Report No. 259
B. Directive Principles of State Policy
3.3.1 The Founding Parents were cognizant of the importance of development of young children as an essential feature for national development and their concerns were amply reflected in the enactment of Articles 39 (e) and (f) of the Constitution. These two provisions provide for health, care and protection of its citizens, including children.
While Article 39(e) stipulates that the State shall direct its policy towards securing "that the health and strength of workers, men and women and the tender age of children are not abused" and "that the citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength", Article 39 (f) requires the State to ensure that "the children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that the childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment."
3.3.2 Further, giving specific expression to their intention to promote the cause of early childhood development, the Founding Parents provided in Article 45 that "the State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years." This provision makes the right to early childhood care and education an explicit Constitutional Objective.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), which came into effect from April 1, 2010 incorporated this Constitutional Objective through Section 11 of the Act which states, "with a view to prepare children above the age of three years for elementary education and to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years, the appropriate Government may make necessary arrangement for providing free pre-school education for such children".
3.3.3 Article 42 - "Provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief - The State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief." The Constitution mandates the provision for maternity relief, which assumes importance from the perspective of the child as it contributes to a healthy birth and nurturing of the child.
Article 47 states that the State shall work towards raising the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties. It is essential for the State to read Articles 42, 45 and 47 together whenever any policies relating to children are introduced.
3.3.4 Though the Directive Principles of State Policy are supplementary to Fundamental Rights, and provide direction to governance, they are however, non-justiciable in themselves and require legal sanction for realisation. This reduces any idea of ECD into a promise instead of creating a binding obligation on the State. It is therefore suggested that as per the recommendation of the NCRWC, Article 24-A, reading "Every child shall have the right to care and assistance in basic needs and protection from all forms of neglect, harm and exploitation" should be inserted to Part III of the Constitution to ensure a child's right to basic care and assistance becomes an enforceable right.