Salient Features of the Constitution

The Preamble embodying constitutional values clearly demonstrates that these are important for the successful functioning of Indian democracy. The constitutional values permeate all the salient features of Indian Constitution.

1. Written Constitution

The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution. It contains a Preamble, 395 Articles in 22 Parts, 12 Schedules and 5 Appendices. It is a document of fundamental laws that define the nature of the political system and the structure and functioning of organs of the government. It expresses the vision of India as a democratic nation. It also identifies the fundamental rights and fundamental duties of citizens. While doing so, it also reflects core constitutional values.

2. Unique Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility

Generally written constitutions are rigid. It is not easy to bring about changes in them frequently. The Constitution lays down special procedure for constitutional amendments. In the unwritten constitution like the British Constitution, amendments are made through ordinary law-making procedure. The British Constitution is a flexible constitution. In the written constitution like the US Constitution, it is very difficult to make amendments. The US Constitution, therefore, is a rigid constitution.

However, the Indian Constitution is neither as flexible as the British Constitution nor as rigid as the US Constitution. It reflects the value of continuity and change. There are three ways of amending the Constitution of India. Some of its provisions can be amended by the simple majority in the Parliament, and some by special majority, while some amendments require special majority in the parliament and approval of States as well.

3. Fundamental Rights and Duties

The Constitution of India includes the rights in a separate Chapter which has often been referred to as the ‘conscience’ of the Constitution. Fundamental Rights protect citizens against the arbitrary and absolute exercise of power by the State. The Constitution guarantees the rights to individuals against the State as well as against other individuals.

The Constitution also guarantees the rights of minorities against the majority. Besides these rights, the Constitution has provisions identifying fundamental duties, though these are not enforceable as the fundamental rights are. These duties reflect some of the basic values embodied in the Constitution.

4. Directive Principles of State Policy

In addition to Fundamental Rights, the Constitution also has a section called Directive Principles of State Policy. It is a unique feature of the Constitution. It is aimed at ensuring greater social and economic reforms and serving as a guide to the State to institute laws and policies that help reduce the poverty of the masses and eliminate social discrimination.

5. Integrated Judicial System

Unlike the judicial systems of federal countries like the United States of America, the Indian Constitution has established an integrated judicial system. Although the Supreme Court is at the national level, High Courts at the state level and Subordinate Courts at the district and lower level, there is a single hierarchy of Courts. At the top of the hierarchy is the Supreme Court.

This unified judicial system is aimed at promoting and ensuring justice to all the citizens in uniform manner. Moreover, the constitutional provisions ensure the independence of Indian judiciary which is free from the influence of the executive and the legislature.

6. Single Citizenship

Indian Constitution has provision for single citizenship. It means that every Indian is a citizen of India, irrespective of the place of his or her residence or birth in the country. This is unlike the United States of America where there is the system of double citizenship. A person is a citizen of a State where he or she lives as well as a citizen of U.S.A. This provision in the Indian Constitution definitely reinforces the values of equality, unity and integrity.

7. Universal Adult Franchise

The values of equality and justice are reflected in yet another salient feature of the Constitution. Every Indian after attaining certain age (at present 18 years) has a right to vote. No discrimination can be made on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, and place of birth or residence. This right is known as universal adult franchise.

8. Federal System and Parliamentary Form of Government

Another salient feature of the Indian Constitution is that it provides for a federal system of state and parliamentary form of government. The federal system reflects the constitutional value of unity and integrity of the nation, and more importantly the value of decentralisation of power.

The parliamentary form of government reflects the values of responsibility and sovereignty vested in the people. The core principle of a parliamentary government is the responsibility of the executive to the legislature consisting of the representatives of the people.