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
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
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