The world’s largest democracy- India- is built and governed on the terms of the constitution of the country. A constitution can be defined as a document containing laws and rules which determine and describe the form of government and the relationship between the system of governance and the citizens.
Being the state’s fundamental law, the constitution lays down objectives that the state has to achieve. It establishes principles according to which the country is to be governed.
By describing the rights of the citizens and government respectively, it provides a set of norms through its articles and clauses that allow for minimal coordination amongst the members of the society. The total number of articles in the Indian Constitution is 397.
The Indian Constitution
The Indian Constitution was framed against the horrendous background of the 200-year colonial rule, the violent freedom struggle, and the bloody partition. The Constituent Assembly was an assembly of elected representatives which met to draft the Indian constitution.
The framers of the constitution took up the responsibility of fulfilling the aspirations of the citizens. They recognized the needs of the people and strived to give the citizens the life that they deserved after suffering under the British Raj for so long.
The Assembly was a pluralist representative body, and it was ensured that it reflected and incorporated the diversity of perspectives existing in the country. Members from distinct ideologies, social groups, and political parties were included.
The members arrived at a consensus while trying to maintain a balance between preserving the country’s values and adapting them to new circumstances.
Moral vision, political skill, and legal acumen- all were brought together in framing the constitution. The constitution was finally adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and came into effect on 26 January 1950, and represents the broad national consensus.
The document rests upon the spirit of democracy, and is well thought out, is best suited for the Indian society and the country’s environment.
Salient Features of the Constitution of India
The Constitution of India begins with a Preamble which contains the basic principles of the constitution and explains the purpose and objectives of the document.
By giving a crux of the philosophy of the constitution, the Preamble seeks to establish and aid the legal interpretation of the document.
The Preamble mentions the Indian state as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. The country is free of internal or external force and is committed to providing necessities to all.
India has no official religion and gives its citizens the right to practice and profess any religion. Emphasis is laid upon human welfare.
The constitution guarantees social, economic, and political justice. Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith are also given to the citizens. The most important ideal is that of equality.
All citizens of the state are equal in the eyes of the law. Equality prohibits discrimination and ensures that all inequalities are eliminated. No citizen is deprived of access to public spaces because of class, caste, gender. Everyone has the same opportunities to grow.
The Indian constitution also guarantees fraternity, assuring the dignity of the citizens and unity and integrity of the nation. In a multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and highly diverse country like India, the nation’s unity is vital.
A spirit of brotherhood among the children of the same soil is the first requisite for a successful democracy.
Lengthiest Written Constitution
The constitution of India comprises 397 articles, 22 parts, and 12 schedules and is the longest national constitution ever.
The “elephant size” constitution owes its vastness to its geography, rich history, and sheer diversity.
“Borrowed” Constitution of India
The constitution of India incorporates the experiences of all leading constitutions of the world- the British constitution, American constitution, French constitution, and Irish constitution- and is hence a “borrowed” constitution.
The Constituent Assembly modified ideas and adapted them to the environment of India.
To strike a balance between rigidity and flexibility, the constitution introduces the procedure of amendments.
An amendment is a change or addition to a piece of legislation made to improve the document. Amendments can be made by two houses or require a special majority.
Parliamentary Form of Government of India
According to the Indian Constitution, the President is the nominal or symbolic head of the state but does not head the executive.
The President has the power to grant pardons, suspend, remit or commute sentences in cases, and promulgate ordinances.
Despite having great authority and dignity, the President represents the nation but does not rule the nation and has to act in accordance with the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister is the Head of the Executive and takes major decisions.
The government of India works on the principle of majority party rule. The Upper House or Rajya Sabha is the Council of States, and the Lower house, or Lok Sabha, is the House of the People.
Quasi-Federal form of Government
Being a combination of the federal and unitary systems, the power is not centralized but distributed among the 2 governments- Central and State governments.
More authority is given to the Centre. At the time of emergency, the government assumes a unitary character.
Freedom of Judiciary
An independent judiciary and the Supreme Court were established to guard the constitution. India has an independent and impartial judiciary that is free from the influence of legislature and executive.
The Supreme court is the highest court of appeal or the apex court. The constitutions ensure its independence, and the court is the guardian of the social revolution.
The Supreme Court can declare a parliamentary law as unconstitutional through its power of Judicial Review. The court has the power to declare any law as null and void if it violates the basic structure of the constitution.
Judicial Review aids the conclusion of the Kesavnanda Bharti Case, according to which certain basic features are immune to the power of amendment.
Universal Adult Franchise
According to Universal Adult Franchise, all adult citizens above the age of 18 are given the right to vote, irrespective of their sex, caste, religion.
The system does not allow communal representation or the formation of a separate electorate based on community identities.
No reservations have been made for religious communities, but seats were reserved for lower castes who did not get enough opportunities to grow.
An essential feature of the Indian Constitution is the Fundamental rights given to every citizen. Fundamental rights are the basic rights guaranteed to all citizens, which they are entitled to as human beings.
These 6 rights protected by the judiciary are guaranteed against the state’s encroachments. Upon violation, the citizens can move to the court and receive justice by using their right to Constitutional Remedies, like writs of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus.
These rights protected and guaranteed by the government are mentioned in articles 12-35. They are-Right to equality, right to freedom, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights, and right to constitutional remedies.
Along with fundamental rights, Indians are given 10 fundamental duties that every citizen is expected to perform.
Some of these duties are- upholding sovereignty, unity, and integrity of the nation, preserving the rich heritage and culture, conserving the natural environment, following the ideals on which the nation is built, and abiding by the constitution and respecting it.
Directive Principles of State Policy
Apart from the aforementioned rights, other rights are mentioned in the directive principles of state policy. They are a set of directions given to the state to make the fundamental rights more effective.
The principles give a vision to the government on governance and list the goals and objectives that citizens should adopt and the policies that the government should adopt. These principles indicate the state’s policies to provide social and economic justice and establish a welfare state envisaged by the constitution.
Some of these principles are- the state shall strive to promote the welfare of the people and should ensure that there is no concentration of resources in the hands of a few.
The state should implement the principles with a sense of moral duty. However, these are not legally enforceable.
Important articles in the Indian Constitution
An article is a legal rule set out in a legal document. Today, the Constitution of India contains 448 articles, which originally had 395 articles.
UPSC aspirants need to know the total articles in the Indian constitution.
Listed below are some extremely important articles out of the total articles in the Indian constitution which are intrinsic to the country.
Part 1- Union and its Territory
Article 3 – “Formation of new states and alteration of existing states’ areas, boundaries, and names.”
This article is important in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which reorganizes the state into the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and the Union Territory Ladakh.
This sparked off protests and resistants from Kashmiris all over the world.
Part 2- Citizenship
Article 11 – “Parliament to regulate the right of citizenship by law.”
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 amends the Citizenship Act 1955 and aims to make foreign illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship.
The CAA NRC Amendment also received intense resistance from contemporary youth.
Part 3- Fundamental Rights
Right to Equality:
Article 14 – “Equality before the law.”
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019 declares talaq as a cognizable offense, which would attract up to three years imprisonment with a fine. The Triple Talaq was considered to violate Article 14.
Article 15 – “Prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.”
Article 16 – “Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.”
Article 17 – “Abolition of the untouchability.”
Right to Freedom:
Article 19 – Guarantees to all the citizens the six rights, and they are:
(i) Freedom of speech and expression.
(ii) Freedom to assemble peaceably and without arms.
(iii) Freedom to form associations or unions.
(iv) Freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India.
(v) Freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India.
(vi) Freedom to practice any profession or carry on any occupation, trade, or business.
Article 21 – “Protection of life and personal liberty.”
Article 22 – “Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.”
Right Against Exploitation:
Article 23 – “Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labor.”
Article 24 – “Prohibition of employment of children (Under the age of 14) in factories and mines.”
Right to Freedom of Religion:
Article 25 – “Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion.”
Article 26 – “Freedom to manage religious affairs.”
Article 27 – “Freedom as to pay taxes to promote any particular religion.”
Article 28 – “Freedom from attending religious instruction.”
Cultural and Educational Rights:
Article 29 – “Protection of interest of minorities.”
Article 30 – “Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.”
Right to Constitutional Remedies:
Article 32 – “Remedies for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.”
Part 4- Directive Principles of State Policy
Article 37– “Application of DPSP.”
Article 39A – “Equal justice and free legal aid.”
Article 41 – “Right to work, to education, and public assistance in certain cases.”
Article 43 – “Living Wages, for workers.”
Article 44 – “Uniform Civil Code.”
Article 45 – “Provision for free and compulsory education for children.”
Article 46 – “Promotion of educational and economic interest of scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST), and OBC.”
Article 47– “Duty of the state to raise nutrition and the standard of living and improve public health.”
Article 49 – “Protection of monuments and places and objects of natural importance.”
Article 51 – “Promotion of international peace and security.”
Part 5- Union Executive and Parliament
Article 72 – “Power of President to grant pardons etc., and suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.”
The convicts of the Nirbhaya case misused this provision to irritate the judicial process.
Article 74 – “Council of ministers to aid and advise President.”
Article 76 – “Attorney–General for India.”
Article 79 – “Constitution of Parliament.”
Article 80 – “Composition of Rajya Sabha.”
Article 81 – “Composition of Lok Sabha.”
Article 83 – “Duration of Houses of Parliament.”
Article 93 – “The speakers and Deputy speakers of the house of the people.”
Article 105 – “Powers, Privileges, etc. of the House of Parliament.”
Part 6- States
Article 153 – “Governors of State”
Article 154 – “Executive Powers of Governor”
Article 161 – “Pardoning powers of the Governor”
Article 165 – “Advocate–General of the State”
Article 213 – “Power of Governor to promulgate ordinances”
Article 214 – “High Courts for states”
Article 215 – “High Courts to be a court of record”
Article 226 – “Power of High Courts to issue certain writs”
Article 233 – “Appointment of District judges”
Article 235 – “Control over Subordinate Courts”
Part 9- Panchayats
Article 243A – “Power of Gram Sabha”
Article 243B – “Constitution of Panchayats”
Part 15- Elections
Article 325 – No person to be ineligible for inclusion in or to claim to be included in a special electoral roll on the grounds of religion, race, caste, or sex.
Article 326 – Elections to the house of the people and the legislative assemblies of states to be based on adult suffrage.
Part 16- Special Provisions for SC, ST, OBC, Minorities
Article 338 – “National Commission for the SC & ST.”
Article 340 – “Appointment of a commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes.”
Part 17- Official Language
Article 343 – “Official languages of the Union”
Article 345 – “Official languages or languages of a state”
Part 18- Emergency
Article 352 – Proclamation of emergency (National Emergency)
Part 21- Special, Transitional, and Temporary Provision
Article 370 – Temporary Provision for the erstwhile State of J&K (diluted on August 5 & 6, 2019).
Article 371 A – Special provision with respect to the State of Nagaland
Article 371 J – Special Status for Hyderabad–Karnataka region
In conclusion, the Indian Constitution is a highly detailed document that lists down elaborate articles and clauses best suited and customized for the country and makes India what it is today.
Being a product of elite consensus, the constitution of India ensures justice to all. It has survived through time by modifying itself in accordance with the changing needs of the country.
The beauty of the constitution is that it maintains a balance between the government’s organs, protects the citizens’ rights, and is also flexible in amending itself.
However, the ideals of the constitution are often ignored by the ruling parties who suppress the people’s concerns. Equality is usually only present on paper as huge disparities are evident in our society.
The Supreme court guarantees justice, but Indian people receive justice at a delay, and justice delayed is no justice at all. Multiple people in power do not respect the Indian constitution and wish to shatter the ideals of secularism and democracy, which build the idea of India.
Nevertheless, with its unambiguous commitment to democracy, the constitution is ideal for the country and acts as an anchor to its foundation.