Many people ask me that – what are the salient features of the indian constitution? Here is the answer for your question. In this article we will discus about salient features of the Indian Constitution. I gave mentioned total 11 Salient Feature. I hope you will like the ARTICLE. Please write in the comment box if you find this article beneficial.
THERE ARE 11 SALIENT FEATURES OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION
- WELFARE STATE
- MINORITIES AND BACKWARD CLASSES
- FEDERAL CONSTITUTION
- FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
- RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT
- SECULAR STATE
- SOCIALIST STATE
- WRITTEN CONSTITUTION
- MODERN CONSTITUTION
The Indian Constitution has been conceived and drafted in the mid-twentieth century when the concept of social welfare state is the rule of the day. The Constitution is thus pervaded with the modern outlook regarding the objectives and functions of the state. It embodies a distinct philosophy of government, and explicitly declares that India will be organised as a social welfare state, i.e., a state which renders social services to the people and promotes their general welfare. In the formulations and declarations of the social objectives contained in the Preamble, one can clearly discern the impact of the modern political philosophy which regards the state as an organ to secure the good and welfare of the people.
This concept of a welfare state is further strengthened by the Directive Principles of State Policy which set out the economic, social and political goals of the Indian Constitutional system. These directives confer certain non-justiciable rights on the people, and place the government under an obligation to achieve and maximize social welfare and basic social values like education, employment, health, etc.
In consonance with the modern beliefs of man, the Indian Constitution sets up a machinery to achieve the goal of economic democracy along with political democracy, for the latter would be meaningless without the former in a poor country like India.
MINORITIES AND BACKWARD CLASSES
This one of the important salient features of the Indian Constitution.
The Indian society lacks homogeneity as there exist differences of religion, language, culture, etc. There are sections of people who are comparatively weaker than others economically, socially and culturally—and their lot can be ameliorated only when the state makes a special effort to that end. Mutual suspicion and distrust exists between various religious and linguistic groups.
To promote a sense of security among the Minorities, to ameliorate the conditions of the depressed and backward classes, to make them useful members of society, to weld the diverse elements into one national and political stream, the Constitution contains a liberal scheme of safeguards to Minorities, Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes. Provisions have thus been made, inter alia, to reserve seats in the Legislatures, to make reservations in services, to promote the welfare of the depressed and Backward Classes and to protect the language and culture of the minorities. No weightage or special privilege has, however, been accorded to any section in the matter of representation in the legislatures.
The Constitution also sets up an effective institutional machinery to oversee that these safeguards are properly effectuated by the various governments in the country. This machinery has now been strengthened by statutory bodies.
ELECTIONS –as salient features of the Indian Constitution
India has adopted adult suffrage as a basis of elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies. Every citizen, male or female, who has reached the age of 18 years or over, has a right to vote without any discrimination.
It was indeed a very bold step on the part of the Constitution-makers to adopt adult suffrage in a country of teeming millions of illiterate people, but they did so to make democracy broad-based and to base the system of government on the ultimate sanction of the people.
To introduce any property or educational qualification for exercising the franchise would have amounted to a negation of democratic principles, as such a qualification would have disenfranchised a large number of depressed and poor people. Further, it cannot be assumed that a person with a bare elementary education is in a better position to vote than a labourer or a cultivator who knows what his interests are and will choose his representatives accordingly.
Several general elections have been held so far on the basis of adult franchise, and from all accounts, the step taken by the framers appears to have been well-advised.
To ensure free, impartial and fair elections, and to protect the elections from being manipulated by the politicians, the Constitution sets up an autonomous Election Commission to supervise and conduct elections to Parliament and State Legislatures.
FEDERAL CONSTITUTION– as salient features of the Indian Constitution
India’s Constitution is of the federal type. It establishes a dual polity, a two tier governmental system, with the Central Government at one level and the State Government at the other. The Constitution marks off the sphere of action of each level of government by devising an elaborate scheme of distribution of legislative, administrative, and financial powers between the Center and the States. A government is entitled to act within its assigned field and cannot go out of it, or encroach on the field assigned to the other government.
India is a member of the family of federations, of which the better known members are the U.S.A., Canada and Australia. The Indian Federalism has been designed after a close and careful study of the contemporary trends in these federations. Consequently, the Indian federal scheme while incorporating the advantages of a federal structure, yet seeks to mitigate some of its usual weaknesses of rigidity and legalism. It does not, therefore, follow strictly the conventional or orthodox federal pattern. Along with adopting some of the techniques developed in other federations for making the federal fabric viable, it also breaks much new ground and develops some novel expedients and techniques of its own, and is thus characterized by several distinctive features as compared with other federal countries.
Instead of the word “federation” the word “Union” was deliberately selected by the Drafting Committees of the Constituent Assembly to indicate two things viz.
- that the Indian Union is not the result of an agreement by the states and
- )the component states; have no freedom to secede from it. Though the country and the people may be divided into different States for convenience of administration, the country is one integral whole, its people a single people living under a single imperium derived from a single source.
Within a federal framework, the Indian Constitution provides for a good deal of centralisation. The Central Government has a large sphere of action and thus plays a more dominant role than the States. There is a long Concurrent List containing subjects of common interest to both the Centre and the States. The emergency provisions provide a simple way of transforming the normal federal fabric into an almost unitary system so as to meet national emergencies effectively and that’s why this is one of the most important “salient features of the Indian Constitution”
The Indian Constitution guarantees to the people certain basic human rights and freedoms, such as, inter alia, equal protection of laws, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship and religion, freedom of assembly and association, freedom to move freely and to reside and settle anywhere in India, freedom to follow any occupation, trade or business, freedom of person, freedom, against double jeopardy and against ex post facto laws. Untouchability, the age old scourge afflicting the Hindu Society, has been formally abolished.
A person can claim Fundamental Rights against the state subject to the state imposing some permissible restrictions in the interests of social control. The grounds for impositing these restrictions on Fundamental Rights are expressly mentioned in the Constitution itself and, therefore, these rights can be abridged only to the extent laid down These rights, in substance, constitute inhibitions on the legislative and executive organs of the state. No law or executive action infringing a Fundamental Right can be regarded valid. In this way, the Constitution demarcates an area of individual freedom and liberty wherein government cannot interfere.
The Constitution provides an effective machinery in Arts. 32 and 226 for the enforcement of these Rights.9 Without due enforcement, these Rights will be of not much use. The judiciary ensures an effective and speedy enforcement of these rights.
Since the inauguration of the Constitution, many significant legal battles have been fought in the area of Fundamental Rights and, thus, a mass of interesting case-law has accumulated in this area. On the whole, the Supreme Court has taken the position that the Fundamental Rights should be interpreted broadly and liberally and not narrowly. As the Court has observed in Maneka Gandhi v. Un-ion of India.
RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT– as salient features of the Indian Constitution
To give reality and content to the democratic ideals propounded in the Preamble, the Constitution establishes parliamentary form of government both at the Centre and the States, in which the executive is responsible to an elected legislature.
This system differs fundamentally from the presidential system prevailing in America. Whereas the American system is based on the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive and the legislative organs, the Indian system is based on the principle of co-ordination and co-operation of the two organs.
The popular Houses at the Centre and the States are elected on the basis of adult suffrage. The President, the Head of the Indian Union, is elected by the elected members of Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies. This system of election ensures that the President is the choice of the people throughout the country and that he represents both the Centre and the States.
The executive power though formally vested in the President, is in effect exercised by the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister and responsible to the Lok Sabha. The President is more of a symbol, a high dignitary having ceremonial functions. The same pattern has been duplicated in the States with some modifications.
The head of a State is the Governor who is a nominee of the Centre and, though largely a symbol like the President, yet has some functions to discharge as a representative of the Central Government. Effective power in a State, like the Centre, lies in the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister and responsible to the elected House of the State Legislature.
Details of the relationship existing between the President or the Governor and the respective Council of Ministers are not fully set out in the Constitution. This is an area, therefore, where conventions play a significant role.
India is a country of religions. There exist multifarious religious groups in the country but, in spite of this, the Constitution stands for a secular state of India and secular word is the basic ingredient of the constitution and one of the major part of salient features of the Indian Constitution.
The word ‘secular’ was not present originally in the Preamble. It was added thereto by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976. What was implicit in the Constitution until then became explicit. Even before 1976, the concept of secularism was very much embedded in the Indian constitutional jurisprudence as many court cases of this era would testify.
The concept of “secularism” is difficult to define and has not thus been defined in the Constitution. Secularism has been inserted in the Preamble by reason of the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976. The object of insertion was to spell out expressly the high ideas of secularism and the compulsive need to maintain the integrity of the nation which are subjected to considerable stresses and strains, and vested interests have been trying to promote their selfish ends to the great detriment of the public good. The concept is based on certain postulates. Thus, there is no official religion in India. There is no state recognised church or religion. Several fundamental rights guarantee freedom of worship and religion as well as outlaw discrimination on the ground of religion and, thus, by implication prohibit the establishment of a theocratic state. The state does not identify itself with, or favour, any particular religion. The state is enjoined to treat all religions and religious sects equally. No one is disabled to hold any office on the ground of religion. There is only one electoral roll on which are borne the names of all qualified voters.
The essential basis of the Indian Constitution is that all citizens are equal, and that the religion of a citizen is irrelevant in the matter of his enjoyment of Fundamental Rights. The Constitution ensures equal freedom for all religions and provides that the religion of the citizen has nothing to do in socio-economic matters. “Though the Indian Constitution is secular and does not interfere with religious freedom, it does not allow religion to impinge adversely on the secular rights of citizens or the power of the state to regulate socio-economic relations.
The Supreme Court has declared secularism as the basic feature of the Indian Constitution. The Court has further declared that secularism is a part of fundamental law and an unalienable segment of the basic structure of the country’s political system. It has explained that secularism is not to be con-fused with communal or religious concepts of an individual or a group of per-sons. It means that the State should have no religion of its own and no one could proclaim to make the State have one such or endeavor to create a theocratic State. Persons belonging to different religions live throughout the length and breadth of the country. Each person, whatever be his religion, must get an assurance from the State that he has the protection of law freely to pro-fess, practice and propagate his religion and freedom of conscience. Other-wise, the rule of law will become replaced by individual perceptions of one’s own presumptions of good social order. Religion cannot be mixed with secular activities of the State and fundamentalism of any kind cannot be permitted to masquerade as political philosophies to the detriment of the larger interest of society and basic requirement of a Welfare State. The Court noted disturbing trends. It noted that lately, vested interests fanning religious fundamentalism of all kinds, and vying with each other, are attempting to subject the Constitutional machinery of the State to great stress and strain with certain quaint ideas of religious priorities.
SOCIALIST STATE– as salient features of the Indian Constitution
The word “socialist” was not there originally in the Preamble. It was added to the Preamble by the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution in 1976.7 Thus, the concept of “socialism” has been made explicit and India’s commitment to this ideal has been underlined and strengthened.
The term “socialist” has not been defined in the Constitution. It does not how-ever envisage doctrinaire socialism in the sense of insistence on state ownership as a matter of policy. It does not mean total exclusion of private enterprise and complete state ownership of material resources of the Nation.
In India, there has always been emphasis on mixed economy, i.e., along with a public sector, the private sector also has a role to play. The government accepts the policy of mixed economy where both public and private sectors co-exist side by side. However, the private enterprises has so far been rigorously controlled by the government, but signs are appearing on the horizon that in future the private enterprise is going to play a much more important economic role than it has played so far.
The Supreme Court has in a number of decisions referred to the concept of socialism and has used this concept along with the Directive Principles of State Policy to assess and evaluate economic legislation. The Court has derived the concept of social justice and of an economically egalitarian society from the concept of socialism. According to the Supreme Court, “the principal aim of social-ism is to eliminate inequality of income and status and standards of life, and to provide a decent standard of life to the working people.”
Democratic socialism aims to end poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality of opportunity. Socialistic concept of society should be implemented in the true spirit of the Constitution. In Samatha v. State of Andhra Pradesh, the Su-preme Court has stated while defining socialism : “Establishment of the egalitarian social order through rule of law is the basic structure of the Constitution.”
The Court has laid emphasis on social justice so as to attain substantial degree of social, economic and political equality. Social justice and equality are complimentary to each other.
Another idea propounded by the Court is that socialism means distributive justice so as to bring about the distribution of material resources of the community so as to subserve the common good.
By reading the word ‘socialist’ in the Preamble with the Fundamental Rights contained in Arts. 14 and 16, the Supreme Court has deduced the Fundamental Right to equal pay for equal work and compassionate appointment.
PREAMBLE OF INDIAN CONSTITUTION
Unlike the Constitutions of Australia, Canada or the U.S.A., the Constitution of India has an elaborate Preamble. The purpose of the Preamble is to clarify who has made the Constitution, what is its source, what is the ultimate sanction be-hind it; what is the nature of the polity which is sought to be established by the Constitution and what are its goals and objectives?
The Preamble does not grant any power but it gives a direction and purpose to the Constitution. It outlines the objectives of the whole Constitution. The Preamble contains the fundamentals of the Constitution. It serves several important purposes, as for example:
- It contains the enacting clause which brings the Constitution into force.
- It declares the great rights and freedoms which the people of India intended to secure to all its citizens.
- It declares the basic type of government and polity which is sought to be established in the country.
- It throws light on the source of the Constitution, viz. the People of India.
The words in the Preamble, “We the people of India…in our Constituent Assembly…do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution”, pro-pound the theory that the ‘sovereignty’ lies in the people, that the Constitution, emanates from them; that the ultimate source for the validity of, and the sanction behind the Constitution is the will of the people; that the Constitution has not been imposed on them by any external authority, but is the handiwork of the Indians themselves.
Thus, the source of the Constitution are the people themselves from whom the Constitution derives its ultimate sanction. This assertion affirms the republican and democratic character of the Indian polity and the sovereignty of the people. The People of India thus constitute the sovereign political body who hold the ultimate power and who conduct the government of the country through their elected representatives.
As regards the nature of the Indian Polity, the Preamble to the Constitution declares India to be a ‘Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic’. The term ‘Sovereign’ denotes that India is subject to no external authority and that the state has power to legislate on any subject in conformity with constitutional limitations. The term ‘democratic’ signifies that India has a responsible and parliamentary form of government which is accountable to an elected legislature. The Supreme Court has declared ‘democracy’ as the basic feature of the Constitution. The term ‘Republic’ denotes that the head of the state is not a hereditary monarch, but an elected functionary.
As to the grand objectives and socio-economic goals to achieve which the Indian Polity has been established, these are stated in the Preamble. These are: to secure to all its citizens social, economic and political justice; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and opportunity, and to promote among them fraternity so as to secure the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.
Emphasizing upon the significance of the three concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity used in the Preamble, Dr. Ambedkar observed in his closing speech in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949 : “The principles of liberty, equality and fraternity are not to be treated as separate items in a trinity. They form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of democracy. Liberty cannot be divorced from equality, equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity. Without equality liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many. Equality without liberty, would kill individual initiative”.
WRITTEN CONSTITUTION – as salient features of the Indian Constitution
India’s Constitution is a lengthy, elaborate and detailed document. Originally it consisted of 395 Articles arranged under 22 Parts and eight Schedules. Today, after many amendments, it has 441 Articles and 12 Schedules. It is probably the longest of the organic laws now extant in the world.
Several reasons contributed to its prolixity. First, the Constitution deals with the organisation and structure not only of the Central Government but also of the States. Secondly, in a federal Constitution, Centre-State relationship is a matter of crucial importance. While other federal Constitutions have only skeletal provisions on this matter, the Indian Constitution has detailed norms. Thirdly, the Constitution has reduced to writing many unwritten conventions of the British Constitution, as for example, the principle of collective responsibility of the Ministers, parliamentary procedure, etc.
Fourthly, there exist various communities and groups in India. To remove mutual distrust among them, it was felt necessary to include in the Constitution detailed provisions on Fundamental Rights, safeguards to minorities, Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes.
Fifthly, to ensure that the future India be based on the concept of social welfare, the Constitution includes Directive Principles of State Policy.
Lastly, the Constitution contains not only the fundamental principles of governance but also many administrative details such as the provisions regarding citizen-ship, official language, government services, electoral machinery, etc. In other Constitutions, these matters are usually left to be regulated by the ordinary law of the land. The framers of the Indian Constitution, however, felt that unless these provisions were contained in the Constitution, the smooth and efficient working of the Constitution and the democratic process in the country might be jeopardised.
MODERN CONSTITUTION– salient features of the Indian Constitution
The fact that the Indian Constitution was drafted in the mid-twentieth century gave an advantage to its makers in so far as they could take cognisance of the various constitutional processes operating in different countries of the world and thus draw upon a rich fund of human experience, wisdom, heritage and traditions in the area of governmental process in order to fashion a system suited to the political, social and economic conditions in India. In the end result, the Indian Constitution has turned out to be a very interesting and unique document.
One could discern in it the impact of several Constitutions. As for instance, the Indian Federalism is influenced by the American, Canadian and Australian Federalism. Fundamental Rights in India owe a great deal to the American Bill of Rights; the process of Constitutional amendment adopted in India is a modified version of the American system.
The influence of the British Constitutional Law, theories and practices on the Indian Constitution is quite pervasive. As for example, the parliamentary form of government in India closely follows the British model in substance; the system of prerogative writs which plays a crucial role in protecting peoples’ legal rights and ensuring judicial control over administrative action is Britain’s contribution to India. Australia’s experiences have been especially useful for ordering the Centre-State financial relationship, and for promoting the concept of freedom of trade and commerce in the country. Inspiration has come from the Irish Constitution in the shaping of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
The Government of India Act, 1935, which preceded the Indian Constitution, has furnished not only administrative details, but also the verbatim language of many provisions of the Constitution.
It will, however, be wrong to suppose that the Indian Constitution is just a carbon copy of other Constitutions and contains nothing new and original. While adopting some of the principles and institutions developed in other democratic and federal countries, it yet strikes new paths, new approaches and patterns, in several directions. It makes bold departures in many respects from the established Constitutional norms and introduces many innovations. For example, in the area of Centre-State relationship, with a view to achieve the twin objectives of promoting the unity of India and reducing rigidity inherent in a federal system, the Indian Constitution makes several provisions which are original in conception as nothing parallel to these is to be found in any other federal Constitution and, to this extent, it makes a distinct contribution to the development of theories and practices of federalism in general.
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