Questions and AnswersCONSTITUTION OF INDIA
Note on the salient features of the Constitution and sources of the Indian Constitution.
A: The Constitution of India is the highest law of the land. The Constitution of the state is a living organism and a powerful instrument adopted for the purpose of adjusting conflicts and tension felt between the States and its citizens. The Constitution of India, which came into effect on 26th January, 1950, has certain distinguishing features. The following are the most important features of the Indian Constitution.
- The Constitution of India has the distinction of being the most lengthiest and detailed constitutional document the world has ever produced. When originally enacted, the Constitution had 395 Articles and 8 Schedules. As on date, it has 500 Articles and 12 Schedules.
- The Constitution id federal in character and provides a division of power between the Union and States. The Indian federalism has created a substantially strong center.
- The Constitution is the most flexible of all federal written constitutions. Most of the provision of the Constitution can be amended by the Parliament.
- An attempt is made in the Constitution to reconcile the theory of parliamentary sovereignty and the principles of the supremacy of the written constitution.
- The Constitution makes provisions for directive principles of state policy. Although those are not enforceable in the court of law, they are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country.
- The Constitution contains elaborate provisions dealing with fundamental rights and fundamental duties of citizens.
- The Constitution also provides for an independent judiciary, having the power of judicial review. But, at the same time, it attempts at a reconciliation of the principle of judicial review and parliamentary supremacy.
- Though the Constitution is more federal in nature, yet it provides for single citizenship of the Union.
- Another important feature is the concept of a secular state. There is complete freedom of religion. There is no state religion, and each person is free to pursue the religious beliefs of his choice.
- Another unique feature of the Constitution is the abolition of communal electorates. In the interest of the national solidarity, it has been found essential that there is no voting on communal lines.
- Another important feature is that for adult franchise. Every citizen who is 18 years of age has been given a right to vote.
- Another unique feature is that it superimposes an elected President upon cabinet system of Government, which is responsible for the Parliament.
In a landmark decision, Shir Keshavananda Bharti V State of Kerala, the Supreme Court held that Parliament cannot alter the basic structure or frame work of the Constitution. In the same case, Justice Shelat and Justice Grover observed that the following can be regarded as the six basic feature elements of our Constitution:
- The Supremacy of the Constitution.
- Republican and democratic forms of Government and sovereignty of the country
- Secular and federal structure of the Constitution.
- Demarcation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary.
- The dignity of an individual.
- The unity and integrity of the nation.
Sources of the Indian Constitution:
The Indian Constitution appears to have picked up the best from what was available to its founding fathers. Although the structural part of the Constitution is mainly borrowed from the Government of India Act, 1935, the philosophical part was not. The chapter on the Fundamental Rights was inspired by the Bill of Rights of the American Constitution. The chapter on Derivative Rights of State Policy was inspired by the Irish Constitution. The principle of the Cabinet Government and relations between the Cabinet and the Executive were largely drawn from the British experience. The provisions dealing with the Union-State relations find a reflection, in the Canadian and Australian Constitutions. The Chapter on interstate trade and commerce likewise bear a resemblance to the Australian Constitution. There are, of course,original concepts like those dealing with ‘panchayats’, which have been integrated into the fabric of the Constitution.
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