Salient Features of Indian Constitution

Introduction:

The Indian Constitution stands as a beacon of democracy and governance in the modern world. Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, it embodies the collective aspirations and ideals of a diverse nation, striving to secure justice, equality, and freedom for its citizens. As one of the lengthiest and most comprehensive written constitutions in the world, it boasts several salient features that set it apart and define the fundamental principles upon which the Indian state is built. In this exploration, we delve into the salient features of Indian Constitution, shedding light on its unique characteristics that have not only shaped the country’s political landscape but also inspired democratic movements worldwide.

what are the salient features of indian constitution

  1. Preamble of the Constitution
  2. Lengthiest Written Constitution
  3. Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility
  4. Parliamentary Form of Government
  5. Federal System with Unitary Bias
  6. Synthesis of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy
  7. Drawn from Various Sources
  8. Rule of Law
  9. Integrated and Independent Judiciary
  10. Fundamental Rights
  11. Directive Principles of State Policy
  12. Fundamental Duties
  13. Indian Secularism
  14. Universal Adult Franchise
  15. Single Citizenship
  16. Independent Bodies
  17. Emergency Provisions
  18. Three-tier Government
  19. Cooperative Societies
  20. Amending the Constitution of India

explain the salient features of indian constitution

Preamble of the Constitution

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution serves as the introductory statement and guiding philosophy of the document. It succinctly outlines the fundamental values, objectives, and aspirations that the framers of the Constitution aimed to achieve when they adopted it on January 26, 1950.

Lengthiest Written Constitution

Constitutions can be categorized as either written, such as the American Constitution, or unwritten, exemplified by the British Constitution.

The lengthiest written constitution in the world is the Constitution of India. Adopted on January 26, 1950, it has a preamble and a total of 470 articles, making it one of the most comprehensive and detailed constitutions in existence.

The Constitution of India covers a wide range of topics, including the fundamental rights and duties of citizens, the structure and powers of the government, the distribution of powers between the central and state governments, the judiciary, and various other aspects of governance. It has been amended several times since its adoption to reflect changing social, political, and economic realities in the country.

There are several reasons why the Constitution of India is the longest written constitution in the world. These include:

  • The diversity of India. India is a vast and diverse country with a population of over 1.4 billion people. It is home to people from different religions, cultures, and languages. The Constitution of India seeks to accommodate this diversity by providing for a federal system of government, a secular state, and a bill of rights that guarantees fundamental rights to all citizens.
  • The history of India. India has a long and complex history, which is reflected in the Constitution. The Constitution draws on the principles of democracy, secularism, and socialism, which were all important in the Indian independence movement. It also seeks to address the challenges faced by India, such as poverty, illiteracy, and social inequality.
  • The intentions of the framers of the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution were committed to creating a democratic and just society. They wanted to ensure that the Constitution would be a living document that could be adapted to the changing needs of India. As a result, they included a number of provisions that are designed to be flexible and open to interpretation.

Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility

The Constitution of India is considered to be a blend of rigidity and flexibility. This means that it is not as rigid as the US Constitution, which can only be amended through a complex process, but it is also not as flexible as the UK Constitution, which can be amended by simple legislative action.

The Indian Constitution can be amended in three ways:

  • By a simple majority of the members present and voting in each House of Parliament (Article 368(1)).
  • By a special majority of two-thirds of the members present and voting in each House of Parliament, and by a majority of the states (Article 368(2)).
  • By a special majority of two-thirds of the members present and voting in each House of Parliament, and by the consent of at least one-half of the states (Article 368(3)).

The first method of amendment is the most flexible, and can be used to amend most provisions of the Constitution. The second method is more difficult, and is only used to amend provisions that are considered to be fundamental, such as the federal structure of the government. The third method is the most difficult, and is only used to amend provisions that are considered to be of national importance, such as the Preamble of the Constitution.

The blend of rigidity and flexibility in the Indian Constitution allows it to be both stable and adaptable. The rigidity of the Constitution ensures that its basic features are protected from arbitrary change, while the flexibility of the Constitution allows it to be amended to meet the changing needs of the country.

Parliamentary Form of Government

India follows a parliamentary form of government, which is a system of government where the executive branch derives its legitimacy from and is accountable to the legislature (parliament). Here are the key features of the parliamentary form of government in India:

  1. Bicameral Legislature: India has a bicameral legislature at the national level, consisting of two houses – the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States). The Lok Sabha is directly elected by the people of India, while the Rajya Sabha represents the states and union territories.
  2. Prime Minister: The head of government in India is the Prime Minister, who is the leader of the political party or coalition with the majority of seats in the Lok Sabha. The President of India appoints the Prime Minister, who is usually the leader of the majority party in the lower house.
  3. Collective Responsibility: The Council of Ministers, including the Prime Minister, is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. This means that if the Lok Sabha passes a vote of no confidence against the government, the entire cabinet must resign.
  4. Dual Executive: India has a dual executive, consisting of the President and the Prime Minister. While the President is the ceremonial head of state, the real executive powers are vested in the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers.
  5. Federal Structure: India is a federal country with a division of powers between the central government and the state governments. However, the parliamentary system allows for a strong central government with the authority to override certain state powers in specific situations.
  6. Parliamentary Sessions: The Parliament of India conducts regular sessions where laws are debated, discussed, and passed. The President of India summons and prorogues these sessions.
  7. Opposition Parties: The parliamentary system encourages the formation of opposition parties, which play a crucial role in holding the government accountable and providing checks and balances.
  8. No Fixed Term: Unlike presidential systems where the head of state has a fixed term, the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers can continue in office as long as they enjoy the confidence of the Lok Sabha. Elections are held at regular intervals, typically every five years, but the government can change before the end of its term if it loses the support of the majority in the Lok Sabha.

Federal System with Unitary Bias

India is a federal country with a unitary bias. This means that the central government has more power than the state governments. There are a number of factors that contribute to this bias, including:

  • The division of powers in the Constitution. The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution lists the subjects that are under the exclusive control of the Union government, the concurrent list, and the state list. The Union government has exclusive control over a wide range of subjects, including defense, foreign affairs, and currency. The state list includes subjects such as police, education, and agriculture. The concurrent list includes subjects such as trade and commerce, criminal law, and weights and measures. In case of a conflict between the Union and state laws on a concurrent subject, the Union law prevails.
  • The financial powers of the Union government. The Union government has control over the national treasury and can levy taxes on a wider range of items than the state governments. This gives the Union government a significant financial advantage over the state governments.
  • The emergency provisions in the Constitution. The Constitution allows the President to declare a national emergency, a state emergency, or a financial emergency. During an emergency, the Union government can assume additional powers and the state governments become subject to its control.
  • The role of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the highest court in India and has the power to strike down laws that it finds to be unconstitutional. This power has been used by the Supreme Court to uphold the federal character of the Indian Constitution.

Synthesis of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy

The Indian Constitution is a unique document that seeks to synthesize the principles of parliamentary sovereignty and judicial supremacy. Under the British system of parliamentary sovereignty, the Parliament is supreme and its laws cannot be challenged by the courts. In contrast, under the American system of judicial supremacy, the courts have the power to strike down laws that they deem to be unconstitutional.

The Indian Constitution adopts a middle ground between these two systems. Article 13 of the Constitution states that no law shall be inconsistent with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. This means that the courts have the power to strike down laws that violate these rights. However, Article 368 of the Constitution also gives the Parliament the power to amend the Constitution. This means that the Parliament can, in theory, amend any provision of the Constitution, including the fundamental rights.

In the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973), the Supreme Court of India ruled that the Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is not absolute. The Court held that there are certain “basic features” of the Constitution that cannot be amended. These basic features include the sovereignty of India, the unity of the country, the secular character of the state, and the fundamental rights.

The Kesavananda Bharati case established a balance between parliamentary sovereignty and judicial supremacy in India. The Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution, but it cannot amend the basic features of the Constitution. This ensures that the fundamental rights of the citizens are protected from arbitrary changes by the Parliament.

The synthesis of parliamentary sovereignty and judicial supremacy in India is a complex and evolving issue. The Supreme Court has played a key role in shaping this balance, and its decisions have been controversial at times. However, the Constitution has so far been able to withstand these challenges and has served as a stable foundation for India’s democracy.

Here are some of the key features of the synthesis of parliamentary sovereignty and judicial supremacy in India:

  • The Parliament has the power to make laws, but the courts have the power to strike down laws that violate the Constitution.
  • The basic features of the Constitution cannot be amended by the Parliament.
  • The Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Constitution and to decide whether a law is constitutional or not.
  • The Parliament and the courts are both independent of each other.

This synthesis has been praised by some for providing a balance between the need for stability and the need for protection of individual rights. However, it has also been criticized by others for giving too much power to the courts. Ultimately, the success of this synthesis will depend on the wisdom and restraint of the Parliament and the courts in exercising their respective powers.

Drawn from Various Sources

The Indian Constitution draws inspiration from various sources, including historical documents, legal systems, and principles. Here are some of the key sources and influences on the Indian Constitution:

  1. Government of India Act, 1935: The Indian Constitution derives several features from this British colonial-era legislation. It laid the foundation for a federal system, division of powers between the center and states, and parliamentary democracy.
  2. British Parliamentary System: India adopted the parliamentary system of government, which includes the President as the ceremonial head of state and the Prime Minister as the head of government. The concept of a bicameral legislature and the idea of collective responsibility of the executive to the legislature also come from the British system.
  3. American Constitution: The Indian Constitution draws inspiration from the U.S. Constitution in terms of fundamental rights, the federal structure, and the concept of an independent judiciary. Fundamental rights in India are similar to the Bill of Rights in the United States.
  4. Irish Constitution: The Directive Principles of State Policy in the Indian Constitution are inspired by the Irish Constitution. These principles provide guidelines for the government to work towards the welfare of the people.
  5. French Revolution: The ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity from the French Revolution have influenced the preamble of the Indian Constitution, which seeks to secure justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity for all citizens.
  6. Soviet Constitution: The Indian Constitution incorporates certain socialist principles, such as the commitment to achieving social and economic justice, from the Soviet Constitution.
  7. Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The Indian Constitution incorporates principles from international documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It guarantees fundamental rights, including equality before the law and protection against discrimination.
  8. Historical Documents: India’s long history, including the Maurya and Gupta empires, also contributed to the idea of a strong and unified India. The Ashoka Chakra in the Indian flag is a symbol of the Ashoka Empire’s influence.
  9. Gandhian Principles: Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas of non-violence, civil disobedience, and trusteeship had a significant impact on the Indian Constitution’s framing, particularly in the Directive Principles and the Preamble.
  10. Local Traditions and Customs: The Indian Constitution acknowledges the diversity of the country and respects local traditions and customs, particularly through provisions for the protection of cultural and educational rights of different communities.

Rule of Law

The rule of law is a fundamental principle of the Indian Constitution. It is enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution, which states that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic “committed to the rule of law”.

The rule of law means that everyone is subject to the law, regardless of their position or status. It also means that the law is applied fairly and consistently, and that no one is above the law.

The Constitution of India provides a number of safeguards to ensure the rule of law. These include:

  • The supremacy of the Constitution: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and all other laws must conform to it.
  • The separation of powers: The Constitution divides power between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. This ensures that no one branch of government becomes too powerful.
  • The independence of the judiciary: The judiciary is independent of the other branches of government. This ensures that judges can uphold the law without fear of political interference.
  • The right to a fair trial: Everyone has the right to a fair trial, regardless of their circumstances. This means that they have the right to be represented by a lawyer, to cross-examine witnesses, and to appeal a conviction.

The rule of law is essential for a just and democratic society. It protects the rights of individuals and ensures that the government is accountable to the people.

The Indian Supreme Court has played a major role in upholding the rule of law in India. In a number of landmark judgments, the Court has struck down laws that it found to be unconstitutional, and has protected the rights of individuals against arbitrary government action.

The rule of law is not perfect in India, and there are still challenges to its implementation. However, the Constitution of India provides a strong foundation for the rule of law, and the Supreme Court has shown its commitment to upholding this principle.

Here are some of the specific provisions of the Indian Constitution that relate to the rule of law:

  • Article 13: This article prohibits the state from making any law that takes away or abridges the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
  • Article 14: This article guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of the laws to all citizens.
  • Article 19: This article guarantees certain fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom of association.
  • Article 21: This article guarantees the right to life and personal liberty.
  • Article 32: This article gives the Supreme Court the power to issue writs, including habeas corpus, to protect the fundamental rights of individuals.

The rule of law is a vital principle for any democracy. It ensures that everyone is subject to the law, regardless of their position or status. It also protects the rights of individuals and ensures that the government is accountable to the people. The Indian Constitution provides a strong foundation for the rule of law, and the Supreme Court has shown its commitment to upholding this principle.

Integrated and Independent Judiciary

India has a judicial system that features both integrated and independent components. This unique setup is designed to ensure the proper administration of justice and uphold the rule of law in the country.

1. **Integrated Judiciary:**
– At the apex of the integrated judiciary is the Supreme Court of India. It serves as the highest court in the country and has jurisdiction over all matters, including constitutional, civil, and criminal cases. The Supreme Court is headed by the Chief Justice of India and consists of several judges.
– Below the Supreme Court, there are High Courts in each state and union territory. These High Courts have jurisdiction over their respective states or union territories. Each High Court is led by the Chief Justice of that state or union territory.
– The integrated nature of this system means that judgments and legal principles established by the Supreme Court are binding on all lower courts in the country. This ensures uniformity and consistency in the interpretation and application of laws throughout India.

2. **Independent Judiciary:**
– The concept of an independent judiciary is enshrined in the Indian Constitution to safeguard the rights and liberties of citizens. The independence of the judiciary is crucial to ensure that judges can make impartial and fair decisions without undue influence from the executive or legislative branches of government.
– Judges in India, from the lower courts to the Supreme Court, are appointed through a rigorous process that aims to insulate them from political pressures. The President of India appoints judges based on recommendations made by the Collegium system, which consists of senior judges.
– Once appointed, judges enjoy security of tenure, meaning they cannot be easily removed from their positions. This helps protect them from external pressures and ensures that they can make decisions solely based on the law and justice.
– The salaries and allowances of judges are also fixed by law and are not subject to changes made by the government, further safeguarding their independence.

In summary, India’s judicial system combines elements of an integrated and independent judiciary. The integrated aspect ensures a hierarchical structure for the administration of justice, while the independence of the judiciary is essential to ensure that judges can make impartial decisions and uphold the rule of law without interference from other branches of government. This balance is crucial for maintaining the country’s democratic principles and protecting the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

Fundamental Rights

The Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution are a set of fundamental human rights that are guaranteed to all citizens of India. These rights are enshrined in Part III (Articles 12 to 35) of the Constitution of India and are considered to be the cornerstone of Indian democracy. Here is a brief overview of the Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution:

  1. Right to Equality (Articles 14-18):
    • Article 14: Equality before the law.
    • Article 15: Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
    • Article 16: Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
    • Article 17: Abolition of “untouchability.”
    • Article 18: Abolition of titles and the prohibition of their use.
  2. Right to Freedom (Articles 19-22):
    • Article 19: Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, assembly, association, etc.
    • Article 20: Protection in respect of conviction for offenses.
    • Article 21: Protection of life and personal liberty.
    • Article 21A: Right to education.
    • Article 22: Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.
  3. Right against Exploitation (Articles 23-24):
    • Article 23: Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labor.
    • Article 24: Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.
  4. Right to Freedom of Religion (Articles 25-28):
    • Article 25: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion.
    • Article 26: Freedom to manage religious affairs.
    • Article 27: Freedom from taxes on religious grounds.
    • Article 28: Freedom from religious instruction in certain educational institutions.
  5. Cultural and Educational Rights (Articles 29-30):
    • Article 29: Protection of interests of minorities.
    • Article 30: Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.
  6. Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32):
    • Article 32: Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by this Part, which includes the right to move the Supreme Court for the enforcement of these rights.
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