Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

Indian constitution being the most unique and the longest written constitution in the world, originally had 395 articles which are further divided into 22 parts and 8 schedules. As a result of various amendments over time, at present, our constitution contains 448 articles, with 12 schedules. The constitution of India was put together by a Constituent Assembly. After several meetings and discussions, finally, on 26th January 1950, our constitution came into effect.

Article 368 of the constitution laid down that the Parliament can keep amending the constitution according to the need of the time in future. As held by the Apex Court, every part of the constitution can be modified, except the “basic structure” of the Constitution. Any old or new law which violates the basic structure of the constitution is declared unconstitutional and invalid by the Courts. 

1. Longest Written Constitution:

Indian Constitution is a fully written document which incorporates various laws for proper management of the country. Indian constitution contains separate provisions for states and centre and their inter-relationship. The constituent assembly had borrowed various provisions from several other constitutions of the world which made it very detailed. Moreover, there are separate provisions for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, children and women. 

2. Single Citizenship:

Presently there are 28 states and 7 Union Territories in India and all citizens enjoy a common uniform citizenship. All those citizens are further entitled to equal freedom, rights, and protection.

3. Fundamental Rights:

The fundamental rights of an Indian citizen are guaranteed under Part IIIC (Articles 12-35). It is also called the ‘Indian Bill of Rights’. After the 44th Amendment Act 1979, there are presently six fundamental rights in our constitution. It is to be noted that these fundamental rights are not absolute and are subject to certain limitations that are expressly mentioned in the constitution itself. 

The six fundamental rights are as follows:

(i) Right to Equality

This fundamental right provides for equality before law and equality of opportunity. It also ends discrimination and abolishes untouchability and titles.

(ii) Right to Freedom

This fundamental right further includes six kinds of freedoms. 

These are:- Freedom of speech and expression, Freedom to assemble peacefully without arms, Freedom to form associations, Freedom to move freely in India, Freedom to reside in any part of India, Freedom of adopting any profession, trade, or occupation.

(iii) Right to freedom of Religion

This fundamental rights, grants an individual, a right to believe, profess, or worship any religion. The State does not have a common religion. It also guarantees the right to establish and maintain any religious institution. No person can be compelled to follow a particular religion.

(iv) Cultural and Educational Rights

This fundamental right guarantees all the minorities a right to maintain, develop, and further teach their language and culture. It also provides them a right to establish, maintain and administer their own educational institutions.

(v) Right against Exploitation

This fundamental right prohibits forced labour, child labour, and human trafficking. It ensures protection to individuals against various human atrocities.

(vi) Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32)

This fundamental right is the heart and soul of all of the fundamental rights. It ensures effective enforcement of all the other fundamental rights and protection from violation of these rights. Under this article, the Supreme Court and Hight Court have to power to issue writs for enforcement of these rights.

4. Fundamental Duties:

Part IVA (Article 51 A) of the Constitution describes various Fundamental Duties of each citizen. Those fundamental duties are as follows:

  1. To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions; as well as, respect the National Flag and the National Anthem
  2. To cherish the noble ideals of the freedom struggle
  3. To uphold and protect the unity, sovereignty, and integrity of India
  4. To defend the country and render national service when called upto to do so.
  5. To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, and regional, or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women
  6. To value and preserve the rich heritage of our exquisite culture
  7. To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures
  8. To develop the scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform
  9. To safeguard public property and to abjure violence
  10. To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement.
  11. To provide opportunities for education by the parent or the guardian, to his child, or a ward between the age of 6-14 years as the case may be.

5. Directive Principles of State Policy:

Part IV of the Indian Constitution deals with the ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’. This part of the Constitution mentions certain guidelines for the State with the objective of socio-economic development. All three governments of the country, Central, State, and Local are expected to frame welfare policies in accordance with this part of the Constitution. However, these policies are not enforceable in a Court of Law. 

For example, some of the policies that the State is directed to make are to ensure fairer distribution of wealth, protection of women and children, old age pensions, local governments, adequate means of livelihood to people, etc.

6. Mixture of Rigidity and Flexibility:

The Constitution of India is said to be the perfect mixture of rigidity and flexibility. It is neither wholly rigid nor wholly flexible. It is because, some provisions of the Constitution can be amended very easily while the others can only be amended by complex processes.

7. Adult Suffrage: (Universal Adult Franchise)

This part of the Constitution promotes the policy of ‘one person one vote’. According to this part of the Constitution, every individual of 18 years and above have a right to vote irrespective of their age, gender, race, colour, religion, etc.

8. India as a Democratic, Socialist, Sovereign, Secular, and Republic State:

  • India is a Democratic state means that the citizens of India have the power to elect their representatives in the government and thus, the government is responsible to the people. 
  • India is a Socialist state because the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution states the achievement of socialist goals through democratic and non-violent means.
  • Indian Constitution states that India is a Sovereign state because it is absolutely independent and it is not under the control of any other state. It manages all of its internal and external affairs freely without any external forces.
  • India is a Secular state as the state has no specific religion of its own. Every citizen is free to follow, practice, and profess the religion of their choice. Moreover, the state cannot discriminate amongst its citizens on the basis of religion.
  • India is a Republic because it is not ruled by a heredity monarch, whereas, the head of the state (the President) is elected by the people indirectly for a fixed period of 5 years.

9. Parliamentary system of government:

Indian Constitution provides for a parliamentary form of government. President is the nominal or Constitutional head of the state. He is indirectly elected by the citizens of India for a fixed period of 5 years. While, the Prime Minister is the real or executive head of the state and is collectively responsible for the management of the Council of Ministers.

10. Independent Judiciary:

The Indian judiciary is free from interference from the other organs of the government (namely, the executive and the legislature). Some facts mentioned in the Constitution that further prove the independence of the judiciary are:-

  • Judges are appointed by the President,
  • Judges of Supreme Court cannot be removed from office except through an extremely complex process,
  • The salaries of judges are very high,
  • The Supreme Court has its own staff.

11. Judicial Activism:

Through the Public Interest Litigation system (PIL) and many other ways, the judiciary has been keeping an eye on the functioning of the legislature and the executive and if the judiciary feels that there is need of some more effective policies or laws on a certain topic of public or national importance, the Judiciary can suggest or make temporary laws in the favour of those topics.

12. Judicial Review:

This part of the Constitution gives the judiciary, a right to review each law and further declare them as unconstitutional or invalid according to the decisions.

 

Vanshika Kapoor 
on 04 August 2018
Published in Constitutional Law
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