Salient Features Of The Indian Constitution
Despite borrowing from almost every other country's constitution, India's constitution has several distinct features that set it apart from other countries' constitutions. These characteristics are:
1) LONGEST KNOWN WRITTEN CONSTITUTION
India's Constitution is the longest of all the world's written constitutions. It is an extremely thorough, elaborate, and detailed document. The original constitution, written in 1949, had 395 articles divided into 22 parts. The constitution originally had eight schedules. However, the constitution has been amended numerous times since its inception, adding new articles, parts, and schedules. The Indian Constitution has 448 articles divided into 25 parts and 12 schedules as of January 2019. Several factors have contributed to our Constitution's colossal size. They are as follows: The country's size and diversity are reflected in its geography.
The Government of India Act, 1935, is the source of the majority of the constitution. In the constituent assembly, legal luminaries have a disproportionate amount of power. Not only do the fundamental principles of governance appear in the Constitution, but so do the administrative provisions. Furthermore, issues that would normally be left to ordinary legislation or established political conventions in other modern democratic countries have been included in the Indian constitution. To reduce litigation, the Indian constitution incorporates some judicial interpretations, which has also added to the bulk of the Constitution.
2) DRAWN FROM VARIOUS SOURCES
The majority of the provisions of the Indian constitution are largely borrowed from other known world constitutions. The constituent assembly studied a number of constitutions before drafting one that incorporated all of the provisions that were most applicable to India's diversity. Dr. B R Ambedkar proudly declared that the Indian Constitution was drafted after "ransacking" all known world constitutions.
Government of India Act, 1935
Federal Scheme, Office of Governor, Judiciary, Public Service Commissions, Emergency provisions and administrative details.
Constitution of Britain
Parliamentary form of government, Rule of Law, legislative procedure, single citizenship, cabinet system, prerogative writs, parliamentary privileges and bicameralism.
Constitution of USA
Fundamental rights, independence of the judiciary, judicial review, impeachment of the president, removal of the supreme court and high court judge, Post of vice president, Functions of the president and vice-president and Preamble of the constitution.
Constitution of Ireland
Directive Principles of State Policy, the nomination of members to Rajya Sabha and method of election of the president.
Constitution of Canada
Federation with a strong Centre, vesting of residuary powers in the Centre, the appointment of state governors by the Centre, and advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
Constitution of Australia
Concurrent List, freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse, and a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament.
Constitution of Germany
Suspension of Fundamental Rights during emergency
Constitution of USSR(Soviet Constitution)
Fundamental duties, The ideals of Justice-Social, Economic and Political
Constitution of France
The ideal of the Republic in the Preamble and the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity in the Preamble.
Constitution of South Africa
Procedure of amendment, Election of members to the Rajya Sabha
Constitution of Japan
Concept of “Procedure established by law”
3) BLEND OF RIGIDITY AND FLEXIBILITY
One of the most distinguishing features of the Indian Constitution is that it aims to give a written federal constitution some flexibility. The American Constitution, for example, is a rigid Constitution that requires a special procedure for amendment. A flexible constitution, on the other hand, is one that can be changed in the same way that ordinary laws can be changed, such as the British Constitution. India's constitution is neither rigid nor flexible, but rather a hybrid of the two.
There are two types of amendments allowed under Article 368: A special majority of the Parliament, i.e. a two-thirds majority of the members of each House present and voting, and a majority (that is, more than 50%) of the total membership of each House, can amend some provisions. Other provisions can be changed with a special majority of the Parliament and ratification by half of the total number of states.
Simultaneously, the Parliament has been given the power to change or modify many of the constitution's provisions by simple majority and through ordinary legislative procedure, with the caveat that such changes will not be considered "amendments" to the constitution. These amendments are notable in that they are not covered by Article 368. The doctrine of basic structure has further limited the parliament's amending powers since Keshavananda Bharti case.
4) FEDERAL SYSTEM WITH UNITARY BIAS
India's Constitution is primarily federal, with some unitary features. It contains all of the essential elements of a federal polity, including:
• Dual Government
• Division of Powers
• Supremacy of the Constitution
• Authority of Courts
The Indian Constitution, on the other hand, includes a strong Centre, a single Constitution, a single citizenship, constitutional flexibility, an integrated judiciary, the appointment of state governors by the Centre, all-India services, emergency provisions, and so on.
Furthermore, the term "federation" appears nowhere in the Constitution. Article 1 of the Indian Constitution refers to India as a "Union of States," implying two things: first, the Indian Federation is not the result of a state-to-state agreement, and second, no state has the right to secede from the federation.
As a result, the Indian Constitution has been dubbed "federal in form but unitary in spirit" by K C Wheare, "quasi-federal" by Morris Jones, "bargaining federalism" by Granville Austin, "co-operative federalism" by Granville Austin, "federation with a centralising tendency" by Sir Ivor Jennings, and so on.
Prof Alexandrowicz, an ardent observer of the Indian constitution, has gone to great lengths to refute the notion that the Indian federation is a "quasi-federation." In fact, he claims that "India is a one-of-a-kind case."
5) PARLIAMENTARY FORM OF GOVERNMENT
The Indian Constitution has chosen the British parliamentary system of government over the presidential system of the United States. The presidential system is based on the doctrine of separation of powers, whereas the parliamentary system is based on the principle of cooperation and coordination between the legislative and executive organs.
The Westminster model of government, responsible government, and cabinet government are all terms used to describe the parliamentary system. Not only at the federal level, but also at the state level, the Constitution establishes a parliamentary system. The following are the characteristics of India's parliamentary government:
a) Presence of nominal and real executives;
b) Majority party rule,
c) Collective responsibility of the executive to the legislature,
d) Membership of the ministers in the legislature,
e) Leadership of the prime minister or the chief minister,
f) Dissolution of the lower House (Lok Sabha or Assembly).
Despite the fact that the Indian Parliamentary System is largely based on the British model, there are some key differences. The Indian Parliament, for example, is not a sovereign body like the British Parliament. In addition, the Indian state has an elected (republic) head, whereas the British state has a hereditary head (monarchy). The role of the Prime Minister in a parliamentary system, whether in India or the United Kingdom, has become so important and crucial that political scientists refer to it as a "Prime Ministerial Government."
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the parliamentary system of the United Kingdom. A series of procedures for running a legislature make up this system. The Sovereign (the Queen-in-Parliament), the House of Lords, and the House of Commons are the three parts of the British Parliament (theprimary chamber). The two houses convene at the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of London's inner boroughs.
6) RECONCILIATION BETWEEN PARLIAMENTARY SOVEREIGNTY AND JUDICIAL REVIEW
The Indian constitution brilliantly bridges the gap between the American system of judicial supremacy and the English principle of parliamentary supremacy by giving the judiciary the power to declare a law unconstitutional if it is beyond the legislature's competence under the constitution's distribution of powers, or if it is in violation of the constitution's fundamental rights or any other legally binding obligation. As much as is possible within the bounds of a written constitution, our constitution thus places supremacy in the hands of the legislature (Art 368). As a result, the scope of judicial review in India is narrower than in the United States, and the Indian parliament is weaker than the British parliament. The Indian constitution is unique and appealing because of this beautiful synthesis. In a nutshell, India has steered clear of the extremes.
7) INTEGRATED AND INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY
The Indian Constitution establishes an integrated and independent judicial system. The Supreme Court is the highest court in India's integrated judicial system. There are state-level high courts beneath it. A hierarchy of subordinate courts, such as district courts and other lower courts, exists beneath a high court. Unlike the United States, where federal laws are enforced by the federal judiciary and state laws are enforced by the state judiciary, this single system of courts enforces both central and state laws. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in the United States, as well as the guarantor of citizens' fundamental rights and the protector of the Constitution.
8) FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS SUBJECT TO REASONABLE RESTRICTIONS
The term "fundamental rights" refers to a set of rights that protect liberty and freedom. They are fundamental, and the state cannot infringe on them. The American experience, on the other hand, shows that a written guarantee of fundamental rights has a tendency to create an individualistic-centered society and state, which can be dangerous to the general welfare at times. As a result, our constitution's guarantee of individual rights has been delicately balanced with the need for state security. This has been accomplished by including reasonable restrictions in Part III of the constitution (the section dealing with Fundamental Rights). Six fundamental rights are guaranteed by Part III of the Indian Constitution.
1) Right to Equality (Articles 14–18)
2) Right to Freedom (Articles 19–22)
3) Right against Exploitation (Articles 23–24)
4) Right to Freedom of Religion (Articles25–28)
5) Cultural and Educational Rights (Articles 29–30)
6) Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32)
The purpose of the Fundamental Rights is to promote the idea of political democracy. They serve as checks on the executive's tyranny and the legislature's arbitrary laws. They are justiciable in nature, which means that they can be enforced by the courts if they are broken. For the restoration of his rights, the aggrieved person can go directly to the Supreme Court, which can issue writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, and quo warranto.
Fundamental rights are not absolute and can be limited in certain circumstances. Furthermore, they are not inviolable; Parliament can limit or repeal them through a constitutional amendment act. Except for the rights guaranteed by Articles 20 and 21, they can also be suspended during the operation of a National Emergency.
Political scientists go on to say that fundamental rights for Indians were created to address inequalities in pre-independence social practises. They've also been used to abolish untouchability, making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or birthplace. They also make human trafficking and forced labour illegal. They also protect ethnic and religious minorities' cultural and educational rights by allowing them to preserve their languages and establish and manage their own educational institutions.
9) DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY
Part IV of the Constitution enumerates them. Socialistic, Gandhian, and liberal–intellectual are the three broad categories they fall into.
The directive principles are intended to promote social and economic democracy as a goal. They want India to become a "welfare state." The directives, unlike the Fundamental Rights, are non-judicial in nature, meaning that they cannot be enforced by the courts if they are violated. Yet, according to the Constitution, "these principles are fundamental in the governance of the country, and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws." As a result, they impose a moral obligation on state authorities to implement them. However, the real driving force (sanction) is political, i.e., public opinion.
The Supreme Court held in the Minerva Mills Case (1980) that "the Indian Constitution is founded on the bedrock of the balance between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles."
10) FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES
Fundamental duties were not included in the 1949 constitution. On the recommendation of the Swaran Singh Committee, the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976 added fundamental duties during the internal emergency of 1975–77. Part IV A of the constitution was created for it, as well as a new article, Article 51. The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002 added one more fundamental duty, bringing the total number of fundamental duties to eleven.
The fundamental duties serve as a reminder to citizens that, while exercising their rights, they must also be aware of the obligations they have to their country, society, and fellow citizens. However, the duties, like the Directive Principles, are non-justiciable in nature.
11) UNIVERSAL ADULT FRANCHISE
This section of the Constitution promotes the "one person, one vote" policy. According to this section of the Constitution, everyone over the age of 18 has the right to vote, regardless of their age, gender, race, colour, religion, or other factors. The Indian Constitution establishes universal adult franchise as the basis for Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly elections. Every citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote without regard to caste, race, religion, sex, literacy, wealth, or other factors. The 61st Constitutional Amendment Act of 1988 reduced the voting age from 21 to 18 years in 1989.
The Constitution-makers' decision to grant universal adult franchise was a risky experiment, especially given the country's vast size, large population, high poverty, social inequality, and widespread illiteracy.
The universal adult franchise broadens democracy, boosts common people's self-esteem and prestige, upholds the principle of equality, allows minorities to protect their interests, and provides new hope and vistas for the weaker sections.
12) SINGLE CITIZENSHIP
Despite the fact that the Indian Constitution is federal and envisions a dual polity (centre and states), it only recognises one citizenship: Indian citizenship. In countries such as the United States, on the other hand, each person is not only a citizen of the United States, but also of the state to which he belongs. As a result, he owes allegiance to both and has two sets of rights: one granted by the federal government and the other by the state government.
In India, all citizens, regardless of where they were born or reside, have the same political and civil rights as other citizens throughout the country, with the exception of a few exceptions such as tribal areas, Jammu and Kashmir, and so on.
13) INDEPENDENT BODIES
The Indian Constitution establishes a number of independent bodies in addition to the government's legislative, executive, and judicial organs (both central and state). They are envisioned by the Constitution as the pillars of India's democratic government. These are the following:
a) The Election Commission is responsible for ensuring free and fair elections to the Parliament, state legislatures, and the offices of President and Vice-President of India.
b) The accounts of the central and state governments will be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India.
He serves as the public purse's guardian, advising on the legality and propriety of government spending.
c) The Union Public Service Commission is responsible for conducting examinations for all-India services15 and higher Central services, as well as advising the President on disciplinary matters.
d) Each state's State Public Service Commission, which administers examinations for state service recruitment and advises the governor on disciplinary matters.
The Constitution guarantees these bodies' independence through provisions such as tenure security, fixed service conditions, and expenditures being charged to the Consolidated Fund of India, among others.
14) EMERGENCY PROVISIONS
The Indian Constitution contains extensive emergency provisions that allow the President to effectively deal with any extraordinary situation. The rationale for these provisions is to protect the country's sovereignty, unity, integrity, and security, as well as the democratic political system and the Constitution. The Constitution recognises three different types of emergencies:
a) Declared national emergency due to war, external aggression, or armed rebellion16 (Article 352);
b) Declaring a state of emergency (President's Rule) due to a failure of constitutional machinery in the states (Article 356) or failure to comply with Centre directives (Article 365); and
c) Financial emergency due to a threat to India's financial stability or credit (Article360).
During a national emergency, the central government becomes all-powerful, and the states are placed under the central government's total control. Without a formal amendment to the Constitution, it transforms the federal structure into a unitary one. This type of shift in the political system from federal to unitary (during normal times) is unusual but not unheard of.
15) THREE-TIER GOVERNMENT
The 1949 Constitution established a federal polity between the federal government and the states, but the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment acts established a third tier, namely PRIs and ULBs.
By adding a new Part IX and a new Schedule 11 to the Constitution, the 73rd Amendment Act of 1992 gave constitutional recognition to panchayats (rural local governments). Similarly, the 74th Amendment Act of 1992 added a new Part IX-A and a new Schedule 12 to the constitution, giving municipalities (urban local governments) constitutional recognition.
16) CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETIES
The 97th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2011 granted cooperative societies constitutional status and protection. In this context, it made the following three constitutional amendments:
1) It established the right to establish cooperative societies as a fundamental right (Article 19).
2) It included a new State Policy Directive on the Promotion of Cooperative Societies (Article 43-B).
3) It added a new Part IX-B, titled "The Cooperative Societies" (Articles 243-ZH to 243-ZT), to the Constitution.
The new Part IX-B contains a number of provisions aimed at ensuring that the country's cooperative societies operate in a democratic, professional, autonomous, and financially sound manner. It empowers the Parliament to make the appropriate law in the case of multi-state cooperative societies and state legislatures in the case of other cooperative societies.
17) NO COMMUNAL REPRESENTATION
The Indian constitution's framers abolished communal representation, which had resulted in the bloody and regrettable partition of India. Except for scheduled castes and tribes, as well as Anglo-Indians, there is no seat reservation in the Indian constitution.