GOOD GOVERNANCE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT UNDER INDIAN CONSTITUTION
Author: Jayanta Boruah
Research ScholarFormer, Asist Prof of Law & Advocate
Governance is a determining factor of development for every Nation. It is essential to have good governance for building up a prosperous Nation where the welfare of the citizens is given utmost priority. The validity of a government can be questioned based on the parameters fixed by each changing phase of human civilization for defining good governance. Since the Role and Functions of most of the present-day governments are defined in the Constitution of their respective Nations, it makes the Constitution a significant contributor in making a government function on the lines of good governance. However, no governance can be good governance, if it fails to adhere to the changing demands of time for development. Similarly, in the contemporary phase, the world is moving towards a new model of sustainable development for which the requirements that are needed for achieving such a development can be held to be the new parameters for justifying governance as good governance in addition to its traditional principles. Further, there are 17 Sustainable Development Goals that were globally accepted to be achieved by 2030. Out of these 17 Goals, Goal 16 provides for establishing institutions and mechanisms for good governance, highlighting the importance of good governance in achieving sustainable development.
As such, India is also striving towards achieving sustainable development for which it becomes important to understand the mechanisms and the processes adopted by the Indian Government in achieving such an ambitious target, that will enable us to know that whether governance in India has been according to the new notions of good governance or not. Further, to know whether such an endeavor is even available in India, we will have to look into the Constitution of India. Thus, this article will attempt to know whether there has been any change in the concept of good governance due to the emergence of the concept of sustainable development and whether the Indian Constitution has provided scope for addressing to such new changes for having a good governance in India and if yes then whether governance in India has been able to maintain the parameters required for establishing good governance.
Constitution; Good Governance; Sustainable Development; Sustainable Development Goals: and Rule of Law
Governance is a multidimensional concept that refers to state actions, through which a particular government manages its daily activities of regulating the State for better National Interests. Governance, for being regarded as a good governance, it is necessary that the Government concerned must be close to the people; must be legal, positive, innovative as well as market-oriented; must make a way for better transparency; must strive for social as well as economic goods; and must be in a position to make the citizens obey by the law. At present in most of the democracies in the world, the Government operates through three vital organs, via- the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary. The Role and Functions of these three organs are prescribed in the Constitution of the land which is the principal source of law from where the Rule of Law gains its origin and also it is mostly regarded as the Grundnorm of the land concerned. Thus, there remains no doubt that it’s the Constitution which provides the parameters for better governance, since every government gains its legality from such Constitution and if any activity or action is carried by any of the organs of the government in violation of the Constitutional provisions, then such governance will automatically become unconstitutional and will lose the characteristics of being a good governance.
However, no governance can be held to be good governance without taking into consideration the parameters demanded by the contemporary times. Initially, it can be held that for any government to impose good governance, it needed to possess the elements of democracy and to deliver liberty to its citizens for achieving the highest possible economic growth and development. But at present, the world is striving towards sustainable development which aims for both inter and intra-generational equity and demands for a compromise between economic growth and environmental protection. Thus, it has now become necessary for each existing government to design governance according to the Principles of Sustainable Development, so that such governance could satisfy the parameters of being held as good governance. This article will therefore attempt to address three basic questions relating to the subject of study concerned, via- what is the conceptual relationship between good governance and sustainable development? Whether the Constitution of India provides for good governance and sustainable development? And whether India has been able to achieve the parameters required by the government to achieve sustainable development to have good governance?
CONCEPTUALIZING GOOD GOVERNANCE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Concept of Good Governance
In India, the concept of good governance can be found prevailing since time immemorial. For instance- references of good governance can be traced from Bhagwad Gita that calls for several modern concepts like leadership, truthfulness, and self-realization. Kautilya’s Arthashastra also recognized the welfare of the people as a paramount need for good governance. Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of Swaraj also indicated the principles of Good Governance 
At present the meaning of the term ‘good governance’ can be found in the definition given by World Bank in its report titled- ‘Governance and Development’ in 1992 which is-
“Good Governance is the manner how power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development”.
Kofi Annan, the Former Secretary-General of the United Nations defined good governance as governance that ensures respect for human rights, capacitates the public administration, and promotes transparency.
Good governance thus, can be described generally as a concept consisting of three categories of values, via- values related to rule of law; values related to democracy; and values related to the constitution and the modern institutions. This categorization provides three core parameters to the concept of good governance, via- rule of law, democracy, and institution. All these three categories of values further give rise to six broad principles where rule of law includes the principles of properness and human rights; democracy provides for the principles of participation and transparency; while the modern values provide for principles like accountability and effectiveness. The United Nations further provided 8 principles for good governance that includes- consensus-oriented, participatory, accountability, transparency, responsiveness, rule of law, effectiveness as well as efficiency and equitable as well as inclusiveness.
Concept of Sustainable Development
Sustainable development speaks about an inverse relationship between environmental protection and natural resource exploitations while formulating and implementing country-specific goals or policies to enhance economic development. The concept as a whole attempts to maintain an equilibrium balance between the natural capital and various socio-economic elements. It provides for a mechanism for relaxing the conflicts between the needs and the ways of satisfying such needs to reconcile the efforts for protecting the ecological balance while maintaining economic development. This concept appreciates the principle of inter-generational equity besides appreciating only intra-generational equality based on the belief that economic growth is not the end rather a means for every society whose end is to maintain sustenance. The conventional models of economic development have led to a huge exploitation of existing natural resources making the entire ecosystem vulnerable for which an urgent restriction to such models of development has now become necessary. However, it has also been argued by many scholars that if economic exploitation of a particular resource is reduced to nil then such resource might lose its value which might ultimately cause the extinction of such resource. Thus, sustainable development demands for better utilization of natural resources for efficient economic growth.
The concept of sustainable development has been changing since its time of inception. It was the Stockholm Declaration in 1972 where the world fraternity realized the need for bringing alterations in the then existing models of economic development. However, the concept was concretized and defined for the first time after the Rio Declaration in the Brundtland Commission Report. Then subsequently Rio+20 Agenda, Millennium Development Goals, and finally the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were enacted from time to time that kept on widening the concept and parameters of sustainable development. At present, humanity is striving for achieving the SDGs which is a set of 17 different goals and goal 16 explicitly provides for good governance since it requires each State to achieve inclusiveness, participation, rights, justice, and security in its governance.
By looking at the evolution of the concept of Sustainable Development as a principle it can be said that at present it includes the following- stability in economic growth; a balance between social and economic development; policies for active employment; reducing regional inequalities; increasing the growth of personal income as well as improving consumption patterns; and above all sustainable utilization of natural resources for preservation of the environment for the future generations.
Relation between Sustainable Development and Good Governance
Good governance as a concept refers to a set of qualitative characteristics that influences the process of rulemaking and their implementations for achieving certain goals of development by emanating certain values like- participation, transparency, accountability, respect to human rights, etc. it speaks for delivering certain services by the government that enhances the welfare of the citizens concerned. It establishes a cordial relationship between the State and the people.
The SDG Agenda, on the other hand, provides for different targets to be achieved by humanity as a whole to make life on Earth worth living. Some of these goals include- eradicating poverty; removing hunger; building infrastructures for better health, water supplies as well as sanitation; providing clean and affordable energy to all; etc. All these goals require effective and efficient institutions for their achievements. Even though these goals are agreed globally to be achieved but such can be made possible only through local initiatives by respective States within their territorial jurisdictions for which the respective governments need to establish such institutions and to build such endeavors that allow their citizens to participate in the mission of achieving these goals. SDG 16 itself provides for establishing such institutions to build capacities of the public by ensuring their participation in the process of achieving these goals by the respective governments at the local levels.
All these arguments provide for the governments to play an active role in achieving both social and economic development after the 2015 Agenda based on the belief that good governance will enable the respective citizens in achieving the goals of sustainable development. Thus, now the parameters of good governance demands the existing governments to look not only for economic development but also for social and environmental developments based on equitable principles, which makes the concept of development even more wider and complex, since along with all these, now the government shall also be able to address the political as well as technical aspects of developmental solutions. In the era of sustainable development, good governance is considered as a foundation for a new contemporary model of development that includes sustained and inclusive economic growth; social as well as environmental development eradicating poverty and hunger.
For accessing whether governance is good governance or not, three dimensions can be used as a measuring rod. They are-
- Mechanisms that includes the extent of democracy and transparency available under a particular governance, the accountability and efficiency in the government services and the institutions established for achieving the goals of development;
- Government processes that refer to the extent of participation of all the sections of the concerned societies in ensuring efficiency in the decisions making process where the excluded, vulnerable, and the most disadvantageous sections of the societies are given opportunities of being heard in such decision-making processes; and
- Outcomes of good governance shall be a stable society where the services provided by the government cater to the actual needs of the communities including the voices of the most marginalized and the vulnerable sections of the society.
All these three dimensions shall now be interpreted on the lines of the principles of sustainable development for a governance to be accessed as good governance. It means that the government besides confirming the initially established principles of good governance must now also conform to the requirements of the SDGs for being regarded as good governance. Thus, now good governance shall include- long term planning based on the principles of sustainable development for establishing institutions that provides for both actual as well as inter-generational equity; creating coherence along with synergies between different dimensions of sustainable development policies; the collaboration between different government approaches; and development of Information and Technologies for interconnecting State, citizens as well as private investors in addition to introduction of new monitoring and evaluation systems.
INDIAN CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
India has been established as the world’s largest democracy by its Constitution. Democracy meant for a government that is by the People, of the People and for the People where the framers of the Indian Constitution went one step ahead by interpreting the phrase ‘for the People’ as a government ‘for the welfare of the People’. India being a country of multiple diversity, it’s Constitution provided for equality amongst all sections of the society by prohibiting all sorts of discriminations based on caste, race, sex, place of birth, etc. providing for equal opportunities to all to foster national integrity development. The Constitution made India a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Republic and secured to all its citizens- individual dignity, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship as well as Justice. India has opted for Parliamentary Democracy where the institution of State is divided into three vital organs, via- the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary who functions based on the principle of ‘mutual checks and balance’. All these provisions prove the conformity of the Indian Constitution with the principle of rule of law.
Indian Constitution has also shown respect towards human rights by enumerating a majority of universally accepted human rights in the list of Fundamental Rights that are guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution. These Fundamental Rights incorporated the basic human rights as provided by UDHR but the Constitution even went ahead by enlisting the Directive Principles in Part IV which can be held as fundamental mechanisms for good governance in India. For the achievement of the objectives of good governance as provided by the DPSP, efforts have been made from time to time by the Legislature, Executive as well as Judiciary by incorporating some of such DPSP in the list of Fundamental Rights. Thus, it can be argued that both the Fundamental Rights as well as the DPSP provides for an environment that allows the citizens to have a dignified growth and development along with the basic human rights.
The Constitution further provided special recognition and protection to the socially backward classes and castes. It also gave adequate attention to the demands of the marginalized and vulnerable sections of society. Several Constitutional provisions like reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Women, Persons with Disabilities, etc.; special provisions to the certain North-Eastern States; and such other initiatives prove that the Constitution has also shown respect to the demands of the minorities and the needy ones as per their requirements.
For the achievement of such objectives and also for the protection of the Constitutional governance in India, the Constitution itself has made scope for an Independent Judiciary with the powers of Judicial Review. The Judiciary in India enjoys a real and strong power in not only protecting the Fundamental Rights but also in protecting the Constitution itself. The role of the Judiciary in achieving the parameters of good governance is immense since it caters to the demands of creating a just society by checking violations of the Constitutional provisions.
One of the most important requirements for good governance is limitations on the power of government which the Constitution provides by ensuring periodic elections, by ensuring civil rights, and by establishing an Independent Judiciary. These limits help in making the government accountable which is one another principle of good governance. It’s the Judiciary only that has enlarged the scope of the Fundamental Rights to include several other human rights that were previously not guaranteed, like- Right to Know, Right to Nutrition, Right to Clean Environment, etc. which aimed for bringing transparency in the government activities and ensuring better public participation.
The Constitution besides dealing with the principles of good governance also contains provisions adhering to the principles of sustainable development. For instance, Article 14, 19(1)(g), 21, 26, 32, 47, 48A, 51(A)(g), 226, 253, Seventh and eleventh Schedule are all relevant for achieving the goals of sustainable development and environmental protection. For environment protection, the Constitution has made it a duty for both the State and the citizens to have compassion towards the natural ecosystem. If we compare the SDGs with the Constitutional provisions then we can find that- SDG 1 and SDG 2 provides for eradication of poverty and removing hunger, similarly both adequate means of livelihood and food have been made Fundamental Rights in India; SDG 3 provides for good health and wellbeing and the Indian Constitution guarantees the same as Fundamental Rights of its citizens; SDG 4 provides for quality education while Right to Education has been provided as a Fundamental Right under Article 21A by the Indian Constitution; SDG 5 provides for removing gender inequalities and discrimination on the grounds of sex has been prohibited even by the Indian Constitutions through several provisions; SDG 6 provides for clean water and sanitation and under the Indian Constitution right to clean environment haws been made a Fundamental Right which inherently includes Right to Clean Water and Sanitation facilities; SDG 7 provides for affordable and clean energy which has also been guaranteed as a Fundamental Right in the Indian Constitution, SDG 8 provides for decent work and economic growth and the Indian Constitution provides for the same by virtue of DPSPs; SDG 9 provides for trade related developments and the Indian Constitution too provides for barriers free interstate trade as well as providing right to join any profession of choice as a Fundamental Right; SDG 10 provides for reducing inequalities and it has already been discussed that how Indian Constitution makes scope for special measures to remove such inequalities; SDG 11 provides for sustainable management of cities and the Indian Constitution was amended to give scope for local self-governments for not only cities but also for villages; SDG 12 provides for responsible consumption and production and the Indian Constitution makes scope for the same by allowing the citizens right to know and the right to choice as well as the right to practice any profession; SDG 13 speaks for climate action and the Indian Constitution also provides recognition to such actions; SDG 14 and 15 provides for life below water and above land respectively and the Indian Constitution provides for protecting the same as a responsibility of both the State and the citizens; SDG 16 provides for peace, justice and strong institutions which are also the requisites of good governance and it has already been discussed above that how Indian Constitution adheres to such requirements of good governance and finally SDG 17 provides for partnerships for this Goals and Indian Constitution has always respected International Cooperation in constructive activities.
Thus, it becomes clear that the Indian Constitution has provided the required mechanisms and the processes required for a government in India to achieve the parameters of good governance on the lines of sustainable development.
STATUS OF GOOD GOVERNANCE AND ACHIEVEMENT OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS IN INDIA
Based on the Constitutional provisions and the International Commitments, India has started making policies and adjustments in the enforcement strategies in such policies to achieve progress in realizing the SDGs. A report submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MOEF&CC) in 2015 has provided several interesting facts about the achievements of SDGs in India. Some important initiatives that helped in making certain progress in the process of implementing SDGs in India can be highlighted as below-
Sashakt Bharat – Sabal Bharat (Empowerment and Resilient India)- Under this scheme, India has been able to empower 271 million people who were subjected to multidimensional poverty through stable economic growth. It has also provided for better access to electricity, drinking water, sanitation, housing, and such other facilities which have enabled India to reduce inequalities amongst the vulnerable sections. Swachh Bharat (Clean and Healthy India), with the help of this scheme along with the National Nutrition Mission, India has been able to achieve 100% rural sanitation and has also been able to reduce significantly the rates of stunting amongst children and maternal mortality rates. Moreover, the scheme of Ayushman Bharat can be held as the world’s largest health protection scheme that provides an annual coverage of USD$7000 to 500 million individuals across 100 million families. The Samagra Bharat- Saksham Bharat (Inclusive and Entrepreneurial Bharat) has provided for universalization of access to education, health, nutrition, and social protection for achieving social inclusion along with developing capabilities for employment and entrepreneurship. Financial Inclusion has also been attempted through several initiatives like- Jan Dhan Aadhar Mobile, Jan DhanYojna, Aadhar Card, etc. whereby new avenues for credit insurance and direct benefit transfer for the poor has been created. The Scheme of Satat Bharat- Sanatan Bharat (Sustainable India) has provided scope for climate action, clean and efficient energy, Disaster management, and several other schemes. It has allowed India to electrify all the villages and to reduce CO2 emissions by 38 million tonnes. It has also targeted to install infrastructures capable of producing 450GW of renewable energy. The Sampanna Bharat- Samridh Bharat (Prosperous and Vibrant India) policy allows India to aim for the target of achieving $5 trillion GDP by building several infrastructures based on spurring investments and technological innovations.
However, besides having such policies it has been seen that governance in India has never been free from challenges to be assessed as good governance. For instance, access to justice has always been a problem mostly for the marginalized sections, since more than 4 million cases in High Courts and 25 million cases in subordinate Courts were pending until 2006. This shows that even though the Constitution has guaranteed several Fundamental Rights, securing them is still a distant dream for many citizens. Further, the criminalization of politics, terrorism elements in Jammu & Kashmir, and North-Eastern States along with corruption have created severe hurdles in the process of implementing good governance in India.
As per SDGs are concerned, it was reported in 2019 that around 22% of the Indian population still lives in absolute poverty. While 14.5% of the Indian population is suffering from malnourishment and 51.4% of women of reproductive age between 15-49 years are suffering from anemic. 20.9% of children are underweight and 37.8% of children below 5 years of age are stunted. The rates of crimes as defined under IPC in India have increased by 1.1% from 1953 to 2006 against 100,000 populations. Offenses against women have also increased where instances of rape doubled from 1990 to 2008 and almost 1.1% of Dowry deaths are recorded against 100,000 populations each year. Similarly, other crimes against women are increasing in a very rapid manner which led the National Crime Records Bureau to state that in India in every 23 minutes a woman is raped; in every 77 minutes, a dowry death occurs while in every three minutes a woman faces one or the other forms of domestic violence. As regards access to energy is concerned, the government claims to have electrified 100% of villages but still, it is found that across the country 240 million people lack access to electricity, and those who are having such access are facing several interruptions. Similarly, India is still dependent on coal and other fossil fuels for energy production ignoring the need for addressing climate change consequences. The forest cover is getting depleted at a huge rate and environmental crimes like rhino-poaching, pangolin smuggling, illegal bio-trading, etc. are also increasing day by day. It seems that India has adopted policies to meet the needs of sustainable development but has significantly failed to meet the needs of such policies while implementing them. The inefficiency of government institutions has led to the decline of the status of governance in India of which the above facts are the biggest shades of evidence. Further, by expanding the scope and ambit of the Fundamental Rights. it has made the task of governance more difficult since now the parameters of governance have significantly increased sub standardizing the current efforts of the government. It has also proved that somewhere Indian Government has failed to adhere to the contemporary needs of good governance even though the Constitution provides for the mechanisms and the due processes required for it.
CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
In the contemporary age, it seems that good governance has become an essential element for achieving sustainable development. On the other hand, sustainable development has itself increased the parameters for achieving the goal of good governance. At present good governance can be defined as a government that adheres to the traditional elements of good governance, via- rule of law, democracy, transparency, accountability, participation, effectiveness, efficiency, inclusiveness, and responsiveness along with the legal and institutional requirements for achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
A government, whether can be attributed to the status of good governance or not, depends on three dimensions, via- mechanisms adopted, process used and the outcomes derived. In India, the Constitution no doubt provides the adequate mechanisms for achieving the status of both good governance as well as sustainable development. But their outcomes have revealed that there are serious shortcomings in the processes of the government while implementing such mechanisms which are proven by the numerical facts regarding the outcomes of such mechanisms and processes. There exists a serious gap between the ideologies framing the policies and the experience of those implementing such policies after they are framed. Such differences will automatically create practical hardships in the implementations of those policies, no matter how good they are on papers.
Increasing corruption and criminalization of politics along with the external threat of insurgencies and terrorisms have made the institutions of government to cripple for maintaining its agendas. Further, due to the outbreak of Covid-19 at present, it is even expected that situations will become even worse globally. In such situations, India must step in with strong and adequate mechanisms to address such issues. Transparency in government activities is needed. No doubt, the government has been trying to maintain such transparency by way of RTI and e-governance. But in a country where a majority of the population is still illiterate and lacks the basic resources to access such facilities, it becomes very hard for maintaining transparency without which the government will lack accountability. Thus, it becomes essential that more attention shall be given to making the Indian masses literate and aware enough to know their rights as well as to empower them so that they can participate in the process of governance. Merely by declaring rights will not ensure the welfare of the citizens, mechanisms shall be provided whereby citizens can enjoy their rights without interferences and without resorting to Judiciary. Laws shall be made more enforceable and penalties shall be increased for enhancing deterrence in the society. Moral values shall be given priority in school level educational institutions where values of preserving nature and respecting the human rights of others shall be inculcated in the young minds of the children. Measures for psychological counseling shall be adopted to train the parents and guardians so that they can guard the development of their children from a very early age for reducing the rates of crimes in the society. Basic facilities shall be made available based on priority, since digitalization is of no use without access to the internet or electricity, for which it becomes necessary that planning shall be made keeping in consideration the aspect of its implementation. Academic researches shall be made a part of executive planning which will make the young minds understand the actual practical situations existing within their area of studies at one hand and will enable the executive to have some new creative and innovative ideas for dealing with such situations on the other hand. This will combine young enthusiastic mindsets from academic backgrounds with experienced and practical mindsets from executive backgrounds which is expected to provide a better solution to most of the difficult issues concerned.
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