This week, India celebrated Constitution Day. 

26 November 2019 marked the 70th anniversary of the Constituent Assembly adopting the Constitution. In a joint parliamentary address, Prime Minister Modi said that the time had come to focus on the fundamental duties in the Constitution. This was echoed in another speech that the Prime Minister made months earlier in which he said there needed to be a paradigm shift from rights to duties.

Various state agencies seem to have taken the cue. The Ministry fo Human Resource Development had asked educational institutions to focus on duties while celebrating Constitution Day 2019 - there was no mention of fundamental rights. It appears that this is not new: back in 2016, there was another letter, again giving focus to fundamental duties. 

There was no fundamental duties chapter in the Constitution of India 1950. Apart from a few minor exceptions, there was no debate in the Constituent Assembly about fundamentals duties. And this is true for constitutional antecedent documents too, leaving aside the Gandhian Constitution of Free India 1946

The Gandhian Constitution went to the extent of conditioning rights on the performance of duties. This line of thinking, however, had no purchase in the Constituent Assembly debates. There was no constitutional linking of duties with rights. The emphasis of India's constitutional tradition primarily centred around rights. 

Then where did the fundamental duties come from? 

A new chapter on fundamental duties was added to the Constitution in 1976 through the 42nd amendment during the Indira Gandhi imposed emergency. The chapter contained 10 duties; one more was added in 2002. 

Blogpost: Fundamental Duties in Indian Constitutional History
                The Constituent Assembly Adopts the Indian Constitution


Click here to subscribe to CADIndia's weekly desk briefs and other updates.