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Faculty Seminar | Fundamental Duties in Indian Constitutional History


Conference Hall, Ground Floor, Training Centre, NLSIU


Wednesday, December 13, 2023, 4:00 pm

In this week’s faculty seminar, Prof. (Dr.)  Sudhir Krishnaswamy will be presenting his paper titled “Fundamental Duties in Indian Constitutional History” on Wednesday. Prof. Pranav Verma will be the discussant.


In this paper, I trace the place of citizen duties in Indian political and constitutional thought, primarily through historical references to duties. I focus on the invocation of fundamental or political duties in ‘constitutional discourse’ prior to the adoption of the Constitution of India 1950, particularly in the period 1895 to 1950. This period may be usefully categorized into two parts: historical constitutions from 1895-1948 and the Constituent Assembly Debates from 1946-1949. I explore three key questions: nature of duties – the conception of the duty including the bearer of duties and to whom the duty is owed; the content of duties – what are the duties owed; and, finally, what are the justifications for these duties.

This analysis reveals that duties were not salient in modern Indian political thought – either from 1895 to 1946 or 1946 to 1950. In constitutional discourse in this period there are few references to duties, and when they occur the concept of duties is inconsistent, proposing divergent content and with different background justifications. The different types of duties proposed and enshrined in various texts may be analysed in three ways: First, where rights are seen to generate horizontal duties on citizens in order to protect the rights themselves. Second, that the entitlement and enjoyment of rights is conditional on the fulfilment of duties, that the entitlement and enjoyment of rights is conditional on the fulfilment of duties, that is each right as a corollary duty. Third, duties act as limitations or constraints on broad fundamental rights. These three features are critical components of contemporary debates on fundamental duties in India.

Keywords: Fundamental Duties, Constitutional Assembly Debates, historical constitutions, constitutional history.