The Indian Constitution devotes an entire part to define non-binding Directive Principles of State Policy likely influenced by the Irish Constitution. They were meant to guide governments in the implementation of policy and provide a yardstick to the electorate Khanna, Hans Raj. Making of India's Constitution. Eastern Book Company, 2008. Page 80.

Since they weren't enforceable, these principles seem to have been incorporated into the Constitution based on individual directions that the framers found desirable, without significant scrutiny. Thus, it seems like these principles provide guidelines that are arbitrary or antiquated, and do not reflect the democratic will of the people. For instance, Article 48 is used to justify a ban on cow slaughter, which reflects a particular worldview that reveres cows.

Is there any evidence justifying the inclusion of any/each of these principles in a Constitution? Does the political experience of India, Ireland, Nepal etc. suggest that governments that do not follow these principles are punished by the electorate (has it ever been a "poll issue")? Are there any parallels in other Constitutions of having unenforced guidelines (let's ignore the Pirate code)?

  • 1
    What would it mean for the principles to be "democratic" or non-democratic? What makes a criterion valid or invalid? What evidence would show that they were being used as a yardstick for the electorate? To answer this, we'd have to first define these. This could lead to different answers with different definitions.
    – Brythan
    Jun 30, 2016 at 5:30
  • @Brythan, by democratic, I mean reflecting the popular will of the people. I allege that the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Indian Constitution are undemocratic as they provide a legitimacy to the personal views of the framers of the Constitution from beyond the grave.
    – Jedi
    Jul 19, 2017 at 15:14
  • Evidence showing that these are not being used as a yardstick is that they find no place as a scorecard or checklist in election manifestos. Clearly, neither political parties nor the public find them a useful guide, beyond cherry-picking parts that meet their predispositions.
    – Jedi
    Jul 19, 2017 at 15:17
  • The question is based on an assumption - the DPSP in the Constitution are undemocratic because they have been added as per the desires of the Framers. This Part (Part IV) were provided by the same Constituent Assembly though the same deliberative process as other parts of the Constitution - so you could say so for all other parts and articles, thus making the whole Constitution undemocratic.
    – SMJoe
    Nov 13, 2017 at 14:35
  • Yes, @SMJoe I assert that the entire constitution was drafted "undemocratically" (as are most constitutions). My actual questions are in the last paragraph and pertain to the process adopted by the framers, the efficacy of these principles, as well as any parallels to the DPSP.
    – Jedi
    Nov 13, 2017 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


The Directive Principles form an integral part of the Constitution formed by an elected Constituent Assembly (though indirectly and with a limited franchise), and through a process of rigorous deliberation and debate.

Even if you hold that they were formed undemocratically, they enjoy wide popular support (even the one on cow slaughter - the particular worldview is held by large many people [1] ).

Thus, the legal and popular powers both justify their inclusion in the Constituion.

Governments have been diligent in putting these principles to practice and have enacted many laws and Schemes to that effect -
Article 38 - The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
Article 39 - Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
Article 40 - 73 and 74th Amendment Act, 1992
Article 41 - MGNREGA Scheme
Article 45 - ICDS Scheme
Article 47 - National Health Mission

The list is only representative and shows that the State is sincere in following the Directive Principles. Each of these laws and schemes have been a matter of much public debate and poll issues.

Rather it is this Part 4 of the Constitution that mandates Indian state to be a "welfare state", and thus is integral to the political dynamics of the country.

  • Thanks SMJoe. While this is a good summary of the current state of the DPSP, it does not directly answer any of my 3 questions. Based on what evidence were the original set of DPSPs selected; have they ever been directly invoked as poll issues; are there any parallels in other constitutional republics?
    – Jedi
    Nov 14, 2017 at 1:07
  • To expand, it is not surprising that the DPSPs are correlated to actual programs conducted by several governments, since they are broad and "sound like good ideas". I might, with no evidence to back me up, assert that they have actually limited our collective imagination for good ideas, by boxing us into the unnecessary framework of a welfare state. Is there any evidence that these guidelines would be good principles to build a nation with?
    – Jedi
    Nov 14, 2017 at 1:16

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