Salient Features of the Constitution of India

 

Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

Lengthiest Written Constitution

  • Constitutions are classified into written, like the American Constitution, or unwritten, like the British Constitution.
  • The Constitution of India is the lengthiest of all the written constitutions of the world.
  • Originally (1949), the Constitution contained a Preamble, 395 Articles divided into 22 Parts and 8 Schedules.
  • Various amendments carried out since 1951 have
    • Deleted 1 Part (VII)
    • Added 4 Parts (IVA, IXA, IXB and XIVA)
    • Added 4 Schedules (9, 10, 11 and 12)

Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

Four factors for Lengthiest Constitution

  • Geographical factors, that is, the vastness of the country and its diversity.
  • Historical influence of the Government of India Act of 1935, which was bulky.
  • Single Constitution for both the Centre and the states.
  • Dominance of legal luminaries in the Constituent Assembly.

 

Drawn From Various Sources

  • Dr B R Ambedkar proudly acclaimed that the Constitution of India has been  framed after ‘ransacking all the known Constitutions of the World

 

15 Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

 

Blend of Rigidity & Flexibility

  • Constitutions are also classified into rigid and flexible.
  • A rigid Constitution is one that requires a special procedure for its amendment, as for example, the American Constitution.
  • A flexible constitution, on the other hand, is one that can be amended in the same manner as the ordinary laws are made, as for example, the British Constitution.
  • The Constitution of India is neither rigid nor flexible but a synthesis of both.

 

 

Federal System with Unitary Bias

  • The Constitution of India establishes a federal system of government.
  • Indian Constitution also contains many unitary or non-federal features.
  • The term ‘Federation’ has nowhere been used in the Constitution.
  • Indian Constitution has been variously described as ‘federal in form but unitary in spirit’
    • ‘Quasi-federal’ by K C Wheare,
    • ‘Bargaining federalism’ by Morris Jones
    • Co-operative federalism’ by Granville Austin,

 

Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

Parliamentary Form of Government

  • The Constitution of India has opted for the British parliamentary System of Government rather than American Presidential System of Government.
  • The Indian Parliament is not a sovereign body like the British Parliament.
  • Further, the Indian State has an elected head (republic) while the British State has hereditary head (monarchy).
  • In a parliamentary system the role of the Prime Minister has become so significant and crucial that the political scientists like to call it a ‘Prime Ministerial Government’.

 

Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

Parliamentary Sovereignty & Judicial Supremacy

  • The doctrine of sovereignty of Parliament is associated with the British Parliament
  • Principle of judicial supremacy with that of the American Supreme Court.
  • The scope of judicial review power of the Supreme Court in India is narrower than that of what exists in US.
  • American Constitution provides for ‘due process of law’ against that of ‘procedure established by law’ contained in the Indian Constitution (Article 21).
  • The Supreme Court, on the one hand, can declare the parliamentary laws as unconstitutional through its power of judicial review. 

 

Integrated & Independent Judiciary

  • The Indian Constitution establishes a judicial system that is integrated as well as independent.

 

Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

Fundamental Rights

  • They operate as limitations on the tyranny of the executive and arbitrary laws of the legislature.
  • They are justiciable in nature, that is, they are enforceable by the courts for their violation.
  • Fundamental Rights are not absolute and subject to reasonable restrictions.
  • Further, they are not sacrosanct and can be curtailed or repealed by the Parliament through a constitutional amendment act.
  • They can also be suspended during the operation of a National Emergency except the rights guaranteed by Articles 20 and 21.

 

Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

Directive Principles of State Policy

  • According to Dr B R Ambedkar, the Directive Principles of State Policy is a ‘novel feature’ of the Indian Constitution
  • They can be classified into three broad categories- socialistic, Gandhian and liberal–intellectual.
  • The directive principles are meant for promoting the ideal of social and economic democracy.
  • They seek to establish a ‘welfare state’ in India.
  • However, unlike the Fundamental Rights, the directives are non-justiciable in nature

 

 

Fundamental Duties

  • The original constitution did not provide for the fundamental duties of the citizens.
  • These were added during the operation of internal emergency (1975–77) by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976 on the recommendation of the Swaran Singh Committee.
  • The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002 added one more fundamental duty.

 

 

A Secular State

  • The term ‘secular’ was added to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976.
  • The Preamble secures to all citizens of India liberty of belief, faith and worship.
  • State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws (Article 14).
  • State shall not discriminate against any citizen on the ground of religion (Article 15).
  • Equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters of public employment (Article 16).
  • All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate any religion (Article 25).
  • Every religious denomination or any of its section shall have the right to manage its religious affairs (Article 26).
  • No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes for the promotion of a particular religion (Article 27).
  • No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution maintained by the State (Article 28).
  • Any section of the citizens shall have the right to conserve its distinct language, script or culture (Article 29).
  • All minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice (Article 30).
  • The State shall endeavor to secure for all the citizens a Uniform Civil Code (Article 44).
  • Indian Constitution embodies the positive concept of secularism, i.e., giving equal respect to all religions or protecting all religions equally.

 

Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

Universal Adult Franchise

  • The Indian Constitution adopts universal adult franchise as a basis of elections to the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies.
  • Every citizen who is not less than 18 years of age has a right to vote without any discrimination of caste, race, religion, sex, literacy, wealth, and so on.
  • The voting age was reduced to 18 years from 21 years in 1989 by the 61st Constitutional Amendment Act of 1988.

 

 

Single Citizenship

  • Though the Indian Constitution is federal and envisages a dual polity it provides for only a single citizenship, that is, the Indian citizenship.

 

 

Independent Bodies

  • Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections.
  • Comptroller and Auditor-General of India to audit the accounts of the Central and state governments.
  • Union Public Service Commission
  • State Public Service Commission

 

 

Emergency Provisions

  • National emergency on the ground of war or external aggression or armed rebellion16 (Article 352);
  • State emergency (President’s Rule) on the ground of failure of Constitutional machinery in the states (Article 356) or failure to comply with the directions of the Centre (Article 365)
  • Financial emergency on the ground of threat to the financial stability or credit of India (Article 360).
  • During an emergency, the Central Government becomes all-powerful and the states go into the total control of the centre

 

Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

Three-tier Government

 

 

Co-operative Societies

  • 97th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2011 gave a constitutional status and protection to co-operative societies.
  • It made the right to form co-operative societies a fundamental right (Article 19).
  • It included a new Directive Principle of State Policy on promotion of cooperative societies (Article 43-B).
  • It added a new Part IX-B in the Constitution which is entitled as “The Cooperative Societies” (Articles 243-ZH to 243-ZT).

 

Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

Criticism of the Constitution

  • A Borrowed Constitution
  • A Carbon Copy of the 1935 Act
  • Un-Indian or Anti-Indian
  • An Un-Gandhian Constitution
  • Elephantine Size
  • Paradise of the Lawyers

 

 

Notes

  • About 250 provisions of the 1935 Act have been included in the Constitution.
  • 1909, 1919, and 1935 Acts provided for communal representation
  • USA gave franchise to women in 1920, Britain in 1928, USSR (now Russia) in 1936, France in 1945, Italy in 1948 and Switzerland in 1971.
  • In 1963, IFS was created and it came into existence in 1966.

 

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