The constitution of a country, in simple terms, is a collection of the legal rules providing the frame work for the Government of the country. The strength and stability of a constitution depends largely on its ability to sustain a healthy and peaceful social system and when occasion demands, facilitate the peaceful transformation of its economic and social order. Its basic objective is to establish a democratic, socialist, secular republic wish a view to securing justice liberty, equality and fraternity to all its citizens.
The following are the outstanding features of the Indian Constitution.
1. A written constitution:
The Republic of India has a written and enacted constitution; it contained 409 Articles, twelve schedules and three appendices. In its present form it covers 254 octavo pages. “Like the constitution of the United States of America, Canada and France, India too has a written constitution, though it differs from those documents in many respects.”
2. The Longest Known Constitutions:
The constitution of India has the distinction of being the most lengthy and detailed constitutional document the world has so far produced. The original constitution contained as many as 395 Articles and 8 schedules. Even after the repeal of several provision of it still contains 409 articles and 12 schedules.
Ti has been the endeavor of the framers of the constitution to provide for the solution of all the problems of administration and governance of the country. Even those matters which are subject of conventions in other countries have been pt down in black and white. Thus, whole the U.S. Constitution originally compresses only 7 Articles, the Australian 128 Articles, the Canadian 147 Articles; the constitution o India in original form consists of 395 Articles and 8 schedules. As a result of some amendments made since then, some new Articles have been added and some old ones repealed.
3. Popular Sovereignty:
The constitution proclaims the sovereignty of the people in its opening words. The preamble begins with the words, “we the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic Republic”. The idea is reaffirmed in several places in the constitution, particularly in the chapter dealing with elections. Article 326 declares that ‘the election to the House of people and to the Legislative Assembly of every state shall be on the basis of adult suffrage”.
As a result, Government at the centre and in the states derives their authority from the people who choose their representatives for parliament and the state legislatures of regular intervals. Further, those who wield the executive power of the government are responsible for the legislature and through them to the people. Thus, in the affairs of the state, it is the will of the people that prevails ultimately and this is the principle of popular sovereignty.
4. Sovereign Democratic Republic:
The preamble of the constitution declares India to be a sovereign democratic Republic it is sovereign since India has emerged as a completely Independent state. The word ‘Democratic’ signifies that the real power emanates from the people. The constitution introduces the country the right to elect their representatives for the union Parliament and state legislatures at the time of periodical elections to be held every five years. The world ‘Republic’ is used to denote that the state is headed not by a permanent head like the queen of Britain but by a President indirectly elected by the people.
5. Both Rigid and Flexible:
The Indian constitution is partly rigid and partly flexible. The procedure said down by the constitution for its amendment is neither very easy, as in England, nor very rigid as in the United States.
The constitution of India strikes a golden mean thereby avoiding the extreme flexibility of the English constitution and the extreme rigidity of the American constitution.
It is only the amendment of few of the provisions of the constitution that requires notification by the state legislatures and even then ratification by only ½ of them would suffice.
The rest of the constitutions may be amended by the special majority of the union Parliament i.e. a majority of not less than 2/3 of the members of each. House present and voting which again must be a majority of the total membership of the House.
The very fact that within a period of 47 years the constitution had been amended 76 times proves that the constitution is flexible.
6. Cabinet Government:
The constitution establishes cabinet type of Government both of the centre and the units. The most distinctive feature of a Cabinet system of government is the complete and continuous responsibility of the executive to the legislature. The cabinet is composed of the Prime Minister, who is the chief of the executive and his senior colleagues who share the responsibility with him for the formulation and execution of the policies of the Government.
Under the Cabinet system the Head of the cabinet occupies a position of great dignity, but practically all authority nominally vested in him is exercised by the cabinet. The unitary and collective responsibility of the cabinet is composed of the Prime Minister, who is the keystone of the cabinet arch. The real merit of cabinet system is that the executive being responsible to the legislature is always being watched.
7. Secular State:
A secular state has negative and positive aspects. Negatively, it is the antithesis of a communal or theocratic state which officially identified it self with a particular religion. In a secular state, on the other hand there is no official or state religion. In its positive aspects a secular state treats all its citizens alike and gives them equal opportunities. The state has no official religion. No discrimination can be made on the basis of religion, faith, caste, color and sex. Every citizen is equal before law.
8. A federal system with unitary Bias:
The most remarkable achievement of the Indian constitution is to confer upon a federal system the strength of a unitary Government Though normally the system of government is federal the constitution enables the federation to transform into unitary state.
The constitution of India establishes a federal polity which has been created by dividing the country into states and allocating them functions as specified in the constitution. India has a written constitution which is rigid to a large extent. There is a dual polity and division of powers between the centre and the states.
The Indian constitution has a unitary bias for instance, after distributing the legislative powers in three lists residual subjects are left with the union. Even in matters in the concurrent list, the union Government has the final say Parliament in India has a might to change the boundaries of the state. The centre can at any time declare emergency in the states. The Governors are appointed by the President.
9. Universal Franchise Without communal Representation:
The adoption of universal adult suffrage, without any qualification either of sex, property, taxation or the like, is a bold experiment in India, having regard to the vast extent of the country and its population, with on over whelming illiteracy. The suffrage in India, it should be noted is wider than that in England or the United States.
10. Compromise between Judicial Review and Parliamentary sovereignty:
Parliament in India is not as supreme as the British parliament. At the the same time judiciary in India is not as supreme as in the United States of America which recognize no limit on the scope of Judicial Review. The Indian constitution wonderfully adopts the via media between the American system of judicial supremacy and the English principle of Parliamentary Supremacy, by endowing the judiciary with the power of declaring a law as unconstitutional if it is beyond the competence of the legislature according to the distribution of powers provided by the constitution, or if it is in contravention of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution, but at the same time depriving the judiciary of any power of ‘judicial review’ of the wisdom of legislative policy. Thus, it has avoided impressions like due process and made fundamental rights such as that of livery and property subject to regulation by the legislature.
11. Independence of Judiciary
The framers of the constitution were aware that democratic freedoms were meaningless in the absence of an independent machinery to safeguard them. No subordinate or agent of the Government could be trusted to be just and impartial in judging the merits of a conflict in which the Government itself was a party. Similarly, a judiciary subordinates either to the centre or the states could not be trusted as an impartial arbiter of conflicts and controversies between the centre and the states. These were the compelling reasons for the creation of an independent judiciary as an integral part of the constitution and for the adoption of judicial independent as a basic principle of the constitution.
12. Fundamental Rights:
Like the constitution of the United States of America, the constitution of India also includes a separate chapter guaranteeing fundamental Rights to all the citizens. These rights are justiciable and inviolable. They are binding on the legislature as well as on the executive. If any of the rights is violated, a citizen has the right to seek the protection of the judiciary. Act of the legislature or odder of the executive can be declared rule and void if it violates any of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens by the constitutions.
13 Fundamental Duties:
The 42nd Amendment Act introduced ‘Fundamental duties’ to circumscribe the fundamental rights even thought the duties as such cannot be judicially enforced. The incorporation of fundamental duties in the constitution was thus an attempt to balance the individual’s civic freedoms with has civic obligations and thus to fill a serious gap in the constitution.
14. Directive principles of state policy:
This feature has been taken from the Irish constitution. The philosophy behind the Directive principles is that the state and every one of the agencies are commanded to follow certain fundamental principles while they frame their policies regarding the various fields of state activity. These principles on the other hand, are assurances to the people as to what they can expect from the state and on the other are directives to the Government central and state to establish and maintain a new “social order in which justice, social economic ad political, shall inform all the institution of national life.”
Criticism of Indian Constitution -
The constitution of India is remarkable for many outstanding features which will distinguish it from other constitutions, even though there were members in the constituent Assembly who criticized the constitution which was going to be adopted as a slavish imitation of the west or not suited to the genius of the people. The most criticism is following:
Firstly: The constitution of India is being criticized on the ground that it is the most lengthy and detailed constitutional document the world has so far produced.
Secondly: The constitution of India is called as the carbon copy of the Act of 1935. The fathers of the constitution have borrowed a large number of provisions from the Act of 1935 and made them part of the new constitution.
Thirdly: One of the frequent criticism of the constitution was that was a lawyer’s paradise. It is true that the constitution is a complex document. The language in which it was drafted is that which is familiar only in courts of law.
Fourthly: The constitution has been criticized by a small but vocal section on the ground that it is un-Gandhian. The constitution did not embody the principles for which Mahatma Gandhi stood or the ideology of the Indian National Congress.
Fifthly: It is said that the Indian constitution is a bag of borrowings or is a more paper and scissors work. Parliamentary form of government is borrowed from the British constitution while federalism and judicial review is borrowed from the U.S. constitution.
Sixthly: According to some critics, the centre has been made to strong. There is too much centralization and that eh states have been reduced to municipalities.
Seventhly: The new constitution is called as un_Indian anti-Indian that no part of the constitution represents the ancient polity of India, its genius and the sprit of its hallowed and glorious traditions.
In spite of the above weakness the Indian Constitution occupied an important place in India.