Legal GK: Salient Features of the Constitution of India
The salient features of the Constitution, as it stands today, are as follows:
- Lengthiest Written Constitution
Originally (1949), the Constitution contained a Preamble, 395 Articles (divided into 22 Parts) and 8 Schedules. Presently , it consists of a Preamble, about 465 Articles (divided into 25 Parts) and 12 Schedules.
- 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. The structural part of the Constitution is, to a large extent, derived from the Government of India Act of 1935.
- 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.
- 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,
- supermacy of Constitution,
- rigidity of Constitution,
- independent judiciary and
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.
- 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 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,
(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).
- Synthesis of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy
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 of judicial review. The Parliament, on the other hand, can amend the major portion of the Constitution through its constituent power.
- 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.
- Fundamental Rights
Part III of the Indian Constitution guarantees six11 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), and
(f) Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32).
- 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 are enumerated in Part IV of the Constitution. They can be classified into three broad categories—socialistic, Gandhian and liberal–intellectual.
- 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 Constitution of India stands for a secular state. Hence, it does not uphold any particular religion as the official religion of the Indian State.
- 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 (Centre and states), it provides for only a single citizenship, that is, the Indian citizenship.
- Independent 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.
- Emergency Provisions
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).
- Three-tier Government
Originally, the Indian Constitution, like any other federal constitution, provided for a dual polity and contained provisions with regard to the organisation and powers of the Centre and the states. Later, the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts (1992) have added a third-tier of government (i.e., local) which is not found in any other Constitution of the world.