An important feature of the constitution is the Directive Principles of State Policy. Although the Directive Principles are asserted to be "fundamental in the governance of the country," they are not legally enforceable. Instead, they are guidelines for creating a social order characterized by social, economic, and political justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity as enunciated in the constitution's preamble.
The Forty-second Amendment, which came into force in January 1977, attempted to raise the status of the Directive Principles by stating that no law implementing any of the Directive Principles could be declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated any of the Fundamental Rights. The amendment simultaneously stated that laws prohibiting "antinational activities" or the formation of "antinational associations" could not be invalidated because they infringed on any of the Fundamental Rights. It added a new section to the constitution on "Fundamental Duties" that enjoined citizens "to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the people of India, transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities." However, the amendment reflected a new emphasis in governing circles on order and discipline to counteract what some leaders had come to perceive as the excessively freewheeling style of Indian democracy. After the March 1977 general election ended the control of the Congress (Congress (R) from 1969) over the executive and legislature for the first time since independence in 1947, the new Janata-dominated Parliament passed the Forty-third Amendment (1977) and Forty-fourth Amendment (1978). These amendments revoked the Forty-second Amendment's provision that Directive Principles take precedence over Fundamental Rights and also curbed Parliament's power to legislate against "antinational activities.”
The Directive Principles of State DPSP are Policy (contained in part IV, articles 36 to 50,) of the Indian Constitution. Many of the provisions correspond to the provisions of the ICESCR. For instance, article 43 provides that the state shall endeavor to secure, by suitable legislation or economic organization or in any other way, to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, work, a living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities, and in particular the state shall endeavor to promote cottage industries on an individual or cooperative basis in rural areas. This corresponds more or less to articles 11 and 15 of the ICESCR. However, some of the ICESCR rights, for instance, the right to health (art. 12), have been interpreted by the Indian Supreme Court to form part of the right to life under article 21 of the Constitution, thus making it directly enforceable and justiciable. As a party to the ICESCR, the Indian legislature has enacted laws giving effect to some of its treaty obligations and these laws are in turn enforceable in and by the courts.
Article 37 of the Constitution declares that the DPSP “shall not be enforceable by any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws.” It is not a mere coincidence that the apparent distinction that is drawn by scholars between the ICCPR rights and ESC rights holds good for the distinction that is drawn in the Indian context between fundamental rights and DPSP. Thus the bar to justiciability of the DPSP is spelled out in some sense in the Constitution itself.
It was said by several members in the Constituent Assembly that the directive principles are superfluous or mere guidelines or pious principles or instructions. They have no binding force on the State. In his speech Dr. Ambedkar answered.
“ The directive principles are like instruments of instructions which were issued to the Governor in General and Governors of colonies and to those of India by the British Government under the 1935 Act under the Draft Constitution. It is proposed to issue such instructions to the president and governors. The text of these instruments of the instructions shall be found in scheduled IV to the Constitution of India. What are called directive principles is that they are instructions to the Legislature and the Executive. Such a thing is, to my mind, to be welcomed. Wherever there is grant or power in general terms for peace, order and good government that it is necessary that it should be accompanied by the instructions regulating its exercise.” It was never intended by Dr. Ambedkar that the Directive Principles had no legal force but had moral effect while educating members of the Government and the legislature, nor can it be said that the answer referred to necessarily implied with the Directive Principles had no legal force.