Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

1. Lengthiest Written Constitution. The Constitution of India is the lengthiest of all the Constitutions of the world. Originally, it contained 395 articles, 22 parts and 8 schedules. Presently, it consists of 450 articles, 24 parts and 12 schedules. The reasons responsible for the bulky size of the Indian Constitution are:

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

2. Derived from Different Sources. The Constitution of India can be divided into 3 basic parts: Structural, Political and Philosophical.

The structural part of the Constitution is, to a large extent, derived from the government of India Act 1935. The philosophical part of the Constitution (the fundamental rights and the directive principles of state policy) derives their inspiration from American and Irish Constitutions. The political parts of the Constitution (the principle of cabinet government, leadership of Prime Minister, bicameralism and the relationship between legislature and executive) have been derived from the Constitution of UK. The other provisions of Constitution have been derived from the Constitutions of Canada, Australia, Germany, Africa and Russia.

3. Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility. The Indian Constitution is partly flexible and partly rigid. Some of its parts can be amended  by  simple  majority. But some of the parts can be amended by special majority.

4. It is federal in form and unitary in spirit. The Constitution of India establishes a federal system of government. Federalism means division of powers between Centre and the States. The Unitary form of government means when there is tilt towards Union Government inspite of division of powers between the Centre and States. So, the Unitary form means when the Centre is strong. In India, there is formal division of powers between the Centre and the States. All the subjects have been divided into three lists: Union List, State List and Concurrent List, but the residuary powers lies with the Centre. It contains all usual features of a federation, viz., two government, division of powers, written Constitution, supremacy of Constitution, rigidity of Constitution, independent judiciary and bicameralism.

However, the Indian Constitution also contains a large number of unitary or non-federal features, viz., a strong Centre, single Constitution, single citizen- ship, flexibility of Constitution, integrated judiciary, appointment of state governor by the Centre, all-India services, emergency provisions, and so on.

5. 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 parliamentary system is based on the principle of cooperation and co-ordination between the legislature and executive organs while the presidential system is based on the doctrine of separation of powers among the three organs.

Even though the Indian Parliamentary System is largely based on the British pattern, there are some fundamental differences between the two. For example, 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).

6. Indian Constitution adopted synthesis of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy. Unlike the British Parliamentary sovereignty and American Judicial Supremacy, Indian Constitution preferred the synthesis of both. The Indian Parliament is the sovereign law making body, but Indian judiciary has the power of judicial review which empowers the judiciary to review any law made by the legislature and declare it ultra vires if it contravenes the Constitution.

7. Indian Constitution has single, unified, integrated and independent judiciary. Indian Constitution has made various provision to ensure the independence of judiciary. The security of the tenure of the judges, fixed service conditions, ban on practice after retirement, power to punish for contempt of court are some of the provision outlined in the Constitution.

8. Fundamental Rights. Part III of the Constitution guarantees six fundamental rights to all the citizens: (a) Right to Equality (Article 14 – 18); (b) Right to Freedom (Article 19 – 22); (c) Right against Exploitation (Articles 23 – 24); (d) Right to Freedom of Religion (Articles 25 – 28); (e) Cultural and Educational Rights (Articles 29 – 30); (f) Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32). Note: Right to Property (Article 31) repealed— now no more a fundamental right but a legal right under Article 300 A; and

9. Directive Principles of State PolicyArticle 36–51. Part IV Article 36–51 contains a charter of Directive Principles of State Policy. They are in the form of directions/instructions to the successive governments to be taken into consideration at the time of framing of any rule/regulation policy or programme for the equal distribution of resources and providing economic rights to the weaker sections of the society. But they could not be translated into reality till the date because of lack of political will, lack of resources, over population and absence of any unanimous national policy cutting across the class, caste, religion, region and gender differences. The non-enactment of uniform civil code under Article 44 is a blatant example of sheer lack of political will and misuse of political positions for political gains and personal aggrandisement.

10. Fundamental Duties. The fundamental duties were incorporated through 42nd amendment Act, 1976.They are contained in Part IV A article 51 A. Originally there were 10 fundamental duties. Now there are 11 fundamental duties. The 11th fundamental duty has been incorporated through 86th Amendment Act, 2002. It makes the fundamental duty of the parent or the guardian to impart compulsory education to the children between the age of 6–14 years old.

11. 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, Act of 1988.

12. Secular State. The Constitution of India declares India to be a secular state in its Preamble. Though the word Secularism was not there in the preamble at the outset. It was later on incorporated through 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. The word secularism means that India as a state has no religion of its own. The state which has its own religion is known as theocratic states. Unlike that, India is a secular state which means it neither favours nor disfavours any religion. It is neither religious, nor irreligious, nor antireligious, nor proreligious

13. Single Citizenship. Though the Indian Constitution is federal and envisages a dual polity (Centre and States), it provides for a single citizenship, that is, the Indian citizenship.

14. Independent Bodies. Bulwarks of democracy—The Indian Constitution not only provides for the legislative, executive and judicial organs of the government (Central and State) but also establishes certain independent bodies. They are envisagd by the Constitution as the bulwarks of the democratic system of Government in India. These are:

  • Election Commission
  • Comptroller and Auditor-General
  • Union Public Service Commission
  • State Public Service Commission

15. Three-tier Government. Originally, the Indian Constitution provided for dual polity i.e., Centre and States. But through 73rd and 74th Amendment Act, Acts 1991, 3rd tier of Governance (Panchayats and Municipalities) rural and urban local self governments, has been introduced.

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