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Chapter: Outstanding features of the Indian Constitution
The following are the salient features of the Indian Constitution:
Written Constitution
Indian Constitution is a written Constitution. Written constitution is that which is drafted after a prolonged
process of discussion by a representative body elected for this very purpose, for example Constituent
Assembly of India (1946-49). An unwritten constitution, as in Britain, evolves from popular conventions,
customs and traditions along with the social values and ideals.
1 : Indian Constitution lacks originality and rather is drawn from other Constitutions of the world :
Do you agree? Support your answer with reasonable arguments?
The Constituent Assembly, desirous of providing the best features in the Constitution, drew from many
sources as shown below
British Constitution
Parliamentary form of government
Rule of law
Procedure of Law Making
United States Constitution
Charter of Fundamental Rights
Federal structure of government
Electoral Collage
Independence of the judiciary
Judicial review
Irish Constitution
Directive principles of state policy
Australian Constitution
Concurrent List
Joint sitting of the Parliament
French constitution
Ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity
Indian Polity & Governance
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Canadian Constitution
A quasi-federal form of government a federal system with a strong central government
The idea of Residuary Powers with centre
Constitution of the Soviet Union
Fundamental Duties (Art. 51-A) on the recommendations of Sardar swaran Singh Committee (1976)
Other Constitutions
Emergency Provision from Weimar Constitution
Amendment of Constitution from South Africa
2 : Indian Constitution is the most voluminous in the world. Discuss?
Indian Constitution is the lengthiest in the world in terms of the number of articles. Originally, at the time of
being adopted, it consisted of 395 articles but after 97 amendments (2012), it presently has more than 440
articles. There are 12 Schedules to amplify and support the contents in the Articles.
The reasons for the voluminous nature of the Constitution are
There are detailed provisions for various aspects of administration in order to minimise conflict and
confusion.
Being a democratic country, there is a great need to lay down elaborately the rights of the
individuals. Hence, there is a seperate chapter on Fundamental Rights.
A federal constitution has to detail the rights and jurisdictions of the centre and states. It is more so in
India where much care is taken to spell out in detail the functions of the states and centre. The idea is
to prevent any constitutional conflicts and crisis in the working of the Constitution
Since the Constitution draws from many Constitutions as shown above, it is bound to be lengthy.
The size and diversity of the country with a pluralist tradition require that Constitution promote the
same with detailed provisions. For example, language policy.
Independent bodies Election Commission, Union Public Service Commission, Comptroller and
Auditor General of India have been set up with elaborate provisions for powers, independence etc
which are in other Constitutions not a part of the Constitution but only statutes.
3 : Presidential system of democracy can at best provide secondary solution to the existing challenges
to the Indian parliamentary democracy. Critically examine the statement in light of recent
developments?
The Constitution of India adopts Parliamentary system of democracy in order to represent the pluralist
tradition and interests of the country. In the parliamentary form, members of legislature provide the
executive. That is, the Council of Ministers who make up the executive are necessarily drawn from
legislature in order to enforce the highest forms of popular accountability. The Council of Ministers is
collectively responsible to the legislature. Council of Ministers enjoy power till they have support of the
popular house Lok Sabha of India. There are many devices in the Constitution and various statutes and rules
with the Parliament holds the executive answerable. As a last resort, no-confidence motion is provided to
vote out the council of ministers and either replace it with another party or coalition or have a general
election to the Lok Sabha.
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4 : Indian polity is neither federal nor unitary. Examine the statement with examples from recent
past.
The Constitution contains all the basic features of a federation as shown below
Set up a dual polity- the Union Government and the State Governments
Legislative, administrative and financial powers are divided between the two levels of government.
All legislative powers are classified into three lists-the Union List, the State List and the Concurrent
List. Subjects of national importance like banking, national security, currency, defence, railways,
post and telegraph, foreign affairs, citizenship, etc have been given to the Union Parliament , being
placed in the Union List. Items of provincial and regional importance like police, local self
government, agriculture, law and order, health and entertainment have been given to the States, being
a part of the State List. Neither can legislate on the others List. However, under rare and special
circumstances, Union Parliament can legislate on items in the State List. Concurrent List has subjects
which are of common interest such as socio economic planning, marriage and divorce, adoption,
succession, forests, transfer of property, preventive detention, education, civil and criminal law, etc.
The Union Parliament and the State Legislatures enjoy co-equal powers to make laws in regard to
this List. However, if there is a conflict between a Union law and a State law, the law made by the
Union Parliament would prevail over the State law, according to the doctrine of federal supremacy.
Each level of government being provided with its own sources of revenue
Supremacy of the written Constitution
Rigid constitution
Independent judiciary to settle disputes among the federal units. Supreme Court under Art. 131 has
exclusive and original jurisdiction in federal matters.

Even while the above listed essential features of federalism are found in the Indian Constitution,
there is a strong unitary tilt. For example, states are not indestructible as in the USA. Union
Parliament can not only alter the area and boundaries of a state but can also abolish a state. The
Parliament has the residuary powers- that is powers that may be left out of the three Lists detailed
above. Emergency powers (Art. 352 and 356) of the Union Government can also turn the country
into a unitary system.

Since 1992, with the making of the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts related to Panchayatiraj and
Nagarapalika institutions respectively, Indian Constitution has added another tier to the federal
system. However, powers of finances of the Panchayats are still left to the discretion of the state
governments.
5 : Our Constitution is to be as solid and permanent as we can make it, yet there is not permanence
in it. Examine?
An amendment to the Constitution may become necessary for any reason like national security, social
progress, national integration and so on. The method to amend the Constitution is rigid in a federal polity-
that is a special and elaborate method is prescribed involving both the Union and the States. A flexible
constitution is one that can be amended like an ordinary law - states are not involved. Indian Constitution is
rigid as far as amendment to the federal features are concerned. It is flexible for all other features, that is a
special majority in the Parliament is enough for the Amendment Bill to be passed. Jawaharlal Nehru, while
justifying this nature of the Constitution, said, Our Constitution is to be as solid and permanent as we can
make it, yet there is no permanence in a Constitution. There should be a certain amount of flexibility. If you
make anything rigid and permanent, you stop the nations growth, the growth of a living vital organic
people.
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Welfare State
At the time of Independence India was an impoverished country. There was large scale poverty and
deprivation. Historically inherited social divisions marked the society. Since markets were not well
developed and many were outside the economic system, Government took upon itself the responsibility to
provide welfare to the vast majority of vulnerable people. Constitution has many features that commit the
country to a welfare State. The Preamble to the Constitution was amended in 1976 (Forty-second
Amendment Act, 1976) to insert the goal of socialism. Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV) aim at
the establishment of a Welfare State in India. Progressive taxation, developmental interventions like the
various flagship programmes of the government (MGNREGS), nationalization of banks in 1969 and 1980,
land reforms and various subsidies are meant to establish a welfare state. Affirmative action (positive
discrimination) by the Government in favour of the socially marginalised like dalits is an important aspect of
the welfare state.
Fundamental Rights
As a hallmark of the democracy that the Constitution establishes, Fundamental Rights are provided in Part
III to citizens (Art.15,16,19,29 and 30) and others. They are fundamental to the development of the
individual and the society and so they are called Fundamental Rights. They are given extraordinary
protection with the Supreme Court being made directly accessible under Art.32 and High Courts under
Art.226 to issue writs to restore the Fundamental Rights in case they are violated.
The Fundamental Rights conferred by the Constitution are broadly classified under the following groups:
The Right to Equality;
The Right to Freedom;
The Right against Exploitation;
The Right to Freedom of Religion;
Cultural and Educational Rights; and
The Right to Constitutional Remedies.
The Right to Property was deleted as a Fundamental Right by the Forty-fourth Constitution Amendment
Act, 1978 and is made into an ordinary Constitution right (Art.300A).
Directive Principles of State Policy
Borrowed from the Irish Constitution, Directive Principles of State Policy constitute a distinctive feature of
Indian Constitution. DPSPs are a set of social and economic obligations imposed on the Government- Union
and State- to establish a welfare society. They are not justiciable (non-implementation of the DPSPs can not
be challenged in courts) but are fundamental to the governance of the country (Art.37). Democratic
decentralization through local self government, equitable distribution of wealth, welfare of workers, uniform
civil code, improvement in the health standards of the people, commitment to contribute to international
peace are some of the obligations that the DPSPs sets for the Government.
Many amendments to the Constitution as well as landmark judgements of the Supreme Court have
contributed to the implementation of the Directive Principles For example, 73rd and 74th Amendment Act,
1992 for Panchayatiraj institutions.
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6 : A natural corallary of a pluralist and democratic Constitution is secularism. Discuss?
A natural corollary of a pluralist and democratic Constitution is secularism which has the following meaning
State has no official religion
State and religion are separate
State has an equi-distant policy towards all religions
All individuals have the right to pursue the religion of their choice
Additionally, in India minorities- both religious and linguistic- are given special protection (Art.29 and 30)
so as to preserve the diversity within unity.
Unified, Hierarchial And Independent Judiciary
Indian Constitution provides for a single integrated judiciary headed by the Supreme Court. Each state, or a
group of them, has a High Court with administrative control over the subordinate judiciary (district and
below). It is unlike in the USA where there are two sets of courtsone for each state and one for federal
laws and matters. In India, Supreme Court can be approached to challenge any verdict of the High Court and
other courts. Such a system plays an important integrating role and maintains the unity of the country. Thus,
it is said that the Supreme Court has a unifying effect on the country.
7 : What is a Constitution? Bring out the salient features of the Indian Constitution?
The Constitution contains many provisions for an independent and impartial judiciary. For example, the
judges of the Supreme Court and the State High Courts have security of service. Independence of judiciary
ensures that there is no pressure on the judiciary to be biased. The judges can be objective and impartial.
Universal Adult Franchise
The Constitution provides for Universal Adult Franchise. The citizens of India who are 18 years of age and
above have been granted the right to vote irrespective of any qualification pertaining to education,
possession of property or payment of income tax. To bring the Scheduled Castes and Tribes at par with the
other communities of the country, some seats have been reserved for them in the Union Parliament, State
Legislatures and local bodies in accordance with their population. There are reserved parliamentary and
assembly constituencies from where only the members of the Scheduled Castes or Tribes can contest
elections. In the Budget session of the Parliament (2008), 108th Constitution Amendment Bill was
introduced to give reservation to women in the Union and State legislatures.