6th March 2011
The ridiculous concept of “Directive Principles of State Policy”
Forcing the Policy Choices of the Past on Us
A Constitution is not a forum for social or economic policy discussion. Policy lists are relevant to someone’s personal writings, such as in books like this, but they are completely unacceptable in a social contract. A multitude of whims of a few people of the past find mention as the Directive Principles of State Policy. Some of these are extremely ill-thought-out and have added fuel to the fire of existing divisions in the Indian society. The uniform civil code (UCC) comes to mind as one such gratuitous policy.
The basic question that arises is why we care at all about what the members of our Constituent Assembly thought about policy? In what way is our generation less capable of deciding its policies for itself? As a matter of fact, these 299 people knew much less, on average, than what we know today, in the same way that our generation knows much less than the following generations. These folk were asked to draft our Constitution, not to create policy advice. They should have stuck to their task and done it well.
Most amazingly, in 1955, Nehru added to the confusion by advancing the bizarre claim that the Directive Principles can have a higher status than fundamental rights. He declared, ‘It is up to Parliament to […] make the Fundamental Rights subserve the Directive Principles of State Policy’.[i] I suspect our leaders would have removed all protections of our freedoms had they been able to get their way. Mercifully, a few upright High Court and Supreme Court judges opposed this madness, and the ‘basic structure’ of our Constitution has survived the ravages of socialism. We still retain a whiff of freedom, though one can’t say that with a straight face to someone who has been detained illegally for months, then tortured and beaten, and finally killed by our own police forces in a fake encounter. I wish I had the space to narrate instances of governmental brutality that I know of from my own experiences in government.
[This is an extract from chapter 3 in Breaking Free of Nehru]
[i] Cited in Austin, Granville, op. cit., p.108.