Salient Features of the 'Constitution of India'

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Constitution of India is unique in itself. Many features of our constitution are borrowed from various sources around the world. So much so that some people criticize Indian constitution as being a “borrowed constitution”. But it is not true. Though we have borrowed many features we have not accepted it, as it is. We have modified those provision to suit our need & hence an all together new provisions have been created & assimilated in our Indian constitution.

Article 368 & the Constitution

  • With the help of Article 368 Parliament can amend the constitution.
  • Every part of constitution can be amended by the Parliament except “basic structure” of the constitution as held by the Supreme Court.
  • Any law which violates the basic structure of the constitution is declared unconstitutional & invalid by the court.

Features of the Indian Constitution

1. Fundamental Rights

  • Justiciable in nature (i.e. they are legally enforceable by the court of law)
  • It promotes political democracy
  • Not absolute in nature & have some restrictions
  • Parliament can amend them but not those provisions that form the “basic” structure of the constitution
  • Suspended during National Emergency (Except Article 20 & 21)
    -(Article 20 - Protection in respect of conviction for offences)
    -(Article 21 - Protection of life and personal liberty)

2. Fundamental Duties

  • Non-justiciable in nature (i.e. they are not legally enforceable by the court of law)
  • Not present in the original constitution. (Added by 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 on the recommendation by Swaran Singh committee.)
  • Reminds people that while enjoying rights they have some duties to do

3. Directive Principles of State Policy

  • Non-justiciable in nature (i.e. they are not legally enforceable by the court of law)
  • Ambedkar described it as “novel feature” of Constitution
  • Promotes social and economic democracy
  • Aims to establish welfare state

4. Lengthiest Written Constitution

  • Indian constitution is the lengthiest written constitution so far. Reasons for such a vast length:
  • Single constitution for Centre and all the states
  • Mainly derived from Government of India Act, 1935 which itself was bulky
  • Geographical factors i.e. the vastness of the country and its diversity
  • Dominance of legal luminaries in the Constituent Assembly

5. Drawn from various sources

The features of the Indian constitution & their sources are as follows:

Sr. No. Source Feature
1 Japanese Constitution Procedure established by law 
2 South African Constitution Procedure for amendment of constitution & election of members of Rajya Sabha
3 French Constitution Republic and ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity in the Preamble
4 Soviet Constitution Fundamental Duties and the ideal of justice (social, economic and political) in the preamble 
5 Weimar Constitution of Germany  Suspension of Fundamental Rights during emergency
6 Australian Constitution Concurrent List, Freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse, and joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament
7 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.
8 Irish Constitution Directive Principles of State policy, nomination of members to Rajya Sabha and method of election of President
9 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
10 British Constitution Parliamentary government, Rule of Law, legislative procedure, single citizenship, cabinet system, prerogative writs, parliamentary privileges and bicameralism
11 Government of India Act, 1935 Federal scheme, office of governor, judiciary, public service commissions, emergency provisions and administrative details

6. Rigidity and Flexibility

  • Indian Constitution is not very rigid as the US constitution nor it is as flexible as the British constitution.
  • Synthesis of both

7. Federal System with a strong centre

  • Indian constitution establishes India as the federal system of government.
  • Federal system means a political system where is there division of powers between centre and state.
  • But Indian federal system is unique in itself as it has a strong centre.
  • So, Indian Political structure can be rightly described as “federal system with strong centre”

8. Three Tier Government

  • Indian constitution provides three tier government.
  • Originally, it was two tier i.e. Centre and the State
  • But by 73rd and 74th Amendment Act, 1992 three tier government has been established. (Centre, state & local self government)

9. Emergency Provisions   (Read in Detail)

Sr. No.  Article Name of the Emergency  Description
1 Article 352 National Emergency Proclaimed on the ground of war or external aggression or armed rebellion
2 Article 356 State Emergency Proclaimed on the ground that constitutional machinery has broken down in a state
3 Article 365 State Emergency Proclaimed on the ground that a particular state has failed to follow the directions of the Centre
4 Article 360 Financial Emergency Proclaimed on the ground that there is threat to the financial stability or Credit of India

10. Independent Bodies

  • Indian constitution not only provides for the legislative, executive and judicial organs of the government (Central and state) but also establishes certain independent bodies for effective & unbiased administration in certain areas.
  • Examples of such independent bodies include Election Commission, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Union Public Service Commission, State Public Service Commission, etc.

11. Single Citizenship  : People of India have been given single citizenship even if any person belongs to different state in India.

12. Universal Adult Franchise : Indian constitution adopts universal adult franchise as a basis of elections to the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies. (Those above the age of 18 can vote)

13. Secular State : India has no official religion of the Indian State. Any person in India has the right to preach and practice religion of his choice.

14. Integrated and independent judiciary

  • Indian judiciary is not controlled by the executive. It is independent in nature & has no control over it.
  • Also, it is integrated & hierarchical in nature where Supreme Court is at the top followed by high court & then subordinate courts.

15. Synthesis of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy

  • Indian Constitution envisages for a synthesis of Parliamentary sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy.
  • Supreme Court on one hand can declare parliamentary laws as unconstitutional (by judicial review). On the other hand, parliament can amend the major portion of the Constitution (by constitutional Amendment)

16. Parliamentary form of government

  • The constitution of India envisages for the British Parliamentary system of government rather than American Presidential System of Government.
  • The Parliamentary system is based on the principle of cooperation and coordination between the legislative and executive organs while the presidential system is based on the doctrine of separation of powers between the two organs.
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