A society also has constitutive rules that make it what it is and differentiate it from other kinds of societies. In large societies in which different communities of people live together, these rules are formulated through consensus, and in modern countries this consensus is usually available in written form. A written document in which we find such rules is called a Constitution.

Why Constitution is Required

The Constitution serves several purposes.

  1. It lays out certain ideals that form the basis of the kind of country citizens aspire to live in. It generates a degree of trust and coordination that is necessary for different kind of people to live together
  2. It defines the nature of a country’s political system. It specifies how the government will be constituted, who will have power to take which decisions.
  3. It lays down limits on the powers of the government and tells us what the rights of the citizens are.
  4. It expresses the aspirations of the people about creating a good society.
  5. It helps to save us from ourselves. At times, we might feel strongly about an issue that might go against our larger interests and the Constitution helps us guard against this.

All countries that have constitutions are not necessarily democratic. But all countries that are democratic will have constitutions.

Key Features of Indian Constitution

The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens.

It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, containing 444 articles in 22 parts, 12 schedules and 118 amendments.

1. Federalism

This refers to the existence of more than one level of government in the country. In India, governments are at the state level and at the centre. Panchayati Raj is the third tier of government. Under federalism, the states are not merely agents of the federal government but draw their authority from the Constitution as well.

2. Parliamentary Form of Government

The different tiers of government consist of representatives who are elected by the people. The people of India have a direct role in electing their representatives. Also, every citizen of the country, irrespective of his/her social background, can also contest in elections. These representatives are accountable to the people.

3. Separation of Powers

According to the Constitution, there are three organs of government. These are the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. In order to prevent the misuse of power by any one branch of government, the Constitution says that each of these organs should exercise different powers. Through this, each organ acts as a check on the other organs of government and this ensures the balance of power between all three.

4. Fundamental Rights

The section on Fundamental Rights has often been referred to as the ‘conscience’ of the Indian Constitution. Fundamental Rights protect citizens against the arbitrary and absolute exercise of power by the State. The Constitution guarantees the rights of individuals against the State as well as against other individuals.

5. Directive Principles of State Policy

In addition to Fundamental Rights, the Constitution also has a section called Directive Principles of State Policy. This section was designed by the members of the Constituent Assembly to ensure greater social and economic reforms, and to serve as a guide to the independent Indian State to institute laws and policies that help reduce the poverty of the masses.

6. Secularism

A secular state is one in which the state does not officially promote any one religion as the state religion.

Making of the Indian Constitution

India’s Constitution was drawn up under very difficult circumstances. The making of the constitution for a huge and diverse country like India was not an easy affair. At that time
the people of India were emerging from the status of subjects to that of citizens. The country was born through a partition on the basis of religious differences.

There was another problem. The British had left it to the rulers of the princely states to decide whether they wanted to merge with India or with Pakistan or remain independent. The merger of these princely states was a difficult and uncertain task.

The makers of the constitution had anxieties about the present and the future of the country.

Before Constituent Assembly was Formed

Indian national movement was not merely a struggle against a foreign rule. It was also a struggle to rejuvenate the country and to transform our society and politics.

In 1928, Motilal Nehru and eight other Congress leaders drafted a constitution for India. In 1931, the resolution at the Karachi session of the Indian National Congress dwelt on how independent India’s constitution should look like. Both these documents were committed to the inclusion of universal adult franchise, right to freedom and equality and to protecting the rights of minorities in the constitution of independent India.

Thus, some basic values were accepted by all leaders much before the Constituent Assembly met to deliberate on the Constitution.

Government of India Act, 1935

The familiarity with political institutions of colonial rule also helped develop an agreement over the institutional design. The British rule had given voting rights only to a few. On that basis the British had introduced very weak legislatures. Elections were held in 1937 to Provincial Legislatures and Ministries all over British India.

These were not fully democratic governments. But the experience gained by Indians in the working of the legislative institutions proved to be very useful for the country in setting up its own institutions and working in them. That is why the Indian constitution adopted many institutional details and procedures from colonial laws like the Government of India Act, 1935.

Constituent Assembly

The drafting of the document called the constitution was done by an assembly of elected representatives called the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly was formed by the order of The Cabinet Mission in 1946. Elections to the Constituent Assembly were held in July 1946. Its first meeting was held in December 1946.

Soon after, the country was divided into India and Pakistan. The Constituent Assembly was also divided into the Constituent Assembly of India and that of Pakistan.

The Constituent Assembly that wrote the Indian constitution had 299 members. The Assembly adopted the Constitution on 26 November 1949 but it came into effect on 26 January 1950. To mark this day January 26 is celebrated as the Republic Day every year.

Seats in the constitutional assembly allocated to each British province were to be decided among the three principal communities - Muslims, Sikh and General. The representatives of each community were to be elected by the members of that community in the provincial legislative assembly and voting was to be done by the method of proportional representation by the means of single transferable vote. The constituent assembly was elected indirectly by the members of the Provincial legislative assembly, which existed under the British Raj.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad was the permanent President of the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly worked in a systematic, open and consensual manner. First, some basic principles were decided and agreed upon. Then, a Drafting Committee chaired by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar prepared a draft constitution for discussion. Several rounds of thorough discussion took place on the Draft Constitution, clause by clause. More than two thousand amendments were considered.

The Constituent Assembly took 2 years 11 months and 18 days to prepare the largest written constitution in the World. Rs.64 lakhs were spent on the making of the Constitution. The original Constitution consisted of 22 parts, 395 articles but at present it has 22 parts, 444 articles and 12 schedules. It was adopted by the Government of India on the 26th of November, 1949. It was enforced by the Government of India on the 26th of January, 1950. The date 26 January was chosen to commemorate the Purna Swaraj declaration of independence of 1930.

Ideas From Other Countries

The Indian Constitution has borrowed heavily from other constitutions of the world. India could not have afforded to experiment with something entirely new at a crucial juncture in its history. So the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution preferred to rely on the time-tested value of experience elsewhere and adopted those provisions which had proved to be successful and workable in other countries.

S.No. Feature Inspirational Source
1 Fundamental Rights USA
2 The Parliamentary System of Government UK
3 Directive Principles of State Policy Ireland (Eire)
4 Emergency Provisions Germany (Third Reich)
5 Amendment Procedure South Africa
6 Permeable To The Constitution of India France
7 Federal Model of Governance Canada

22 Parts of the Constitution

Preamble

  • Part I: Union and its Territory
  • Part II: Citizenship
  • Part III: Fundamental Rights
  • Part IV: Directive Principles of State Policy
  • Part IVA: Fundamental Duties
  • Part V: The Union
  • Part VI: The States
  • Part VII: States in the B part of the First schedule (Repealed)
  • Part VIII: The Union Territories
  • Part IX: The Panchayats
  • Part IXA: The Municipalities
  • Part IXB: The Cooperative Societies
  • Part X: The scheduled and Tribal Areas
  • Part XI: Relations between the Union and the States
  • Part XII: Finance, Property, Contracts and Suits
  • Part XIII: Trade and Commerce within the territory of India
  • Part XIV: Services Under the Union, the States
  • Part XIVA: Tribunals
  • Part XV: Elections
  • Part XVI: Special Provisions Relating to certain Classes
  • Part XVII: Languages
  • Part XVIII: Emergency Provisions
  • Part XIX: Miscellaneous
  • Part XX: Amendment of the Constitution
  • Part XXI: Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions
  • Part XXII: Short title, date of commencement, Authoritative text in Hindi and Repeals

Fundamental Rights

Part III (Articles 12-35) of the Constitution deals with the Fundamental Rights. Originally, seven Fundamental Rights were listed, but after the 44th Amendment, only six Fundamental Rights are existent. These are

  1. Right to Equality (14-18)
  2. Right to Freedom of Speech (19)
  3. Right against Exploitation (23-24)
  4. Right to Freedom of Religion (25-28)
  5. Culture and Educational Right (29-30)
  6. Right to Constitutional Remedies (32-33)

Right to Property used to be a Fundamental Right but after the 44th Amendment, it became a legal right. Certain rights like right to freedom of press, right to information, and right to education are derived from the Fundamental Rights.

1. Right to Equality

It means that the laws apply in the same manner to all, regardless of a person’s status. This is called the rule of law. Rule of law is the foundation of any democracy. It means that no person is above the law. There cannot be any distinction between a political leader, government official and an ordinary citizen.

2. Right to Freedom

Freedom of speech and expression is one of the essential features of any democracy. Citizens have the freedom to hold meetings, processions, rallies and demonstrations on any issue.

3. Right against Exploitation

Once the right to liberty and equality is granted, it follows that every citizen has a right not to be exploited. The Constitution mentions three specific evils and declares these illegal. First, the Constitution prohibits ‘traffic in human beings’. Second, the Constitution prohibits forced labour or begar in any form. Finally, the Constitution prohibits child labour.

4. Right to Freedom of Religion

Right to freedom includes right to freedom of religion as well. Every person has a right to profess, practice and propagate the religion he or she believes in.

5. Cultural and Educational Rights

Any section of citizens with a distinct language or culture have a right to conserve it. Admission to any educational institution maintained by government or receiving government aid cannot be denied to any citizen on the ground of religion or language. All minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

6. Right to Constitutional Remedies

If rights are like guarantees, they are of no use if there is no one to honour them. The fundamental rights in the Constitution are important because they are enforceable. Right to Constitutional Remedies is a Fundamental Right. This right makes other rights effective.

It is possible that sometimes our rights may be violated by fellow citizens, private bodies or by the government. When any of our rights are violated we can seek remedy through courts. If it is a Fundamental Right we can directly approach the Supreme Court or the High Court of a state.

Directive Principles of State Policy

Some guidelines were incorporated in the Constitution but they were not made legally enforceable. A separate list of policy guidelines is included in the Constitution. The list of these guidelines is called the Directive Principles of State Policy. The chapter on Directive Principles lists mainly three things:

  1. The goals and objectives that we as a society should adopt
  2. Certain rights that individuals should enjoy apart from the Fundamental Rights
  3. Certain policies that the government should adopt

Fundamental Duties

Article (51-A) included in the Constitution in the 42nd Amendment, lays down 10 Fundamental Duties that citizens have towards the state. These are:

  1. To abide by the Constitution, show respect to the National Flag and the National Anthem.
  2. To follow the noble ideas of the freedom struggle.
  3. To protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
  4. To defend one’s country.
  5. To promote common brotherhood and establish dignity of women.
  6. To preserve our heritage and culture.
  7. To protect the natural environment.
  8. To develop a scientific temper.
  9. To safeguard public property.
  10. To strive for excellence in all spheres of activity.

Schedules of the Constitution

First

Names and territorial extent of 28 States and 7 Union Territories of the Indian Union

Second

Emoluments, allowances privileges and so on of the President of India, the State Governors, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies, the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and the State Legislative Councils, the Judges of the Supreme Court and the state
high courts, and Comptroller and Auditor-General of India

Third

Forms of oaths or affirmations to be made by the Union and state ministers, the Members of the Parliament and the state legislatures, the Judges of the Supreme Court and the state high courts, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, the candidates for election to the Parliament and the state legislatures.

Fourth

Number of seats allotted to various states and union territories in the Rajya Sabha

Fifth

Administration and control of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes

Sixth

Administration of tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram

Seventh

Division of powers between the Union and the states in terms of Union List (originally 97 but presently 99 subjects), State List (originally 66 but presently 61 subjects) and Concurrent List (originally 47 but presently 52 subjects)

Eighth

Languages recognized by the Constitution. They are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Sidhi was added by the 21st Amendment (1967) while Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were added by the 71st Amendment (1992). 100th Amendment (2004) Dogri, Bodo, Santhali, Maithali; Now 22 National languages

Ninth

Acts and Regulations (originally 13 but presently 282) of the state legislatures dealing with land reforms and abolition of the zamindari system and of the Parliament dealing with other matters. These are immune from judicial review even on the ground of violation of a fundamental right. However, they can be challenged on the ground of being violative of the basic structure of the Constitution. This schedule was added by the 1st Amendment (1951).

Tenth

Disqualification of the members of Parliament and state legislatures on the ground of defection. This schedule was added by the 52nd Amendment Act, also known as Anti-defection Act (1985).

Eleventh

Powers, authority and responsibilities of Panchayats. It has 29 subjects. This schedule was added by the 73rd Amendment (1992).

Twelfth

Powers, authority and responsibilities of municipalities. It has 18 subjects. This schedule was added by the 74th Amendment (1992).

Types of Bills

Ordinary Bill

An ordinary bill can be introduced in either of the Houses and can be passed by a simple majority in both the Houses. In case of a deadlock, a joint sitting of both the houses is possible.

Money Bill (Article 110)

A money bill is concerned with taxation and government spending. It can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha after prior recommendation of the President. Speaker of the Lok Sabha is the deciding authority whether the introduced bill is a Money bill or not.

Financial Bill

A bill which is related with revenue and expenditure of the government but is not a money bill is a financial bill.

Constitutional Amendment Bill (Article 368)

This bill can be introduced in either of the Houses of the Parliament. It can be passed only by a special majority.

If the bill seeks to amends the Federal provisions of the Constitution, it must also be ratified by the legislatures of half of the states by a simple majority.