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Top 8 Salient Features of Indian Constitution

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Every written Constitution in the World has its own unique features and the Indian Constitution is no exception. But there are many salient features of the Indian Constitution that make it distinct from the other Constitutions. This article describes in detail the 8 main features of the Indian Constitution.

1. Lengthiest Constitution in the World

The Indian Constitution has 395 Articles and 12 Schedules which makes it the lengthiest written Constitution in the World. Just compare it the Constitutions of other countries. For instance, UK does not have any written Constitution, while there are just 7 Articles in the US Constitution.

Not only this but about 90 Articles have been added since 1951 and more than 100 Amendments. But since the Articles are not added separately rather as part of an existing Article (eg. Article 21A, 35A etc) the total number of Articles remains the same at 395.

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2. Drawn from Different Sources

The Indian Constitution has been framed from multiple sources that include the Government of India Act of 1935, and Constitutions of other countries.

Feature of Indian Constitution Borrowed From (Source)
Basic structure (Federal scheme, Judiciary, Governors, Emergency powers, Public Service Commissions, Administrative details etc.) Government of India Act 1935
Fundamental Rights American Constitution
Directive Principles Irish Constitution
Cabinet form of government British Constitution

Besides these, various provisions have also been adopted from the Constitutions of Canada, Australia, Germany, USSR, and France.

3. Federal System with Unitary Features

The Indian Constitution contains all the federal features of governance like dual system of government (centre and states), division of powers between the three organs of state (executive, judiciary and legislature), Supremacy of the Constitution, independent Judiciary and bicameralism (lower house and upper house).

In spite of this, the Indian Constitution is unique as it contains many unitary features like a strong centre, All India Services common to the centre and the states, Emergency provisions that can modify the Constitution into a unitary one if the need arises, appointment of Governors by the President on the advice of the centre etc.

In fact, Article 1 clearly mentions that India is a “Union of states” and not a federation of states. In India, the states did not come together to form the centre (or Union) like in the case of USA which is the purest form of a federation. Rather it is the centre that created the states for administrative convenience. Article 3 of the Indian Constitution makes the Parliament the sole authority to create new states which clearly indicates that the Indian Constitution is Unitary in nature with certain federal features.

Salient Features at a Glance

  1. Lengthiest Constitution in the World
  2. Drawn from Different Sources
  3. Federal System with Unitary Features
  4. Parliamentary Form of Government
  5. Balance Between Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy
  6. Independent and Integrated Judicial System
  7. Directive Principles of State Policy
  8. Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility

 4. Parliamentary Form of Government

The Indian Constitution has opted for the Parliamentary form of government on the pattern of the British parliamentary system of government. The salient features of the Parliamentary form of government are:

  1. Executive is part of the legislature
  2. Collective responsibility of the council of ministers to the legislature
  3. Majority party rule
  4. Leadership of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister in the state
  5. Dissolution of the lower house (Lok Sabha and state assemblies)
  6. Cabinet form of government

5. Balance Between Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy

The Indian Constitution has struck a fine balance between Parliamentary sovereignty and Judicial supremacy. The Supreme Court is vested with the power of judicial review vide Articles 13, 32 and 136. It can strike down any Parliamentary law as unconstitutional through its power of judicial review.

The Parliament, on the other hand, being the representative of the will of the people is vested with the authority to make laws and it can also amend the major portion of the Constitution through its Amending powers vested vide Article 368.

6. Independent and Integrated Judicial System

Unlike the USA where there is a 2 tier judiciary, in India, a single system of judiciary prevails with the Supreme Court at the top, the High Courts at the state level and district and other subordinate courts below and subject to the supervision of the High Courts.

All the levels of courts in India are tasked with the duty of enforcing central as well as state laws unlike in the US where the Federal courts adjudicate on federal matters and state courts on matters relating to the states.

Not only is the judicial system well integrated in India, but it is also independent due to the following provisions:

  1. Appointment of judges of Supreme Court and High Courts by collegium system
  2. Removal of judges through impeachment procedure which is very difficult to pass through in Parliament
  3. Salaries, pensions and allowances of judges of Supreme Court are charged upon Consolidated Fund of India
  4. Power to punish for contempt of itself
  5. Ban on the practice of judges after retirement
  6. etc.

 7. Directive Principles of State Policy

The Directive Principles of State Policies (DPSPs) enshrined in Part IV of the Constitution aim to make India a welfare state. Dr B.R. Ambedkar, therefore, calls the Directive Principles as a ‘novel feature’ of the Indian Constitution. The Directive Principles are non-justiciable in nature, that is, they are not enforceable by the courts for their violation.

However, their utility lies in the moral obligation they cast upon the state to apply these principles in making laws. As such, directive principles are fundamental in the governance of the country.

8. Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility

When it comes to ease of amendment the Indian Constitution strikes a fine balance between rigidity and flexibility. Article 368 provides for two types of amendments:

  1. Some provisions can be amended by a special majority of the Parliament i.e. a 2/3rd majority of the members of each House present and voting and majority (that is, more than 50 percent) of the total membership of each House.
  2. Some other provisions can be amended by a special majority of the Parliament and with the ratification by half of the total states.

This ensures that the Constitution is amended with the widest possible majority.

At the same time, some provisions of the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority of the Parliament in the manner of ordinary legislative process. Such amendments do not fall under the ambit of Article 368.

There are many other features of the Indian Constitution like Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, Emergency Provisions, Universal Adult Franchise etc. but the most important features of the Constitution that define and set it apart from the other Constitutions of the World have been listed above.

Reference Books for IAS

GS Solved Papers
General Studies Manual
Manorama Year Book
Oxford Student Atlas
Science and Technology

Topic-wise Books for IAS

Indian Polity Laxmikanth
Ecology and Environment
India's Struggle for Independence
Brief History of Modern India
Indian Art and Culture
Certificate Course in Geography

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