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Directive Principles of State Policy: A Guide for IAS Aspirants



The Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) are a set of guidelines or principles enshrined in Part IV (Articles 36 to 51) of the Constitution of India. They aim at ensuring socio-economic justice to the people and establishing India as a welfare state. They are not legally enforceable by the courts, but they are fundamental in the governance of the country and the state is duty-bound to apply them in making laws and policies.


The DPSP are derived from various sources, such as the Irish Constitution, the Spanish Constitution, the Gandhian philosophy, the socialist ideology, and the western liberal thought.


They reflect the vision and aspirations of the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution and the ideals of the national movement.


Here, we will discuss the following aspects of the DPSP:

  • Constitutional Provisions

  • Features of DPSP

  • Nature of DPSP

  • Classification of DPSP

  • Socialist Principles

  • Gandhian Principles

  • Western Liberal Principles

  • Uniform Civil Code

  • DPSP Outside Part IV

  • Amendments to the DPSP

  • Difference between Fundamental Rights and DPSP

  • Cases Related to Fundamental Rights and DPSP

  • Implementation of DPSP

  • Criticism of DPSP

  • Prelims and Mains Questions with Answers


Constitutional Provisions


The constitutional provisions related to the DPSP are as follows:

  • Article 36 defines the state as the same as in Part III (Fundamental Rights).

  • Article 37 states that the DPSP are not enforceable by any court, but they are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws.

  • Article 38 directs the state to strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.

  • Article 39 lays down certain principles of policy to be followed by the state, such as adequate means of livelihood, equitable distribution of resources, prevention of concentration of wealth, equal pay for equal work, protection of workers, and prevention of exploitation of children and youth.

  • Article 39A mandates the state to provide free legal aid and ensure equal justice and opportunity for all.

  • Article 40 directs the state to organise village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.

  • Article 41 requires the state to make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement.

  • Article 42 enjoins the state to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.

  • Article 43 obliges the state to endeavour to secure to 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.

  • Article 43A empowers the state to take steps to secure the participation of workers in the management of industries.

  • Article 43B directs the state to promote co-operative societies.

  • Article 44 urges the state to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.

  • Article 45 directs the state to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.

  • Article 46 instructs the state to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, especially the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

  • Article 47 imposes on the state the duty to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and to improve public health.

  • Article 48 directs the state to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.

  • Article 48A mandates the state to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

  • Article 49 imposes on the state the obligation to 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 from spoliation, disfigurement, destruction, removal, disposal or export.

  • Article 50 requires the state to take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the state.

  • Article 51 enjoins the state to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations, to promote international peace and security, to maintain just and honourable relations with other nations, to encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration, to renounce the use of nuclear weapons, and to strive towards the abolition of war.


Features of DPSP


The main features of the DPSP are as follows:

  • They are non-justiciable, which means they are not legally enforceable by the courts for their violation. However, the Supreme Court has held that they are not mere pious declarations, but they have a binding effect on the state and the courts can issue directions or orders for their implementation in certain cases.

  • They are fundamental in the governance of the country, which means they are essential for the attainment of the objectives of the Constitution and the establishment of a welfare state. They also serve as a check on the arbitrary exercise of power by the state and a guide for the interpretation of the Constitution and other laws.

  • They are flexible, which means they can be amended or modified by the Parliament by a simple majority of its total membership and a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting. They can also be added, deleted or altered by a constitutional amendment under Article 368.

  • They are comprehensive, which means they cover a wide range of topics and issues relating to the social, economic and political aspects of the nation. They also reflect the diversity and complexity of the Indian society and the aspirations and ideals of the people.

  • They are harmonious, which means they are not contradictory or inconsistent with each other or with the Fundamental Rights. They are complementary and supplementary to each other and aim at achieving a balance between the individual rights and the social welfare.


Nature of DPSP


The nature of the DPSP can be understood from the following points:

  • They are positive obligations on the state, which means they impose a duty on the state to take affirmative action and adopt measures to fulfil the goals and values embodied in them. They are not negative or prohibitive in nature, unlike the Fundamental Rights, which put limitations on the state.

  • They are aspirational and visionary, which means they express the hopes and desires of the people and the vision and ideals of the Constitution-makers. They are not static or rigid, but dynamic and progressive, and they evolve with the changing needs and circumstances of the society.

  • They are political and moral, which means they are based on the political and moral philosophy of the Constitution and the principles of natural justice and human dignity. They are not legal or technical, but ethical and humanitarian, and they appeal to the conscience and wisdom of the state and the people.

  • They are supplementary and ancillary, which means they are not independent or self-contained, but dependent and ancillary to the other provisions of the Constitution and the laws made by the state. They are not exhaustive or exclusive, but illustrative and inclusive, and they do not exclude the possibility of other principles or policies being adopted by the state.


Classification of DPSP


The DPSP can be classified into three categories on the basis of their ideological source and objectives. These are:

  • Socialist Principles: These principles aim at establishing a socialistic pattern of society, where there is no exploitation of man by man and where there is social and economic justice for all. They are inspired by the socialist ideology and the principles of democratic socialism. They include Articles 38, 39, 39A, 41, 42, 43, 43A and 47.

  • Gandhian Principles: These principles aim at promoting the Gandhian philosophy and the ideals of the national movement, such as village self-government, prohibition, protection of cow and other animals, promotion of cottage industries, upliftment of the weaker sections, etc. They are inspired by the teachings and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi and the Gandhian way of life. They include Articles 40, 43, 46, 47 and 48.

  • Western Liberal Principles: These principles aim at securing the western liberal values and the principles of natural law, such as individual liberty, equality, fraternity, human rights, international peace, etc. They are inspired by the western liberal thought and the principles of natural justice. They include Articles 44, 45, 48A, 49, 50 and 51.


Socialist Principles


The socialist principles are those principles that aim at establishing a socialistic pattern of society, where there is no exploitation of man by man and where there is social and economic justice for all. They are inspired by the socialist ideology and the principles of democratic socialism. They include the following articles:


Article 38: It directs the state to strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life. It also directs the state to minimise the inequalities in income, status, facilities and opportunities among individuals and groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations. This article reflects the constitutional commitment to the goal of social and economic democracy and the welfare of the people. It also implies that the state should adopt policies and measures that are conducive to the common good and the public interest, and that are not biased or discriminatory towards any section of the society. Some examples of the implementation of this article are:


  1. The enactment of various laws and schemes for the protection and empowerment of the weaker sections of the society, such as the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, the Right to Education Act, 2009, etc.

  2. The adoption of various policies and programmes for the promotion and development of the backward and rural areas, such as the Backward Regions Grant Fund, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the Bharat Nirman, etc.

  3. The establishment of various commissions and institutions for the redressal and monitoring of the issues and grievances of the people, such as the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Women, the National Commission for Minorities, etc.


Article 39: It lays down certain principles of policy to be followed by the state, such as:


The state shall secure that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. This means that the state should ensure that every citizen has access to the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, health, education, etc. It also means that the state should provide opportunities and facilities for the employment and self-employment of the people, and that the state should prevent unemployment and underemployment. Some examples of the implementation of this principle are:


  1. The enactment of various laws and schemes for the provision and regulation of the minimum wages, such as the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Code on Wages, 2019, etc.

  2. The adoption of various policies and programmes for the generation and enhancement of the employment and livelihood opportunities, such as the Skill India Mission, the Make in India Initiative, the Startup India Scheme, etc.

  3. The establishment of various boards and corporations for the welfare and development of the workers and the labourers, such as the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation, the Central Board for Workers’ Education, etc.


The state shall distribute its ownership and control of the material resources of the community so as to best subserve the common good. This means that the state should ensure that the natural and human-made resources of the country are not monopolised or concentrated in the hands of a few individuals or groups, but are equitably and rationally distributed among the people. It also means that the state should regulate and control the production, distribution and consumption of the resources in such a way that they are utilised for the benefit and welfare of the society. Some examples of the implementation of this principle are:


  1. The enactment of various laws and regulations for the prevention and restriction of the concentration of wealth and economic power, such as the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969, the Competition Act, 2002, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, etc.

  2. The adoption of various policies and measures for the nationalisation and public ownership of the key sectors and industries of the economy, such as the banking, insurance, coal, petroleum, railways, etc.

  3. The establishment of various authorities and agencies for the planning and management of the resources and the economy, such as the Planning Commission, the National Development Council, the Reserve Bank of India, etc.


The state shall prevent the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment. This means that the state should ensure that the wealth and the means of production of the country are not accumulated or controlled by a few individuals or groups, but are fairly and widely distributed among the people. It also means that the state should prevent the misuse or abuse of the wealth and the means of production for the exploitation or oppression of the people. Some examples of the implementation of this principle are:


  1. The enactment of various laws and regulations for the taxation and redistribution of the wealth and income, such as the Income Tax Act, 1961, the Wealth Tax Act, 1957, the Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, etc.

  2. The adoption of various policies and programmes for the land reforms and the agrarian reforms, such as the abolition of the zamindari system, the ceiling on land holdings, the consolidation of land holdings, the distribution of surplus land, etc.

  3. The establishment of various commissions and tribunals for the adjudication and settlement of the disputes and conflicts related to the wealth and the means of production, such as the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, the Central Administrative Tribunal, the National Company Law Tribunal, etc.