned in Part III of the Constitution while Directive Principles of State Policy are mentioned in Part IV of the Constitution. Articles 12-35 refer to Fundamental Rights while Article 36-51 refers to Directive Principles of State Policy.

2. Nature 

Fundamental Rights in its essence are negative in nature simply because they prohibit the State from taking any action which may violate the Fundamental Rights of the citizen. They are referred to as ‘negative’ because a claim made by an individual imposes a negative duty on all other people. For example: If the Right to Privacy is claimed by an individual, then it imposes a whole set of negative duties on all other individuals to not breach it.

Unlike Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy are positive in nature as it requires the State to do certain things as opposed to restricting State. For example, under DPSPs, State has been suggested to enact a Uniform Civil Code throughout the country. This is positive in a sense as it allows the State to take certain actions.

3. Democracy type

Fundamental Rights ensure political democracy as they prevent the establishment of a despotic or an authoritarian government in the country and ensure that the liberties of people are protected from any invasion by the State.

Directive Principles of State Policy help in maintaining social and economic democracy as it ensures that the State shall maintain social order by promoting economic, social and political justice throughout the country.

4. Adaption Source

The Fundamental Rights of India have been adapted from the Constitution of the United States of America.

Directive Principles of State Policy have been highly inspired by the Irish Constitution. The independence of Ireland from the clutch of Britain highly motivated people to look up to the Irish Constitution for inspiration.

5. Consequences of violation

If the Fundamental Rights of an individual are violated then it is considered to be a punishable offence because Fundamental Rights are enforceable by law. Upon violation, legal proceedings can be initiated and punishment can be given as per provisions mentioned under the Indian laws.

Since Directive Principles of State Policy are not enforceable by law and are mere guidelines, their violation is not an offence and cannot be awarded punishment for their violation.

6. Touchstone for laws

If a law is passed by the Parliament, such that it tends to violate certain aspects of Fundamental Rights, High Courts and Supreme Court in such cases can declare these kinds of laws or amendments as unconstitutional.

Any law or amendment made or initiated by the Parliament that does not adhere to the guidelines mentioned in DPSPs, in such cases High Courts and Supreme Court do not hold power to declare these laws as unconstitutional.

7. Individualistic or collective

Fundamental Rights are individualistic in nature as they are instrumental in preserving the rights and welfare of citizens in an individualistic manner. For example; if the Right to Freedom of Speech of an individual is curbed; Constitution ensures that such right is made available to the aggrieved person.

Directive Principles of State Policy are more collective in nature because DPSP focuses on promoting the welfare of the entire society or community of the country in a collective manner. For example, under DPSP; State has been suggested to employ village panchayats as a self-governing authority to look after the welfare of people in toto.

8. Suspension

Fundamental Rights can be suspended only in case of Emergency under Article 359 of the Constitution by the President. However, Fundamental Rights which are mentioned in Articles 20 and 21 cannot be suspended even during an emergency.

Directive Principles of State Policy can never be suspended, even during an emergency.

Landmark cases dealing with fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy 

State of Madras v. Srimathi Champakam Dorairajan  [1951] 

Ratio Decidendi: The court of law ruled that while Fundamental Rights are enforceable, Directive Principles of State Policy is not enforceable. Therefore, Fundamental Rights will prevail over DPSP. Further, it was added that DPSP would run as a subsidiary to Fundamental Rights. 

Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union  of India [2008]

Ratio Decidendi: The Apex Court in this case held that both Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy go hand in hand.  Fundamental Rights deal with political and civil rights whereas DPSP deals with social and economic rights. The Court adjudged that the non-enforceability of DPSP does not make it subordinate to Fundamental Rights. 

Minerva Mills v. Union of India [1980]

Ratio Decidendi: The court ruled that Fundamental Rights are the means to end rather than end in themselves. It was decided that Article 31 (C) would be protected only if it is made to implement the directive in Article 39 (b) and (c) and not in any other DPSP. 

Re: The Kerala Education Bill [1958]

Ratio Decidendi: Doctrine of Harmonious Construction was propounded in this case in order to avoid conflict between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. It was further held that when there is only one interpretation of the law then one with Fundamental Rights should be considered over DPSP but if there are two interpretations of a law then one which validates the law should be considered.

Pathumma v. State of Kerala [1978]

Ratio Decidendi: The purpose of DPSP was highlighted in this case and it was stated that DPSP plays an important role in fixing socio-economic goals. The combination of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy should be maintained, as has been declared in this judgement. 


If we look at both Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy, both have been extremely instrumental in the governance of the country ever since the independence of India. The concept of Fundamental Right in the United States of America and Directive Principles from the Constitution of Ireland has been borrowed in true essence. Both have served well in the governance of the country but when we compare both of them hand in hand Directive Principles of State Policy falls short in comparison to Fundamental Rights.

While Fundamental Right is more objective and has more imposing value, Directive Principles of State Policy in some ways are subjective because it is a kind of moral obligation which the State may or may not implement up to their discretion. Fundamental Rights are aimed at empowering people as it prohibits the State from taking extreme steps which is necessary for a democracy to survive. On the other hand, Directive Principles of State Policy empowers the State to take action for the welfare of the country which is needed because India is a vast country and it is extremely pertinent to maintain social, economic and political justice throughout the country. Despite differences, both cannot be seen as exclusive from each other; rather they should complement each other for effective governance of the country.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Under which part of the Constitution, Fundamental Rights are mentioned?

Fundamental Rights are mentioned under Part III of the Constitution of India.

Which part of the Constitution deals with Directive Principles of State Policy?

Directive Principles of State Policy are mentioned under Part IV of the Constitution of India.

From which country’s Constitution, Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy have been borrowed?

Fundamental Rights are borrowed from the Constitution of the USA, while Directive Principles of State Policy have been borrowed from the Irish Constitution.

What are the six types of Fundamental Rights mentioned in part III of the Constitution?

1. Right to Equality. 2. Right to Freedom. 3. Right against Exploitation. 4. Right to Freedom of Religion. 5. Cultural and Educational Rights. 6. Right to Constitutional Remedies.

Are Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy enforceable?

Fundamental Rights are enforceable but Directive Principles of State Policy are not enforceable.

Why are Fundamental Rights important?

Fundamental Rights are important because they protect the freedom and liberties of citizens against the State.

What is the role of Directive Principles of State Policy?

Directive Principles of State Policy provide guidelines to the State for effective governance of the country.

What is Uniform Civil Code?

Uniform Civil Code calls for the formulation and implementation of personal laws which would be followed by all the religious communities. 



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