Though, we can’t limit the salient features of the Indian constitution. But in this article, we will be discussing the 15 most important that a reader must know.
Constitution of India Introduction
The demand for a Constituent Assembly was put forward the first time by M.N. Roy in 1934.
This demand was finally met in 1940 as the August Offer.
Notably, the draft constitution was passed on 26th November 1949 as soon as the 3rd reading ended.
Originally the Constitution contained a preamble, 395 articles, and 8 schedules.
Despite passed on 26th November 1949, the majority Indian Constitution came into force on 26th January 1950.
The day (26th January) had historical importance as “Purna Swaraj Day” was celebrated in the 1930s.
Let us come to the main point, the Salient features of Indian Constitution.
Salient features of Indian Constitution
Many countries have contributed to the Indian Constitution.
To be precise, the Constitution Maker read almost all the constitutions of the world.
However, the Constitution of India has many unique features too.
Let’s have a glimpse of Salient features of the Constitution-
- Lengthiest Written Constitution
- Borrowed from Various Sources
- Nice Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility
- Secular State
- Federal System with Powerful Union
- Parliamentary form of Government
- Integrated & Independent Judicial System
- Fundamental Rights
- Directive Principle of State Policy
- Fundamental Duties
- 3 Tiers of Government
- Emergency Provision
- Universal Adult Franchise
- Single Citizenship
- Independent Bodies
Further, we have a detailed discussion on each salient feature.
#1: Lengthiest Written Constitution
The size of the Indian Constitution is Elephantine. That is to say, it is the lengthiest written constitution in the world.
Now the question may arise…
Is there Unwritten constitutions too?
British Constitution is one such example. And only because of this Indian Constitution is the largest “written” constitution.
Originally the Constitution contained a Preamble, 395 Articles (distributed into 22 parts), and 8 schedules.
Meanwhile, from 1951 to 2020 a total of 104 Constitutional Amendment Act has been passed.
As a result, Deletion of 20 articles & 1 part (VII) and Addition of about 95 articles, 4 parts (IVA, IXA, IXB, XIVA) & 4 schedules (9, 10, 11, 12) took place.
So with the above addition and deletion in the Constitution, As of 2020, the Indian Constitution consists of a Preamble, about 470 articles (25 Parts), and 12 schedules.
Factors Contributing to the Elephantine Size
- Geographical factors, that is, a vast country with diversity in every place like language, culture, religion, etc.
- The Government of India Act of 1935 influenced the Makers because It was familiar.
- And lastly, the Dominance of Lawyers in the Constituent Assembly.
#2: Various Sources of the Indian Constitution
We already know that Constitution Makers have read almost all the constitutions for perfect drafting of the Indian Constitution.
And that is why the Constitution of India has borrowed many provisions from different Constitutions.
The Government of India Act, 1935 is the most important source of the Indian Constitution. Features such as Federal scheme, Judiciary, Governors, Emergency powers, etc. are from this Act.
Have a look at the table below for Various Sources of Constitution of India.
|1.||The Government of India Act, 1935||Federal Scheme, Governors, Judicial System, Emergency Powers, Public Service Commission, and administrative details.|
|2.||USA Constitution||Fundamental rights, Independence of Judiciary, Post of Vice-President, Impeachment of President, Removal of SC & HC Judges.|
|3.||British Constitution||Parliamentary Government, Rule of Law, Legislative procedures, Single Citizenship, Bicameralism, Cabinet System, Prerogative writs, and Parliamentary privileges.|
|4.||Irish Constitution||Directive Principles of State Policy, Nomination of Rajya Sabha members, President’s election procedure.|
|5.||Canadian Constitution||Federal System with Unitary Bias, Residuary Powers, Appointment of Governors, and Advisory Power of Supreme Court.|
|6.||Australian Constitution||Concurrent List, Joint Seating Provision, and Freedom of trade, commerce & intercourse.|
|7.||German Constitution||Suspension of Fundamental Powers during Emergency.|
|8.||Russian Constitution (Formerly USSR)||Fundamental Duties and Ideal of Justice (Social, Economic & Political) in Preamble.|
|9.||French Constitution||Republic and Ideals of Liberty, Equality & Fraternity in the Preamble.|
|10.||South African Constitution||The procedure of election of RajyaSabha MP and Amendment of the Constitution.|
|11.||Japanese Constitution||The procedure established by Law.|
#3: Nice Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility
Many constitutional experts divide them (Constitutions) into rigid and flexible. Hence, it is important to see whether the Indian Constitution is rigid or flexible.
What do you mean by a Rigid & Flexible Constitution?
When the procedure of the Constitutional amendment is difficult in comparison to ordinary laws, for example, the Constitution of America requires a 3/4th majority of the house.
However, a flexible constitution has an amendment procedure similar to ordinary laws. British Constitution is one such example.
The Constitution of India is a synthesis of both rigidity and flexibility.
In other words, It is neither as Rigid as American nor as Flexible as British Constitution.
In India, the Constitutional Amendment took place in two ways, that is, (a) the procedure established under article 368 or (b) the ordinary legislative process.
Amendments under Article 368 of the Indian Constitution
- Amendment by Special majority of Parliament, i.e., a two-thirds majority of member present & voting and a simple majority of total members.
- Amendment by Special majority with the ratification by half of the total states.
#4: Federal System with a Strong Central Government
The Constitution of India is Federal in nature because it has the usual features of a federation like two governments, division of powers, a written constitution, independent judiciary, bicameralism, etc.
However, the Constitution also contains a large number of unitary features such as a strong center, single citizenship, single Constitution, Integrated judiciary, the appointment of governors, all-India services, etc.
Notably, the term “Federation” is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution of India. Instead, It describes India as a “Union of States” in Article 1.
Hence, Ivor Jennings describes it as a ‘federation with centralizing tendency.’
#5: Parliamentary Form of Government
While deciding on the form of government the Constituent Assembly opted for Parliamentary System over the Presidential System. Because they were familiar with the Parliamentary form.
The Parliamentary system is also known as the Westminster Model of Government, responsible government, and cabinet government.
The Constitution establishes a Parliamentary form of government for the State governments also.
The basic difference between Parliamentary and Presidential Form of Government
|Parliamentary Government||Presidential Government|
|Fusion of powers||Separation of Power|
|Majority Party rule||Election of President & Legislator held separately.|
|The leadership of the prime minister||Domination of President|
|Dissolution of Lower House||No dissolution of the lower house|
|Double membership||Single membership|
#6: Integrated and Independent Judiciary
India has an integrated Judiciary, that is, a single Judicial System for the implementation of state and union laws.
Unlike in the USA, where state laws and federal laws are enforced by different courts.
The Supreme Court of India is at the top position of the Integrated Judicial System. And, High Courts at state levels with other subordinate courts.
There is a hierarchy of subordinate courts, that is, district courts and other lower courts.
The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in India. It is the guardian of the Constitution as well as Guarantor of Fundamental rights.
Hence, the Constitution made various provisions to ensure the independence of the Supreme Court.
For example, the security of tenure, the expenditure of SC charged from the consolidated fund of India, the power to punish for contempt of courts, and so on.
#7: Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution
The concept of Fundamental Rights found its roots in the US Constitution. Experts describe fundamental rights as the Magna Carta of India.
Fundamental Rights are enshrined in Part III of the Indian Constitution from articles 12 to 35.
Originally, there were seven fundamental rights in the Constitution but the right to property was deleted by the 44th amendment act.
However, at present, we have six fundamental rights. which are-
- Right to equality (Article 14 to 18),
- the Right to freedom (Article 19 to 22),
- Right against exploitation (Article 23 & 24),
- Right to freedom of religion (Article 25 to 28),
- Cultural and educational rights (Article 29 & 30),
- Right to constitution remedies (Article 32).
Dr. BR Ambedkar called article 32 the ‘Soul of Constitution’ because it provided for direct appeal in the Supreme Court for violation of Fundamental Rights.
However, the Supreme Court can issue writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, and quo warranto under article 32.
Notably, along with Citizens of India, foreigners also enjoys protection under fundamental rights except article 14, 15, 19, 29, and 30.
The fundamental rights are not absolute rather have some restrictions.
#8: Directive Principles of State Policy
Basically, Directive Principles of State Policy are like duties of government.
On the other hand, Fundamental duties (an upcoming salient feature of the Indian Constitution) are the duties of a citizen.
Notably, the Irish Constitution is the inspiration behind Directive Principles.
The Constitution did not want future governments to be bound by certain policy decisions. therefore, DPSPs.
Unlike fundamental rights, directive principles are not legally enforceable by any court of law. in other words, the courts can not force the government to implement DPSPs.
The Directive Principles of state policy are enshrined in Part IV (Article 36 to 51) of the Constitution.
#9: Fundamental duties of Indian Constitution
The fundamental duties are inspired by the Constitution of the USSR (now Russia).
Interestingly, these were not part of the original constitution. but added by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976.
Under this amendment of 1976, a new part IVA (Article 51A) was added for fundamental duties.
However, fundamental duties are also not legally enforceable by courts. in other words, Citizens are not bound to follow fundamental duties. They are more or less guidelines for a better citizen.
List of Fundamental duties (Article 51A)
It shall be the duty of every citizen-
(a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;
(b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
(d) to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
(e) 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;
(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;
(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
(i) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
(j) 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;
(k) who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.references: https://www.moes.gov.in/content/fundamental-duties
#10: Emergency Provisions of the Indian Constitution
The Constitution included emergency provisions to confront any extraordinary situation.
There are 3 types of Emergencies in India-
- National Emergency (under article 352),
- State Emergency (under article 356 & 365),
- Financial Emergency (under article 360)
#11: Three Tiers of Government
Originally the Indian Constitution had two levels of government, that is, at the level of state & center.
But 73rd and 74th Amendment Act included the third tier of government, the Panchayats, and Urban local bodies respectively.
Thus, these amendments came up with a new level of government, Local Government.
Local governments do their work separately, even the constitution itself divided the subject list of local bodies.
#12: Universal Adult Franchise
The Constitution adopts the Universal Adult Franchise for elections of Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assembly.
This means that a person having an age of 18 years or more can not be denied the voting right. So no one can be discriminated on the basis of caste, religion, race, sex, wealth, and so on.
Though this age limit was 21 years before 1989. It was changed with the 61st Constitutional Amendment Act 1988.
#13: Single Citizenship as Salient feature of Indian Constitution
The Indian Constitution does not have any provisions of dual citizenship rather it provides for single citizenship.
On the other hand, countries like the United States of America has a system of dual citizenship (National and state citizenship).
So this means that citizens of different states will enjoy different sets of rights.
#14: Secular State
As per the Constitution, India is a secular state. Hence, it does not recognize any particular religion as the official religion of the Indian state.
Therefore, it gives equal respect to every religion.
Notably, the Western concept of secularism provides for the complete separation of religion and state.
#15: Independent bodies of India
The Indian Constitution establishes many constitutional bodies for the smooth functioning of the government.
These bodies draw their rights directly from the constitution. Hence, they can function independently.
Some of these bodies are – Election Commission, Union Public Service Commission, State Public Service Commission, National Commission for STs, SCs, & BCs, and so on.
Read More: Indian Classical language