The Supreme Court on Monday sought the response of the Central government and the States on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking enforcement of fundamental duties set out in Article 51A of the Constitution [Durga Dutt v. Union of India].
The plea filed one Durga Dutt was heard by a Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh which proceeded to issue notice to the Centre and States.
The plea sought directions to Centre and States to make comprehensive laws to ensure adherence to Article 51A of the Constitution.
The petition also prayed for setting up of a high powered committee headed by a retired Supreme Court or High Court judge to review the legal framework so created.
The petitioner said that the need to implement fundamental duties has arisen due to the “new illegal trend of protests by protesters in the garb of freedom of speech and expression by way of blocking roads and rail route to compel the Government to meet their demands”.
“The concept of duty is enunciated in Bhagawad Gita where Lord Krishna guides Arjuna and educate him with the importance of duties in all spheres/ stages of one’s life. Since ancient times, people in India have had a tradition of performing their duties. An individual’s duty towards society, his/ her country and his/ her parents has been emphasised in ancient India,” the petition said.
The plea also referred to the Mahatma Gandhi’s statements highlighting how the true source of right is duty.
Further, the plea highlighted other Constitutions which provide for duties of people including Japanese Constitution, Constitution of China.
The petitioner also pointed out the growth story of Singapore which has been fueled by its relentless emphasis on duties of citizens.
Pertinently, the petition also submitted how the reportage by media during COVID-19 was communal in nature and against secularism envisaged by the Constitution.
“The manner in which it was cynically exploited to stoke communalism on social media and TV had this primary motive, to give a communal colour to the fight against Coronavirus,” the petition stated.
Therefore, the moral obligations should be converted to legal obligations by enacting legislations and guidelines so that the country stands united when such a situation arises in future.
“New illegal trend of protests by protesters in the garb of freedom of speech and expression by way of blocking roads and rail routes.”
Article 51A was inserted into the Constitution by way of 42nd amendment which was enacted by the Indira Gandhi government during national emergency.
The 42nd amendment had introduced a lot changes to the Constitution and came to be referred to as ‘mini-constitution’.
Many of the changes in introduced by the 42nd amendment were subsequently repealed or struck down by the Supreme Court.
Article 51A has continued to remain in the Constitution.