Indian Constitution was drafted in the mid-twentieth century. The Constitution makers drew inspiration from various sources and adopted various unique features to be incorporated in the Indian Constitution. Following are the salient features of Indian Constitution—

(1) The largest Constitution : Sir Ivor Jennings has termed the Constitution of India as a largest and detailed Constitution of the world. Constitution originally consisted of 22 Parts, 395 Articles and 8 Schedules (Presently 12 Schedules).

(2) Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic : The source of Constitution is the people of India. According to Preamble the people of India have adopted, enacted and given to themselves the Constitution. It declares India to be Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic.  Words ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ were added in Preamble by 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976.

(3) Parliamentary form of Government : India has Parliamentary form of government both at the Centre and the States. In this form of government the President is the Constitutional Head of the State but the real executive power vests in Council of Ministers. They are responsible to the Legislature. India has followed British model in this respect.

(4) Fundamental Rights : The Fundamental Rights have been incorporated in Part III of the Constitution. These rights are against the State. State cannot make any law which violates the Fundamental Rights. Such laws are declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or High Court. Apart from these rights there is a strong provision for enforcement of these rights. Supreme Court has been granted the power to enforce these rights by issuing writs (Article 32) in the nature of Mandamus, Habeas Corpus,  Prohibition, Certiorari and Quo Warranto. Even High Courts can also enforce these rights by issuing suitable writs (Article 226).

These rights are necessary for multi-facet development of a human being. The concept of Fundamental Right has been borrowed from Constitution of USA.

It must be noted that these Fundamental Rights are not absolute. Reasonable and justified restrictions can be imposed in the interest of public. The State has to balance the individual interest and social interest in securing welfare of the people.

(5) Directive Principle of State Policy :  These are contained in Part IV of the Constitution. They are not enforceable but they are fundamental to the governance of State. Though they are not enforceable, the State is expected to follow them to achieve the objectives of Welfare State. These are in the form of directives to the legislature and executive.

Inspiration has been drawn from the Constitution of Republic of Ireland. Granville Austin has termed these principles as ‘Soul of the State’.

26th and 42nd Constitutional Amendments gave importance to Directive Principles over Fundamental Rights. Laws which implement Directive Principles of State Policy cannot be challenged in to court on the basis that they are Fundamental Rights conferred under the Article 14 & 19 of the Constitution.

(6) Universal Adult Suffrage : Democratic government is people’s government. The country is administered by the elected representatives of the people. The Constitution gives every person, above the age of 18 years, right to elect the representatives for the Parliament and State Legislature. This right is not qualified either on the basis of sex, property or taxation. The old system of communal electorates has been abolished.

The Constitution (61th Amendment) Act 1989 amended Article 326 and reduced the age limit for adult suffrage to 18 years from 21 years.

(7) Blend of rigidity and flexibility : Rigidity or flexibility of the Constitution depends upon the amendment process. Written Constitutions are generally considered to be rigid. A rigid Constitution requires special method of amendment while a flexible Constitution can be amendment by ordinary process of legislation. Although the Indian Constitution is written, yet it has a unique mixture of flexibility and rigidity. Only few provisions of the Constitution require the consent of half of the States. Rest provisions can be amended by special majority of Parliament.

(8) Federal Constitution with centralizing tendency : This is one of the important features of the Constitution. It is a Federal Constitution but it acquires unitary tendency during the time of emergency.  During proclamation of emergency the distribution of power between Centre and State undergoes a radical change. The Parliament acquires the power to legislate on any subject mentioned in the State List. Executive and financial arrangements are also altered and Centre can direct State on these matters as well.

(9) Independent Judiciary : Establishment of independent judiciary is the important feature of the Indian Constitution. Conferment of rights will have true effect if there is a sound mechanism for enforcement of such rights. Impartial judiciary with power of judicial review is essential for protection of rights. Supreme Court is considered to be a guardian of the Constitution.

(10) Single Citizenship : Generally in a Federal Constitution there is a provision for dual citizenship i.e. citizenship of Centre and of State. American Constitution provides for dual citizenship. Case of Indian Constitution is different. Despite being a Federal Constitution it provides for a single citizenship. There is no separate citizenship for the States. This instills a sense of unity amongst the citizens despite having diversity in many spheres.

(11)  A Secular State : Preamble declares India to be a secular State. A secular State in case of religion is completely neutral. It treats all religions equally and does not discriminate on the basis of religion. Articles 25 to 28 also consolidate this aspect and give the right to every person to profess, practice and propagate religion.

(12) Fundamental Duties : Fundamental Duties have been provided in Part IV-A (Article 51-A) of the Constitution. They have been added by 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976. The amendment added 10 fundamental duties which were increased to 11 by 86th Constitutional Amendment, 2002. It serves as a reminder to the citizens that they owe certain duties towards the nation apart from enjoying the rights conferred by the Constitution.

Author & Former Judge

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