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During hearing of plea to enforce fundamental duties, Attorney General Venugopal objects to petition

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Attorney General K.K. Venugopal has objected to a writ petition which has been filed in “Public Interest” seeking directions to enforce fundamental duties and steps to sensitise citizens about their duties.

Appearing before the bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh, the AG submitted that “tremendous amount of work” has been done by the Ministry of Law and Justice to create awareness about fundamental duties, which is available on the website of Ministry of Justice.

The bench noted the objections raised by the Attorney General in its order and said, “We had issued notice in a very narrow compass for the government to inform about the steps, if any, taken in pursuance of the judgment of the SC in Hon’ble Shri Ranganath Mishra v. Union of India.” 

The AG submitted that the prayer to enact a law to enforce duties is not maintainable at all as no mandamus can be issued by the Court to Parliament. During the course of proceedings, the Bench was notified that Solicitor General is also appearing on behalf of the Union of India and he would like to file a counter-affidavit on record, which was granted.

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The bench has directed the Respondent to file the needful within 4 weeks and if any State desires to join as party to this case, the same needs to be done within 4 weeks and if any Rejoinder needs to be filed, the same shall be done within 2 weeks. The Court would hear the matter on first miscellaneous week of July 2022, post the summer recess.

The bench was hearing a plea for making a comprehensive law ensuring adherence to fundamental duties enshrined in the Constitution by citizens. 

It also seeks framing of guidelines for taking appropriate adequate steps to sensitise the people and spread general awareness among the citizens in relation to performance of fundamental duties under the Constitution of India. 

The petitioner sought to address the issue of existing laws being inadequate for ensuring performance of fundamental duties. It aims at issuing directions to protect and safeguard fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 & 21 of the Constitution of India along with the fundamental duties.

It seeks directions from Court to frame guidelines for regulation and effective implementation of Fundamental Duties in exercise of the plenary and extraordinary power of this Court under Article 32 and 142 of the Constitution until the scheme in this regard is formalized by the Respondents.

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The cause of action arose on 26.11.2019 on 70th Anniversary of the adoption of the Indian Constitution decided to launch a year-long nation-wide programme focusing on the duties of a citizen. The cause of action further arose on 10.02.2020 and 22.02.2020 when the former Chief Justices of India Ranjan Gogoi and S.A. Bode emphasized the importance of the fundamental duties of every citizen at various public forums.

Fundamental duties are defined as the moral obligations of all citizens to help promote a spirit of patriotism and to uphold the unity of India. These duties set out in Part IV–A of the Constitution, concern individuals and the nation. Though they serves as a constant reminder to every citizen of their democratic conduct and behaviour.

The need to enforce fundamental duties arises due to new illegal trend of protest by the protesters in the garb of freedom of speech and expression, by way of blocking of road and rail routes, in order to compel the Government to meet their demands. The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic also witnessed certain incidents, which show that we tend to forget that there are a set of sacrosanct moral obligation upon the citizens to adhere to the Fundamental Duties towards other citizens and towards the nation.

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“In our Constitution, there is no provision for enforceability of the fundamental duties of citizens, neither a uniform policy for enforcement of fundamental duties. If the special provisions are not incorporated in the Constitution of India or Special Act is not enacted for enforcement of fundamental duties, serious prejudice might be caused to the public at large.”

The petitioner has also highlighted the reasons for filing the petition:

• The need to enforce fundamental duties has arisen due to illegal trend of protest in the name of freedom of speech and expression, by way of blocking of road and rail routes in to compel the Government to meet their demands.

• The fundamental duties shall serve as a constant reminder of our national goals and a profound sense of social responsibility towards the nation.

• It is necessary that every citizen should remember their fundamental duties in the same way as they remember their fundamental rights.

• The most advanced democracies of the world have given due importance and recognition to the concept of duties.

• The insertion of Article 51-A was in a way necessary and a need of the time as it is means to hit a balance between civic rights, libertiesand freedoms and civic obligations.

• There is a pressing need to enforce and implement at least some of the fundamental duties to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.

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Contentions and Grounds

On April 6,2020, the Supreme Court invoked its powers under Article 142 to step away from conventional open court hearings and switch to video conferencing. This was not a matter of discretion but a matter of duty, it was a reminder for citizens to commit to performance of duties along with enjoying the protection of fundamental rights.

The addition of Article 51-A brings our Constitution in line with Article 29(1) of the UDHR, 1948.

Justice J.S. Verma Committee for working and implementation of fundamental duties strongly recommended that foremost step required by the Union and state government to sensitize people regarding the provisions of fundamental duties.

Former Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra wrote a letter to CJI issuing necessary directions to state for educating the citizens about fundamental duties. The Court directed the Central government to take appropriate steps for implementation of FD in WP no. 239 of 1998 (2203 supp2 SCR 59).

The petitioner has also relied on leading cases in reference to Rational Nexus between the fundamental rights and fundamental duties & enforcement of fundamental duties.

• Sarbananda Sonowal v. UOI, the court relied on 51-A(d) for holding that a citizen can bring an act to the notice of the court if it is for the protection and welfare of illegal immigrants.

• Vellore citizens welfare forum v. UOI, (1996) 5 SCC 647; and M.C Mehta v. UOI, (1997) 3 SCC 715; Court recognized the Precautionary Principle and polluter pays principle as an essential part of sustainable development.

• AIIMS Students Union v. AIIMS &ors; Court observed that FD are the collective duties of citizens and the states and state must ensure by sanctions that citizens abide by them.

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• P.M Bharghava v. University Grants Commission; It was held that decision to introduce vedic astrology is not in conflict with Article-51A.

• Vineet Narain Case, (1998) 1 SCC S226.

Case Name- Durga Dutt Bs Union of India & Ors. 

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