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Essential Features of the Indian Constitution

Ajay T.K.

Features of Indian Constitution

The constitution of India was created by a constituent assembly and not by the Parliament of India. It was adopted by its people with a declaration in its preamble. Thus, the Parliament of India cannot override the Indian constitution.

The Features of the Indian Constitution are:

  • The Preamble of the Constitution

The Preamble to the Constitution of India is a well-drafted document which states the philosophy of the constitution. It declares India to be a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and a welfare state committed to secure justice, liberty, and equality for the people and for promoting fraternity, dignity the individual, and unity and integrity of the nation. The Preamble is the key to the constitution. It states in nutshell the nature of the Indian state and the objectives it is committed to secure for the people.

  • Democratic and Socialist state

Although right from the beginning the Indian Constitution fully reflected the spirit of democratic socialism, it was only in 1976 that the Preamble was amended to include the term ‘Socialism’. It is now regarded as a prime feature of the Indian state. India is committed to secure social, economic, and political justice for its entire people by ending all forms of exploitation and by securing equitable distribution of income, resources, and wealth. This is to be secured by peaceful, constitutional and democratic means

  • India is a Secular State

India gives special status to no religion. There is no such thing as a state religion of India. This makes it different from theocratic states like the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or other Islamic countries. Further, Indian secularism guarantees equal freedom to all religions. The Constitution grants the Right to Religious Freedom to all the citizens.

  • Drawn from Different Source

The basis of the basic structure such as Federal scheme, Judiciary, Governors, Emergency powers, Public Service Commissions, Administrative details, etc. are from the Government of India Act, 1935.

Similarly, the fundamental rights are from the American constitution, Directive Principles from the Irish Constitution and the Cabinet form of government is from the British Constitution. Also, it adopts various provisions from the Constitutions of Canada, Australia, Germany, USSR, and France.

  • Federal System and Unitary Features

The federal features of governance are a dual system of government i.e. center and state, the division of powers between the executive, judiciary, and legislature which are the three organs of the state, Supremacy of the Constitution, independent Judiciary and bicameralism. The Indian constitution contains all these features. Thus, it is a federal system.

But, it also contains many unitary features such as a strong center, All India Services common to the center and the states, emergency provisions that can modify the Constitution into a unitary one, the appointment of Governors by the President on the advice of the center, etc. Article 1 of the Indian constitution clearly mentions that India is a “Union of States”. Therefore, this makes the Indian Constitution a federal system with unitary features.

  • India is a Union of States

Article I of the Constitution declares, that “India that is Bharat is a Union of States”. The term ‘Union of State’ shows two important facts:

(i) That Indian Union is not the result of voluntary agreement among sovereign states, and

(ii) that states of India do not enjoy the right to secede from the Union. Indian Union has now 28 States and 7 Union Territories.

  • Parliamentary Form of Government

On the pattern of the British parliamentary system of government, the Indian Constitution has opted for the parliamentary form of government. The key characteristics of the parliamentary form of government are:

· Executive are members of the legislature

· Collective responsibility to the legislature of the Council of Ministers

· Rule of the majority party

· Prime Minister's or chief minister's leadership in the state

· Lower house dissolution (Lok Sabha and state assemblies)

· Government form of the Cabinet

  • Independent and Integrated Judicial System

In India, unlike the United States where there is a two-tiered judiciary, a single judicial system prevails with the Supreme Court at the top, the State and District High Courts and other subordinate courts below and subject to the supervision of the High Courts. Thus, it can cancel any Parliamentary law as unconstitutional. On the other hand, the Parliament has the authority to make laws and also amend the major portion of the Constitution vide Article 368. It is the duty of all levels of courts in India to enforce both central and state laws unlike in the US, where federal courts adjudicate on federal matters and state courts on state matters.

  • The Flexibility of the Constitution and Rigidity of the Constitution

The process of the constitutional amendment is less rigid than what is found in other federations. The bulk of the Constitution can be amended by the unilateral action of the Parliament, either by a simple majority or by a special majority. Further, the power to initiate an amendment to the Constitution lies only with the Centre. In the US, the states can also propose an amendment to the Constitution. As per Article 368, some provisions can be amended by a special majority of the Parliament i.e. a 2/3rd majority of the members of each House present and voting and majority which is more than 50 percent of the total membership of each House.

  • Fundamental Rights

Under its Part III (Articles 12-35), the Constitution of India grants and guarantees Fundamental Rights to its citizens. It is called the Indian Bill of Rights. Initially, 7 Fundamental Rights were granted but after the deletion of the Right to Property from the list of Fundamental Rights (44th Amendment Act 1979) their number came down to six:

· Right to Equality (Art. 14)

· Right to Freedom (Art. 19 – 22)

· Right against Exploitation (Art. 23 and 24)

· Right to Freedom of Religion (Art. 25 – 28)

· Cultural and Educational Rights (Art. 29 and 30)

· Right to Constitutional Remedies (Art. 32)

These are the important features of the Indian Constitution. Its quasi-federal nature has created an accommodative and flexible constitution. The Constitution has changed according to society with numerous amendments showing its capability to change with time.

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