The Indian Constitution is unique in its contents and spirit. Though borrowed from almost every constitution of the world, the constitution of India has several salient features that distinguish it from the constitutions of other countries. It should be noted at the outset that a number of original features of the Constitution (as adopted in 1949) have undergone a substantial change, on account of several amendments, particularly 7th, 42nd, 44th, 73rd and 74th Amendments. In fact, the 42nd Amendment Act (1976) is known as ‘Mini-Constitu-tion’ due to the important and large number of changes made by it in various parts of the Constitution. However, in the Kesavananda Bharati easel (1973), the Supreme Court ruled that the constituent power of Parliament under Article 368 does not enable it to alter the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. Preamble The American Constitution was the first to begin with a Preamble. Many countries, including India, followed this practice. The term ‘preamble’ refers to the introduction or pref¬ace to the Constitution. It contains the summary or essence of the Constitution. N A Palkhivala, an eminent jurist and constitutional expert, called the Preamble as the ‘identity card of the Constitution.’ The Preamble to the Indian Constitution is based on the ‘Objectives Resolution’, drafted and moved by Pandit Nehru, and adopted by the Constituent Assembly. It has been amended by the 42nd Constitutional Amend¬ment Act (1976), which added three new words-socialist, secular and integrity. Ingredients of the Preamble The Preamble reveals four ingredients or components:
- Source of authority of the Constitution:
- The Preamble states that the Constitution derives its authority from the people of India.
- Nature of Indian State: It declares India to be of a sovereign, socialist, secular democratic and republican polity.
- Objectives of the Constitution: It specifies justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as the objectives.
- Date of adoption of the Constitution: It stipulates November 26, 1949 as the date.
Salient Features of the Constitution The salient features of the Constitution has already been described in the second unit , therefore here, basic parliamentary structure and its functional dimensions has been laid. Federal System with Unitary Bias The Constitution of India establishes a federal system of government. It contains all the usual features of a federation, viz., two government, division of powers, written Constitution, supremacy of Constitution, rigidity of Constitution, independent judiciary and bicameralism. However, the Indian Constitution also contains a large number of unitary or non-federal features, viz., a strong Centre, single Constitution, single citizenship, flexibility of Constitution, integrated judiciary, appointment of state governor by the Centre, all-India services, emergency provisions, and so on. Moreover, the term ‘Federation’ has nowhere been used in the Constitution. Article 1, on the other hand, describes India as a ‘Union of States’ which implies two things: one, Indian Federation is not the result of an agreement by the states; and two, no state has the right to secede from the federation. Parliamentary Form of Government The Constitution of India has opted for the British parliamentary System of Government rather than American Presidential System of Government. The parliamentary system is based on the principle of cooperation and coordination between the legislative and executive organs while the presidential system is based on the doctrine of separation of powers between the two organs. The parliamentary system is also known as the ‘Westminster’ model of government, res¬ponsible government and cabinet government. The Constitution establishes the parliamentary system not only at the Centre but also in the states. The features of parliamentary government in India are: (a) Presence of nominal and real executives (b) Majority party rule (c) Collective responsibility of the executive to the legislature (d) Membership of the ministers in the legislature (e) Leadership of the prime minister or the chief minister (f) Dissolution of the lower House (Lok Sabha or Assembly)
Parliament: Structural and Functional Dimensions Under article 79 of the Indian Constitution, there is a Parliament comprising of the President and two chambers/houses called the Council of States or the Rajya Sabha and the House of People or the Lok Sabha. The President of India is not only the head of the executive but a constituent part of the legislature as he performs a number of functions vis-a-vis the Parliament. He however does not sit or participate in the discussions in either of the two houses. The President summons and prorogues the two houses of the Parliament from time to time. He is a crucial part of the legislation process, for every bill has to be signed by him, after its passage in the Parliament, in order to become a law. The power to dissolve the Lok Sabha vests in him. He has the right to address one or both the houses and send messages to them. At the commencement of the first session after each general election to the Lok Sabha and at the commencement of the first session each year, the President addresses both the chambers which is called the special address. Under article 123, when the Parliament is not in session and the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, the President can promulgate an ordinance which has the same force and effect as a law made by the Parliament.