The Constitution of India has many distinctive features of its own. The main features of the Constitution of India includes: voluminous, federal nature, parliamentary form of government, written constitution, has a preamble, guarantees fundamental rights, provides directive principles, and uniform citizenship.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, was the then Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly of India. He was the key person behind the Constitution of India. He was a learned person had good vision of future India.
One of repeated criticism of the Indian constitution is that it is very little original and mostly borrowed from other constitutions. Even Dr. Ambedkar admitted in the Constituent Assembly that many elements were borrowed from foreign constitutions but they were not “slavish imitations” but adoption of time-tested constitutional principles like the “Rule of Law” or “Equality before Law” to serve the interests of the people.
First feature: Voluminous
The Indian constitution is the most voluminous constitution ever created in human history. In its original shape the constitution had 395 articles and several schedules. Our constitution have been amended from time to time. The 101 odd Amendment Acts (as on Jan, 2018) since 1950 only add to the bulk of the constitution. When contrasted with the six effective articles and 27 ratified amendments of the U. S. constitution, one appreciates how bulky our constitution is.
Again drafting of the constitution has not been in a very easy and lucid language. The Constituent Assembly was pre-dominated by lawyers. The constitution is drafted in legalistic terms making it a ‘lawyer’s paradise’. This stands in sharp contrast with the U. S. constitution which is acclaimed as specimen of lucid constitutional drafting. However, the fact that our constitution has endured for over sixty years and during periods of acute crisis, shows its inherent strength and resilience. When constitutions of neighboring countries like Pakistan, Burma or Bangladesh were crumbling like houses of cards, our constitution stood steady like a rock.
The great bulk of the Indian constitution is due to several factors.
- The framers of our constitution have borrowed some of the great constitutional principles from the foreign constitutions. The loopholes of these foreign constitutions were properly avoided to ensure healthy political life to the citizens. Thus, the Parliamentary form of government were adopted from the British, the fundamental rights from the U. S. constitution, the Directive principles from the Irish constitution and the idea of emergency from the German Constitution and the Government of India Act of 1935.
- Unlike other constitutions, the Indian constitution provides not only the basic law. It also provides very detailed and minute administrative provisions. This was to prevent subversion of the constitution through legislative process. These details saves a lot of time.
- The vastness of the country and its population size and diversity, compelled the framers of the constitution to make provisions for the protection and promotion of the interests of different regions and groups in the country. Thus, the constitution has elaborate provisions for the minorities, scheduled castes and tribes, etc.
- Finally, the Indian constitution is an omnibus constitution. It is at the same time a constitution for the whole nation as well as for the component states of the Union.
Second feature: Federal Constitution
The Indian constitution is a federal constitution. The term federal has not been used in the constitution. Instead India has been described as a “Union of States.” However all the characteristics of a federation viz. two sets of government—national government and a number of governments of the component units, and the division of powers between the national government and the governments of the units. The constitution is the supreme and both the centre and the state government derive its power from it. There is a federal judiciary to act as the guardian of the constitution and to settle disputes between the centre and the units—are all present in the Indian constitution. However, the nature of the Indian federation is different from the nature of older federations like the U.S.A. (Also read: Federalism in Indian Constitution.)
Third feature: Parliamentary form of Government
The Indian constitution provides for parliamentary form of government both at the centre and in the states. This is borrowed from the Westminster model. The adoption of this model is partly due to India’s long familiarity with it during the British rule. In such form of government, the head of the Government and the head of the state are two different individuals. For example, the head of the council of ministers in India is the Prime Minister, whilst the President is the head of the state of India.
Fourth feature: Written Constitution
India has a written constitution which is a federal necessity, India’s constitution is far less rigid than a normal federal constitution. Truly, it is more flexible than rigid. Because of this flexibility, it has been possible to amend the constitution 101 times in less than seventy-five years. By contrast the U. S. constitution could be amended only 27 times in about 200 years.
The constitutional amendments made to implement the GST Laws in India further reflects the flexibility of the written Constitution of India.
Fifth feature: Preamble
Like any modern written constitution has a preamble before it. The preamble is very lucid exposition of the philosophy of the constitution. The original preamble declared India to be a Sovereign Democratic Republic. The 42nd amendment makes India “a Sovereign, Secular Socialist Democratic Republic”.
Justice, liberty, equality and fraternity are set as the ideas to be achieved by India as a nation. The preamble to the Indian constitution is praised by all critics for its lucid exposition of lofty political ideals. (Also read: Importance of Preamble In Indian Constitution.)
Sixth feature: Guarantees Fundamental Rights
The Constitution of India guarantees fundamental rights of the citizens. Rights to equality, freedom, religion and constitutional remedies are the enumerated fundamental rights of Indian citizens. Originally right to property was also a fundamental right. Subsequently right to property was removed from the list of fundamental rights. Hence right to property is now a legal rather than constitutional right. The status property has been altered to give substance to India’s socialist aspirations.
Seventh feature: Directive Principles
Taking cue from the Irish constitution, the Indian constitution also provides a number of Directive Principles. Such principles do not constitute any constitutional obligation for the government to fulfill; rather they are guide-lines to the government.
Upholding secularism is another lofty aspect of our constitution. India is a secular nation and does not have any state religion. In a country inhabited by people of all faiths, it is essential that the state remains neutral between religions. Acceptance of secularism as a political ideal was an act of wisdom and boldness particularly after the traumatic experience of India’s partition on religious lines.
Finally: Uniform Indian citizenship
Finally, Indian constitution does not sanction double citizenship as in federations like the U.S.A. There is only one uniform Indian citizenship.
Our constitution was carefully tailored to suit the needs of the Indian people. It is a tribute to the founding fathers that their work has endured in spite of strains and stresses.