The precursor to the Indian Constitution was the Government of India Act of 1935. Some of the features of the 1935 Act, with modifications though, were later incorporated in the Constitution of India. Some of such features are These include a federal structure, three lists, and bicameral legislature.
- Sovereign, Democratic, Republic
Sovereignty means that India can not be turned into a colony or a dependency of another country. There can be no outside interference. In a Republic there is no scope for a Monarch to reign over the people, but the people themselves rule the country through their elected representatives.
- Union of States
India is a Union of States according to (Art 1) of Indian Constitution. There are provisions to create new States as well as to admit new ones. However, once they become part of India they do not have the right to secede
- Fundamental Rights
The Fundamental Rights provided for in the Constitution could be summarised as Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right Against Exploitation, Right to Religion, Cultural and Educational Rights and the Right to Constitutional remedies. The Right to Property was made a legal right through the Forty Fourth Constitutional Amendment Act, and is hence, not a Fundamental Right now.
The Fundamental Rights are enshrined in Part III of the Constitution. They are justiciable in nature, it means that their implementation is guaranteed by the Supreme Court.
Some of the Fundamental Rights are available only to the citizens of the country and not to foreigners.
a) Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (article 15)
b) Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment (article 16)
c) Protection of six rights regarding freedom of (speech and expression, (ii) assembly (iii) association, (iv) movement (v) residence and profession (article 19)
d) Protection of language, script and culture of minorities (article 29)
e) Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions (article 30)
- Directive Principles of State Policy
The Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) are an adaptation from the Irish Constitution. Unlike the Fundamental rights, the DPSP are not justiciable. Simplistically understood the DPSP is for ‘welfare’ purposes. Fundamental Rights and the DPSP together, form the ‘core of the Constitution’ or ‘the true conscience’ of the constitution.
- Fundamental Duties
The Fundamental Duties enshrined in the Constitution are intended to obligate all the citizens to strive for the common benefit of all.
- The Union: Executive, Legislature and Judiciary:
At its Independence India chose to adopt a parliamentary form of government. In such a form, the President is the Head of the State while real executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister, in association with his Council all of who are collectively responsible to Parliament.
The Legislature: The legislature comprises the House of People (Lok Sabha), Council of States and the President of India.
The Executive: In India, the legislature and the executive are drawn from one another.
The President: Both the houses of Parliament and the legislatures in the States elect the President by means of a ‘single transferable vote‘. The Office of the President, its functions, powers, tenure, method of election and re-election, impeachment, and the qualifications, are mentioned in Articles 52 to 62. All activities of the state are carried out in the name of the President as the executive power is vested in the President (Art 52). The President is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. The President summons both the houses of Parliament and addresses its joint sessions. He has the power to remit sentences and grant reprieve. He appoints all the important functionaries of the state such as the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, the Attorney General, Governors of States, Chairpersons of Commissions like the Election Commission of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), and Advocate General (AG)
The Prime Minister and Council of Ministers: The Prime Minister is the Head of government and presides over the meeting of the Union Council of Ministers.
The Judiciary: The third and very important organ of the government is the Judiciary. The highest court of appeal is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has both appellate and original jurisdiction, as do the High Courts in the respective States. The Supreme Court is the custodian of the Constitution. The Supreme Court and the High Courts can also issue writs to the government and its agencies
At the time of Independence the diversity of the country was such that the Constitution makers thought it fit to have a strong Union government (Centre) within a federal framework. Provisions relating to Centre-State relations are enumerated in Part XI of Indian of the Constitution. India’s Constitution thus has both centralising and decentralising features. Hence K.C. Wheare has called it to have Quasi-Federal nature.
The Indian Constitution has provision for three types of emergencies. These provisions in India are borrowed from the Weimar Constitution of Germany.
- Article 352- National Emergency
- Article 356-Emergency in state ( president’s rule)
- Article 360- Financial Emergency
The Indian Constitution provides room for amendment. In this sense, the Constitution is not rigid unlike that in some other countries. A Constitution is a living document and, hence, it has to reflect the needs of the changing times. Article 368 together with other articles, empowers Parliament to make amendments to the Constitution.