Salient Features of the Indian Constitution
1. Lengthiest Written Constitution :-
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. It is a
very comprehensive, elaborate and detailed document. Originally (1949), the
Constitution contained a Preamble, 395 Articles (divided into 22 Parts) and 8
Schedules. Presently, it consists of a Preamble, about 450 Articles (divided
into 24 Parts) and 12 Schedules. The various amendments carried out since 1951
have deleted about 20 Articles and one Part (VII) and added about 70 Articles,
three Parts (IVA, IXA and XIVA) and four Schedules (9, 10, 11 and 12). No other
Constitution in the world has so many Articles and Schedules. Four factors have contributed to the elephantine size of our Constitution. They are :
(a) Geographical factors, that is, the vastness of the country
and its diversity.
(b) Historical factors, e.g., the influence of the Government of
India Act of 1935, which was bulky.
(c) Single Constitution for both the Centre and the states
except Jammu and Kashmir.
(d) Dominance of legal luminaries in the Constituent Assembly.
2. Drawn From Various Sources :- The Constitution of India has borrowed most of
its provisions from the constitutions of various other countries as well as
from the Government of India Act of 1935. Dr. B R Ambedkar proudly acclaimed that
the Constitution of India has been framed after 'ransacking all the known
Constitution of the World'.
of India Act of 1935 :- More than 2/3 (two-third of the Constitution is taken from the Government
of India Act of 1935. Basic structure of the polity, provisions regulating the
Union-State relations, declaration of Emergency, Federal scheme, power of
Federal Judiciary, and the office of the Governor etc are mainly lifted from
4. Blend of Rigidity and 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. Article 368 provides for two
types of amendments :
(a) Some provisions can be amended by a special majority of the
Parliament, i.e., a two-third majority of the members of each House present and
voting, and a majority (that is, more than 50%), of the total membership of
(b) Some other provisions can be amended by a special majority of the
Parliament and with the ratification by half of the total states. At the same
time, some provisions of the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority
of the Parliament in the manner of ordinary legislative process. Notably, these
amendments do not come under Article 368.
5. Federal System with Unitary Bias :-
The Constitution of India
establishes a federal system of government. It contains all the 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 citizenship, flexibility of Constitution, integrated
judiciary, appointment of state governor by the Centre, all- India services,
emergency provisions, and so on. Moreover, the term 'Federation has nowhere
been used in the Constitution. Article 1, on the other hand, describes India as
a 'Union of States' which implies two things: one, Indian Federation is not the result of an
agreement by the states; and two, no state has the right to secede from the
federation. Hence, the 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, 'federation with a centralizing tendency' by Ivor
Jennings, and so on.
6. 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 coordination between the legislative and
executive organs while the presidential system is based on the doctrine of
separation of powers between the two organs. The Parliamentary system is also known as the 'Westminster'
model of government, responsible government and cabinet government. The
Constitution establishes the parliamentary system not only at the Centre but
also in the states. The features of parliamentary government in India are :
(a) Presence of nominal and real executives ;
(b) Majority party rule,
(c) Collective responsibility of the executive to the legislature,
individually responsible to President.
(d) Membership of the ministers in the legislature,
(e) Leadership of the prime minister or the chief minister,
(f) Dissolution of the lower House (Lok Sabha or Assembly).
Even though the Indian 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). In a
parliamentary system whether in India or Britain, the role of the Prime
Minister has become so significant and crucial that the political scientists like
to call it a 'Prime Ministerial Government'.
7. Synthesis of Parliamentary
Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy :- The doctrine of sovereignty or Parliament is associated with the
British Parliament while the principle of judicial supremacy with that of the
American Supreme Court. Just as the Indian parliamentary system differs from
the British system, the scope of judicial review power of the Supreme Court in
India is narrower than that of what exists in US. This is because the American Constitution
provides for 'due process of law' against that of 'procedure established by
law' contained in the Indian Constitution (Article 21). Therefore, the framers
of the Indian Constitution have preferred a proper synthesis between the British
principle of parliamentary sovereignty and the American principle of judicial
supremacy. The Supreme Court, on the one hand, can declare the parliamentary
laws as unconstitutional through its power or judicial review. The parliament, on the other hand, can amend the
major portion of the Constitution through its constituent power.
8. Integrated and Independent Judiciary
:- The Indian Constitution
establishes a judicial system that is integrated as well as independent. The
Supreme Court stands at the top of the integrated judicial system in the
country. Below it, there are high courts at the state level. Under a high
court, there is a hierarchy of subordinate courts, that is, district courts and
other lower courts. This single system of courts enforces both the central laws
as well as the state laws, unlike in USA, where the federal laws are enforced
by the federal by the state judiciary. The Supreme Court is a federal court,
the highest court of appeal, the guarantor of the fundamental rights of the citizens
and the guardian of the Constitution. Hence, the Constitution has made various provisions
to ensure its independence-security of tenure of the judges, fixed services
conditions for the judges, all the expenses of the Supreme Court charged on the
Consolidated Fund of India, prohibition on discussion on the conduct of judges
in the legislatures, ban on practice after retirement, power to punish for its
contempt vested in the Supreme Court, separation of the judiciary from the executive, and so
9. Fundamental Rights :- Part III of the Indian Constitution guarantees
six fundamental rights to all the citizens :
(a) Right to Equality (Articles 14-18),
(b) Right to Freedom (Articles 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).
The Fundamental Rights are meant for promoting the idea of
political democracy. 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. The aggrieved
person can directly go to the Supreme Court which can issue the writs of habeas
corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari and quo warranto for the restoration
of his rights.
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 are enumerated in
Part IV of the 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, that is, they are not enforceable by the courts
for their violation. Yet, the Constitution itself declares that 'these
principles in making laws'. Hence, they impose a moral obligation on the state
authorities for their application. But, the real force (sanction) behind them
is political, that is, public opinion.
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 newly
inserted Part IV-A of the Constitution (which consists of only one Article
51-A) specifies the ten Fundamental Duties viz., to respect the Constitution, national flag and
national anthem; to protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the country; to promote the spirit of common
brotherhood amongst all the people; to preserve the rich heritage of our
composite culture and so on. The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002
added one more fundamental duty.
Secular State :- The
Constitution of India stands for a secular state. Hence, it does not uphold any
particular religion as the official religion of the Indian State. The following
provisions of the Constitution reveal; the secular character of the Indian
(a) The term 'secular' was added to the Preamble of the Indian
Constitution by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976.
(b) The Preamble secures to all citizens of India liberty of
belief, faith and worship.
(c) The State shall not deny to any person equality before the
law or equal protection of the laws (Article 14).
(d) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on the
ground of religion (Article 15).
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 to Constitutional Amendment
Act of 1988. The introduction of universal adult franchise by the
Constitution-makers was a bold experiment and highly remarkable in view of the vast size of the country,
its huge population, high poverty, social inequality and overwhelming
illiteracy. Universal adult franchise makes democracy broad-based, enhances the
self-respect and prestige of the common people, upholds the principle of
equality, enables minorities to protect their interests and opens up new hopes
and vistas for weaker sections.
Citizenship :- Though
the Indian Constitution is federal and envisages a dual polity (Centre and
states), it provides for only a single citizenship, that is, the Indian
citizenship. In countries like USA, on the other had each person is not only a
citizen of USA but also a citizen of the particular state to which he belongs.
owes allegiance to both and enjoys dual sets of rights one
conferred by the National government and another by the state government. In India, all citizens irrespective of
the state in which they are born or reside enjoy the same political and civil
rights of citizenship all over the country and no discrimination is made
between them excepting in few cases like tribal areas, Jammu and Kashmir, and
so on. The various models of acquisition of citizenship prescribed by the Citizenship Act, 1955, are as follows:
(a) Citizenship by birth;
(b) Citizenship by descent;
(c) Citizenship by registration;
(d) Citizenship by incorporation of territory.
In 1986 the citizenship act was amended to make acquisition of
citizenship difficult for refugees from neighbouring countries.
Citizenship for all PIO :- January 9 – the day Mahatma Gandhi returned from South African in
1915-was chosen to celebrate the Pravasi
Bharatiya Divas as a global gathering of Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs)
in New Delhi. Celebration of the Divas was one of the recommendations made by
the L.M. Singhvi Committee on the Indian Diaspora. The three-day gala event in
New Delhi from Jan.9 to 11, 2005. Nearly 2,000 delegates from 60 countries,
including Nobel Laureates Amartya Sen and V.S. Naipaul, attended the global
gathering. The dual citizenship is applicable to US, Canada, European Union Countries
etc. Dual citizenship allows the person to live in India indefinitely, unlike
the Person of India Origin (PIO) card, which permitted a single stay for a
period of six months. Dual citizens do not have voting rights. Neither can they
be elected to public office. As per the amended
law, persons of Indian origin who were citizens of Australia, Canada, Finland, France,
Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Cyprus,
Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United Sates were eligible to apply
for dual citizenship. The announcement by the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh,
extends dual citizenship to all PIOs who migrated from India after January 26,
1950. It addresses a major anomaly that restricted dual citizenship to principally developed,
Bodies :- 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 envisaged by the Constitution as the bulwarks of the democratic system
of Government in India. These are:
(a) Election Commission
to ensure free and fair elections
to the Parliament, the state legislatures, the office of president of India and
the office of vice-president of India.
(b) Comptroller and
Auditor-General of India to
audit the accounts of the Central and state governments. He acts as the
guardian of public purse and comments on the legality and propriety of government
(c) Union Public
Service Commission to conduct examinations for
recruitment to all-India services and higher Central services and to advise the
president on disciplinary matter.
(d) State Public
Service Commission in every state to conduct
examinations for recruitment to state services and to advice the governor on
Provisions :- The Indian Constitution contains
elaborate emergency provisions to enable the President to meet any extraordinary
situation effectively. The rationality behind the incorporation of these
provisions is to safeguard the sovereignty, unity, integrity and security of
the country, the democratic political system and the Constitution. The
Constitution envisages three types of emergencies, namely :
(a) National emergency on the ground of war or external aggression or armed rebellion (Article 352);
(b) 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); and
(c) 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 center. It converts the federal
structure into the unitary one without a formal amendment of the Constitution.
This kind of transformation of the political system from federal (during normal
times) to unitary (during emergency) is a unique feature of the Indian
Government :- Originally, the Indian Constitution,
like many other federal constitutions, provided for a dual polity and contained provisions with regard to the
organization and powers of the Centre and the States. Later, the 73rd and 74th
Constitutional Amendment Acts (1991) have added a third tier of government
(i.e. local) which is not found in any other Constitutional of the world. The
73rd Amendment Act of 1992 gave constitutional recognition to the panchayats
(rural local governments) by adding a new Part IX and a new Schedule 11 to the
Constitution. Similarly, the 74th Amendment Act of 1992 gave constitutional
recognition to the municipalities (urban local governments) by adding a new Part
IX-A and a new Schedule 12 to the Constitution.