salient-features-of-the-Indian-constitution is essential topic for any judicial or civil services examination

salient-features-of-the-Indian-constitution is essential topic for any judicial or civil services examination


SALIENT FEATURES OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION is one most important topics in Indian Constitution and Polity because it present you the summary of world lengthiest in few paragraph. Every examination in India which includes Indian Constitution and Polity in their syllabus prefer to ask one or more questions on this topic. We have made elaborate video on SALIENT FEATURES OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION , watch it on YouTube.

Lengthiest Written Constitution

  • The Constitution of India is the lengthiest of all the written constitutions of the world. It is a very comprehensive, elaborate and detailed document.
  • Originally (1949), the Constitution contained a Preamble, 395 Articles (divided into 22 Parts) and 8 Schedules.
  • Presently (2022), it consists of a Preamble, 466 Articles (divided into 25 Parts) and 12 Schedules.
  • Five factors have contributed to the elephantine size of our Constitution. They are:
  1. Geographical factors, that is, the vastness of the country and its diversity.
  2. Historical factors, e.g., the influence of the Government of India Act of 1935, which was bulky.
  3. Single Constitution for both the Centre and the states as Federal Structure.
  4. Dominance of legal luminaries in the Constituent Assembly.
  5. Effect of GOI Act 1935 – which is the one of the lengthiest enactment by British parliament.

Drawn from Various Sources

  • Dr B R Ambedkar proudly acclaimed that the Constitution of India has been framed after ‘ransacking all the known Constitutions of the World’
  • The structural part of the Constitution is, to a large extent, derived from the Government of India Act of 1935.
  • The philosophical part of the Constitution (the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy) derive their inspiration from the American and Irish Constitutions respectively.
  • The political part of the Constitution (the principle of Cabinet Government and the relations between the executive and the legislature) have been largely drawn from the British Constitution (Westminster System of Govt).

Sources of the Constitution:

Sources Features Borrowed
1.Government of India  Act of 1935 Federal Scheme. Office of governor, Judiciary ,Public Service Commissions, Emergency provisions and administrative details.
2.British Constitution Parliamentary government, Rule of Law, legislative procedure, single citizenship, cabinet system, prerogative writs, parliamentary privileges and bicameralism.
3.US Constitution Fundamental rights, independence of judiciary, judicial review, impeachment of the president, removal of Supreme Court and high court judges and post of vice-president.
4.Irish Constitution Directive Principles of State Policy, nomination of members to Rajya Sabha and method of election of president.
5.Canadian Constitution Federation with a strong Centre, vesting of residuary powers in the Centre, appointment of state governors by the Centre, and advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
6.Australian Conti tut ion Concurrent List, freedom of trade, commerce and inter-course, and joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament.
7.Weimar Constitution of Germany Suspension of Fundamental Rights during Emergency.
8.Soviet Constitution
(USSR, now Russia)
Fundamental duties and the ideal of justice (social, economic and political) in the Preamble.
9.French Constitution Republic and the ideals or liberty, equality and fraternity in the Preamble.
10.South African Constitution Procedure for amendment of the Constitution and election of members of Rajya Sabha.
11.Japanese Constitution  Procedure established by Law.

Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility

  • A rigid Constitution is one that requires a special procedure for its amendment, as for example, the American Constitution which is amended only 27 time in course of 250 years
  • 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.
  • The Constitution of India is neither rigid nor flexible but a synthesis of both. Article 368 provides for two types of amendments:
  • Some provisions can be amended by a special majority of the Parliament, i.e., a two-third majority of the members of each House present and voting, and a majority (that is, more than 50 per cent), of the total membership of each House.
  • Some other provisions can be amended by a special majority of the Parliament and with the ratification by half of the total states.
  • Note: At the same time, some provisions of the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority of the Parliament in the manner of ordinary legislative process. Notably, these amendments do not come under Article 368

Federal System with Unitary Bias

  • India has been called as “indestructible union” by Dr.B.R. Ambedkaras no Indian state can secede from the Indian union as in the case of confederationor loosely held federation
  • .But on the other hand there is situation of destructible nature of the state as seen in context of Article 3.
  • This has given opportunities to accommodate the aspirations of the people to form their own state and maintain unity and integrity of the country intact.
Features of a federation in Indian Constitution Constitution
  • two government,
  • a strong Centre,
  • division of powers, written Constitution,
  • single Constitution,
  • supremacy of Constitution,
  • single citizenship,
  • rigidity of Constitution,
  • flexibility of Constitution,
  • independent judiciary
  • integrated judiciary,
  • Bicameralism, etc.
  • all-India services,
 
  • emergency provisions, etc.

Federal System with Unitary Bias

  • The term ‘Federation’ has nowhere been used in the Constitution. Article 1, on the other hand, describes India as a ‘Union of States’ which implies two things: one, Indian Federation is not the result of an agreement by the states; and two, no state has the right to secede from the federation.
  • quasi-federal’ by KC Wheare,
  • bargaining federalism’ by Morris Jones,
  • co-operative federalism’ by Granville Austin,
  • federation with a centralizing tendency’ by Ivor Jennings, and so on.

Parliamentary Form of Government

  • The parliamentary system is based on the principle of cooperation and co-ordination between the legislative and executive organs
  • The Presidential system is based on the doctrine of separation of powers between the two organs.
  • The features of parliamentary government in India are:
  • Presence of nominal and real executives;
  • o Majority party rule,
  • o Collective responsibility of the executive to the legislature,
  • o Membership of the ministers in the legislature,
  • o Leadership of the prime minister or the chief minister,
  • o Dissolution of the lower House (Lok Sabha or Assembly)
  • The parliamentary system is also known as the ‘Westminster’ model of government, responsible government and cabinet government.
  • Indian Parliamentary System is largely based on the British pattern, however, there are some fundamental differences between the two:
  • the Indian Parliament is not a sovereign body like the British Parliament.
    • Further, the Indian State has an elected head (republic) while the British State has hereditary head (monarchy).

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 Polity

  • 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.
    • This single system of courts enforces both the central laws as well as the state laws

The Constitution has made various provisions to ensure its independence:

  • security of tenure of the judges,
  • fixed service conditions for the judges,
  • all the expenses of the Supreme Court charged on the Consolidated Fund of India,
  • prohibition on discussion on the conduct of judges in the legislatures,
  • ban on practice after retirement,
  • power to punish for its contempt vested in the Supreme Court,
  • separation of the judiciary from the executive

Fundamental Rights

  • Fundamental rights are justiciable in nature, that is, they are enforceable by the courts for their violation.
  • Fundamental Rights are not absolute and subject to reasonable restrictions:
  • They are not sacrosanct and can be curtailed or repealed by the Parliament through a constitutional amendment act.
  • They can also be suspended during the operation of a National Emergency except the rights guaranteed by Articles 20 and 21.

Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)

  • They are enumerated in Part IV of the Constitution. They can be classified into three broad categories—socialistic, Gandhian and liberal–intellectual.
  • Dr B R Ambedkar – “the Directive Principles of State Policy is a ‘novel feature’ of the Indian Constitution”.
  • The directive principles are meant for promoting the ideal of social and economic democracy. They seek to establish a ‘welfare state’ in India.
  • Unlike the Fundamental Rights, the directives are non-justiciable in nature, that is, they are not enforceable by the courts for their violation. (Article 37)
  • The reason for making the DPSPs explicitly unjustifiable are that they require resources which the State may not have at present.
  • Constitution itself declares that “these principles are fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws”. Hence, they impose a moral obligation on the state authorities for their application. But, the real force (sanction) behind them is political, that is, public opinion.
  • In the Minerva Mills case (1980), the Supreme Court held that ‘the Indian Constitution is founded on the bedrock of the balance between the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles’.

Fundamental Duties

  • The Part IV-A of the Constitution (which consists of only one Article 51-A) specifies the 11
  • Fundamental Duties
  • The fundamental duties serve as a reminder to citizens that while enjoying their rights, they have also to be quite conscious of duties they owe to their country, their society and to their fellow-citizens.
  • Like the Directive Principles, the duties are also non-justiciable in nature.
  • 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 – Article 51A
  • (k) to provide opportunities for education to his child or ward between the age of six and fourteen years.

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.
  • A secular state claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion over other religion.
  • A true secular state should steadfastly maintain national governance without influence from religious factions
  • Western Concept – Separation of church and state
  • What is a Negative concept of Secularism?
  • The Western concept of secularism connotes a complete separation between the religion (the church) and the state (the politics).
  • What is a Positive concept of Secularism?
  • The Indian Constitution embodies the positive concept of secularism, i.e., giving equal respect to all religions or protecting all religions equally. (The negative concept of secularism is inapplicable in the Indian situation where the society is multireligious).
  • The following provisions of the Constitution reveal the secular character of the Indian State:
  • The term ‘secular’ was added to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by the 42nd
  • Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976.
  • The Constitution secures to all citizens of India, liberty of belief, faith and worship.
  • The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws (Article 14).
  • The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on the ground of religion (Article 15). Equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters of public employment (Article 16).
  • All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate any religion (Article 25).
  • Every religious denomination or any of its section shall have the right to manage its religious affairs (Article 26).
  • No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes for the promotion of a particular religion (Article 27).
  • No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution maintained by the State (Article 28).
  • Any section of the citizens shall have the right to conserve its distinct language, script or culture (Article 29).
  • All minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice (Article 30).
  • The State shall endeavor to secure for all the citizens a Uniform Civil Code (Article 44).

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.
  • Note: 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.
  • In India, all citizens irrespective of the state in which they are born or reside enjoy the same political and civil rights of citizenship all over the country and no discrimination is made between them excepting in few cases like tribal areas, Jammu and Kashmir, and so on.
  • Note: In countries like USA, each person is not only a citizen of USA but also a citizen of the particular state to which he belongs. Thus, he owes allegiance to both and enjoys dual sets of rights—one conferred by the National government and another by the state government.

Independent Bodies

  • The Indian Constitution establishes certain independent bodies. They are envisaged by the Constitution as the bulwarks of the democratic system of Government in India. These are:
  • Election Commission Comptroller and Auditor General Union Public Service Commission State Public Service Commission

Emergency Provisions

  • The Constitution envisages three types of emergencies –
  • National emergency on the ground of war or external aggression or armed rebellion (Article 352)
  • 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)
  • Financial emergency on the ground of threat to the financial stability or credit of India (Article 360)
  • During an emergency, the Central Government becomes all-powerful and the states go into the total control of the centre.
  • It converts the federal structure into a unitary one without a formal amendment of the Constitution.
  • This kind of transformation of the political system from federal (during normal times) to unitary (during emergency) is a unique feature of the Indian Constitution.

Three-tier Government

  • 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.
  • 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.

Co-operative Societies

  • The 97th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2011 gave a constitutional status and protection to co-operative societies.
  • It made the following three changes in the constitution:
  • It made the right to form co-operative societies a fundamental right (Article 19). It included a new DPSP on promotion of co-operative societies (article 43-B)
  • It added a new Part IX-B in the constitution which is entitled as “the c-operative societies”
  • (article 243-ZH to 243-ZT).

CRITICISM OF THE CONSTITUTION

  • UnIndian and a slavish imitation of the west (Lokanath Misra). Fundamentals of secular democratic polity were more or less settled and thus the Indian constitution could not fabricate fresh ideals.
  • A constitution prepared so late in the date can differ from others in details, not in fundamentals.
  • It is elephantine in size and it is phrased in complex and complicated language converting it into has
  • ‘Ivor Jenninges’ says into a “lawyers paradise”.
  • Constitution is typically unGandhian. The Congress was Gandhian in its approach towards the national movement and typically unGandhian with respect to nature of post-independence Indian polity and economy. Gandhian ideology has not been completely side-lined.
  • A carbon copy of the 1935 Act.
  • A bag of borrowings/ hotchpotch constitution/ patchwork of several documents.

 

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