Have you ever wondered about the Indian Constitution’s historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions, and basic structure? Read further to find out.
The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens.
The Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and came into effect on 26 January 1950. It replaced the Government of India Act 1935 as the country’s fundamental governing document, and the Dominion of India became the Republic of India.
The Constitution of India is the longest-written constitution of any sovereign country in the world. It embodies the country’s rules and regulations and defines the fundamental rights of its citizens.
It is a living document that has been amended and refined several times since it was first adopted in 1950. The Constitution of India is a unique document that reflects the aspirations, values, and diverse culture of the Indian people.
It is a source of inspiration and guidance for all citizens and has played a pivotal role in shaping the course of India’s development as a modern, democratic, and pluralistic nation.
Indian Constitution: Historical Underpinning
The Constitution of India has its roots in the country’s colonial past and the struggle for independence from British rule. The process of framing the Constitution began in the 1930s, with the formation of the Indian National Congress and the demand for self-governance.
During the freedom movement, various constitutional frameworks were proposed, including the Nehru Report of 1928, the Karachi Resolution of 1931, and the Bombay Plan of 1944. These proposals formed the basis for the Constituent Assembly, which was elected in 1946 to draft a new Constitution for the newly independent nation.
The Constituent Assembly was composed of elected representatives from all the provinces of British India, as well as representatives from the princely states. It was chaired by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, who played a key role in the drafting of the Constitution.
The Constituent Assembly held its first meeting on 9 December 1946, and over the next three years, it debated and discussed the various provisions of the Constitution. The Constitution was finally adopted on 26 November 1949, and it came into effect on 26 January 1950, marking the birth of the Republic of India.
The Constitution of India reflects the country’s diverse culture and the values of its founding fathers, who were inspired by the ideals of democracy, justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. It is a living document that has evolved through a series of amendments, and it continues to guide and shape the development of the nation.
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Evolution of the Constitution
The Constitution of India has undergone several amendments since it was first adopted in 1950. The process of amending the Constitution is set out in Article 368, which requires a special majority in both houses of Parliament, as well as the ratification of at least half of the states in the country.
The Constitution has been amended more than 100 times since its adoption. The amendments have been made to reflect the changing needs and aspirations of the country, as well as to incorporate new laws and policies.
Some of the significant amendments to the Constitution include:
- The First Amendment Act of 1951, amended the freedom of speech and expression and added the Ninth Schedule to protect certain laws from judicial review.
- The Seventh Amendment Act of 1956, reorganized the states of India on linguistic lines.
- The Ninth Amendment Act of 1960, recognized the right to property as a fundamental right.
- The Twenty-Fourth Amendment Act of 1971, abolished the privy purse and abolished the privy council as a court of appeal for the princely states.
- The Thirty-Ninth Amendment Act of 1975, recognized Sikkim as a state of India.
- The Forty-Second Amendment Act of 1976, amended several provisions of the Constitution, including the Preamble, and added the words “secular” and “socialist” to it.
- The Seventy-Third Amendment Act of 1992, recognized the rights of the scheduled castes and tribes to participate in local self-governance.
- The Ninety-Fourth Amendment Act of 2006, provided reservations for the scheduled castes and tribes in the promotion to higher posts in the civil services.
The Constitution of India has played a vital role in shaping the country’s political and social landscape, and it continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of the nation.
Indian Constitution: Features
The Constitution of India has several features that set it apart from the constitutions of other countries. Some of the key features of the Indian Constitution are:
- Written and comprehensive: The Constitution of India is a written document that sets out the framework for the country’s political system and the rights and duties of its citizens. It is the longest-written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, with 444 articles in 22 parts and 12 schedules.
- Federal system: The Constitution of India establishes a federal system of government, in which power is divided between the central government and the states. The central government has exclusive powers in certain areas, such as foreign affairs and defense, while the states have powers in matters such as education and law and order.
- Parliamentary democracy: The Constitution of India establishes a parliamentary form of government, in which the executive is responsible to the legislature. The President of India is the head of state, while the Prime Minister is the head of government.
- Fundamental rights: The Constitution of India guarantees a set of fundamental rights to all citizens, which include the right to equality, freedom of speech and expression, and the protection of life and personal liberty. These rights are enforceable by the courts, and any law that violates these rights can be struck down by the courts.
- Directive principles: The Constitution of India also lays down a set of directive principles of state policy, which are non-enforceable guidelines for the government to follow in the formulation of its policies. These principles include the promotion of international peace and security, the protection of the environment, and the promotion of the welfare of the people.
- Independent judiciary: The Constitution of India establishes an independent judiciary, which is responsible for interpreting the laws of the country and upholding the rights of citizens. The Supreme Court is the highest in the country, and it has the power of judicial review, which allows it to declare a law or government action unconstitutional.
- Amendment process: The Constitution of India provides a detailed process for amending its provisions. An amendment requires a special majority in both houses of Parliament, as well as the ratification of at least half of the states in the country. This ensures that any changes to the Constitution are made with the consensus of the majority of the people.
Indian Constitution: Amendments
The process of amending the Constitution of India is set out in Article 368 of the Constitution. According to this article, an amendment to the Constitution can be initiated by the introduction of a bill in either house of Parliament.
The bill must be passed by a special majority in both houses of Parliament, which means that it must be supported by at least two-thirds of the members present and voting in each house.
Once the bill is passed by Parliament, it must be ratified by at least half of the states in the country. The ratification must be done by the state legislatures, and it must be obtained within six months from the date of the passing of the bill.
If the bill is ratified by at least half of the states, it becomes an act and is added to the Constitution as an amendment. If the bill is not ratified by the required number of states, it lapses and cannot be reintroduced in Parliament.
The process of amending the Constitution of India is designed to ensure that any changes to the Constitution are made with the consensus of the majority of the people. The special majority requirement in Parliament and the ratification by the states ensure that the amendment has the support of a wide cross-section of the country.
Significant Provisions of the Indian Constitution
The Indian Constitution is a comprehensive document that outlines the rights and duties of citizens, as well as the structure and functions of the government. Some of the significant provisions of the Indian Constitution include:
- Fundamental Rights: These are the basic rights that are guaranteed to every citizen of India, including the right to equality, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, and the right to life and personal liberty.
- Directive Principles of State Policy: These are guidelines for the government to follow in the formulation and implementation of policies, to promote the welfare of the people.
- Federal Structure: The Indian Constitution establishes a federal system of government, with powers divided between the central government and the state governments.
- Independence of the Judiciary: The Indian Constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary, with the Supreme Court at the apex and a hierarchy of courts below it.
- Emergency Provisions: The Indian Constitution contains provisions that allow the government to take measures to protect the country’s security and integrity in times of emergency.
- Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes: The Indian Constitution provides for affirmative action to protect the rights and promote the welfare of historically disadvantaged groups such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution
The basic structure doctrine is a judicial principle in the Constitution of India which holds that the Constitution has certain basic features that cannot be amended by the Parliament. This doctrine was propounded by the Supreme Court of India in the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala in 1973.
The basic structure doctrine has not been explicitly mentioned in the Constitution of India. Rather, it has been inferred by the Supreme Court from the provisions of the Constitution and the principles underlying it. According to this doctrine, the following are the basic features of the Constitution that cannot be amended:
- Supremacy of the Constitution
- Republican and democratic form of government
- Secular Character of the Constitution
- Separation of powers between the legislature, executive, and judiciary
- Federal character of the Constitution
- Free and fair elections
- Independence of the judiciary
- Judicial review
- The principle of equality before the law and prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, gender, or place of birth.
The basic structure doctrine has been instrumental in protecting the fundamental rights of citizens and preserving the basic tenets of the Constitution. It has also served as a check on the powers of the Parliament to amend the Constitution, ensuring that any amendments are consistent with the basic principles and values of the Constitution.
The Constitution of India is the supreme law of the land and the foundation of the Indian democratic system. It outlines the powers and functions of the various organs of the government and guarantees the fundamental rights of citizens. The Constitution also contains provisions for the protection of the country’s cultural and linguistic diversity and the promotion of social justice.
The basic structure doctrine is a key principle of the Constitution which holds that certain fundamental features of the Constitution, such as the supremacy of the Constitution, the republican and democratic form of government, and the secular character of the state, cannot be amended by the Parliament.
This doctrine has played a crucial role in protecting the fundamental rights of citizens and preserving the basic tenets of the Constitution.
Overall, the Constitution of India serves as a model for other countries around the world and has played a vital role in the country’s development and progress over the past seven decades. It is a living document that continues to evolve and adapt to the changing needs and aspirations of the people of India.
Article written by: Vivek Rajasekharan