CONSTITUTION OF INDIA The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers and duties, government and spells out the fundamental rights, directive principles and duties of citizens. It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, containing more than 395 articles in 24 parts, 12 schedules and 110 amendments, for a total of 117,369 words in the English language version. Besides the English version, there is an official Hindi translation.
Passed by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949, it came into effect on 26 January 1950. The date 26 January was chosen to commemorate the declaration of independence of 1930. It declares the Union of India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens of justice, equality, and liberty and, endeavours to promote among them all, fraternity. The words “socialist”, “secular”, and “integrity” were added to the definition in 1976 by constitutional amendment. India celebrates the adoption of the constitution on 26 January each year as Republic Day.
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After coming into effect, the Constitution replaced the Government of India Act 1935 as the governing document of India. The majority of the Indian subcontinent was under British colonial rule from 1858 to 1947. This period saw the gradual rise of the Indian independence movement to gain independence from foreign rule. The movement culminated in the formation of the Dominion of India on 15 August 1947, along with the Dominion of Pakistan. The constitution of India was adopted on 26 November 1949 and came into effect on 26 January 1950, proclaiming India to be a sovereign, democratic republic.
It contained the founding principles of the law of the land which would govern India after its independence from British rule. On the day the constitution came into effect, India ceased to be a dominion of the British Crown. The constitution of India draws extensively from Western legal traditions in its outline of the principles of liberal democracy. It is distinguished from many Western constitutions, however, in its elaboration of principles reflecting the aspirations to end the inequities of traditional social relations and enhance the social welfare of the population.
According to constitutional scholar Granville Austin, probably no other nation’s constitution “has provided so much impetus toward changing and rebuilding society for the common good. ” Since its enactment, the constitution has fostered a steady concentration of power in the central government–especially the Office of the Prime Minister. This centralization has occurred in the face of the increasing assertiveness of an array of ethnic and caste groups across Indian society. Increasingly, the government has responded to the resulting tensions by resorting to the formidable array of authoritarian powers provided by the constitution.
Together with the public’s perception of pervasive corruption among India’s politicians, the state’s centralization of authority and increasing resort to coercive power have eroded its legitimacy. However, a new assertiveness shown by the Supreme Court and the Election Commission suggests that the remaining checks and balances among the country’s political institutions continue to support the resilience of Indian democracy. Also, regional parties are increasingly gaining popularity at the expense of national parties which has led to coalition governments at the centre.
As a consequence, the power is getting more decentralised. Adopted after some two and one-half years of deliberation by the Constituent Assembly that also acted as India’s first legislature, the constitution was put into effect on January 26, 1950. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a Dalit who earned a law degree from Columbia University, chaired the drafting committee of the constitution and shepherded it through Constituent Assembly debates. Supporters of independent India’s founding father, Mohandas K.
Gandhi, backed measures that would form a decentralized polity with strong local administration — known as panchayat — in a system known as panchayati raj, that is rule by panchayats. However, the support of more modernist leaders, such as Jawaharlal Nehru, ultimately led to a parliamentary government and a federal system with a strong central government. Following a British parliamentary pattern, the constitution embodies the Fundamental Rights, which are similar to the United States Bill of Rights, and a Supreme Court similar to that of the United States.
It creates a “sovereign democratic republic” called India, or Bharat (after the legendary king Bharat, son of king Dushyant), which “shall be a Union of States. ” India is a federal system in which residual powers of legislation remain with the central government, similar to that in Canada. The constitution provides detailed lists dividing up powers between central and state governments as in Australia, and it elaborates a set of Directive Principles of State Policy as does the Irish constitution. Schedules can be added to the constitution by amendment.
The ten schedules in force cover the designations of the states and union territories; the emoluments for high-level officials; forms of oaths; allocation of the number of seats in the Rajya Sabha (Council of States–the upper house of Parliament) per state or territory; provisions for the administration and control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes (tribes and areas needing special protection due to disadvantageous conditions); provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam; the union (meaning central government), state, and concurrent (dual) lists of responsibilities; the official languages; land and tenure reforms; and the association of Sikkim with India. A review of the constitution is taken very seriously, and needs at least two-thirds of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to pass it. The Indian constitution is also one of the most frequently amended constitutions in the world. The first amendment came only a year after the adoption of the constitution and instituted numerous minor changes. Many more amendments followed, a rate of almost two amendments per year since 1950.
Most of the constitution can be amended after a quorum of more than half of the members of each house in Parliament passes an amendment with a two-thirds majority vote. Articles pertaining to the distribution of legislative authority between the central and state governments must also be approved by 50 percent of the state legislatures. STRUCTURE OF THE CONSTITUTION The Constitution, in its current form, consists of a preamble, 24 parts containing 450 articles, 12 schedules, 2 appendices and 94 amendments to date. Although it is federal in nature with strong unitary bias, in case of emergencies it takes unitary structure. Parts Parts are the individual chapters in the Constitution, focusing on specific issues of law. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Preamble Part I – Union and its Territory Part II – Citizenship. Part III – Fundamental Rights Part IV – Directive Principles and Fundamental Duties. Part V – The Union. Part VI – The States. Part VII – States in the B part of the First schedule (Repealed). Part VIII – The Union Territories Part IX – Panchayat system and Municipalities. Part X – The scheduled and Tribal Areas Part XI – Relations between the Union and the States. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Part XII – Finance, Property, Contracts and Suits Part XIII – Trade and Commerce within the territory of India Part XIV – Services Under the Union, the States and Tribunals Part XV – Elections Part XVI – Special Provisions Relating to certain Classes.
Part XVII – Languages Part XVIII – Emergency Provisions Part XIX – Miscellaneous Part XX – Amendment of the Constitution Part XXI – Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions Part XXII – Short title, date of commencement, Authoritative text in Hindi and Repeals Schedules Schedules are lists in the Constitution that categorize and tabulate bureaucratic activity and policy of the Government. ? ? ? ? First Schedule (Articles 1 and 4) — States and Union Territories – This lists the states and territories on of India, lists any changes to their borders and the laws used to make that change. Second Schedule (Articles 59, 65, 75, 97, 125, 148, 158, 164, 186 and 221) — Emoluments for High-Level Officials – This lists the salaries of officials holding public office, judges, and Controller and Auditor-General of India.
Third Schedule (Articles 75, 99, 124, 148, 164, 188 and 219) — Forms of Oaths – This lists the oaths of offices for elected officials and judges. Fourth Schedule (Articles 4 and 80) – This details the allocation of seats in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of Parliament) per State or Union Territory. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Fifth Schedule (Article 244) – This provides for the administration and control of Scheduled Areas[Note 1] and Scheduled Tribes[Note 2] (areas and tribes needing special protection due to disadvantageous conditions). Sixth Schedule (Articles 244 and 275)— Provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. Seventh Schedule (Article 246) — The union (central government), state, and concurrent lists of responsibilities.
Eighth Schedule (Articles 344 and 351) — The official languages. Ninth Schedule (Article 31-B) – Articles mentioned here are immune from judicial review. Tenth Schedule (Articles 102 and 191) — “Anti-defection” provisions for Members of Parliament and Members of the State Legislatures. Eleventh Schedule (Article 243-G) — Panchayat Raj (rural local government). Twelfth Schedule (Article 243-W) — Municipalities (urban local government). EVOLUTION OF THE CONSTITUTION Acts of British Parliament before 1935 After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British Parliament took over the reign of India from the British East India Company, and British India came under the direct rule of the Crown.
The British Parliament passed the Government of India Act of 1858 to this effect, setting up the structure of government in India. It established in England the office of the Secretary of State for India through whom Parliament would exercise its rule, along with a Council of India to aid him. It also established the office of the Governor-General of India along with an Executive Council in India, consisting of high officials of the British Government. The Indian Councils Act of 1861 provided for a Legislative Council consisting of the members of the Executive council and non-official members. The Indian Councils Act of 1892 established provincial legislatures and increased the powers of the Legislative Council.
These acts increased the representation of Indians in the government, however their power remained limited. The Government of India Acts of 1909 and 1919 further expanded participation of Indians in the government. Government of India Act 1935 The provisions of the Government of India Act of 1935, though never implemented fully, had a great impact on the constitution of India. Many key features of the constitution are directly taken from this Act. The federal structure of government, provincial autonomy, bicameral legislature consisting of a federal assembly and a Council of States, separation of legislative powers between the center and provinces are some of the provisions of the Act which are present in the Indian constitution.
The Cabinet Mission Plan In 1946, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee formulated a cabinet mission to India to discuss and finalize plans for the transfer of power from the British Raj to Indian leadership as well as provide India with independence under Dominion status in the Commonwealth of Nations. The Mission discussed the framework of the constitution and laid down in some detail the procedure to be followed by the constitution drafting body. Elections for the 296 seats assigned to the British Indian provinces were completed by August 1946. The Constituent Assembly first met and began work on 9 December 1946. Indian Independence Act 1947
The Indian Independence Act, which came into force on 18 July 1947, divided British Indian territory into two new states: India and Pakistan, which were to be dominions under the Commonwealth of Nations until their constitutions came into effect. The Constituent Assembly was divided into two for the separate states. The Act relieved the British Parliament of any further rights or obligations towards India or Pakistan, and granted sovereignty over the lands to the respective Constituent Assemblies. When the Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950, it repealed the Indian Independence Act. India ceased to be a dominion of the British Crown and became a sovereign democratic republic. 26 November 1949 is also known as National Law Day.
MAKING OF THE CONSTITUTION Constituent Assembly of India The Constituent Assembly of India was formed to write the constitution of India, and served as its first parliament as an independent nation. It first met on December 9 1946, while India was still under British rule. On August 15 1947, India became an independent nation, and the Constituent Assembly became India’s parliament. It sat until January 26 1950, when the Constitution of India took effect. At this point, the Constituent Assembly became the Provisional Parliament of India, until the first elections under the new constitution took place in 1952. FIRST DAY IN THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
The Constituent Assembly met for the first time in New Delhi on 9 December, 1946 in the Constitution Hall which is now known as the Central Hall of Parliament House. Decorated elegantly for the occasion, the Chamber wore a new look on that day with a constellation of bright lamps hanging from the high ceilings and also from the brackets on its walls. Overwhelmed and jubilant as they were, the hon’ble members sat in semi-circular rows facing the Presidential dias. The desks which could be warmed electrically were placed on sloping green-carpeted terraces. Those who adorned the front row were Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Acharya J. B.
Kripalani, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Smt. Sarojini Naidu, Shri Hare-Krushna Mahatab, Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Shri Sarat Chandra Bose, Shri C. Rajagopalachari and Shri M. Asaf Ali. Two hundred and seven representatives, including nine women were present. The inaugural session began at 11 a. m. with the introduction of Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha, the temporary Chairman of the Assembly, by Acharya Kripalani. While welcoming Dr. Sinha and others, Acharyaji said: “As we begin every work with Divine blessings, we request Dr. Sinha to invoke these blessings so that our work may proceed smoothly. Now, I once more, on your behalf, call upon Dr.
Sinha to take the Chair. ” Occupying the Chair amidst acclamation, Dr. Sinha read out the goodwill messages received from different countries. After the Chairman’s inaugural address and the nomination of a Deputy Chairman, the members were formally requested to present their credentials. The First Day’s proceedings ended after all the 207 members present submitted their credentials and signed the Register. Seated in the galleries, some thirty feet above the floor of the Chamber, the representatives of the Press and the visitors witnessed this memorable event. The All India Radio, Delhi broadcast a composite sound picture of the entire proceedings.
SOME FACTS The Constituent Assembly took almost three years (two years, eleven months and seventeen days to be precise) to complete its historic task of drafting the Constitution for Independent India. During this period, it held eleven sessions covering a total of 165 days. Of these, 114 days were spent on the consideration of the Draft Constitution. As to its composition, members were chosen by indirect election by the members of the Provincial Legislative Assemblies, according to the scheme recommended by the Cabinet Mission. The arrangement was: (i) 292 members were elected through the Provincial Legislative Assemblies; (ii) 93 members represented the Indian Princely States; and (iii) 4 members represented the Chief Commissioners’ Provinces. The total membership of the Assembly thus was to be 389.
However, as a result of the partition under the Mountbatten Plan of 3 June, 1947, a separate Constituent Assembly was set up for Pakistan and representatives of some Provinces ceased to be members of the Assembly. As a result, the membership of the Assembly was reduced to 299. On 13 December, 1946, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru moved the Objectives Resolution 1. This Constituent Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve to proclaim India as an Independent Soverign Republic and to draw up for her future governance a Constitution; 2. WHEREIN the territories that now comprise British India, the territories that now form the Indian States, and such other parts fo India as are outside British India and the States as well as such other territories as are willing to be constituted into the Independent Soverign India, shall be a Union of them all; and 3.
WHEREIN the said territories, whether with their present boundaries or with such others as may be determined by the Constituent Assembly and thereafter according to the law of the Constitution, shall possess and retain the status of autonomous Units, together with residuary powers and exercise all powers and functions of goverrnment and administration, save and except such powers and functions as are vested in or assigned to the Union, or as are inherent or implied in the Union or resulting therefrom; and 4. WHEREIN all power and authority of the Soverign Independent India, its constituent parts and organs of government, are derived from the people; and 5. WHEREIN shall be guaranteed and secured to all the people of India justice, social economic and political : equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action, subject to law and public morality; and 6. WHEREIN adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes; and 7.
WHEREBY shall be maintained the integrity of the territory of the Republic and its soverign rights on land, sea, and air according to justice and the law of civilized nations; and 8. this ancient land attains its righful and honoured placed in the world and make its full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind. This Resolution was unanimously adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22 January 1947. Late in the evening of 14 August, 1947 the Assembly met in the Constitution Hall and at the stroke of midnight, took over as the Legislative Assembly of an Independent India. On 29 August, 1947, the Constituent Assembly set up a Drafting Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar to prepare a Draft Constitution for India.
While deliberating upon the draft Constitution, the Assembly moved, discussed and disposed of as many as 2,473 amendments out of a total of 7,635 tabled. The Constitution of India was adopted on 26 November, 1949 and the hon’ble members appended their signatures to it on 24 January, 1950. In all, 284 members actually signed the Constitution. On that day when the Constitution was being signed, it was drizzling outside and it was interpreted as a sign of a good omen. The Constitution of India came into force on 2 6 January, 1950. On that day, the Assembly ceased to exist, transforming itself into the Provisional Parliament of India until a new Parliament was constituted in1952 Sessions of the Constituent Assembly
First Session: Second Session: Third Session: Fourth Session: Fifth Session: Sixth Session: Seventh Session: Eighth Session: Ninth Session: Tenth Session: Eleventh Session: 9-23 December, 1946 20-25 January, 1947 28 April – 2 May, 1947 14-31 July, 1947 14-30 August, 1947 27 January, 1948 4 November,1948 – 8 January, 1949 16 May – 16 June, 1949 30 July – 18 September, 1949 6-17 October, 1949 14-26 November, 1949 [The Assembly met once again on 24 January, 1950, when the members appended their signatures to the Constitution of India] IMPORTANT COMMITTEES OF THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY AND THEIR CHAIRMEN ————————————————————Name of the Committee Chairman ———————————————————–Committee on the Rules of Procedure Steering Committee Finance and Staff Committee Credential Committee House Committee Order of Business Committee Ad hoc Committee on the National Flag Committee on the Functions of the Constituent Assembly States Committee Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas Minorities Sub-Committee Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee North-East Frontier Tribal Areas and Assam Exluded & Partially Rajendra Prasad Rajendra Prasad Rajendra Prasad Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya K. M. Munsi Rajendra Prasad G. V. Mavalankar Jawaharlal Nehru Vallabhbhai Patel H. C. Mookherjee J. B. Kripalani Gopinath Bardoloi Excluded Areas Sub-Committee Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (Other than those in Assam) Sub-Committee Union Powers Committee Union Constitution Committee Drafting Committee A. V. Thakkar Jawaharlal Nehru Jawaharlal Nehru B. R. Ambedkar STATEWISE MEMBERSHIP OF THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF INDIA AS ON 31 DECEMBER, 1947 PROVINCES-229 ———————————————————-S. No.
State No. of Members ———————————————————-1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Madras Bombay West Bengal United Provinces East Punjab Bihar C. P. and Berar Assam Orissa Delhi 49 21 19 55 12 36 17 8 9 1 11. 12. Ajmer-Merwara Coorg 1 1 INDIAN STATES-70 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. Alwar Baroda Bhopal Bikaner Cochin Gwalior Indore Jaipur Jodhpur Kolhapur Kotah Mayurbhanj Mysore Patiala Rewa Travancore Udaipur Sikkim and Cooch Behar Group Tripura, Manipur and Khasi States Group 1 3 1 1 1 4 1 3 2 1 1 1 7 2 2 6 2 1 19. 1 20. 21. 22. U. P. States Group Eastern Rajputana States Group 1 3
Central India States Group 3 (including Bundelkhand and Malwa) Western India States Group Gujarat States Group Deccan and Madras States Group Punjab States Group I Eastern States Group I Eastern States Group II Residuary States Group —–Total 299 4 2 2 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 3 4 3 4 THE PREAMBLE The term preamble literally means preface, preliminary statement or introduction. The Preamble to the Indian Constitution deals with the aims and objectives, the targets and ideals; and the basis and foundations of the Indian Constitution. The Preamble is directly related to the Objective Resolution passed by the Constituent Assembly on January 22, 1947.
Some of the important provisions of the Resolution were as follows: (1) This Constituent Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve to proclaim India as an Independent Sovereign Republic and to draw up for the future governance a constitution; (2) wherein all power and authority of the Sovereign Independent India, its constituent parts and organs of government are derived from the people; (3) wherein shall be guaranteed and secured to all the people of India justice – social, economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and actions, subject to law and public morality, and wherein adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities; backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other classes. B. N Rau, the constitutional advisor to the Constituent Assembly, prepared a draft of the Preamble based on this Resolution.
The Drafting Committee considered this draft and after making some changes adopted it at the stages of the working of the Constituent Assembly so that it was in conformity with the constitutional provisions. The Preamble states that “We, the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens; Justice – social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; in our Constituent Assembly this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do hereby Adopt, Enact and Give to Ourselves this Constitution”.
Now, if we analyse the Preamble, the first thing that we note is that it refers to The People of India who have adopted, enacted and given to them this Constitution. The implication of this terminology is that it declares the people of India to be the sovereign authority. It is to be noted that the leaders of our national movement always emphasised the sovereignty of Indian people. This Constitution was drafted and adopted by a Constituent Assembly that was not elected directly by the people. In fact, the Legislative Assemblies of the Indian Provinces elected it indirectly. The Assemblies themselves were elected in 1946 according to the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935. The Act had provided for a restricted franchise.
Most of the representatives of the princely states in the Constituent Assembly did not enjoy even this much representative character. In spite of these limitations, the Constituent Assembly could be called real representative of the people because it had representation of almost all shades of opinions. It was possible because of the magnanimity of those who ruled over India then. They saw to it that all sections of people of India have a place in the Constituent Assembly. Another important feature of the Preamble is that it aims at making India a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic Republic. Sovereignty implies that India is absolutely free from ny other authority, internal or external. Though some critics are of the opinion that the membership of the Commonwealth compromises this status, yet it is not true. The Commonwealth has undergone a sea-change from its original position and now it is purely a voluntary association of independent and sovereign States. The terms socialist and secular were added in the Preamble by the Constitution (Forty Second Amendment) Act, 1976. The term socialist indicates the incorporation of the philosophy of socialism in the Constitution. It is to be remembered that K. T. Shah, a member of the Constituent Assembly proposed in the Assembly, had the inclusion of this term in the Preamble.
But Nehru had strongly opposed it because according to him, they had already provided for the substance of economic democracy in the Constitution in chapters on Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy and there was no need for the inclusion of such terms that were likely to be interpreted differently by different people. Similarly, there was also a proposal in the Constituent Assembly for inclusion of the term secular in the Preamble, but it was also opposed on the ground that there was no fixed meaning attached to this term. However leadership, in 1976, felt the need for inclusion of this term in the Preamble. It is noteworthy that the term secular, as interpreted by the courts in India, means that ‘the State’ shall not discriminate between different religions and all shall be treated equally.
The term democratic implies that the Governments are elected and accountable for their deeds to the people of India. Elections have to be held at regular intervals and people are allowed to exercise their franchise freely and fairly. It also means that there shall prevail the rule of law and no one could act arbitrarily. The term Republic implies that the Head of the State gets his office by election by the people and not by hereditary claims. The Preamble also aims at securing to all citizens Justice: social, economic and political. Though it is not easy to give a precise meaning of the term justice, by and large, it can be stated that the idea of justice is equated with equity and fairness.
Social justice, therefore, would mean that all sections of society, irrespective of caste, creed, sex, place of birth, religion or language, would be treated equally and no one would be discriminated on any of these grounds. Similarly, economic justice would mean that all the natural resources of the country would be equally available to all the citizens and no one would suffer from any undeserved want. Similarly, Political justice entitles all the citizens equal political rights such as right to vote, right to contest elections and right to hold public office etc. The Preamble also keeps liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship as its ideals.
It means that the citizens would be free to follow a religion of their own choice and express their views freely and frankly. ‘The State’ would not interfere in all these matters. The Preamble also provides for equality of status and opportunity. It implies that all the citizens would be able to make full use of their talents without any interruption and develop their personality to the maximum extent possible. Lastly, the Preamble also aims at developing fraternity assuring the dignity of individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. It means that the common brotherhood, to be developed in India, would be based on the dignity of the individual without any consideration of his status in society.
Similarly, such a brotherhood should also lead to the unity and integrity of the nation. In nutshell, the Preamble aims at a social order wherein the people would be sovereign, the government would be elected by and accountable to people, the powers of the government shall be restricted by the rights of people and people would have ample opportunities to develop their talents. Though the Preamble is not technically enforceable through courts of law, it is useful in interpreting the various provisions of the Constitution and acts as a beacon in conflicting situations. INDIAN CONSTITUTION – SALIENT FEATURES Introduction The salient features of the Indian Constitution are of two types.
There are some features that are unique to this Constitution; no previous constitution possessed them, while there are others which, though not peculiar, are still important characteristics. UNIQUE FEATURES Framed by the People of India: This Constitution has been framed by the representatives of the people of India through a Constituent Assembly during 1946-1949. Prior to it, the British Parliament enacted all the constitutions. The Constituent Assembly, however, was elected indirectly by the Provincial Legislative Assemblies that were themselves elected on a restricted franchise. The representatives of the princely states were the nominees of their rulers.
In spite of it, the Constituent Assembly could be called a representative body because the then ruling party at the Centre had decided to give representation to all sections of society as well as to all shades of opinion. Derived from Various Sources: It is a unique document that was derived from various sources. Our constitution makers were inspired to draft the provisions regarding Fundamental Rights and Supreme Court from the U. S. A, Directive Principles of State Policy from Ireland, Emergency from Germany, Distribution of legislative powers from Canada, and Parliamentary Institutions from the United Kingdom. Besides, they borrowed extensively from the Government of India Act, 1935.
Sovereignty of the People: The Constitution declares the people of India to be the supreme authority. Prior to it, the supreme authority lay in the British Parliament. Even the Indian Independence Act, 1947 through which India got independence recognized the supremacy of the British Parliament. The term Sovereignty implies that the people of India are not subordinate to any other external agency. The membership of the Commonwealth of Nations, sometimes, is misinterpreted as a limitation on the sovereignty of the people of India. This, however, is not correct. The Commonwealth has now undergone a association of independent sovereign States. Republican Polity: The Constitution provides for the republican form of polity in India.
Prior to it, the British king was the Head of the State who owed his office to the laws of inheritance. It is noteworthy that in Ancient India there existed republican governments in a number of parts for about one thousand years. But in modern times there was not a single territory where republican form of government prevailed. Secular Polity: This Constitution provides for a secular polity in India. Though the term secular has not been defined in the Constitution anywhere, the substance of secularism can be deduced from various provisions of the Constitution. It has been used in the sense of absence of discrimination on grounds of religion and equal respect for all religions.
Prior to it, the Government of India Act, 1935 had provided for a separate department of Ecclesiastical Affairs. Fundamentals Rights and Duties: The Constitution provides for Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties of the citizens of India. No previous constitution provided for them. The leaders of the Indian National Movement always demanded for the inclusion of Fundamental Rights in the Constitution of India. The Constitution initially did not provide for Fundamental Duties. This provision was inserted in the Constitution through the Constitution (Forty Second Amendment) Act, 1976. Directive Principles of State Policy: The Constitution provides for the Directive Principles of State Policy.
No previous constitution had such a provision. Though the Instrument of Instructions attached to the Government of India Act, 1935, appears to be analogous to the Directives, the aims and objects of the two are very different. It is to be noted that the leaders of the Indian National Movement had made various promises regarding the Fundamental Rights that the citizens of free India would enjoy. But when India got independence in 1947, the leaders realised that they did not possess sufficient means to grant those rights, particularly economic and social rights, immediately. But at the same time they did not want to go back upon their promises.
They, therefore, decided to put the Fundamental Rights into two categories: (i) those that were granted immediately and (ii) those that would be granted in future if and when they were capable to do so. The first were included in Chapter Ill entitled Fundamental Rights and the second were included in Chapter IV entitled Directive Principles of State Policy. The rights included in Chapter IV are nonenforceable through courts of law but they are the fundamental principles of governance which ‘the State’ (i. e. the Government and Parliament of India; the Government and the Legislature of each of the States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of Government of India) is required to take cognisance of.
Judicial Review: The Constitution provides for the judicial review of the Acts of Legislatures (of both, the Union and States) as well as of the activities of the executives (Union and State). Prior to it, there was no such provision. This provision keeps the legislative and the executive branches of governments under restraint and they cannot exercise their authority arbitrarily. Universal Adult Franchise: It provides for the universal adult franchise. Prior to it all the constitutions provided for restricted franchise. According to the Government of India Act, 1935, which granted the largest amount of franchise, only 14% of the people had a right to vote. It is noteworthy that most of the western democracies had taken a number of decades to grant such a right to their citizens.
It is really a very revolutionary step taken by the Constituent Assembly to grant universal adult franchise by a stroke of pen. Recognition of Hindi as an Official Language: The Constitution recognises Hindi as the official language of the Indian Union. Prior to it, English was the only official language of India. Besides Hindi, the Constitution also recognises seventeen other Indian languages as regional languages. Unique Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility: The Constitution provides for an amending procedure. Prior to it, there was no provision for an amendment of the prevalent constitution. The British Parliament alone was entitled to do it. The procedure for an amendment is a unique blend of rigidity and flexibility.
Some provisions of the Constitution can be amended by simple majority of the two Houses of Parliament, though technically they are not treated as amendments in the constitution, others require absolute majority of the total strength of the two Houses of Parliament and two-thirds majority of the members present and voting and still others require an additional support by half of the States’ legislatures. For instance, a change in the name or territory of a State can be made through an ordinary law enacted by the two Houses of Parliament; whenever there is a change proposed in the federal character of the Constitution, absolute majority of the total strength of the two Houses of Parliament and two-thirds majority of the members present and voting and also ratification by at least half the State Legislatures is required; in all other matters a resolution passed by an absolute majority of the two Houses of Parliament and two-thirds majority of the members present and voting is sufficient for any change in the Constitution.
Other Features Comprehensive Document: It is a comprehensive document having 395 Articles and twelve Schedules. Originally there were only eight Schedules. Later on, various Constitution Amendment Acts added 4 new Schedules. Prior to it, the Government of India Act, 1935, was also an extensive document having 321 Sections and ten Schedules. Parliamentary Democracy: It provides for a full-fledged Parliamentary Democracy. Prior to it, steps were taken in this direction, particularly by the Government of India Act, 1935, which provided for Provincial Autonomy, but there were so any restraints laid down that full Parliamentary Democracy could not be evolved.
In a parliamentary democracy elections are held at regular intervals for choosing the representatives of the people. The representatives control the executive and the Council of Ministers who in turn is collectively responsible to them. Federal Form of Polity: It provides for a federal form of polity. Though the Government of India Act, 1935, had also provided for the establishment of a federal form of government, due to strong opposition, particularly from the princely states, it could not take a practical shape. Even after the establishment of a federal form of government, according to the provisions of the Constitution, there are critics who are dissatisfied with it as it is fully loaded with strong centralising tendencies.
In fact, some critics go to the extent of calling it a Unitary Constitution with some Federal features rather than a Federal Constitution with strong unitary tendencies. Affirmative Action: The Constitution provides for affirmative action by the State to improve the conditions of the weaker sections of society by providing reservations in the legislatures and government jobs. Prior to it the Indian Councils Act, 1909, the Government of India Act, 1919, and the Government of India Act, 1935, also had provided for the policy of reservation. Emergency Provisions: The Constitution makes provisions for national emergency, failure of constitutional machinery and financial emergency.
Prior to it the Government of India Act, 1935, also had, more or less, similar provisions. By national emergency we mean an emergency which is declared when the President is satisfied that the security of India or of any part thereof is threatened by war or external aggression or armed rebellion, he may proclaim an emergency. In such a situation the federal character of the Constitution takes the shape of a unitary constitution. By failure of constitutional machinery we mean a situation where President feels satisfied that it is not possible to carry on the Government of a State according to the provisions of the Constitution, he can impose President’s rule in that State.
The executive authority of the State becomes subordinate to the Union executive and the legislative authority of the State becomes subordinate to Parliament. By financial emergency we mean a situation when the financial stability of the nation or of any part thereof is at stake, then President may declare a financial emergency. Such a declaration authorises the President to issue directions to States with regard to the way they must manage their financial affairs. It also authorises President to reduce salaries, allowances etc. , of all such office holders who get them from Consolidated Fund of India and ordinarily are not subject to reduction. Independent Agencies The
Constitution also provides for some Independent Agencies to perform functions allotted to them. Prior to it, the Government of India Act, 1935 also had provided for such Agencies. Some of the Agencies, provided by the Constitution are as follows: (i) Election Commission for conducting free and fair elections of the Union and States’ Legislatures and of the President and Vice President of India. Provisions have been made to make the members of the Commission free from executive control. (ii) Comptroller and Auditor General to keep a watch on the finances and accounts of the Union and States. Provisions have been made to keep him free from any control of the executive of the Union or States. iii) Union and State Public Service Commissions to conduct examinations and interviews for recommending candidates for appointments in higher services in both the Centre and the States. References Baruah, Aparajita (2007). Preamble of the Constitution of India : An Insight & Comparison. Eastern Book Co. Basu, Durga Das (1985). Commentary on the constitution of India : (being a comparative treatise on the universal principles of justice and constitutional government with special reference to the organic instrument of India). 1 – 2. S. C. Sarkar & Sons (Private) Ltd. Basu, Durga Das (1984). Introduction to the Constitution of India (10th ed. )S. A. Books.