Salient Features of the Constitution

Mr. Lexi is a frequent visitor to India, and wishes to extend his stay and possibly become a citizen. He asks his acquaintances Priya and Arjun what it is like to be an Indian. Priya spoke about India’s rich history, culture and heritage.
Arjun told Mr. Lexi that the quick way to understand how the Indian system works is to understand the Salient Features of the Indian Constitution.

Introduction

What is the Indian Constitution? What is unique about it?
  • The Indian Constitution is the supreme legal document of India. It is considered the guiding light for all other laws in the country.
  • It is the most lengthy written constitution in the world because of its contents. Initially, it consisted of 395 Articles along with the 8 Schedules to which additions have been made through amendments.
  • At present, it contains 470 Articles in 25 Parts, with 12 Schedules and 5 Appendices.
  • There are many factors responsible for the long size of the constitution. One major factor was that the framers of the constitution were inspired from the provisions of several sources and several other nations’ Constitutions.
  • The Indian Constitution is also a unique blend of rigidity and flexibility.
What is in the Preamble of the Constitution?
  • Preamble is considered to be a major element of the Indian Constitution. The value of the Constitution is signified by this well drafted introductory part.
  • It states the purpose of the Constitution, its aims and justification.
  •  The objectives of the Constitution laid down in the Preamble, are:
    1. Sovereign – Provide Supreme Power To The Government.
    2. Socialist – Promotes Equality Among People and ensures Welfare Among People.
    3. Secular – Prevent Discrimination On The Grounds Of Religion, there is no separate religion for the State and every religion is respected equally in the State.
    4. Democratic Republic – The term republic provides the people with power to elect their own representatives.
    5. Justice – Which includes 3 kinds: Social, Economic and Political justice, which have to be fair, equal and balanced
  • The Preamble also envisions:
    1. Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship
    2. Equality of status and opportunity
    3. Fraternity assuring dignity of the individual along with unity and integrity of the nation.

Main Components of the Constitution

What are the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution?
The 6 Fundamental rights are -:

A. Right to Equality:
Mainly focuses on equality and equal treatment of all in the eyes of the law, non-discrimination of persons, equal opportunities to all and abolition of untouchability.

B. Freedom of speech & expression:
This includes the following freedoms –

    • freedoms of speech and expression
    • freedom to form associations,
    • freedom to assemble peaceably without arms,
    • freedom to move freely in India,
    • freedom of residence in any part, and
    • freedom of adopting any profession or trade or occupation.
    • It safeguards personal freedom and protection in respect of conviction for certain offences.

C. Right against Exploitation:
Under this right, the following actions are forbidden –

  • Sale and purchase of human beings (human trafficking),
  • forced labour,
  • begging,
  • child labour and
  • employment of children in hazardous jobs and factories.

D. Right to Freedom of Religion:
This right guarantees any person in India the freedom to hold faith in and practice any religion without causing harm to others.

E. Cultural and Educational Rights:

  • Minorities have the right to maintain and develop their languages and cultures.
  • It also confers upon them the right to establish, maintain and administer their educational institutions.

F. Right to Constitutional Remedies (Art. 32)

  • For the protection and enforcement of the abovementioned rights, any person can approach the Supreme Court or High Courts.
  • Writs will be issued by Supreme Courts and High Courts to ensure protection and enforcement of fundamental rights
What are Fundamental Duties?
The fundamental duties that persons in India must abide by are-
A. To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.
B. To apprize and follow the noble ideals, which inspired our national struggle for freedom.
C. To sustain and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
D. To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so.
E. To promote coordination and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities, to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of woman.
F. To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.
G. To protect and improve the natural environments including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures.
H. To develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.
I. To defend public property and to abjure violence.
J. To endeavour towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of Endeavour and achievement.
What are Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) ?
  • The Directive Principles of State Policy are guidelines for the framing of laws by the government.
  • They are regarded as “fundamental in the governance of the country”.
  • They are not enforceable through any court of law
  • In short , DPSPs mere instructions/ directives issued to Legislative and Executive Body or for the administration of the country.
  • It exemplifies vital philosophies such as:
    • adequate means to livelihood,
    • equal pay without gender discrimination,
    • distribution of wealth so as to serve the common good,
    • compulsory and free primary education,
    • right to work,
    • unemployment, sickness and disablement,
    • the organisation of Panchayats at village, special attention to the economically disadvantaged group in our country.
    • Most of these principles could help in making India welfare state.
What are some important aspects of the Parliamentary System and Amendment Procedures in the Constitution?
  • Parliamentary System: A parliamentary system of government in which the power to make and execute laws is held by a parliament House.
  • The parliament is the sole law making body of the nation
  • It has two chambers, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha). Every proposed Bill has to be passed by both the Houses and with the assent of the President it becomes law.
  • Amendment Procedure: An amendment of the Constitution can be initiated only by the introduction of a Bill in either House of Parliament.
  • The Bill must then be approved in each House by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than ⅔ of the members of that House.
  • The Bill, passed by the required majority, is then presented to the President for his assent.
  • In the event that an amendment seeks to make any change in any of the provisions mentioned in the provision to Article 368, it must be approved by both legislative houses and with not less than one-half of the States’ assent.
What does Judicial Review mean?
  • Judicial review is the power of a court in decision making process to decide whether a law or decision by the government is constitutionally valid.
  • Article 32 and Article 136 of the Indian Constitution are the articles related to the Judicial review in the Supreme Court.
  • Article 226 and Article 227 are related to the judicial review in the High Court.
What are the features of Indian Citizenship?
  • Part 2 of the Indian Constitution, i.e. Article 5 to Article 11 of the Indian Constitution deals with citizenship.
  • Single citizenship allows the persons to enjoy equal rights in various aspects across the country.
  • As per the Article 5, it is clear that the persons will be considered as citizens of the territory of India, which ensures that there would be only single citizenship.
  • The citizenship of Indians is largely determined on the basis of citizenship of the parents.
What is the concept of voting rights guaranteed by the Constitution?
  • The concept of Adult Suffrage guarantees the right to vote to every citizen of our country who is above eighteen years has the right to vote in the elections.
  • Any adult who is eligible to vote should not be discriminated on any basis like gender, caste and religion.
  • Article 326 of the Indian Constitution guarantees this right.
  • There are also certain disqualifications provided under A. 326 for example non-residence, unsound mind, criminals records who are involved in the corrupt and illegal practice.
  • The persons with these disqualifications are not accepted as a registered voter and they are not allowed to cast votes in the election.
What is the meaning of a Quasi-Federal structure?
A Quasi-Federal structure is characterized by the following main features:

  • The Constitution of India is neither federal nor unitary as the division of power is not equal.
  • In India the entire country follows a single Constitution. In situations of emergency, the states come under the control of the Centre.
  • There is a single system of Courts which enforces both the Central and State laws.
  • The Constitution of India is the Supreme law of the land, it is the essential feature of federalism.

In A Nutshell

The Indian Constitution is the Supreme law of India

  • All other laws, activities, policies and governance of the country have to follow the Constitution
  • As the guiding light for the entire Indian system, the Constitution has some salient features which every citizen should be aware of.
  • Salient Features of the Constitution include:
    • Preamble which speaks about a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic.
    • Vision of Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity
    • Fundamental Rights – guaranteed to every citizen of India
    • Fundamental Duties – which all citizens are expected to abide by
    • Directive Principles of State Policy – which act as guidelines for law making and governance
    • Parliamentary System & Amendment Procedures – The operative code for elected representatives to make amend laws in the country
    • Judicial Review -Power of the Judiciary to decide whether a law is in tune with the Constitution.
    • Citizenship & Voting Rights

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