Under Article 37, the Directive Principles, though they Eire fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws but they are expressly made non-justiciable.
On the other hand, the fundamental rights are enforceable by the courts and the courts are bound to declare as void any law that is inconsistent with any of the fundamental rights. The Directive Principles are not so enforceable by the courts nor can the courts declare as void any law which is otherwise void on the ground that it contravenes any provisions of the Directive Principles.
Since the Directive Principles are not enforceable by any Court, It has been advocated that they are not laws, much less constitutional law, and therefore their non-observance by the State does not entail any legal consequences.
It is now definitely settled that a Directive Principle cannot override a Fundamental Right. In case of a conflict between a Fundamental Right and a Directive Principle, it is neither the former nor the latter which prevails. This point was first settled by the Supreme Court in Madras vs. Champakam Dorairajan, AIR 1951 S.C. 228, where the Communal G.O. made by Madras Govt., came in conflict with Article 29 (2) of the Fundamental Right and therefore could not be supported under Article 46 in pursuance to which the G.O. was said to have been made. The main reason for this approach is that the Fundamental Rights are enforceable whereas Directive Principles are unenforceable.
It will be wrong to suppose that Directive Principles are utterly valueless from a legal point of view. While reiterating the above theme in Re Kerala Education Bill, AIR 1958 S.C. 956, the Supreme Court has, however, stated that in determining the scope and ambit of the Fundamental Rights, the court may not entirely ignore these Directive Principles but should adopt the principles of harmonious construction and should attempt to give effect to both as much as possible.
In State of Bihar vs. Kameshwar Prasad, AIR 1952 S.C. 252, the Supreme Court had relied on Article 39 In deciding that a certain Zamindari Abolition Act, had been passed for a public purpose within the meaning of Article 31.
The Directive Principles are also relevant to consider what reasonable restrictions under Article 19 are. A restriction which promotes one of the objectives of the Directive Principles will naturally be regarded by the courts as reasonable.
Thus, Article 47 under which the State is directed to bring about prohibition of consumption of intoxicating drink, except for medicinal purposes, has been taken into account while considering the reasonableness of prohibition law under Article 19.
In M.H. Quareshi vs. State of Bihar, AIR 1956 S.C. 731, prohibition of slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks by municipality to enable public to have sufficient supply of milk and to ensure availability of sufficient draught cattle for agricultural operations, was held to be reasonable restriction under Article 19 (6) in view of the Directive Principles In Articles 47 and 48.
The Constitution (42nd Amendment Act, 1976) was passed to widen the scope of Article 31-C so as to cover all Directives Principles. The amendment substituted the word, “all or any of the principles laid down in Part IV” for the words “the principles specified in clause (b) or (c) of Article 39 in Article 31-C of the Constitution. This amendment gave precedence to all the Directives Principles over the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, or 31 of the Constitution.
In Minerva Mills v. Union of India, AIR 1980 S.C. 173, Supreme Court struck down by a majority of 4 to 1, Article 31-C as amended by 42nd Amendment of the Constitution, because it destroyed the “basic features” of the Constitution.
The Court held that Article 31-C was beyond the amending power of the Parliament, as it destroyed the basic features of the Constitution by a total exclusion of challenge to any law on the ground that it was inconsistent with the rights conferred by Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution.
The Constitution is, therefore, founded on the bed rock of the balance between Parts III and IV of the Constitution. To give absolute primacy to one over the other, is to disturb the harmony of the Constitution which is the essential feature of the basic structure.
The goals set out in Part IV have to be achieved without the abrogation of means provided for by Part III of the Constitution. To destroy the guarantees given by Part III in order to achieve the goals of Part IV is plainly to subvert the Constitution.
In this case Chief Justice Chandrachud had observed, “The Indian Constitution is founded on the bedrock of the balance between Part III and IV of the Constitution. To give absolute primacy to one over the other is to disturb the harmony of the Constitution. This harmony and balance between fundamental rights and directive principles is an essential feature of the basic structure of the Constitution.”
This decision of the Supreme Court is in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution. There is no conflict between the Directive Principles and the Fundamental Rights. They are complementary to each other. There is no necessity to sacrifice either of them for the sake of the other.