What are the essential features of the Indian Constitution? In this article let us discuss them in detail.
India, also known as Bharat, is a Union of States. It is a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic with a parliamentary system of government.
The Indian Constitution was approved by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, and took effect on January 26, 1950. The Indian Constitution provides for a Parliamentary form of government which is federal in structure with certain unitary features.
The Indian Constitution was amended several times. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 is known as the “Mini Constitution” because it made a large number of changes in the various parts of the Constitution.
Essential Features of the Indian Constitution
Important features of the constitution are as follows:
Largest Written Constitution
It is a written constitution containing as many as 395 Articles, originally divided into 22 parts and 9 schedules. At present, there are 448 articles, 25 parts, and 12 schedules in the Indian Constitution.
- Indian Constitution is the largest one in the world. The Constitution’s framers included several features to prevent loopholes and flaws because they wanted to ensure there would be no difficulties throughout its implementation.
- They framed the Chapter on Fundamental Rights on the model of the American Constitution, the parliamentary system of Government from the United Kingdom, the Directive Principles of State Policy from the Constitution of Ireland, and the Emergency provisions from the Constitution of the German Reich and the Government of India Act, 1935.
- Moreover, it lays down the structure not only of the Central Government but also of the States. Another factor contributing to the Constitution’s bulk is the size of the country and the diversity of the people living there.
Sovereign Socialist, Secular, Democratic, and Republic
According to the Preamble, India is a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic.
- Sovereign: The word Sovereign emphasizes that India is no longer dependent upon any outside authority.
- Socialist: The term “Socialist” has been inserted in the Preamble by the Constitution 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. In general, it means some form of ownership of the means of production and distribution by the State. India has chosen a mixed economy and now drifting towards privatization.
- Secularism: The term Secularism means a State which has no religion of its own as a recognized religion of the State. It treats all religions equally.
- Democratic: The term “democratic” indicates that the Constitution has established a form of Government that gets authority from the will of the people. The rulers are elected by the people. Justice, liberty Equality, and Fraternity are the essential features of democracy.
- Republic: The term Republic signifies that there shall be an elected head of the State who will be the Chief Executive Head. The President of India, unlike the British King or Queen, is not a hereditary monarch but an elected person chosen for a limited period. It is an essential ingredient of a Republic.
Parliamentary form of Government
Both at the Centre and States, the Constitution established a parliamentary form of Government. The essence of the parliamentary form of Government is its responsibility to the legislature. The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lower House i.e., Lok Sabha, and therefore it is called responsible Government.
Parliamentary democracy has three important characteristics namely,
- The executive is responsible to the Lower House;
- The Lower House has a democratic basis i.e. it is elected by the people; and
- The ultimate legislative and financial control is vested in this Lower House.
The Parliamentary system of Government in India is based on adult suffrage, whereby all citizens of India who are not less than 18 years of age and are not disqualified on certain grounds like non-residence, unsoundness of mind or corrupt practices have the right to be registered as voters in any election to the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies of the States.
Partly Rigid and Partly Flexible
One of the important features of the Indian Constitution is that it is partly rigid and partly flexible.
- Certain provisions can be amended by a simple majority in Parliament, while there are certain other provisions whose amendment requires not only a special majority in Parliament but also ratification by at least one-half of the State Legislatures.
Fundamental Rights are incorporated in part III of the Indian Constitution. This idea of incorporating the Bill of Rights has been taken from the Constitution of the United States.
- These rights impose limitations on the powers of the State. The State cannot take away or abridge these Fundamental Rights of the citizens guaranteed by the Constitution.
- If it passes such a law it may be declared unconstitutional by the Courts.
- The Supreme Court is empowered to grant the most effective remedies like Writs of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Quo Warranto, and Certiorari whenever these rights are violated.
However, the Fundamental Rights are not absolute. They are subjected to certain restrictions, based on some social interests.
Directive Principles of State Policy
The Directive Principles of State Policy is contained in Part IV of the Constitution. Unlike Fundamental Rights, these rights are not justiciable. Though by their very nature, they are not justiciable in the Court of law.
- The idea of the welfare state envisaged in our Constitution can only be achieved if the States endeavor to implement it with a high sense of moral duty.
- Directive Principles of State Policy support villages and rural economy called Gram Swaraj, one of the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi.
The provisions of fundamental duties were not provided by the original constitution. It was incorporated by the 42nd Amendment Act, of 1976, as a Code of ten “Fundamental Duties” for Citizens. These were added on the recommendation of the Swaran Singh Committee.
- The 86th Amendment Act of 2002 added one more fundamental duty (11th). These duties, like the Directive Principles of State Policy, cannot be judicially enforced. However, they remind the responsible citizens what the Constitution expects from them.
Under the Indian Constitution, every man and woman above 18 years of age has been given the right to elect their representatives for the legislature. By the 61st Amendment Act of 1988, the voting age was reduced to 18 years from 21 years in 1989.
- The adoption of universal adult suffrage under Article 326 without any qualification of sex, property, taxation, or the like is a bold experiment in India having regard to the vast extent of the country and its population, with an overwhelming illiteracy.
An Independent Judiciary
The Indian Constitution establishes an integrated as well as an independent judicial system. The Supreme Court stands at the top of the integrated judicial system of the country and below it, there are high courts at the state level.
The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal, the guarantor of fundamental rights, and the guardian of the Constitution.
A Secular Socialist State
The Citizens of our country are free to follow any religion and they enjoy equal rights without any distinction of caste, creed religion, or sex. The word “secular” has been included in the Preamble by the 42nd Amendment.
- Article 15 (1) prohibits any discrimination based on religion, and Article 25 (1) provides that subject to public order, morality, and health and the other provisions, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practice, and propagate religion.
- Secularism is also subject to democratic socialism. Religious freedom cannot, therefore, be used to practice economic exploitation. The right to acquire, own, and administer property by religious institutions is subject to the regulatory power of the State.
Though the Constitution envisaged a dual polity i.e., Centre and States, it provides for a single citizenship for the whole of India. The American Constitution provides for dual citizenship i.e., the citizen of the USA and a State citizenship. Every Indian has citizenship throughout the country with the same rights.
One of the prominent features of the Indian Constitution is the three-tier structure of government. The original Constitution, like all other federal constitutions, established a dual polity and contained laws governing the structure and authority of both the federal government and the states. Later, the third level of government (i.e., local) was added by the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts of 1992, which is not found in any other constitution in 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.
- Constitution of India
- Borrowed features of the Indian Constitution
- Indian Constitution: History and Evolution
- Historical background of Indian Constitution
Article Written By: Priti Raj