Constitution of India – An Overview

Constitution, its making, the Preamble and related topics are extremely important for the UPSC exam. This is an essential portion of polity for the IAS exam. As IAS aspirants, you should be thorough with the constitution of India.

The Indian Constitution is unique in its contents and spirit. Though borrowed heavily from other constitutions, the constitution of India has several notable features that distinguish it from the constitutions of other countries. It should be noted at the outset that many 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. The 42nd Amendment Act (1976) is also known as ‘Mini-Constitution’ due to the several and major changes made by it in various parts of the Constitution. However, in the Kesavananda Bharati easel (1973), the Supreme Court gave a ruling that the constituent power of Parliament under Article 368 does not enable it to change the Constitution’s ‘basic structure’.

Constitution of India Preamble 

The American Constitution was the first one that starts with a Preamble. Many countries, including India, have followed suit. The word ‘preamble’ refers to the introduction or in other words, a preface to the Constitution. It is basically the summary or essence of the Constitution. Jurist and an expert on the constitution, N A Palkhivala, 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 Amendment Act (1976), which added three new words namely, socialist, secular and integrity.

Ingredients of the Preamble

The Preamble reveals four 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 specifies 26th November, 1949 as the date.
Before getting on to comparison of Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries, it is indispensable to sketch out the impact of various constitution on India and the subsequent features borrowed. The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution were wise enough to borrow from the experience gained in he working of various other Constitutions. It is on this account that the Constitution of India is regarded as a bag of borrowing from the various working Constitutions: 1. British Constitution: The British Constitution had its impact in the following respects; (i) Constitutional head of State (ii) Lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha) is more powerful than the Upper House; (iii) Responsibility of Council of Ministers towards Parliament; (iv) Parliamentary system of Government ; and (v) Prevalence of Rule of Law. 2. US Constitution: The Constitution of the United States had its impact in following respects: (i) Preamble of the Constitution (ii) Provision of Fundamental Rights; (iii) Functions of the Vice-President. (iv) Amendment of the Constitution; (v) Nature and functions of he Supreme court; and (vi) Independence of Judiciary. 3. Australian Constitution: Australian Constitution gave us a long list of concurrent powers and the procedure for solving deadlock over concurrent subjects between the Centre and the States. 4. Irish Constitution: The Irish Constitution gave us the Directive Principles of State Policy and the method of nominating members of the Rajya Sabha. 5. Weimer Constitution of Germany: The Weimer Constitution of Germany had its impact upon the powers of the President. 6. Canadian Constitution: We borrowed the provisions of a strong nation, the name of Union of Indian and vesting residuary powers with the Union from Canada. 7. South African Constitution: The procedure of amendment with a two-thirds majority in Parliament and the election of the members of the Rajya Sabha on the basis of proportional representation by the State Legislatures have been borrowed from the Constitution of South Africa.

Features of Indian 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 normal features of a federation, such as two governments, 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)

Even though the Indian Parliamentary System is largely based on the British pattern, there are some fundamental differences between the two. For example, the Indian Parliament is not a sovereign body like the British Parliament. Further, the Indian State has an elected head (republic) while the British State has heredi¬tary head (monarchy).

Parliament: Structural and Functional Dimensions

As per Article 79, 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 does many functions with respect to 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 known as 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.

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