Salient Features Of The Indian Constitution: Consti Law Notes
- The Constitution of India has some outstanding features which distinguish it from other Constitutions. The framers of our Constitution studied other Constitutions, selected their valuable features and put them with necessary modifications in our Constitution.
- The framers of the Constitution of India did not aim at a completely new or original Constitution. They just wanted to produce “a good and workable” Constitution. And they succeeded doing this. The fact that the Constitution, for last 59 years, has been working satisfactorily is a testimony to its quality and utility.
1. Written and lengthiest Constitution
- There are two types of Constitutions in the world. Most of the Constitutions are written. The first modern written Constitution was the American Constitution. On the other hand, the British Constitution is unwritten. It consists of customs and conventions which have grown over the years.
- In India, we have a written Constitution. The framers of our Constitution tried to put everything in black and white. Indian Constitution can be called the largest written constitution in the world because of its contents. In its original form, it consisted of 395 Articles and 8 Schedules to which additions have been made through subsequent amendments. At present it contains 395 Articles and 12 Schedules.
There are various factors responsible for the long size of the Constitution. The Constitution became lengthy mainly due to the following factors-
- The Constitutional draftsmen wanted to put everything in black and white and that too in great detail.
- In other federations, there are two Constitutions: one for the federation and the other for the states. In India, the states do not have separate Constitutions. The powers of states along with the powers of the federation i.e. the Union have been vested in one Constitution.
- The Government of India Act, 1935 was in operation when India got independence. Our leaders were familiar with this Act. They borrowed heavily from this lengthy Act while framing our Constitution.
- India is a country of great diversity. It is a country of several minorities; it has manylanguages, castes, races and religions. The problems and interests of these different groups have found place in one Constitution leading it to be a long document.
- (e) Good features of other Constitutions have been included, with necessary modifications, in our Constitution. For example, we have brought the ‘bill of rights’ from the American Constitution, parliamentary system of government from the British Constitution and Directive
Principles of State Policy from the Irish Constitution.
While including these elements of other Constitutions in our Constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said the framers of our Constitution tried to remove their faults and suit them to our conditions.
- The Preamble describes the source, nature, ideology, goals and objectives of the Constitution. The Constitution declares India to be a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic. The words, ‘Socialist’ and ‘secular’ were added in the Preamble of the Constitution by 42nd amendment which was passed in 1976.
- It underlines the national objective of social justice economic justice and political justice as well as fraternity. It emphasises the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.\
Sovereign: Sovereign means absolutely independent; it is not under the control of any other state. Before 1947, India was not sovereign as it was under the Britishers. Now it can frame its policy without any outside interference.
Socialist: Word ‘Socialist’ was added in the Preamble by 42nd Amendment of the Constitution which was passed in 1976. This implies a system which will endeavour to avoid concentration of wealth in a few hands and will assure its equitable distribution amongst all the people of the nation. It also implies that India is against exploitation in all forms and believes in economic justice to all its citizens. Indian Socialism is basically a combination of Marxist and Gandhian ideology.
Secular: The word ‘Secular’, like Socialist, was also added in the Preamble by 42nd Amendment of the Constitution. India is a country of several religions but India has no official religion of theIndian State. There is no State Religion. In matters relating to religion, the state is neutral and non- interfering. It does not patronize any religion. Nor does it discriminate against any religion. Everycitizen is free to follow and practise the religion of his/her own choice. The state cannot discriminate among its citizens on the basis of religion or it cannot force a citizen to accept any specific religion.
Democratic: Democracy means that the power of the government is vested in the hands of the people. People exercise this power through their elected representatives who, in turn, are responsible to them. All the citizens enjoy equal political rights. Our Constitution lays a lot of emphasis on democratic values, and a number of democratic institutions have been established to
give shape to these values. The centre, states and local self-governing bodies follow democratic principles, and all elections from gram panchayats to parliament are democratically held. Republic: Means that the head of the State is not a hereditary monarch but a President who is indirectly elected by the people for a definite period is actually the political head of the nation.
3) Federal government
- The Constitution provides for a federal form of government. In a federation, there are two governments – at the central level and at the state level. In India, the powers of the government are divided between the central government and state governments.
- Article 1 of the Constitution of India says: – “India, that is Bharat shall be a Union of States.” Though the word ‘Federation’ is not used, the government is federal. A state is federal when
(a) there are two sets of governments and there is distribution of powers between the two, (b) there is a written constitution, which is the supreme law of the land and (c) there is an
independent judiciary to interpret the constitution and settle disputes between the centre and the states. All these features are present in India. There are two sets of government, one at the centre, the other at state level and the distribution of powers between them is quite detailed in our Constitution. The Constitution of India is written and the supreme law of the land. At the apex of single integrated judicial system, stands the Supreme Court which is independent from the control of the executive and the legislature.
- But in spite of all these essential features of a federation, Indian Constitution has a centralizing or a unitary tendency. While other federations like U.S.A. provide for dual citizenship, the India Constitution provides for single citizenship. There is also a single integrated judiciary for the whole country. The provision of All India Services, like the Indian Administrative Service, the India Police Service, and Indian Forest Service prove another unitary feature. Members of these services are recruited by the Union Public Service Commission on an All-India basis. Because these services are controlled by Union Government, to some extent this constitutes a constraint on the autonomy of states.
- A significant unitary feature is the Emergency provisions in the Indian constitution. During the time of emergency, the Union Government becomes most powerful and the Union Parliament acquires the power of making laws for the states. The Governor placed as the constitutional head of the state, acts as the agent of the centre and is intended to safeguard the interests of the centre. These provisions reveal the centralising tendency of our federation.
- Prof: K.C. Wheare has rightly remarked that Indian Constitution provides, “a system of government which is quasi-federal, a unitary state with the subsidiary unitary features”. The framers of the constitution expressed clearly that there exists the harmony of federalism and the unitarism. Dr. Ambedkar said, “The political system adopted in the Constitution could be both unitary as well as federal according to the requirement of time and circumstances”. We can say that India has a “Cooperative federalism” with central guidance and state compliance.
- There are three different lists of subjects given under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution-Union list, State list and Concurrent list.
- The Union list contains 97 subjects of national importance like Defence, Foreign Affairs,
Currency, Post and Telegraph, Railways. On these subjects, only central legislature
(Parliament) can make laws.
- The State list contains 66 subjects of local importance. On these subjects, state legislatures
make laws. These subjects include agriculture, police, and jails.
- Concurrent list contains 47 subjects which are of common concern to both the central and
state governments. These include education, roads, social security etc. On these subjects, both the parliament and state legislatures can legislate. However, if there is a conflict between a central law and the state law over a subject given in the concurrent list, the central law will prevail.
4) Parliamentary government
- India has adopted the Parliamentary system as found in Britain. In this system, the executive is responsible to the legislature, and remains in power only as long and it enjoys the confidence of the legislature. The president of India, who remains in office for five years is the nominal, titular or constitutional head. The Union Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as its head is drawn from the legislature. It is collectively responsible to the House of People (Lok Sabha), and has to resign as soon as it loses the confidence of that house. The President, the nominal executive shall exercise his powers according to the advice of the Union Council of Ministers, the real executive. In the states also, the government is Parliamentary in nature.
- Indian Constitution provides for a parliamentary form of government. The majority party in
the Lower House (Lok Sabha) forms government. TThe Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Parliament. The Cabinet is the real executive head. In Presidential form of
government, the President is the executive head. In India, the President is only the nominal
- In Britain, the monarchy is hereditary. But in India, the post of President is elective.
5) Three Tier Government
- Indian Constitution provides for a three tier government.
- Originally, it was two tier i.e. Centre and the State
- But by 73rd and 74th Amendment Act, 1992 three tier government has been established.
(Centre, state & local self government)
- Panchayat raj system was adopted by way of these two amendments.
6) Fundamental rights and duties
- These rights are fundamental because they are basic to the moral and spiritual development of the individual and these rights cannot be easily abridged by the parliament.
- Now the citizen enjoys six fundamental rights, originally there were seven fundamental rights. One of them was taken away from Part III of the Constitution by the Forty-fourth Amendment Act, 1978. As a result, the Right to Property is no longer a fundamental right. Since 1978, it has become a legal right.
- The idea of fundamental rights has been borrowed from the American Constitution.
- Any citizen of India can seek the help of High Court or Supreme Court of India if any of his
fundamental rights is undermined by the government or any institution or any other
- Fundamental rights are justiciable in nature. (i.e. they are legally enforceable by the court of
law). These are not absolute in nature & are subject to some restrictions. Parliament can
amend them but not those provisions that form the “basic structure” of the Constitution.
- Suspended during National Emergency (Except Art 20 & 21).
- The Constitution of India guarantees six fundamental rights to every citizen. These are:
- Right to Equality.[Article 14-18]
- Right to Freedom. [Article 19-22]
- Right against Exploitation. [Article 23,24]
- Right to Freedom of Religion. [Article 25-28]
- Cultural and Educational Rights. [Article 29, 30]
- Right to Constitutional Remedies. [Article 32]
(Right to property (Article-31) originally a fundamental right has been omitted by the 44th
Amendment Act. 1978. It is now a legal right.)
7) Fundamental Duties
- Non-justiciable in nature (i.e. they are not legally enforceable by the court of law)
- Not present in the original Constitution. (Added by 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 on the recommendation by Swarn Singh committee.)
- Reminds people that while enjoying rights they have some duties to do.
8) Directive principles of state policy
- These principles are in the nature of directives to the government to implement them for establishing social and economic democracy in the country.
- The Directive Principles of State Policy are enumerated in Part IV of the Constitution. The framers of our Constitution took the idea of having such principles from the Irish Constitution.
- These principles have been stated a; “fundamental in the governance of the country”.
- They are instructions or directives from the Constitution to the state and the government. It is the duty of the government to implement them.
- Non-justiciable in nature (i.e. they are not legally enforceable by the court of law) but they are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country.
- Promotes social and economic democracy
- In general, the Directive Principles aim at building a Welfare State. These principles provide the criteria with which we can judge the performance of the government.
Some of the important Directive Principles are:
- There should not be concentration of wealth and means of production to the detriment of common man;
- Workers should be paid adequate wage & there should be equal pay for equal work for both men and women;
- Weaker sections of the people, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe people should be given special care;
- The state should promote respect for international law and international peace.
- All the governments-Central, State and Local-are expected to frame their policies in accordance with these principles. The aim of these principles is to establish a welfare state in India. They, however, are not binding on the government-they are mere guidelines.
9) Fundamental Duties
- A new part IV (A) after the Directive Principles of State Policy was incorporated in the constitution by the 42nd Amendment, 1976 for fundaments duties. Fundamental Duties did not form part of the Constitution. Ten Fundamental Duties were inserted in Part IV by the Constitution 42nd Amendment Act, 1976.
- A new Article – Article 51-A enumerates ten Fundamental Duties. These duties are assigned only to citizens and not to non-citizens. These duties are not justifiable (i.e. These cannot be enforced through the courts of law)
- The purpose of incorporating these duties in the Constitution is just to remind the people that while enjoying their right as citizens, should also perform their duties for rights and duties are correlative.
10) Partly rigid and partly flexible
- Whether a Constitution is rigid or flexible depends on the nature of amendment.
- The Constitution of India is neither wholly rigid nor wholly flexible. It is partly rigid and partly flexible. It is because of the fact that for the purpose of amendment, our Constitution has been divided into three parts:
- Certain provisions of the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority in the Parliament.
- Certain provisions can be amended by a two-third majority of the Parliament and its ratification by at least half of the states.
- The remaining provisions can be amended by the Parliament by two-third majority.
- These different amendment procedures make our Constitution partly flexible and rigid. In fact, there is a balance between rigidity and flexibility in our Constitution.
- Some amount of flexibility was introduced into our Constitution in order to encourage its growth.
- Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru feared that if a Constitution is too rigid, it will be stagnant and that the growth of the nation would be hampered.
11) Single citizenship
- In a federation, normally we have double citizenship. In the United States of America, there is double citizenship. An American is a citizen of America and at the same time he is also a citizen of one of the 50 States of America where he resides. In India, there is only single citizenship. Every Indian, irrespective of his place of birth or residence, is a citizen of India only. He is not a citizen of any Indian state. There is no citizenship of Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, U.P. or so.
- Single citizenship is meant to ensure national unity and national integration.
12) Universal Adult Franchise
- Article 326 of the Constitution of India provides Universal Adult Franchise. It means that every citizen of India who has completed 18 years of age is eligible to vote in general elections irrespective of his caste, creed, sex, religion or place of birth. This is one of the most revolutionary aspects of Indian democracy.
13) Language Policy
- The Constitution has also defined the language policy. India is a country where different
- languages are spoken in various parts of the country. Hindi and English have been made
- official languages of the Central Government. A state can adopt the language spoken by its
- people in that state also as its official language.
- Although India is a multi-lingual nation, the Constitution provides that Hindi in Devnagri script
- will be the national language. It shall be the duty of the union to promote and spread Hindi
- At present, we have 22 languages which have been recognised by the Indian Constitution.
- These are: Assamese, Gujarati, Konkani, Marathi, Sanskrit, Telugu, Bengali, Hindi,
- Maithili, Nepali, Santhali, Urdu, Bodo, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Sindhi, Dogri,
- Kashmiri, Manipuri, Punjabi, Tamil.
14) Independent judiciary
- The Indian Constitution provides for an independent judiciary as also envisaged as a directive
- principle laid down under Art. 50 i.e. “Separation of judiciary from executive”. The judiciary
- has been made independent of the Executive as well as the Legislature.
- The judiciary in India is independent and impartial. It is an integrated and a hierarchical
- judiciary with the Supreme Court at the apex of the hierarchy. The High Courts stand in its
- middle, and the lower courts are located at its bottom.
- The Judges security of tenure and it is extremely difficult to remove any Judge of the Supreme
- or of the High Court through impeachment.
- Also, the Supreme Court and the High Courts have the power of Judicial Review. They have the
- power to declare acts of legislatures and actions of the Executive ultra vires and such acts or
- actions are found to be in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution.
15) A Constitution derived from many sources
- The framers of our Constitution borrowed many things from the Constitutions of various other
- countries and included them in our Constitution. That is why some writers call Indian
- Constitution a ‘bag of borrowings’.
16) Emergency provisions
- The framers of our Constitution had realised that there could be certain dangerous situations
- when government could not be run as in ordinary time. Hence our Constitution contains
- certain emergency provisions.
- During emergency the fundamental rights of the citizens can be suspended and our
- government becomes a unitary one.
17) Federal Government with Unitary Bias
- India is a federation, although word ‘federation’ does not find a place in the whole text of the Indian Constitution. The elements of federation are present in the Indian Constitution. It is a written and rigid Constitution.
- There is dual polity and there is Constitutional division of powers between the centre and the states. There is also an independent judiciary. The Supreme Court arbitrates the disputes between the centre and the states. All these provisions make India a federation. But in Indian Federation, the centre is strong as compared to the states. The centre has more financial powers and the states largely depend upon it for their economic development. The Governor acts as the agent of the centre.
- The centre can reorganize a state, but a state cannot reorganize the centre. In other words, the centre is indestructible while the states are destructible. During emergencies, the powers of the centre considerably grow and the states become weak.
- K. C. Where has described the Indian government as ‘quasi-federal’. India has also been characterised as ‘a federal state with unitary spirit.‘
- Indian Constitution establishes India as the federal system of government. Federal system means a political system where is there division of powers between centre and State. But Indian federal system is unique in itself as it has a strong centre. So, Indian Political structure can be rightly described as “federal system with strong centre”
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