The justiciability of Fundamental Rights and non-justiciability of Directive Principles on the one hand and the moral obligation of State to implement Directive Principles (Article 37) on the other hand have led to a conflict between the two since the commencement of the Constitution.
In the Champakam Dorairajan case" (1951), the Supreme Court ruled that in case of any conflict between the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles, the former would prevail. It declared that the Directive Principles have to conform to and run as subsidiary to the Fundamental Rights. But, it also held that the Fundamental Rights could be amended by the Parliament by enacting constitutional amendments acts. As a result, the Parliament made the First Amendment Act (1951), the Fourth Amendment Act (1955) and the Seventeenth Amendment Act (1964) to implement some of the Directives.
The above situation underwent a major change in 1967 following the Supreme Court's judgement in the Golaknath case21 (1967). In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Parliament cannot take away or abridge any of the Fundamental Rights, which are 'sacrosanct' in nature. In other words, the Court held that the Fundamental Rights cannot be amended for the implementation of the Directive Principles.
The Parliament reacted to the Supreme Court's judgement in the Golaknath Case (1967) by enacting the 24th Amendment Act (1971) and the 25th Amendment Act (1971). The 24th Amendment Act declared that the Parliament has the power to abridge or take away any of the Fundamental Rights by enacting Constitutional Amendment Acts.
The 25th Amendment Act inserted a new Article 31C which contained the following two provisions:
1. No law which seeks to implement the socialistic Directive Principles specified in Article 39 (b) 22 and (c) 23 shall be void on the ground of contravention of the Fundamental Rights conferred by Article 14 (equality before law and equal protection of laws), Article 19 (protection of six rights in respect of speech, assembly, movement, etc.) or Article 31 (right to property).
2. No law containing a declaration for giving effect to such policy shall be questioned in any court on the ground that it does not give effect to such a policy.
In the Kesavananda Bharati case 24 (1973), the Supreme Court declared the above second provision of Article 31C as unconstitutional and invalid on the ground that judicial review is a basic feature of the Constitution and hence, cannot be taken away. However, the above first provision of Article 31C was held to be constitutional and valid.
Later, the 42nd Amendment Act (1976) extended the scope of the above first provision of Article 31C by including within its protection any law to implement any of the Directive Principles and not merely those specified in Article 39 (b) and (c). In other words the 42nd Amendment Act accorded the position of legal primacy and supremacy to the Directive Principles over the Fundamental Rights conferred by Articles 14, 19 and 31.
However, this extension was declared as unconstitutional and invalid by the Supreme Court in the Minerva Mills case 25 (1980). It means that the Directive Principles were once again made subordinate to the Fundamental Rights. But the Fundamental Rights conferred by Article 14 and Article 19 were accepted as subordinate to the Directive Principles specified in Article 39 (b) and (c).
Further, Article 31 (right to property) was abolished by the 44th Amendment Act (1978). In the Minerva Mills case (1980), the Supreme Court also held that the Indian Constitution is founded on the bedrock of the balance between the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles. They together constitute the core of commitment to social revolution. They are like two wheels of a chariot, one no less than the other. To give absolute primacy to one over the other is to disturb the harmony of the Constitution. This harmony and balance between the two is an essential feature of the basic structure of the Constitution.
The goals set out by the Directive Principles have to be achieved without the abrogation of the means provided by the Fundamental Rights. Therefore, the present position is that the Fundamental Rights enjoy supremacy over the Directive Principles. Yet, this does not mean that the Directive Principles cannot be implemented.
The Parliament can amend the Fundamental Rights for implementing the Directive Principles, so long as the amendment does not damage or destroy the basic structure of the Constitution.