This article describes the 16 Salient features of the Constitution of the Indian Republic.
(1) Written Constitution
The constitution of the Indian Republic is written. It contains 395 articles and 10 Schedules, According to the proposals of the Cabinet Mission Plan; Constituent Assembly was set up for framing a constitution for the Union of India. The Assembly consisted of the representatives of the provinces and the nominees of the states, ft met in New Delhi in December 1946. After nearly three years of deliberations if finally adopted the constitution on November 26, 1949. The Indian Republic was inaugurated on January 26, 1950.
(2) Rigid and flexible
The constitution is rigid in the sense that most of its parts cannot be amended by the ordinary law-making process. There are three methods of amending the constitution. Some of its facts can be amended by the ordinary law-making process by Parliament. Certain provisions can be amended provided that a Bill for that purpose is passed in each House of Parliament by a majority of the total membership of the House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting; the Bill then is presented to the President who has to give his assent. Then there are certain other provisions which can be amended if a Bill for that purpose is passed by the second method described above and ratified by the Legislatures of not less than one-half of the states before being presented to the President.
Thus the constitution is rigid as well as flexible.
(3) Drawn from Different’ Sources
A distinguishing feature of the Indian constitution is that it was prepared after transacting all the known constitutions of the world. So it is a borrowed constitution, it is a patch work. For example, the Parliamentary System has been borrowed from England, the concept of independent judiciary and judicial review and fundamental rights from the U.S. Constitution, the federal features from Canada and the Directive Principles from Ireland. However, the Government of India Act of 1935 has the greatest impact on our constitution. As Prof. Jennings observes, “the constitution derives directly from the Government of India Act of 1935 from which, in fact, many of its provisions are copied almost textually In the words of Dr. Punjab Rao Deshmukh, the constitution of India is “essentially the Government of India Act with only adult franchise added.”
But it is also true that whatever .the framers of the constitution borrowed from different source’s, they modified it .with a view to avoiding the faults that have been disclosed in its working and adopted it to the existing conditions and needs of the country.
(4) Detailed Administrative Provisions Included
Our constitution is a bulky document. It is because the framers of the constitution followed and almost reproduced the Government of India Act of 1935 which itself is a lengthy and detailed organic law. As Dr. B.R. Ambedkar observed, it is perfectly possible to pervert the constitution without changing the form of administration. To prevent such subversion of the constitution detailed administrative provisions were included in it. We have in our- constitution detailed provisions about the organization of the judiciary, the services, the Public Service Commission, Election and the like, and about the division of powers between the Union and the states.
(5) Constitution of the units also included
The constitution of a federal state usually deals only with the Federal Government and leaves the federating units to draw their own constitutions. This practice was followed in the framing of the constitutions of the USA, USSR, Canada and other Federal States. But the Indian constitution provides the constitutions of both the Union and the states. This has contributed to the bulk of the Indian constitution.
(6) Sovereign Democratic Republic
The Indian Independence Act, 1947 declared India dominion with the Queen of England as the head of the state. The Governor-General- was appointed by the Queen and acted as her representative in this country. The, authors of the constitutor; rightly decided that Dominion status was not in conformity with the dignity of the Indian nation. The preamble of the constitution, therefore, declared India as a Sovereign Democratic Republic. It means that India as a nation does not owe allegiance to any foreign power, is independent in her dealings with foreign countries and enjoys equal status in the world community with other independent sovereign states.
India is a democracy. It means that sovereignty rests with the people of India. They govern themselves through their representatives elected on the basis of universal adult franchise. Besides, the constitution confers on Indian citizens some fundamental rights and which are considered to be the essence of a democratic system.
India is a republic as unlike Britain there is no hereditary element in the Indian Governmental system. The President, the highest official of the state, is elective. The institution of monarchy which obtained in the states before Independence was abolished.
Although India is a sovereign republic, yet she continues to be a member of the Commonwealth of Nations with the British Monarch as its head. Her membership of the commonwealth does not compromise her position as a sovereign republic. The Commonwealth is an association of free and independent nations. The British monarch is only symbolic head of the association.
(7) Secular State
India is a secular state. It means that the state does not recognize, establish or endow any church or religious organization. It is not guided in the discharge of its functions by the considerations of secular or the worldly welfare of the people. It does not seek to promote the spiritual or religious welfare of the people. It allows freedom of religion. The constitution guarantees freedom of worship, faith and conscience. It does not discriminate in matters of government employment on the basis of religion. The term “Secular” did not occur in any part of the original constitution. It was incorporated in the preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976.
(8) Socialist State
India is a socialist state. The term “Socialist” was added to the preamble of the constitution by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976. But it is to be noted that the “Socialism” envisaged by the constitution is not the usual state socialism of Russian or Chinese variety which involves nationalization of all the means of production, distribution; communication etc. The late Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, explained the nature of Indian Socialism: “We have always said that we have our own brand of socialism. We will .nationalize the sectors where we feel the necessity. Just nationalization is not our type of socialism.”
(9) Fundamental Rights and Constitutional Remedies
Like the constitution of the USA and the USSR, the Indian constitution contains a comprehensive Bill of Rights. Right to freedom, right to equality, right to religion, right against exploitation, and cultural rights have been guaranteed to the citizens of India.
The rights are enforceable in the courts. The constitution guarantees the right to move the Supreme Court and the High Courts by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights mentioned above. The remedies for enforcing the rights, namely, the writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition and certiorari are also guaranteed by the constitution under Article 32.
(10) Fundamental Duties
A chapter Part IVA on fundamental duties was incorporated in the constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act. Article 51A of the constitution enumerates ten fundamental duties of the citizens of India. To respect and abide by the constitution and the laws; to uphold the sovereignty of the nation; to respect the democratic institutions enshrined in the constitution to abjure communalism and violence is some of the fundamental duties of the citizens. But unlike the fundamental rights, the fundamental duties are not enforceable in • the courts.
(11) Directive Principles of State Policy
A distinctive feature of the constitution is that it contains a Chapter, IVth on the Directive Principles of State Policy. These Directives relate mostly to social and economic justice, such as adequate means of livelihood for all distribution of wealth so as to sub serve the common good, equal pay for equal work, protection of adult and child labor, free and compulsory primary education etc. These are the Guiding principles of state policy. The authors of the constitution did not make the Directive Principles justiciable. Though the Directive Principles are not enforceable by the courts and if the government of the day fails to carry out these objects no court can make the government ensure them, yet the principles have been declared to be fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these, principles in making laws.
(12) A federal Polity
The constitution is federal in nature but the term “Federation” has now here been used in the constitution. India has been described as a Union of States according to the Article 1 of the constitution. There are twenty five states in the union, each one with a separate Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. Powers have been divided between the Union Government on the one hand and the states on the other by the constitution itself. The constitution is sovereign and there is provision for judicial review.
(13) Parliamentary System of Government
India has borrowed the Parliamentary system of Government. Both at the centre and in the states the Executive is responsible to the Legislature elected by the people on the basis of adult franchise. The President, who is the head of the state, is only the nominal head of the Government. The real head of the government is the Prime Minister who is the leader of the majority party in Parliament. The Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister, is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Parliament. In the states also the government is parliamentary in nature.
(14) Adult Franchise
Although at the time when the constitution was made, the vast majority of the Indian people were illiterate and backward, the framers of the constitution took the bold step of conferring the right to vote on every adult citizen of India irrespective of the differences of education, property or sex. Every citizen who is 21 years of age has the right to vote. This makes the constitution democratic in the real sense of the term.
(15) Reservation in Legislatures and Services for Backward Classes
A distinctive feature of the Indian constitution is that there is reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People and in the state, assemblies which according to the sixty-second amendment 1989 will continue up to the year 2000. The constitution also lays down that the claims of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration in making appointments to services and posts’ in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a state.
There is also reservation of seats for Anglo-Indian community in the House of the People and in some State Assemblies.
(16) Supreme Court and judicial Review
A Supreme Court is a necessary element in a federal polity. Accordingly, the Indian constitution has established a Supreme Court of India. The court has both original and appellate jurisdiction. It has the power of judicial review. It can declare any Legislative enactment or administrative Act as unconstitutional if it is deemed to be in conflict with the provisions of the constitution. Besides, the Supreme Court is a court of record.