(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains GS Online Coaching : Paper 2 - "Features, Amendments"

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Subject: General Studies (Paper 2 - Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

Topic: Features, Amendments

Features, Amendments


Salient or outstanding features of the Constitution are such characteristic of the Constitution which distinguish it from other Constitutions. They are not the same as basic features. Basic features are those provisions of the constitution which cannot be amended, taken away or abridged. The doctrine of unamendability of basic features was propounded in Kesavanand Bharati and followed in numerous cases.


  • The first thing that strikes a student of the Constitution is its bulk. Compared to it other Constitutions look like small booklets. The U.S. Constitution has less than 5000 words. The Canadian Constitution of 1982 contains not more than 6500 words. The factors leading to this bulk are as under—

  • It contains provisions in regard to administration of States. This is unlike the U.S. Constitution where the States framed their respective Constitutions separately. It follows the Canadian example. Our Constitution provides the Constitution of the Union and all the States, except Jammu and Kashmir, which was allowed to draw its own Constitution. Even the provisions of the constitution did not automatically apply to Jammu and Kashmir. They were gradually made applicable (some in modified form) under Art. 370.

  • It contains detailed provisions regarding administrative matters. The framers had a desire to make it a comprehensive document and had as precedent the Government of India Act, 1935. It embodies detailed provisions regarding organisation of Judiciary, Public Service Commission, Election Commission etc. Dr. Ambedkar justified inclusion of administrative details on the ground that it would protect the Constitution from superstitious subversion by unscrupulous persons.

  • Bulk of the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935 were adopted. The Act of 1935 was a lengthy document. It was taken as model and substantially incorporated in the Constitution. This naturally made the Constitution a lengthy document. Dr. Ambedkar justified the bating that the people were familiar with the existing system.

  • The vastness of the country and variety of problems required varied solutions. Part XVI relating to Scheduled Castes and Tribes and Backward classes; Part XVII pertaining to Official Language and the Fifth and Sixth Schedules relating to Scheduled Areas and Tribes had to be enacted to tackle peculiar problem

  • After the commencement of the Constitution in the course of years Arts.371, 371A to 371-1 have been inserted to meet the regional demands of Assam, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Sikkim etc.


The Constitution envisages a dual polity (Union and the States) but single citizenship. There is no State citizenship. Only Indian citizenship. The Constitution of U.S.A. and a State citizenship. In India every citizen has the same rights wherever he may reside.


  • Generally federal Constitutions lack flexibility, that is to say, the amending process is cumbersome which makes it difficult to alter or modify the constitutional provisions. The Constitution achieves this in a number of ways:

  • Certain provisions may be changed or substituted by simple majority as is required for ordinary legislations, e.g. Art.3 (Changes In name and boundaries of a State, forming a new State, increasing or decreasing the area of a State etc.) Art. 169 (Abolition or creation of Legislative Councils), creation of Legislatures for Union Territories (239A), Art. 348 (Language of Supreme Court and High Courts), 2nd, 5th and 6th Schedules,

  • Some provisions require special majority in the two Houses of Parliament i.e. 2/3 of the members, present and voting and a majority of the total membership of the House,

  • If the amendments seeks to change Art. 54,55,73, 162,241 or Chapter IV of Part V, Chapter V of Part VI, Chapter I of Part IX etc. the amendments apart from special majority require ratification by the legislatures of the States.


  • The Constitution at various places lays down the basic principles and confers on the Parliament the power to replace the existing provision or to supplement it by legislation. For example

  • Part II laid down how citizenship will be acquired at the commencement of the Constitution. Later under Art. 11 the Parliament enacted the Citizenship Act, 1955.

  • Article 22 provides for certain safeguards against preventive detention but empowers the Parliament to prescribe by law the circumstances under which a person may be detained, the maximum period of detention and other matters [Art. 22(7)].

  • Untouchability was abolished and forbidden under Art. 17. Forced labour (Bonded labour) was prohibited by Art. 23. The Union as well as the States have the authority to make Untouchability and bonded labour a punishable offence. The Parliament has enacted the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. These two Acts are examples of enactments supplementing the constitutional provisions.

  • The Basic provisions relating to the election of the President and the Vice-President are contained in the Constitution but under Art. 71 (3). Parliament has enacted the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952 which contains detailed procedure etc. similarly qualification for membership of Parliament (Art. 84) and disqualification for membership (Art. 102) are governed by relevant Acts. This method facilitates changes depending on the exigencies without resorting to a Constitutional amendments.

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