Salient Features of Indian Constitution

Article authored by Komal Bhati First year student from Army Institute of Law

“Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”    – Patrick Henry

A document which is supreme and legally binds the citizens of a country is called constitution. Constitution of India is one of the “lengthiest constitutions in the world”. It is considered as the “supreme law” which binds the entire nation. It has taken inspiration from written documents of various countries like fundamental rights from USA, Parliamentary form of government from UK, etc. The base or the original structure is based on the “Government of India act, 1935”. The provisions of amendment and the unchanging nature of the basic structure makes our constitution flexible and rigid respectively.

Originally, it has eight parts, twenty-two schedules and three hundred ninety-five articles. It has provision for all sections of our country which include schedule caste, schedule tribe, women, children, disable and all the other weaker section of our country. Our constitution ensures that the citizens of our country can live, express, practice, work, learn and do many others things freely which do not harm the other citizens and also do not disturb the integrity of our nation. Salient features of constitution include “Parliamentary form of government, fundamental rights, single citizenship, directive principles, secular state, independent judiciary, fundamental duties, adult suffrage and judicial review”. Indian constitution is unique in itself which makes it suitable for diverse country like India.

Establishment of Sovereign, Secular, Democratic and Republic.

These words are incorporated into the preamble of the constitution which enlighten everyone about the basic structure of the constitution. It says that this constitution is made to protect people from injustice and give them freedom to grow and develop to grow in best environment.

Sovereign

“India is a Sovereign country” which means that India is independent and all powerful to rule its own land, no other country can interference into the matters of our country until it permits to do so. Sovereignty is important as it gives power to the state to rule its people independently. This status makes fixed territory, population and established government as important elements of the state to do justice with the term sovereignty or to get all the tools to function as a sovereign state. It gives state the supreme authority within as well as outside the boundaries of the state.

For example, Prime Minister performing taking all the decision of the government with the advice of the council of ministers is the example for within the state and the decision of India to step out of the RCEP group is the sovereign decision outside the boundaries of the state.

Secular

‘Secular state’ means in the matters of the religion it will neither support nor negate any religion but respect the sentiments of all the religion.

India is a country where people of different religion stay together, to maintain the peace among them, the secular nature of the state is very important. It promotes the unity among the different religious communities and also give right to every community to practice and promote their religious practice without raising any seeds of communal violence.

In the case of S.R Bommai v. Union of India[1], it was held that secularism is the part of the basic structure of the constitution and also state cannot interfere in the matters of the religion.

In the case of the Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Shri Raj Narain and another[2], it was held that state cannot discriminate any citizens on the grounds of religion.

Democratic

Constitution has established democratic form of government that gets its authority or the ruling powers from the people’s will. It gives ‘Supreme power to the people’ through the right of universal adult franchise which gives voting rights to the citizens above the age of eighteen years.

Prime minister gets its place as the head of government after he had got the majority of the votes in the election, this is how democracy works.

Republic

Democratic and Republic are almost same. It also says that the government must be elected by the people’s will but this adds on more significance and meaning to the democratic form of government which says that elected government will work according to the rule of the law i.e., Constitution. Like if there is only democratic form of government then the leader which is elected by the majority’s will can work according to his own will but if the government is both democratic and republic it has to abide by the rule of law.

Parliamentary v. Presidential system

In Parliamentary form of government, Prime minister is the head of the government and the real power of the executive lies in the hands of Prime minister. He works on the support and advice of the council of ministers (given in the article 74 and 75 of the constitution).

The PM and council of ministers are responsible for both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha of the Parliament which makes them responsible for the legislature. And the President is just the nominal head of the executive. This form of government is not very stable because the government can be dissolved by the no confidence motion. There is no separation of powers as the members of the executive are among the members of the legislature.

In Presidential form of government, President is both the head of the state and also the head of the government. He selects his own cabinets who are highly skilled and specialized in their respective fields. He is not bound with the advice of the cabinet minister which makes him as very powerful head of the government. President is not the part of legislature and is not even responsible towards it for his policies and acts. This is a more stable form of government because it cannot be dissolved with the no confidence motion. The impeachment of the president is only way to get the president down from its position which is also very lengthy process.

Judicial Review

The judicial review is the part of the basic structure of the constitution. The judiciary is called as the “Guardian of the Constitution” which makes it responsible for the action of the legislature and executive which violates the provisions of the constitution. Judicial review is a power which authorizes the court to invalidate any act that is violative of the basic structure of the constitution.

In the case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala[3], it was held by the court that parliament is having the power to amend the constitution but cannot break the basic structure of the constitutional including the feature of judicial review.

In the case of A.K. Gopalan v. the state of Madras[4], it was held that the preventive detention is subject to the provision of the judicial review.

Constitution of India has lots of salient features which makes it unique and suitable for diverse country like India. All the provisions, articles and rights of the constitution gives free environment to the citizens in which they can enjoy their liberty.


[1] AIR 1994 SC 1918.

[2] AIR 1975 SC 2299.

[3] AIR 1973 SC 1461.

[4] AIR 1950 SC 27.

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