Fundamental duties of citizens: SC gives Centre two months to reply to petition

A view of Supreme Court of India. File

A view of Supreme Court of India. File | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Centre’s request for two months’ time to file a “comprehensive” reply to a petition seeking the enforcement of fundamental duties of citizens, including patriotism and unity of nation, through “comprehensive, and well-defined laws”.

A Bench led by Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh agreed to Attorney General K.K. Venugopal’s submission that more time would be required to collect and compile the inputs from various Ministries and departments in order to prepare a detailed counter- affidavit on the issue raised in the petition filed by Durga Dutt, who is a lawyer.

The court also allowed States to join in with their take on the issue and file their responses. It listed the case next on September 26.

Plea refers to Bhagavad Gita

The petition had referred to Bhagavad Gita on the importance of duty. It took a leaf from the erstwhile USSR Constitution and pointed to China’s advent as a “superpower” while arguing that the “need of the hour” was to remind citizens that fundamental duties were as important as fundamental rights under the Constitution.

“The need to enforce fundamental duties arises due to new illegal trend of protest by 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 petition, filed through advocate Karunakar Mahalik, said.

Though it agreed that the 11 fundamental duties listed in Article 51A of the Constitution were basically “moral obligations” on citizens, the petition used the prefix “sacrosanct” to define these obligations.

“The concept of duty is enunciated in Bhagavad Gita where Lord Krishna guides Arjuna and educates him with the importance of duties in all spheres/stages of one’s life,” the petition noted.

It said the time had come to balance rights, liberties and freedoms and obligations. Fundamental duties instilled a “profound sense of social responsibility towards the nation”.

“In the erstwhile USSR Constitution, the rights and duties were placed in the same footing. There is a pressing need to enforce and implement at least some of the fundamental duties.”

“That is, to uphold and protect sovereignty, unity and integrity of India, to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so and to disseminate a sense of nationalism and to promote the spirit of patriotism to uphold the unity of India after the emergence of China as a superpower…” the petition urged.

It said fundamental duties were “brazenly flouted” by people. These duties were an important tool to protect unity and integrity. Every citizen should know how to respect institutions in this country, it argued forcefully.

The petition mentioned the Supreme Court’s own judgment in the Ranganath Mishra case to contend that fundamental duties should not only be enforced by legal sanctions but also by social sanctions. After all, rights and duties were co-relative, it said.

There should be a “creation of role models”, Mr. Dutt had argued. Instead, there was not even a uniform policy for the “proper sensitisation, full operationalisation and enforceability” of fundamental duties which would “substantially help citizens to be responsible”.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2022 8:15:08 am |