1. The phrase ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’ denotes the ideals that the State should keep in mind while formulating policies and enacting laws. These are the constitutional instructions or recommendations to the State in legislative, executive and administrative matters. According to Article 36, the term ‘State’ in Part IV has the same meaning as in Part III dealing with Fundamental Rights. Therefore, it includes the legislative and executive organs of the central and state governments, all local authorities and all other public authorities in the country.
2. The Directive Principles resemble the ‘Instrument of Instructions’ enumerated in the Government of India Act of 1935. In the words of Dr B R Ambedkar, ‘the Directive Principles are like the instrument of instructions, which were issued to the Governor-General and to the Governors of the colonies of India by the British Government under the Government of India Act of 1935. What is called Directive Principles is merely another name for the instrument of instructions. The only difference is that they are instructions to the legislature and the executive’.
3. The Directive Principles constitute a very comprehensive economic, social and political programme for a modern democratic State. They aim at realising the high ideals of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as outlined in the Preamble to the Constitution. They embody the concept of a ‘welfare state’ and not that of a ‘police state’, which existed during the colonial era3. In brief, they seek to establish economic and social democracy in the country.
4. The Directive Principles are non-justiciable in nature, that is, they are not legally enforceable by the courts for their violation. Therefore, the government (Central, state and local) cannot be compelled to implement them. Nevertheless, the Constitution (Article 37) itself says that these principles are fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.
5. The Directive Principles, though non-justiciable in nature, help the courts in examining and determining the constitutional validity of a law. The Supreme Court has ruled many a times that in determining the constitutionality of any law, if a court finds that the law in question seeks to give effect to a Directive Principle, it may consider such law to be ‘reasonable’ in relation to Article 14 (equality before law) or Article 19 (six freedoms) and thus save such law from unconstitutionality.