A Comparative Analysis of Gandhian v. Nehruvian Philosophies in Directive Principles of State Policy

Anadi Tewari

“The Advisory Committee has come to a conclusion that in addition to the Fundamental Rights, the constitution should include certain directives of state policy which though not cognizable in any court of law, should be regarded as fundamental in the governance of the country.”[i]


At the time of independence, economic Security was regarded as a major requirement for the triumph of political democracy. The challenge before the makers of the constitution was to lay down a base of unprejudiced and welfare state. Under Part IV of the Indian Constitution, they provided for the Directive Principles of State Policy with an objective to steer clear of wealth concentration among a few people and to provide economic justice to all. Dr B.R. Ambedkar rightfully describes these principles as “a novel feature in the Constitution framed for Parliamentary democracy.”[ii] These principles are regarded as fundamental as they urge the State to secure that all citizens of the country are bestowed with an acceptable livelihood. It further makes sure that the lives of workers and children are not abused, and pregnant women are provided with maternity relief. The idea behind inculcating these principles (akin to moral principles) was to serve majorly as an educational purpose and then to portray as a check for those who come into power.[iii]

Comparative Analysis of Philosophies Circumscribing the Directive Principles

The Directive Principles are enshrined under Part IV from Article 36 to Article 51 of the Constitution with a view to achieving amelioration of socio-economic conditions of the masses. In the case of Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity v. State of West Bengal[iv], the Court has clearly pressed upon envisagement of these principles for establishment of a welfare state at the federal and state level. Dr B.R. Ambedkar had cleared the air by emphasizing on the importance of these directives as he stated that “a political party which failed to implement these principles would stand to lose next elections.”[v] The liability to implement these directive principles is left to the political process.

The Directive Principles enshrined in our constitution are the measures of certain philosophies and ideologies of prominent statesmen. This article portrays an analysis of contrasting philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru which has left an essence in Part IV of our constitution.

Nehruvian Philosophy of ‘Socialism’

Jawaharlal Nehru was a staunch believer in the concept of ‘Democratic Socialism’. He emphasized on values of social justice, economic and social freedom, and promotion of backward classes and equality of treatment. This can be seen reflected strongly under the Directive Principles enshrined in our constitution. Unlike Dr Ambedkar, Nehru never accepted the concept of authoritarianism and rather his idea of socialism was primarily of great civil liberty. Nehru’s philosophy was well stated by him in the speech he gave while introducing the draft outline of the first five-year plan; he iterated that the planning to attain the economic and social pattern is enshrined under the Directive Principles under the constitution. As per these directives, the state has a primary duty to promote the standard of living of the people and to secure all its citizens an adequate means of livelihood equally.[vi]

Nehru’s coined philosophy of social justice can be seen under the preamble read with different articles enshrined under Part IV of the Constitution. The ideals stated in the preamble are strengthened through the Directive Principles of State Policy which signifies in greater detail about the goal of economic democracy and the concept of welfare state. The philosophical aspects of Nehru, in relation to the constitutional directives, were further emphasized by the Supreme Court in Pathumma v. State of Kerala[vii] wherein it was stated that “the very purpose of the constitutional directives under Part IV is to fix certain socio-economic goals for immediate attainment by bringing about a non-social revolution.”

The term ‘socialist’ was inserted in our Preamble in the year 1976 but the philosophy behind the concept of socialism was prevalent way before that time. Nehru’s ideology with regards to social and economic justice can be inferred in his policymaking and speeches in the Parliament when he was serving as the Prime Minister of India.[viii] His philosophies are reflected in the constitutional directives enshrined under Part IV: securing of social order under Article 38, adequate means of livelihood under Article 39, 41 and 43, equality of participation and granting of justice under Article 39A and 43A and raising of the level of public health under Article 47.

Gandhian Ideologies enshrined in Part IV of the Constitution

Gandhian Philosophy finds major applicability in the form of Satyagraha and several other movements which trembled the mighty British regime in India.[ix] Gandhi believed in resorting to non-violent action as a measure for protesting oppression and wrong. For him, non-violence became a medium for social change.[x] There are five constitutional directives under Part IV that have the essence of pronouncement done by Gandhi in his programme of reconstruction during national movement. These were collectively called the Gandhian Principles enshrined as a part of Part IV under the Constitution.

Since before Independence, Gandhi’s belief was of ‘Democratic Decentralization’ which means that Gandhi believed that there should not be a single authorizing authority making decisions for everybody rather each party making its individual decisions. This can be found under Article 40 of the Constitution, which lays emphasis on the fact that village panchayats should be organized in such a way that they function as units of self-government. Gandhi’s model of industrialization was aimed at fulfilling the needs of people who lived in villages and had no resources, and therefore he decided to consummate human needs by establishing cottage industries which were further promoted under Article 43 of the Indian Constitution. Gandhian ideology is crucial as it speaks of collective social development (stated under Article 46) and speaks of educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of society. Gandhi always believed that consuming intoxicating drinks is against our very tradition and it destroys the soul of a man and makes him turn into a beast, incapable of distinguishing between his wife, mother and sister, and this prohibition is reflected presently under Article 47 of the Constitution.[xi] The Supreme Court has at various instances reminisced the preaching of Mahatma Gandhi and had taken them into consideration. For instance, in the case of State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kasaab[xii], the Court has reiterated a principle of Gandhi enshrined under Article 48 and banned the slaughter of cows in India, further pressing for the prohibition emphasized by Gandhi.


Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were two peak pillars in India’s freedom struggle. While on one hand, Nehru was deeply influenced by Gandhi but on the other hand, there were still differences in ideologies when it came down to specifics and especially with regards to the Constitutional Directives. The sense of ‘individualism’ which Gandhi believed in was not the same as Nehru felt. Therefore, while Gandhi was conceiving a paradise where an individual was so accountable that there was no need of a State, Nehru was somewhere imagining a place where the state would create a thriving and unprejudiced world for its people. Gandhi was a staunch believer of how an individual is bestowed with responsibility and he is accountable for his actions while Nehru categorized a world where an individual must be under the state’s conformity.

The Constitutional Directives though not enforceable are regarded as the fundamental principles. They find within it the essence from the contrasting philosophies of both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru and these directives are still intact under Part IV of the constitution.

Views are personal.

[i] Constituent Assembly Debates, Volume VII, (dated: 19 November 1948) para. 7.56.17.

[ii] Constituent Assembly Debates, Volume VII, (dated: 04 November 1948) para. 7.48.240.

[iii] M.P. Jain, Indian Constitutional Law 1407 (7th edition, LexisNexis 2016).

[iv] Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti v. State of West Bengal, [1996] 4 SCC 37 para. 9.

[v] Supra note. 1 at para. 7.56.39

[vi] Planning Commission, The Draft Outline of First Five Year Plan (July 1951) para. 3

[vii] Pathumma v. State of Kerala, [1978] 2 SCC 1 para. 11.

[viii] Government of India, Cabinet Secretariat Resolution (Planning) (New Delhi, 15 March 1950) pg. 26 https://niti.gov.in/planningcommission.gov.in/docs/aboutus/history/PCresolution1950.pdf.

[ix] Shilpa Jain and Dharav Shah, ‘Gandhian Philosophy of Non-Violence and State Sponsored Violence’ (2015) PL (HR) November 76 pg. 76.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Mahatma Gandhi, India of my Dreams, Chapter 41 (Drinks and Drugs) (1947) https://www.mkgandhi.org/indiadreams/chap41.htm.

[xii] State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kasaab, [2005] 8 SCC 534 para. 67.

Anadi Tewari is a third year student from Faculty of Law, University of Lucknow

Image Credits: http://www.radianlearning.com


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