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[Summary] Salient Features of the Indian Constitution

1. Lengthiest Written Constitution: Indian constitution now has 470 Articles, 12 schedules and 25 parts.

Four factors have contributed to the elephantine size of our Constitution. They are: (a) The vastness of the country and its diversity. (b) Historical factors, e.g., the influence of the Government of India Act of 1935, which was bulky. (c) Single Constitution for both the Centre and the states making it bulky. (d) Dominance of legal luminaries in the Constituent Assembly.

2. Drawn From Various Sources: Indian constitution has a lot of features borrowed from various acts and constitutions of the world. The structural part of the Constitution is, to a large extent, derived from the Government of India Act of 1935. The Federal Scheme, Judiciary, Governors, Emergency Powers, the Public Service Commissions and most administrative details are drawn from this Act. The other provisions of the Constitution have been drawn from the Constitutions of Canada, Australia, Germany, USSR (now Russia), France, South Africa, Japan etc.

3. Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility: A rigid Constitution requires a special procedure for its amendment Eg American Constitution. A flexible constitution can be amended in the same manner as the ordinary laws are made, eg. the British Constitution. The Constitution of India is neither rigid nor flexible, but a synthesis of both. Some provisions can be amended by a simple majority while others can be amended by a Special Majority.

4. Federal System with Unitary Bias: There are some federal features and some unitary features in the Indian Constitution. Some federal features include the written Constitution, the supremacy of the Constitution, the rigidity of the Constitution, independent judiciary and bicameralism.

Some unitary features include a strong Centre, single Constitution, single citizenship, flexibility of the Constitution, integrated judiciary, the appointment of state governor by the Centre, all-India services, emergency provisions etc.

5. Parliamentary Form of Government: India adopted a parliamentary system of government which is based on the principle of co-operation and coordination between the legislative and executive organs while the presidential system is based on the doctrine of separation of powers between the two organs.

6. Synthesis of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy: The Supreme Court, on the one hand, can declare parliamentary laws as unconstitutional through its power of judicial review. The Parliament, on the other hand, can amend the major portion of the Constitution through its constituent power.

7. Integrated and Independent Judiciary : Integrated: The Supreme Court stands at the top of the integrated judicial system in the country. Below it, there are high courts at the state level. Under a high court, there is a hierarchy of subordinate courts, that is, district courts and other lower courts. This single system of courts enforces both the central laws as well as the state laws, unlike in the USA, where the federal laws are enforced by the federal judiciary and the state laws are enforced by the state judiciary.

The Constitution has made various provisions to ensure its independence–security of tenure of the judges, fixed service conditions for the judges, all the expenses of the Supreme Court charged on the Consolidated Fund of India, prohibition on the discussion on the conduct of judges in the legislatures, ban on practice after retirement, power to punish for its contempt vested in the Supreme Court, separation of the judiciary from the executive, and so on.

8. Fundamental Rights: The Fundamental Rights are meant for promoting the idea of political democracy. They are not absolute and subject to reasonable restrictions

9. Directive Principles of State Policy: The Directive Principles are meant for promoting the ideal of social and economic democracy. They seek to establish a ‘welfare state’ in India.

10. Fundamental Duties: Part IV A specifies the eleven Fundamental Duties. They were added by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976 on the recommendation of the Swaran Singh Committee

11. A Secular State: Indian Constitution embodies the positive concept of secularism, i.e., giving equal respect to all religions or protecting all religions equally. There is no official religion of the Indian State.

12. Universal Adult Franchise: In India, every citizen who is not less than 18 years of age has a right to vote without any discrimination of caste, race, religion, sex, literacy, wealth and so on

13. Single Citizenship: Indian Constitution provides for only single citizenship, that is, the Indian citizenship. In India, all citizens irrespective of the state in which they are born or reside enjoy the same political and civil rights of citizenship all over the country and no discrimination is made between them.


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