CITIZENS’ CONSTITUTIONAL ROLE IN UPHOLDING SOVEREIGNTY, UNITY AND INTEGRITY IN INDIA

Introduction

A citizen is an individual who has the right to engage in the activities of their political community. He is a legal member of society and has the power to influence the nation. As citizens of India, our constitution has provided us with various rights and duties. Every right is followed by a duty. According to John Salmond, a legal scholar and public servant, “There is no right without a corresponding duty.” While we are entitled to privileges, we are also obligated to follow the rules and regulations of the state. Only when both rights and duties are exercised together by an individual can he be called a citizen of the state. However, being a citizen may not be enough. Individuals must be responsible citizens. A responsible citizen works for the common good of society, validates the rights of others, and keeps the nation united. He works not for his own accomplishments, but for the accomplishments of his nation. He exercises his duties in such a way that they empower his rights.

What does the Constitution say?

The Constitution of India has prescribed certain duties to be followed by the citizens of the country. It prescribes the role of citizens in maintaining the authority, harmony, and solidarity of the nation. Article 51A of the Indian Constitution was formulated under Part IVA through the 42nd Amendment in the year 1946. It lays down all the fundamental duties that citizens are bound to follow and live by. This inclusion of the concept of fundamental duties was suggested by the Swaran Singh Committee. Initially, there were 10 fundamental duties. However, through the 86th amendment of 2002, the eleventh duty was added. “To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India” is one such duty prescribed under the same. It is one of the most important duties to be followed. There are no legal sanctions against the failure to follow the fundamental duties, which means, they are non-enforceable. However, as citizens of a democratic republic, we must serve and protect our country.

Analysis of judgements related to Article 51A

  1. C. Mehta, an Indian public-interest lawyer, filed a PIL for spreading public awareness and thus seeking the introduction of environmental awareness as a subject for students. The Supreme Court ruled that citizens must protect and work towards improving the natural environment under Article 51A(g) of the Constitution. It was held that all educational institutions would organise teaching lessons for at least one hour per week, distribute free books for the same, and help develop an awareness amongst people about their duty.

George Philip, the respondent, was an employee at BARC. He applied for a 2-year leave to pursue advanced research training abroad. However, after the completion of two years, the respondent did not return and charges were taken against him. The High Court later held that the respondent could join service again but would not be paid for the same. The Supreme Court in its judgement held that the previous judgements were violative of Article 51A(j) and that people should strive toward excellence in all spheres of life and work for the development of the country.

A PIL was filed and the validity of the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE) published by NCERT was questioned. It was asserted that the framework was violative of Article 28 of the Constitution and the concept of secularism was misinterpreted. However, the Supreme Court held that the NCFSE did not violate Article 28 and made a distinction between religious instruction and religious education. It was also held that, under Article 51(e), one should promote harmony and common brotherhood among all. This can be achieved through religious education for all.

Sovereignty can be defined as the power that a country holds to exercise control over its government. There is supreme power and authority. India, being a sovereign country, has its own supreme law. It has the power to make decisions and does not follow the orders of any other nation. Unity is defined as “the state of being joined together or in agreement.” When there is an agreement in complete harmony, unity endures. Despite the great diversity, India stands as one nation. We believe in the concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam”, which means that the world is one family, and we do not let differences in caste, creed, religion, culture, etc. affect us. National Integrity is the feeling of oneness that people share despite differences in caste, creed, religion, etc. It keeps the country strong and aids in the development of the nation. All three are interconnected and complementary to each other. Only if we honour them together can we protect and maintain peace in our country.

India gained its independence after years of struggle. The battle was led by ordinary men, the citizens of the country. Freedom fighters put their lives on the line to achieve sovereignty. None of this would have been possible without unity. People were united as a whole. Differences in caste, creed, and religion did not stop them from serving their nation. Whether Hindu or Muslim, man or woman, the country stood together. 75 years down the line, we must render service. We may not be facing a freedom struggle today, but the internal conflicts that arise have the same power as in the past and can shatter unity.

Why should we help?

As young citizens of our country, we might think it impossible to perform duties for our country. How can I help? Is it not the responsibility of the government and the elderly? The youth play an important role in protecting the nation. We can influence the masses through our thoughts, words, and actions. We must make the right use of the various platforms provided to us and raise our voices against injustice. More youngsters should aim towards working for the nation in several governmental and non-governmental positions. To protect our sovereignty, we should support the right policies of the government and abide by them. Being united and working towards nation-building should be our objective. As the future citizens of our country, our participation today can lay the foundation for tomorrow.

Challenges faced in upholding the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of a nation

Globalization

Globalization has a great influence over states. We tend to surrender our economic, social, and political interests to what is in demand. This threatens our sovereignty.  Several states have similar jurisdictions, and the power seems to be in the hands of those who have more economic growth. International markets make decisions on everything, from what to produce to what rules are to be followed. In place of indulging in international standards, Indians should invest their time and efforts in their homeland. Projects like “Make in India”, etc., should be encouraged. Citizens should support and fund their country’s development.

Regionalism

Regionalism is “the desire of the people who live in a particular region of a country to have more independent control in political and economic decisions.” Economic regionalism,      linguistic regionalism, and political regionalism are the many types of regionalism. This division of groups breaks the unity and integrity of a nation. People are separated into classes, and solidarity ceases to exist. Citizens should overcome this barrier and be open-minded. We should accept people and treat everyone as an equal.

Internal conflicts

The conflicts between the states and their residents give rise to instability in the country. These conflicts reduce people’s participation and pose a risk to their unity. Citizens should give up on these rows and resolve unreasonable disputes. Decisions in favour of both parties should be adopted. Just like the government that sends its troops to defend the borders of the country, the citizens are obliged to protect the country from within.

External factors

The tensions caused by neighbouring countries’ economic, legal, social, and technological conditions have direct and indirect effects on the state. The safety of the nation and its citizens is at risk. It is important to maintain harmony in the community and stay united during such times.

Conclusion

As Former American President John Kennedy said in his Inaugural Speech, “Ask not what country can do for you, always ask what you can do for the country.” We should recognise that the country we live freely in today is a result of many people’s blood and sweat. The freedom fighters and others have given it their everything. Conflicts and disagreements do arise in societies. However, we should not let this subjugate us. Overcoming them and following our duties is what brings us success. As ardent citizens of our country, in obedience to the Constitution, we should follow our fundamental duties. The rights we enjoy today are the result of the duties we performed yesterday. Only through the enforcement of these duties will we achieve true and complete development.

Author(s) Name: Angel Jimmy George (Nirma University, Ahmedabad)