Outstanding features of the Indian Constitution
For Quick Overview of the Chapter Please see the
Chapter in Detail:
The following are the salient features of the Indian
Indian Constitution is a written Constitution. Written
constitution is that which is drafted after a prolonged process of discussion by
a representative body elected for this very purpose, for example Constituent
Assembly of India (1946-49). An unwritten constitution, as in Britain, evolves
from popular conventions, customs and traditions along with the social values
1 : “Indian Constitution lacks
originality and rather is drawn from other Constitutions of the world : Do you
agree? Support your answer with reasonable arguments?
The Constituent Assembly, desirous of providing
the best features in the Constitution, drew from many sources as shown below
United States Constitution
Charter of Fundamental Rights
Federal structure of government
Independence of the judiciary
Constitution of the Soviet Union
2 : Indian Constitution is the
most voluminous in the world. Discuss?
Indian Constitution is the lengthiest in the
world in terms of the number of articles. Originally, at the time of being
adopted, it consisted of 395 articles but after 97 amendments (2012), it
presently has more than 440 articles. There are 12 Schedules to amplify and
support the contents in the Articles.
The reasons for the voluminous nature of the Constitution are
There are detailed provisions for various aspects of
administration in order to minimise conflict and confusion.
Being a democratic country, there is a great need to lay
down elaborately the rights of the individuals. Hence, there is a seperate
chapter on Fundamental Rights.
A federal constitution has to detail the rights and
jurisdictions of the centre and states. It is more so in India where much
care is taken to spell out in detail the functions of the states and centre.
The idea is to prevent any constitutional conflicts and crisis in the
working of the Constitution
Since the Constitution draws from many Constitutions as
shown above, it is bound to be lengthy.
The size and diversity of the country with a pluralist
tradition require that Constitution promote the same with detailed
provisions. For example, language policy.
Independent bodies Election Commission, Union Public
Service Commission, Comptroller and Auditor General of India have been set
up with elaborate provisions for powers, independence etc which are in other
Constitutions not a part of the Constitution but only statutes.
3 : Presidential system of
democracy can at best provide secondary solution to the existing challenges to
the Indian parliamentary democracy. Critically examine the statement in light of
The Constitution of India adopts Parliamentary
system of democracy in order to represent the pluralist tradition and interests
of the country. In the parliamentary form, members of legislature provide the
executive. That is, the Council of Ministers who make up the executive are
necessarily drawn from legislature in order to enforce the highest forms of
popular accountability. The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to
the legislature. Council of Ministers enjoy power till they have support of the
popular house Lok Sabha of India. There are many devices in the Constitution and
various statutes and rules with the Parliament holds the executive answerable.
As a last resort, no-confidence motion is provided to vote out the council of
ministers and either replace it with another party or coalition or have a
general election to the Lok Sabha.
4 : Indian polity is neither
federal nor unitary. Examine the statement with examples from recent past.
The Constitution contains all the basic features
of a federation as shown below
Set up a dual polity- the Union Government and the State
Legislative, administrative and financial powers are
divided between the two levels of government. All legislative powers are
classified into three lists-the Union List, the State List and the
Concurrent List. Subjects of national importance like banking, national
security, currency, defence, railways, post and telegraph, foreign affairs,
citizenship, etc have been given to the Union Parliament , being placed in
the Union List. Items of provincial and regional importance like police,
local self government, agriculture, law and order, health and entertainment
have been given to the States, being a part of the State List. Neither can
legislate on the other’s List. However, under rare and special
circumstances, Union Parliament can legislate on items in the State List.
Concurrent List has subjects which are of common interest such as socio
economic planning, marriage and divorce, adoption, succession, forests,
transfer of property, preventive detention, education, civil and criminal
law, etc. The Union Parliament and the State Legislatures enjoy co-equal
powers to make laws in regard to this List. However, if there is a conflict
between a Union law and a State law, the law made by the Union Parliament
would prevail over the State law, according to the doctrine of federal
Each level of government being provided with its own
sources of revenue
Supremacy of the written Constitution
Independent judiciary to settle disputes among the
federal units. Supreme Court under Art. 131 has exclusive and original
jurisdiction in federal matters.
Even while the above listed essential features of federalism are found in
the Indian Constitution, there is a strong unitary tilt. For example, states
are not – ‘indestructible’ as in the USA. Union Parliament can not only
alter the area and boundaries of a state but can also abolish a state. The
Parliament has the residuary powers- that is powers that may be left out of
the three Lists detailed above. Emergency powers (Art. 352 and 356) of the
Union Government can also turn the country into a unitary system.
Since 1992, with the making of the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts related to
Panchayatiraj and Nagarapalika institutions respectively, Indian
Constitution has added another tier to the federal system. However, powers
of finances of the Panchayats are still left to the discretion of the state
5 : “Our Constitution is to be
as solid and permanent’ as we can make it, yet there is not permanence in it”.
An amendment to the Constitution may become
necessary for any reason like national security, social progress, national
integration and so on. The method to amend the Constitution is rigid in a
federal polity- that is a special and elaborate method is prescribed involving
both the Union and the States. A flexible constitution is one that can be
amended like an ordinary law - states are not involved. Indian Constitution is
rigid as far as amendment to the federal features are concerned. It is flexible
for all other features, that is a special majority in the Parliament is enough
for the Amendment Bill to be passed. Jawaharlal Nehru, while justifying this
nature of the Constitution, said, “Our Constitution is to be as solid and
permanent’ as we can make it, yet there is no permanence in a Constitution.
There should be a certain amount of flexibility. If you make anything rigid and
permanent, you stop the nation’s growth, the growth of a living vital organic
At the time of Independence India was an impoverished
country. There was large scale poverty and deprivation. Historically inherited
social divisions marked the society. Since markets were not well developed and
many were outside the economic system, Government took upon itself the
responsibility to provide welfare to the vast majority of vulnerable people.
Constitution has many features that commit the country to a welfare State. The
Preamble to the Constitution was amended in 1976 (Forty-second Amendment Act,
1976) to insert the goal of socialism. Directive Principles of State Policy
(Part IV) aim at the establishment of a Welfare State in India. Progressive
taxation, developmental interventions like the various flagship programmes of
the government (MGNREGS), nationalization of banks in 1969 and 1980, land
reforms and various subsidies are meant to establish a welfare state.
Affirmative action (positive discrimination) by the Government in favour of the
socially marginalised like dalits is an important aspect of the welfare state.
As a hallmark of the democracy that the Constitution
establishes, Fundamental Rights are provided in Part III to citizens
(Art.15,16,19,29 and 30) and others. They are fundamental to the development of
the individual and the society and so they are called Fundamental Rights. They
are given extraordinary protection with the Supreme Court being made directly
accessible under Ar’t.32 and High Courts under Art.226 to issue writs to restore
the Fundamental Rights in case they are violated.
The Fundamental Rights conferred by the Constitution are
broadly classified under the following groups:
The Right to Equality;
The Right to Freedom;
The Right against Exploitation;
The Right to Freedom of Religion;
Cultural and Educational Rights; and
The Right to Constitutional Remedies.
The Right to Property was deleted as a Fundamental Right by
the Forty-fourth Constitution Amendment Act, 1978 and is made into an ordinary
Constitution right (Art.300A).
Directive Principles of State Policy
Borrowed from the Irish Constitution, Directive Principles of
State Policy constitute a distinctive feature of Indian Constitution. DPSPs are
a set of social and economic obligations imposed on the Government- Union and
State- to establish a welfare society. They are not justiciable
(non-implementation of the DPSPs can not be challenged in courts) but are
fundamental to the governance of the country (Art.37). Democratic
decentralization through local self government, equitable distribution of
wealth, welfare of workers, uniform civil code, improvement in the health
standards of the people, commitment to contribute to international peace are
some of the obligations that the DPSPs sets for the Government.
Many amendments to the Constitution as well as landmark
judgements of the Supreme Court have contributed to the implementation of the
Directive Principles For example, 73rd and 74th Amendment Act, 1992 for
6 : “A natural corallary of a
pluralist and democratic Constitution is secularism”. Discuss?
A natural corollary of a pluralist and democratic
Constitution is secularism which has the following meaning
State has no official religion
State and religion are separate
State has an equi-distant policy towards all religions
All individuals have the right to pursue the religion of
Additionally, in India minorities- both religious and
linguistic- are given special protection (Art.29 and 30) so as to preserve the
diversity within unity.
Unified, Hierarchial And Independent Judiciary
Indian Constitution provides for a single integrated
judiciary headed by the Supreme Court. Each state, or a group of them, has a
High Court with administrative control over the subordinate judiciary (district
and below). It is unlike in the USA where there are two sets of courts—one for
each state and one for federal laws and matters. In India, Supreme Court can be
approached to challenge any verdict of the High Court and other courts. Such a
system plays an important integrating role and maintains the unity of the
country. Thus, it is said that the Supreme Court has a ‘unifying effect’ on the
7 : What is a Constitution?
Bring out the salient features of the Indian Constitution?
The Constitution contains many provisions for an
independent and impartial judiciary. For example, the judges of the Supreme
Court and the State High Courts have security of service. Independence of
judiciary ensures that there is no pressure on the judiciary to be biased. The
judges can be objective and impartial.
Universal Adult Franchise
The Constitution provides for Universal Adult Franchise. The
citizens of India who are 18 years of age and above have been granted the right
to vote irrespective of any qualification pertaining to education, possession of
property or payment of income tax. To bring the Scheduled Castes and Tribes at
par with the other communities of the country, some seats have been reserved for
them in the Union Parliament, State Legislatures and local bodies in accordance
with their population. There are reserved parliamentary and assembly
constituencies from where only the members of the Scheduled Castes or Tribes can
contest elections. In the Budget session of the Parliament (2008), 108th
Constitution Amendment Bill was introduced to give reservation to women in the
Union and State legislatures.