It is well known that the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs) in the Constitution of India, 1950 were influenced by similar principles in the Bunreacht na hÉireann, or the Irish Constitution of 1937. This article will examine an aspect of these principles that receives less attention: the substantial differences between their content and effect in the two Constitutions.

In the first draft of the Irish Constitution, these principles were included under the chapter on Fundamental Rights. However, Éamon De Valera, the leader of the ruling Fianna Fáil party believed that some of these were “merely statements of moral principles and should not be created [as] positive rights”.

The Irish framers removed them from the justiciable Fundamental Rights, and crafted the Directive Principles of Social Policy. They were accompanied by a preamble that stated that they were “intended for the general guidance of the Oireachtas [the Legislature of Ireland]” and would “not be cognizable by any Court”. There was little discussion on the influence of the principles on the policy-making abilities of the State.

Contrast this with Article 37 of the Indian Constitution, which describes the DPSPs as “fundamental in the governance of the country” and made it the “duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws”. During the debates in the Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar declared that while the DPSPs were not legally enforceable, they would act as Instruments of Instructions for the Legislature and the Executive in the exercise of their power.

While the Irish Constitution describes these principles are those pertaining to ‘social policy’, they are actually economic in nature and primarily focus on fair wages, the redistribution of resources, and the creation of welfare programmes. This is likely because the principles were influenced by a religious directive issued by Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, which prescribed certain economic policies in order to restructure the social order.

The scope of the DPSPs under the Indian Constitution are far wider: not only do they include economic rights, but also principles relating social justice, economic welfare, foreign policy, and administrative matters. To some extent, this can be attributed to the ideological diversity of the Constituent Assembly. The members had widely conflicting views on a number of issues, such as cow slaughter and the prohibition on alcohol consumption. It is likely that the framers would have reached a stalemate on these issues. By creating the DPSPs, these issues were recognized as matters of constitutional importance which would inform the policy-making of the State without being legally binding. Tarunabh Khaitan describes the approach to the content of the DPSPs as the “expressive accommodation of ideological dissenters”.

While the framers of the Indian Constitution were certainly influenced by the form of the DPSPs in the Irish Constitution, it is clear that differing political considerations impacted the varying approach to these principles in both countries.