Salient Features of the Indian Constitution
Characteristics of Constitution of India
India Constitution is a very dynamic creation of our Constitution framers. The Constitution of India is a supreme law of the country and every citizen of our country has to abide by the constitution.
Salient Features of the Indian Constitution are:
1. The Lengthiest Constitution of the World
The Constitution of India is the lengthiest in the world, and it is also written & very detailed. There were 395 Articles, 22 parts & 8 Schedules at the commencement of it. Now there are 448 articles (with amendments), 22 parts & 12 Schedules in the constitution. The Indian Constitution is a compilation of various articles inspired by various constitutions around the world. As we all know, India is a diverse country and it is necessary to draft a long constitution with different clauses to balance the differences. The main document for the drafting of the Constitution of India is the Government of India Act 1935, which is itself long. The framers of the constitution considered it necessary to include various rules to pay special attention to the states of Assam, Mizoram and Nagaland. The development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes involves various rules.
2. Establishment of a Sovereign, Socialist, Democratic Republic-
The preamble of the Constitution declares India to be a Sovereign, Socialist, Secularism, Democratic Republic.
The word ‘ Sovereign emphasises that India is no monre dependent uoon any outside authority. It means that both internally and externally India is Sovereign.It’s membership of the commonwealth of Nations and that of the United Nations Organisation do not restrict her sovereignty.
The term “Socialist” was incorporated by the 42nd amendment Act, 1976 in the Constitution.It is used in democratic as well as socialistic Constitutions. Generally, the term implies that the state has some form of ownership of production materials and distribution materials. It promotes equality among the people and ensures the welfare of the people.
The term Socialist was discussed in the case – Samantha v. State of Andhra Pradesh It was held that “the term socialist is used to lessen the inequalities in income and status and to provide equality of opportunity and facilities.” The idea of socialism drove out capitalism, which was considered dangerous for the economy.
The term “Secularism” was added by the 42nd amendment in the Preamble and the term ‘Secularism’ means a State which has no religion of its own as recognised religion of State. It treats all religions equally. In a secular State the State regulates the relation between mam and man. It is not concerned with the relation of man with the God.
In the case of S. R. Bommai v Union of India, it is held that “in matters of State, religion has no place” and also said that secularism is one of the basic features of the Constitution.
In the case of Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Shri Raj Narain & Anr,It is held that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on the grounds of religion.
The term “democracy” means that the constitution establishes a form of government that derives power from the people. Rulers are elected by the people and are accountable to the people.
The preamble to the constitution declares that the basic characteristics of democracy are justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as the objectives of the constitution. The Preamble to the Constitution declares that the Indian Constitution was adopted and enacted by the Indian people. They are the ultimate master of the republic. Therefore, the real conditions are in the hands of the Indian people.
The concept of “republic” is borrowed from the French constitution. The term “republic” gives the people the power to choose their representatives. This ensures that there is no hereditary ruler in our country but elections are held. The President (elected person) of India is the head of state for a fixed term.
3. Parliamentary form of Government ( Bicameral Legislature System)
“In this respect the makers of the Constitution have followed the British model in toto. The reason for this is that we were accustomed to this type of government. The essence of the parliamentary form of government is its responsibility to the legislature. The president is the constitutional head of the state. The real executive power is vested in the Council of Ministers whose head is the Prime Minister. The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the lower house Lok Sabha. The members of the lower house are elected directly by the people on the basis of adult franchise normally for 5 years. The position is the same in the states. This government is therefore called a responsible government.”(1)
Related articles – 74 & 75 for Central and 163 & 164 concerned with the parliamentary system in States.
Parliamentary v. Presidential System
Some Countries like the United States of America follow the presidential system. The president becomes the head of state in the presidential government. The parliamentary system is more desirable than the presidential system because it ensures that equal distribution of power and authority is not in the hands of one person.
4. Unique blend of rigidity and flexibility
The Indian constitution is not rigid or flexible, which is one of the reasons for its length. A well-known example of a rigid constitution is the US Constitution, which is called a strict constitution because it is very difficult to amend. It is not very difficult to amend the “Constitution of India” because, so far, 104 amendments have been passed but some steps need to be taken before the amendment is proposed. Thus, the Indian Constitution is a unique blend of rigidity and flexibility.
5. Fundamental Rights
‘The third part( Art. 12 – 35) of the Indian Constitution contains fundamental rights. These rights are probhitions against the State. The State can not make a Law which takes away or abridges any of the rights of the citizens guaranteed in the part III of the Constitution. If it passes such a law it may be declared unconstitutional by the Courts. the country. But mere declaration of certain fundamental rights will be of no use if there is no machinery for their enforcement.Our Constitution has, therefore, conferred on the Supreme Court the power to grant most effective remedies in the nature of Writs Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Quo Warranto and Certiorari whenever these rights are violated.Fundamental rights are not absolute rights. They are subject to certain restrictions.’(2)
6. Directive Principles of State Policy
The fourth part of the Indian Constitution (Articles 51-51) deals with the guiding principles of national policy. It is the responsibility of every country to use these principles when drafting a new law. It is basically instructions to the legislature and the executive and the state must follow these instructions when making new legislation. Unlike fundamental rights, these rights are not judicial. If the country is unable to implement any of the provisions of Part IV, the court law will not initiate legal proceedings. Due to lack of implementation, it has received a lot of criticism. Although by their nature they are not defensible in the courts, national officials must answer voters at election time.
7. A Federation with a strong centralising tendency
“The most remarkable feature of the Indian constitution is there being a federal constitution it requires a unitary character during the time of emergency. During the proclamation of emergency the normal distribution of powers between the centre and the states undergoes a vital change. The union Parliament is empowered to legislate on any subject mentioned in the state list. The central government is empowered to give directions to States as to the manner in which it should exercise its executive powers. The financial arrangements between the centre and States can also be altered by the union government. Thus during the proclamation of emergency all powers are Centralised in the union government and constitution acquires a unitary character. This combination of Federal and unitary system is unique feature of the Indian Constitution.”(3)
8. Adult Suffrage
Every citizen above the age of 18 has the right to vote in our country with the concept of adult suffrage. This section was added to the 61st Amendment (also known as the 1988 Constitution Act). Before the amendment was made, the age of acceptable voting was 21years. Any adult eligible to vote should not be discriminated against on the basis of race, sex or religion. Article 326 of the Indian Constitution guarantees this right except Some disqualifications provided under the Article such as: Non Residence, Unsound mind and Criminals who are indulged in the corruppt and illegal practice.
9. An Independent Judiciary
As a safeguard of fundamental rights an independent and impartial judiciary with a power of judicial review has been established under the constitution of India. It is the custodian of the rights of citizens.The Supreme court is considered as the watchdog of democracy.
10. A Secular State
“A Secular State has no religion of its own as recognised religion of State. It treats all religion equally. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution itself states that India has to be a secular state.In a Secular State, the state only regulates the relationship between man and man. It is not concerned with the relationship of man with God. The Fundamental rights (Art. 25-28) Right to religion provide the citizens’ freedom to follow their own religion and religious practices and no one can be forced to follow any religion. However it is to be noted that the freedom of religion is not an absolute freedom,but subject to the regulatory power of the state. In the name of religion nothing can be done which is against public order, morality and health of the public. Secularism is also subject to ‘democratic socialism’.”(4)
11. Single Citizenship
There is only one citizenship in India, i.e. the Citizenship of India.There is no separate citizenship for the States and the Centre like in various federal countries like the U.S.A. There is single citizenship provided to our citizens in Part 2 of the Indian Constitution. Every Indian is the citizen of India and enjoys the same rights of citizenship no matter in what State he resides.
12. Fundamental Duties
Fundamental duties were added as a part (IVth A) in the Constitution by 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 There are no specific provisions to enforce fundamental duties in the Courts like the fundamental rights but it is also necessary to follow the fundamental duties.
In the case of AIIMS Student Union vs AIIMS “ it was held that the fundamental duties are equally important as the fundamental rights.” The duties, which provided to a citizen are;
- To respect the Constitution and its ideals and to abide by the provisions of the Constitution.
- To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom.
- To value the rich heritage of our country.
- To defend our country when there is a necessity and to render national service when called upon.
- To protect the environment and carry out measures to improve them.
- To safeguard the public property.
- To promote harmony and the spirit of a common brotherhood.
13. Judicial Review
Judicial review is an important tool for examining and balancing the separation of powers. Courts with judicial review powers can invalidate any behavior that violates the basic features of the Constitution. Article 32 and Article 136 of the Constitution of India deal with the judicial review of the Supreme Court. Articles 226 and 227 relate to the judicial review of the High Court. The scope of judicial review is limited to three areas: Unreasonableness & Irrationality, Illegality and Procedural impropriety.
In the Cases of Kerala Bar Hotels Association v. State of Kerala, AIR 2016 SC 163 at p.181
And Census Commissioner v. R. Krishnamurthy, (2015) 2 SCC 796 referred to.
It is held that In policy matters, the Judicial review is justified only if the policy is arbitrary, unfair or violative of fundamental rights.
In the Case of Tamil Nadu pollution control board V sterilo Industries Limited, AIR 2019 SC 1074.
It is held that An order passed by the state government under Section 18 of the water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act is not a subject- matter of Judicial review by the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
- Dr. Jain Pandey,’Constitutional Law of India’Central Law Agency, 2020