Salient features of Constitution of India – UPSC Notes

The Constitution of India was enacted on 26 November 1949 on behalf of the Constituent Assembly, which commenced on 26 January 1950, initially containing 395 Articles, 22 Parts, and 8 Schedules. It’s a dynamic entity created by our lawmakers to meet the emerging aspirations of the people of India. In this article, we’ll take a look at the prominent features of the Constitution of India.

World’s Lengthtiest written Constitution

If we compare the size of the Indian Constitution with other Constitutions of the world, it is the lengthiest of all the written Constitutions in the World. For example, the USA Constitution has only 7 articles, whereas there is no written Constitution of the UK.

The Indian Constitution is a very elaborate, comprehensive, and detailed Document. More than 100 amendments have been made since 1951. Currently, it contains 448 articles divided into 25 parts and 12 Schedules. It not only contains the fundamental principles of governance but also has detailed provisions for administration.

Single Constitution for both Union and States

Unlike the USA and Canada, where they have separate Constitutions for their States and Unions, India has a single Constitution for both the Centre and all of its States. As a single Constitution, only the Parliament has the power to make changes to it. For example, it empowers the Parliament to establish a new state, and alter the boundaries, and name of existing states under Part 1 of the Constitution.

Provisions drawn from various sources

Most of the provisions of the Constitution of India have been borrowed from the Constitutions of various other countries and even from the Government India Act of 1935.

The political section of the Constitution has been largely adopted from the British Constitution. Provisions related to fundamental rights are derived from the USA Constitution. The other provisions were borrowed from the Constitutions of countries like Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Irish, South Africa, USSR.

The structural part of the Indian Constitution, to a large extent, is derived from the Government of India Act of 1935. Most of the administrative details and provisions related to the Public Service Commission, Judiciary, Federal Scheme, and emergency powers are drawn from this Act.

Single Citizenship

Despite the Federal structure of India, the Constitution of India provides for only single citizenship, that is, Indian citizenship, to every individual of the country, under Part 2 of the Constitution.

In federal counties like the USA, there is dual citizenship, meaning each person of the USA is a citizen of the USA and the particular state to which he belongs. But, in India, there is no separate citizenship between the Union and the State. Also, if someone from India takes the citizenship of any other country, he will automatically lose Indian Citizenship.

All the Citizens of India enjoy the same political and civil rights all over the country, irrespective of the State where they are born or reside. No discrimination is made between them except in a few cases.

Combination of Rigidity and Flexibility

Based on the procedure of amendment, Constitutions are also classified as rigid and flexible. A rigid Constitution requires a special procedure for its amendment, whereas a flexible Constitution amends easily.

Indian Constitution is neither rigid nor flexible but a combination of both. Some provisions can be amended by a special majority of the parliament under Article 368. At the same time, other provisions of the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority of the parliament and do not come under Article 368.

Parliamentary Form of Government

The Constitution of India establishes the parliamentary system at both the Centre and the State. The parliamentary form is based on the principle of Coordination and Cooperation between the legislative and executive organs.

In India, there is bicameral legislation, meaning there are two houses of Parliament, namely Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The key features of the Parliamentary form of government in India are:

  • Presence of real and nominal executives.
  • Collective responsibility of the executives (Council of Ministers) to the legislature.
  • Majority Party Rule.
  • Prime Minister and Cheif Minister leadership.
  • Lower house dissolution.

The role of the Prime Minister in the parliamentary system is very significant, as he is the head of the Government.

Integrated and Independent Judiciary

The Constitution of India establishes an integrated as well as independent Judicial system. The Supreme Court is the apex court, which stands at the top of the integrated judicial system, followed by high courts, district courts, and lower courts.

The Supreme Court of India, the highest court of appeal, is the guardian of the Indian Constitution. To ensure its independence, various provisions have been made in the Constitution, such as:

  • Security of tenure of Judges.
  • Appointed of Supreme court & High Court judges by the Collegium System.
  • Fixed service conditions for judges.
  • All expenses of the Supreme Court, like judge’s salaries, pensions, and allowances, are charged to the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Removal of Judges through an impeachment procedure in Parliament.

A federal system with Unitary features

Indian Constitution contains all the usual features of the federation, such as division of power between Union and State government, the supremacy of the written constitution, bicameralism, and independent Judiciary.

Along with federal features, it also contains a large number of non-federal and Unitary features. These unitary feature includes a single Constitution, single citizenship, a strong Centre, all India services, Election commission, integrated Judiciary, governor appointment by the President on the advice of Centre, etc.

Hence, the Constitution of India has also been described as federal in form but unitary in spirit.

Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Constitution of India guarantees fundamental rights to all the citizens of India. Under Part 3 of the Constitution, there are 6 fundamental rights given as follows:

  1. Right to Equality (Article 14 to 18).
  2. Right to Freedom (Article 19 to 22).
  3. Right against Exploitation (Article 23 -24).
  4. Right to Freedom of Religion (Article 25 to 28).
  5. Cultural and Educational Rights (Article 29-30).
  6. Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32).

Fundamental rights are justiciable in nature, meaning enforceable by the court for their violation. It promotes the idea of Political democracy in India. A person can directly go to the Supreme Court for the restoration of his fundamental rights.

However, Fundamental fights are subjected to reasonable restrictions and are not absolute. They can also be suspended during a National emergency except for rights under Articles 20 and 21.

Directive Principles of State Policy

Part 4 of the Indian Constitution deals with the Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP). According to Dr B. R. Ambedkar, “DPSP is a novel feature of the Constitution of India“. They can be broadly classified into three categories – Socialistic, Gandhian, and liberal-intellectual, under Articles 36 to 51.

The Directive Principles provide the concept of social and economic democracy in contrast with political democracy in India. They are meant to establish a ‘welfare state’ in India. Unlike the Fundamental rights, DPSP is non-justiciable in nature and non-enforceable by the court for their violation.

The Directive Principles of State Policy provide the direction to the State government to implement socio-economic developmental objectives. Constitution declares that it is the duty of the State government to take them into account while making enactment.

Fundamental Duties

Originally, there were no fundamental duties of Citizens incorporated in the Indian Constitution. In 1976, through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976, 10 Fundamental duties under Part IV-A from Article 51A(a) to 51A(j) were added to the Constitution on the recommendation of the Swaran Singh Committee. The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002 added the eleventh fundamental right under Article 51A(k).

The Fundamental duties remind the citizens of India to perform the duties they owe to the country while enjoying their rights. Fundamental duties are non-justiciable in nature.

Universal Adult Franchise

The Constitution of India adopts the concept of adult suffrage. The Constitution provides a universal adult franchise, meaning every citizen of India who is not less than 18 years has the right to vote without discrimination based on caste, religion, race, sex, literacy, or wealth.

In 1989, the 61st Constitutional Amendment Act of 1988 reduced the voting age to 18 years from 21 years. Universal adult franchise upholds the principle of equality, makes democracy broad-based, and enhances the prestige of common people.

Emergency Provisions

Indian constitution empowers the president to meet an extraordinary situation effectively through emergency provisions. These provisions are incorporated to safeguard the unity, integrity, sovereignty, and integrity of the country. The Constitution contains three types of emergencies:

  • National emergency on the ground of external aggression or war or armed rebellion under Article 352.
  • Constitutional emergency (President’s Rule) on the ground of failure of Constitutional machinery under Article 356.
  • Financial emergency under Article 360.

During an emergency, State in which an emergency is imposed goes into total control of the Centre. The political system transforms from federal to unitary, which is a unique feature of the Indian Constitution.

Independent Bodies

Along with legislative, executive, and judicial organs, the Indian constitution also establishes certain independent bodies. The independent bodies include Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections, the Union Public Service Commission to conduct examinations for civil servant recruitment, and the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India to audit the accounts of Central and State governments.

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