Salient Features of the Constitution of India
The main features of Indian Constitution are the following:
(i) A written and lengthy constitution:
The Constitution of India is a written constitution. It was framed by a Constituent Assembly which was established for the purpose in 1946. It has 395 Articles and 12 Schedules. A number of amendments, (about 96) passed since its enforcement in 1950, have also become a part of the Constitution.
The Constitution of India is the lengthiest constitution in the world as no other constitution contains as many articles. The constitution of USA has 7 Articles, of China 138, Japanese 103, and Canadian 107 Articles.
(ii) Sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic:
The Constitution declares India to be a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic. The words, 'Socialist' and 'secular' were added in the Preamble of the Constitution by 42nd amendment which was passed in 1976.
Sovereign means absolutely independent; it is not under the control of any other state. Before 1947, India was not sovereign as it was under the Britishers. Now it can frame its policy without any outside interference.
Word 'Socialist' was added in the Preamble by 42nd Amendment of the Constitution which was passed in 1976. This implies a system which will endeavour to avoid concentration of wealth in a few hands and will assure its equitable distribution.
It also implies that India is against exploitation in all forms and believes in economic justice to all its citizens.
The word 'Secular', like Socialist, was also added in the Preamble by 42nd Amendment of the Constitution. There is no state religion in India. Every citizen is free to follow and practise the religion of his/her own choice. The state cannot discriminate among its citizens on the basis of religion.
Means that the power of the government is vested in the hands of the people. People exercise this power through their elected representatives who, in turn, are responsible to them. All the citizens enjoy equal political rights.
Means that the head of the State is not a hereditary monarch but a President who is indirectly elected by the people for a definite period.
(iii) Federal government:
The Constitution provides for a federal form of government. In a federation, there are two governments-at the central level and at the state (province) level. In India, the powers of the government are divided between the central government and state governments. There are three different lists of subjects- (i) Union list, (ii) State list and (iii) Concurrent list. The Union list contains 97 subjects of national importance like Defence, Foreign Affairs, Currency, Post and Telegraph, Railways.
On these subjects, only central legislature (Parliament) can make laws. State list contains 66 subjects of local importance. On these subjects, state legislatures make laws. These subjects include agriculture, police, and jails. Concurrent list contains 47 subjects which are of common concern to both the central and state governments.
These include marriage, divorce, social security etc. On these subjects, both the parliament and state legislatures can legislate. However, if there is a conflict between a central law and the state law over a subject given in the concurrent list, the central law will prevail.
(iv) Parliamentary government:
Indian Constitution provides for a parliamentary form of government. President is nominal head of the state. In actual practice, the government is run by the Prime Minister and other members of the Council of Minister. The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Parliament.
(v) Fundamental rights and duties. The Constitution of India guarantees six fundamental rights to every citizen. These are:
i. Right to Equality.
ii. Right to Freedom.
iii. Right against Exploitation.
iv. Right to Freedom of Religion.
v. Cultural and Educational Rights.
Vi. Right to Constitutional Remedies.
By 42nd Amendment of the Constitution, ten Fundamental Duties of citizens have also been added.
(vi) Directive principles of state policy:
The Directive Principles of State Policy are listed in Part Four of the Constitution. The framers of our constitution took the idea of having such principles from the Irish Constitution. These principles are instructions given by the Constitution to government.
All the governments-Central, State and Local-are expected to frame their policies in accordance with these principles. The aim of these principles is to establish a welfare state in India. They, however, are not binding on the government-they are mere guidelines.
(vii) Partly rigid and partly flexible:
The Constitution of India is neither wholly rigid nor wholly flexible. It is partly rigid and partly flexible. It is because of the fact that for the purpose of amendment, our constitution has been divided into three parts: (a) certain provisions of the constitution can be amended by a simple majority in the Parliament.
(b) Certain provisions can be amended by a two-third majority of the Parliament and its ratification by at least fifty percent states.
(c) The remaining provisions can be amended by the Parliament by two-third majority.
(viii) Single citizenship:
In federation, normally we have double citizenship. In U.S.A. every citizen besides being a citizen of United States of America is the citizen of the state in which he or she resides. But the Constitution of India provides for singi' citizenship-every Indian, irrespective of his place of birth or residence, is a citizen of India. There is no citizenship of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana or U.P.
(ix) Universal adult franchise:
The constitution provides for Universal Adult Franchise. It means that every citizen who is 18 years of age or more is entitled to cast his/her vote irrespective of his caste, creed, sex, religion or place of birth.
(c) Language policy:
The Constitution has also defined the language policy. India is a country where different languages are spoken in various parts of the country. Hindi and English have been made official languages of the central government. A state can adopt the language spoken by its people in that state also as its official language. At present, we have 22 languages which have been recognised by the Indian Constitution. These are:
Languages Recognised by the Indian Constitution
(xi) Special provisions for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes:
The Constitution provides for giving certain special concessions and privileges to the members of these castes. Seats have been reserved for them in Parliament, State legislature and local bodies, all government services and in all professional colleges. At present these concessions will continue up to the year 2010.
(xii) Independent judiciary:
The Indian Constitution provides for an independent judiciary. The judiciary has been made independent of the Executive as well as the Legislature. The judges give impartial justice.
(xiii) A constitution derived from many sources:
The framers of our constitution borrowed many things from the constitutions of various other countries and included them in our constitution. That is why; some writers call Indian Constitution a 'bag of borrowings'.
(xiv) One national language:
Although India is a multi-lingual state, the constitution provides that Hindi in Devnagri script will be the national language. It shall be the duty of the union to promote and spread Hindi language.
(xv) Emergency provisions:
The framers of our constitution had realised that there could be certain dangerous situations when government could not be run as in ordinary time. Hence our constitution contains certain emergency provisions. During emergency the fundamental rights of the citizens can be suspended and our government becomes a unitary one.