- The Constitution of India was framed by a Constituent Assembly.
- The document containing laws and rules which determine and describe the form of the government, the relationship between the citizens and the government, is called a Constitution.
The Constituent Assembly
- The Assembly was constituted in 1946.
- The members of the Constituent Assembly were indirectly elected by the members of the existing Provincial Assemblies. In addition, there were members nominated by the rulers of the Princely States.
- The Constituent Assembly, following the partition of the country in 1947, consisted of 299 members as on 31st December 1947.
Princely States during the British Rule there were about 560 areas which were not directly under the control of the British. These were Kingdoms or ‘Riyasats’ under Indian rulers or Princes. These were called ‘Princely States’. To name a few, Kashmir, Patiala, Hyderabad, Mysore, Baroda were some of the princely states.
Working of the Constituent Assembly
- The Constituent Assembly was chaired by the President of the Assembly Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
- The committees were of two types: (a) relating to matters concerning with procedures, and (b) concerning important issues.
- Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee.
Objectives of the Constitution
- The consensus came in the form of the ‘Objectives Resolution’ moved by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly on December 17, 1946 which was almost unanimously adopted on January 22, 1947.
- In the light of these ‘Objectives’, the Assembly completed its task by November 26, 1949. The constitution was enforced with effect from January 26, 1950.
- From that day onwards India became a Republic. Exactly twenty years ago, people of Kanpur celebrated the first Independence Day on Jan. 26, 1930 as decided by the Lahore session of the Congress on Dec. 31, 1929. Hence, January 26, 1950 was decided as the day to enforce the constitution.
The Preamble is like an introduction or preface of a book.
THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the
unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of
November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO
OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
The Preamble, in brief, explains the objectives of the Constitution in two ways: one, about the structure of the governance and the other, about the ideals to be achieved in independent India.
Objectives of Preamble
i) Description of Indian State as Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic.
(Socialist, Secular added by 42nd Amendment, 1976).
ii) Provision to all the citizens of India with-
a) Social, economic and political justice
b) Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship
c) Equality of status and opportunity
d) Fraternity assuring dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the nation.
- It means absolute independence, i.e., a government which is not controlled by any other power: internal or external.
- A country cannot have its own constitution without being sovereign.
- India is free to formulate its own foreign policy.
- The word ‘socialist’ was not there in the Preamble of the Constitution in its original form. In 1976, the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution incorporated ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’, in the Preamble.
- The word ‘Socialism’ had been used in the context of economic planning. It signifies the ‘left turn’ taken by the then Indira Gandhi government.
- It also means commitment to attain ideals like removal of inequalities, provision of minimum basic necessities to all, equal pay for equal work.
India is neither religious, nor irreligious nor anti-religious. In India –
- Every individual is free to believe in, and practice, any religion he/she belongs to,
- State will not discriminate against any individual or group on the basis of religion.
Democracy is generally known as government of the people, by the people and for the people. Effectively this means that the Government is elected by the people, it is responsible and accountable to the people.
It means that the head of the State is the President who is indirectly elected and he is not a hereditary ruler as in case of the British Monarch.
The Values of Preamble
Justice promises to give people what they are entitled to in terms of basic rights to food, clothing, housing, participation in the decision-making and living with dignity as human beings.
The Preamble also mentions about liberty of thought and expression.
- All kinds of inequality based on the concept of rulers and the ruled or on the basis of caste and gender were to be eliminated.
- All citizens of India should be treated equally and extended equal protection of law without any discrimination based on caste, creed, birth, religion, sex etc.
- Similarly equality of opportunities implies that regardless of the socio-economic situations into which one is born, he/she will have the same chance as everybody else to develop his/her talents and choose means of livelihood.
Fraternity, Dignity, Unity and Integrity
There was a need for harmonious co-existence among various religions, linguistic, cultural and economic groups. Inclusion of phrases like ‘dignity of individuals’, ‘fraternity among people’ and ‘unity and integrity of the nation’ in the Preamble highlight such a need.
Egalitarian: A society, which feels concerned for meeting the needs of all its members, is known as egalitarian society. An egalitarian state is expected to reduce inequalities among citizens and fulfill minimum requirements of all.
Salient Features of the Constitution
A Written Constitution –
- Our constitution was framed over a period of 2 years, 11 months and 18 days, it was adopted on 26th November, 1949 and enforced on January 26, 1950.
- The British Constitution is an example of unwritten constitution.
- The Indian constitution is the lengthiest in the world. The original constitution had 395 Articles and 8 Schedules, while, the constitution of USA has only 7 Articles.
A Combination of Rigidity and Flexibility –
- A constitution may be called rigid or flexible on the basis of its amending procedure.
- In a rigid constitution, amendment of the constitution is not easy. The Constitutions of USA, Switzerland and Australia are considered rigid constitutions.
- While, the British Constitution is considered flexible because amendment procedure is easy and simple.
The Constitution of India provides for 3 categories of amendments.
- First category amendments can be done by simple majority of the members present in the two Houses of Parliament, which has to be done before sending it for the President’s assent.
- First category amendments require a special majority. Such an amendment can be passed by each House of Parliament by a majority of the total members of that House as well as by the 2/3rd majority of the members present. Voting shall be completed before sending it to the President for his assent. President cannot deny his assent once the Parliament sends him the voted proposal.
- For third category amendments, besides the special majority as required for the second category, the amendments shall be further approved by at least 50% of the State legislatures.
Federal Polity –
- In a federation there are two distinct levels of governments. There is one government for the whole country which is called the Union or Central Government. Also there is government for each Unit/State.
- The United States of America is a federation whereas the United Kingdom (Britain) has a unitary form of government.
- In a unitary structure there is only one government for the whole country and the power is centralised.
- The Constitution of India does not use the term ‘federal state’. It says that India is a ‘Union of States’. There is a distribution of powers between the Union/Central Government and the State Governments.
- There are three lists of powers such as Union List, State List and the Concurrent List.
- In India, the Supreme Court has been established to guard the constitution.
However, in case of Indian federalism, more powers have been given to the Union Government in administrative, legislative, financial and judicial matters. In fact, The Indian federal set up stands out with certain distinctive unitary features. The makers of our constitution while providing for two sets of government at the centre and in the states, provided for division of powers favouring the Central Government, appointment of the Head of the State government by the Central Government, single unified judiciary, single citizenship indicate the unitary nature of our federalism. Therefore, it is said that India has a quasi-federal set up.
Quasi Federal: It means a federal set up where despite having two clear sets of Government – central and the states, more powers are given to the Central Government.
Parliamentary Democracy –
- This has been adopted from the British system. In a parliamentary democracy there is a close relationship between the legislature and the executive.
- The Cabinet is selected from among the members of legislature. The cabinet is responsible to the latter. In fact the Cabinet holds office so long as it enjoys the confidence of the legislature.
- In this form of democracy, the Head of the State is nominal. In India, the President is the Head of the State.
- The President acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers.
Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties –
- In a democracy all citizens enjoy equal rights. The Constitution of India guarantees those rights in the form of six Fundamental Rights.
- Fundamental Rights are justiciable and are protected by the judiciary. In case of violation of any of these rights one can move to the court of law for their protection.
- Fundamental Duties were added to our Constitution by the 42nd Amendment.
- It lays down a list of eleven Fundamental Duties for all citizens of India.
- While the rights are given as guarantees to the people, the duties are obligations which every citizen is expected to perform.
Directive Principles of State Policy –
- These have been borrowed from the Irish Constitution
- These were included in our Constitution in order to provide social and economic justice to the people.
- Directive Principles aim at establishing a welfare state in India where there will be no concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.
Single Integrated Judicial System –
- The Supreme Court is the apex court of the judicial system.
- Under the Supreme Court, there are the High Courts.
- The High Courts control and supervise the lower courts.
Independence of Judiciary –
- The Indian judiciary is free from the influence of the executive and the legislature.
- The judges are appointed on the basis of their qualifications and cannot be removed easily.
Single Citizenship –
- In a federal state, usually the citizens enjoy double citizenship as is the case in the USA.
- However, in India there is only single citizenship.
- All the citizens of India can secure employment anywhere in the country and enjoy all the rights equally in all the parts of India.
Universal Adult Franchise –
- Indian democracy functions on the basis of ‘one person one vote’.
- Every citizen of India who is 18 years of age or above is entitled to vote in the elections irrespective of caste, sex, race, religion or status.
Emergency Provisions –
There are three types of emergency
- Emergency caused by war, external aggression or armed rebellion
- Emergency arising out of the failure of constitutional machinery in states
- Financial emergency.