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The Constitution of India was passed by the Constituent Assembly of India on November 26, 1949, and came into effect on January 26, 1950. India celebrates January 26 each year as Republic Day. It is the longest written constitution of any independent nation in the world, containing 395 articles and 12 schedules, as well as numerous amendments, for a total of 117,369 words in the English language version.

The importance of the Constitution[edit | edit source]

The Constitution lays down the basic structure of government under which the people are to be governed. It establishes the main organs of government - the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The Constitution not only defines the powers of each organ, but also demarcates their responsibilities. It regulates the relationship between the different organs and between the government and the people.

The Constitution is superior to all other laws of the country. Every law enacted by the government has to be in conformity with the Constitution. The Constitution lays down the national goals of India - Democracy, Socialism, Secularism and National Integration. It also spells out the rights and duties of citizens.

The Constitution applies to the State of Jammu and Kashmir with certain exceptions and modifications as provided in article 370 (which is a temporary provision) and the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954.

History[edit | edit source]

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Objectives Resolution[edit | edit source]

The underlying principles of the Constitution were laid down by Jawaharlal Nehru in his Objectives Resolution:

  • India is an Independent, Sovereign, Republic;
  • India shall be a Union of erstwhile British Indian territories, Indian States, and other parts outside British India and Indian States as are willing to be a part of the Union;
  • Territories forming the Union shall be autonomous units and exercise all powers and functions of the Government and administration, except those assigned to or vested in the Union;
  • All powers and authority of sovereign and independent India and its constitution shall flow from the people;
  • All people of India shall be guaranteed and secured social, economic and political justice; equality of status and opportunities before law; and fundamental freedoms - of talk, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action - subject to law and public morality;
  • The minorities, backward and tribal areas, depressed and other backward classes, shall be provided adequate safeguards;
  • The territorial integrity of the Republic and its sovereign rights on land, sea and air shall be maintained according to justice and law of civilized nations;
  • The land would make full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and welfare of mankind.

Features[edit | edit source]

The Constitution of India draws extensively from Western legal traditions in its enunciation of the principles of liberal democracy. It is distinguished from many Western constitutions, however, in its elaboration of principles reflecting aspirations to end the inequities of traditional social relations and enhance the social welfare of the population. According to constitutional scholar Granville Austin, probably no other nation's constitution "has provided so much impetus toward changing and rebuilding society for the common good." Since its enactment, the constitution has fostered a steady concentration of power in the hands of the central government - especially the Office of the Prime Minister. This centralization has occurred in the face of the increasing assertiveness of an array of ethnic and caste groups across Indian society. Increasingly, the government has responded to the resulting tensions by resorting to the formidable array of authoritarian powers provided by the Constitution. However, a new assertiveness shown by the Supreme Court and the Election Commission suggests that the remaining checks and balances among the country's political institutions are resilient and capable of supporting Indian democracy. Furthermore regional parties are gaining popularity at the expense of national parties which has led to coalition governments at the centre. As a consequence, power is becoming more decentralised.

The Constitution in its final form owes much to a number of different principles from various other Constitutions. The general structure of the Constitution's democratic framework was largely the work of B. N. Rau, a constitutional scholar of international standing. Supporters of independent India's founding father, Mohandas K. Gandhi, backed measures that would form a decentralized polity with strong local government — known as panchayat — in a system known as Panchayati Raj, i.e. rule by Panchayats. However, the view of more modernist leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, ultimately prevailed leading to the establishment of a parliamentary system of government and a federal system with a strong central government.

Features of the Indian Constitution adapted from other Constitutions[edit | edit source]

British Constitution

United States Constitution

Irish Constitution

French Constitution

Canadian Constitution

  • A quasi-federal form of government (a federal system with a strong central government)
  • The idea of Residual Powers

Australian Constitution

  • Freedom of trade and commerce within the country and between the states
  • Power of the national legislature to make laws for implementing treaties, even on matters outside normal Federal jurisdiction

Japanese Constitution

  • Fundamental Duties u/a 51-A

Weimar Constitution

  • Emergency Provision u/a 356

Preamble[edit | edit source]

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;

The preamble is not a part of the Constitution of India as it is not enforceable in a court of law. However, the Supreme Court has, in the case of Kesavananda Bharati vs. The State of Kerala, recognized that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution and may be used to interpret ambiguous areas of the Constitution where differing interpretations present themselves. However, the Preamble is useful as an interpretive tool only if there is an ambiguity in the article itself and should not be treated as a rights bestowing part of the Constitution.

An interesting side note concerns the words "SOCIALIST" and SECULAR in the preamble. The original drafting used the words "SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC". The two additional words "SOCIALIST" and SECULAR were introduced by the controversial 42nd amendment. The amendment was pushed through by Indira Gandhi in 1976, when she had dictatorial powers. A committee under the chairmanship of Sardar Swaran Singh recommended that this amendment be enacted after being constituted to study the question of amending the constitution in the light of past experience.

The importance of the Preamble[edit | edit source]

The wording of the Preamble highlights some of the fundamental values and guiding principles on which the Constitution of India is based. The Preamble serves as a guiding light for the Constitution and judges interpret the Constitution in its light. In a majority of decisions, the Supreme Court of India has held that the objectives specified in the preamble constitute the basic structure of the Indian Constitution, which cannot be amended. Though the Preamble is a part of the constitution still it nor any of its content is legally enforcible.

The first words of the Preamble - "We, the people" - signifies that power is ultimately vested in the hands of the people of India. The Preamble lays down the most important national goals which every citizen and the government must try to achieve, such as socialism, secularism and national integration. Lastly, it lays down the date for the adoption of the Constitution - 26 November 1949.

Explanation of some of the important words in the Preamble[edit | edit source]

Sovereign[edit | edit source]

The word sovereign means supreme or independent. India is internally and externally sovereign - externally free from the control of any foreign power and internally, it has a free government which is directly elected by the people and makes laws that govern the people.

Socialist[edit | edit source]

The word socialist was added to the Preamble by the 42nd amendment act of 1976. It implies social and economic equality. Social equality in this context means the absence of discrimination on the grounds of caste, colour, creed,sex,religion, language, etc. Under social equality, everyone has equal status and opportunities. Economic equality in this context means that the government will endeavour to make the distribution of wealth more equal and provide a decent standard of living for all. This is in effect emphasizing a commitment towards the formation of a welfare state.

India has adopted a mixed economy and the government has framed many laws to achieve the aim and the Child Labour Prohibition Act. By Deepanshu Kataria

Secular[edit | edit source]

The word secular was inserted into the Preamble by the 42nd amendment act of 1976. It implies equality of all religions and religious tolerance. India, therefore does not have an official state religion. Every person has the right to preach, practice and propagate any religion they choose. The government must not favour or discriminate against any religion. It must treat all religions with equal respect. All citizens, irrespective of their religious beliefs are equal in the eyes of law. No religious instruction is imparted in government or government-aided schools. The Supreme Court in S.R Bommai v. Union of India held that secularism was an integral part of the basic structure of the constitution.

Democratic[edit | edit source]

India is a democracy. The people of India elect their governments at all levels (Union, State and local) by a system of universal adult franchise; popularly known as 'One man one vote'. Every citizen of India, who is 18 years of age and above and not otherwise debarred by law, is entitled to vote. Every citizen enjoys this right without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, colour, sex, religion or education.

Republic[edit | edit source]

As opposed to a monarchy, in which the head of state is appointed on hereditary basis for a lifetime or until he abdicates from the throne, a democratic republic is an entity in which the head of state is elected, directly or indirectly, for a fixed tenure. The President of India is elected by an electoral college for a term of five years. The Post of the President Of India is not hereditary. Every citizen of India is eligible to become the President of the country.

Schedules[edit | edit source]

Schedules can be added to the constitution by amendment. The twelve schedules in force cover the designations of the

  1. States and Union Territories;
  2. Emoluments for High-Level Officials;
  3. Forms of Oaths;
  4. Allocation of the number of seats in the Rajya Sabha (Council of States - the upper house of Parliament) per State or Union Territory;
  5. Provisions for the administration and control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes (areas and tribes needing special protection due to disadvantageous conditions);
  6. Provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam;
  7. The Union (central government), State, and Concurrent (dual) lists of responsibilities;
  8. The Official Languages;
  9. Article 31B-Validity excluded from Court’s Review (land and tenure reforms; the association of Sikkim with India);
  10. Anti-Defection provisions for Members of Parliament and Members of the State Legislatures;
  11. Panchayat Raj (Rural Development);
  12. Municipality (Urban Planning).

Amendments[edit | edit source]

Methods of Amendment

  • By simple majority of the Parliament: Amendments in this category can be made by a simple majority of members present and voting, before sending them for the President's assent.
  • By special majority of the Parliament: Amendments can be made in this category by a two - third majority of the total number of members present and voting, which should not be less than half of the total membership of the house.
  • By special majority of the Parliament and ratification of at least half of the state legislatures by special majority. After this, it is sent to the President for his assent. [2]

On paper, an amendment to the Constitution is an extremely difficult affair, and normally needs at least two-thirds of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to pass it. However, the Constitution of India is one of the most frequently amended constitutions in the world. Many matters that would be dealt with by ordinary statutes in most democracies must be dealt with by constitutional amendment in India due to the document's extraordinary detail. The first amendment came only a year after the adoption of the Constitution and instituted numerous minor changes. Many more amendments followed, at a rate of almost two amendments per year since 1950. Most of the Constitution can be amended after a quorum of more than half of the members of each house in Parliament passes an amendment with a two-thirds majority vote. Articles pertaining to the distribution of legislative authority between Union and State governments must also be approved by fifty percent of State legislatures.

In 1974, the Supreme Court of India in the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati vs. The State of Kerala enunciated the Basic Structure Doctrine, which expanded the scope of judicial review to include the power to review Constitutional Amendments passed by the Legislature. Using this doctrine, the Supreme Court has struck down the 39th Amendment and parts of the 42nd Amendment as being violative of the Basic Structure of the Constitution. Some noted authors of Constitutional law, such as HM Seervai have argued that this is an usurpation of amending power by the judiciary, which was never intended by the framers of the Constitution. However, it can be argued that this doctrine is necessary to protect human rights from being abrogated simply by constitutional amendment.

There have been a total of 98 amendments to the constitution of India, till January 2010.

Articles[edit | edit source]

  • Part I - consists of Articles 1 - 4 on the Union and its Territory
  • Part II - consists of Articles 5 - 11 on Citizenship.
  • Part III - consists of Articles 12 - 35 on Fundamental Rights.
  • Part IV - consists of Articles 36 - 51 on Directive Principles of State Policy.
  • Part IV (A) consists of Article 51A - Fundamental Duties of each citizen of India.
  • Part V - consists of Articles on the Union.
Chapter I - Articles 52 to 78 on The Executive.
Chapter II - Articles 79 - 122 on Parliament.
  • Articles 79 - 88 on Constitution of Parliament,
  • Articles 89 - 98 on Officers of Parliament,
  • Articles 99 - 100 on Conduct of Business,
  • Articles 101 - 104 on Disqualification of members,
  • Articles 105 - 106 on Powers, privileges and Immunities of Parliament and its Members,
  • Articles 107 - 111 on Legislative Procedure,
  • Articles 112 - 117 on Procedure in Financial Matters,
  • Articles 118 - 122 on Procedure Generally.
Chapter III - Article 123 on the Legislative Powers of the President.
  • Article 123 on Power of president to promulgate Ordinances during recess of Parliament
Chapter IV - Articles 124 - 147 on The Union Judiciary.
  • Articles 124 - 147 Establishment and Constitution of the Supreme Court
Chapter V - Articles 148 - 151 on the Controller and Auditor-General of India.
  • Articles 148 - 151 on Duties and powers of Comptroller and Auditor-General.
  • Part VI - Articles on the States.
Chapter I - Article 152 on the General definition of a State of the Union of India
  • Article 152 - Exclusion of the state of Jammu and Kashmir from the general definition of a state of the Union of India.
Chapter II - Articles 153 - 167 on The Executive
  • Articles 153 - 162 on The Governor,
  • Articles 163 - 164 on The Council of Ministers,
  • Article 165 on the Advocate-General for the State.
  • Articles 166 - 167 on the Conduct of Government Business.
Chapter III - Articles 168 - 212 on The State Legislature.
  • Articles 168 - 177 General
  • Articles 178 - 187 on the Officers of the State Legislature,
  • Articles 188 - 189 on Conduct of Business,
  • Articles 190 - 193 on Disqualification of members,
  • Articles 194 - 195 on Powers, Privileges and Immunities Parliament and its Members,
  • Articles 196 - 201 on Legislative Procedure,
  • Articles 202 - 207 on Procedure in Financial Matters,
  • Articles 208 - 212 on Procedure Generally.
Chapter IV - Article 213 on the Legislative Powers of the Governor
  • Article 213 - Power of governor to promulgate Ordinances during recess of Assembly of state.
Chapter V - Articles 214 - 231 on The High Courts in the States.
Chapter VI - Articles 233 - 237 on the Subordinate Courts
  • Articles 232 - 237 on Subordinate Courts
  • Part VII - consists of Articles on States in the B part of the First schedule.
  • Article 238 Repealed, Replaced by the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956, s. 29 and Sch.
  • Part VIII - consists of Articles on The Union Territories
  • Articles 239 - 242 Administration, creation of Council of Ministers and High Courts
  • Part IX - consists of Articles on the Panchayat system.
  • Articles 243 - 243O on the Gram Sabha and Panchayat system
  • Part IXA - consists of Articles on Municipalities.
  • Articles 243P - 243ZG on Municipalities
  • Part X - consists of Articles on the scheduled and Tribal Areas
  • Articles 244 - 244A on Administration, creation of Council of Ministers, and legislatures.
  • Part XI - consists of Articles on Relations between the Union and the States.
Chapter I - Articles 245 - 255 on the Distribution of Legislative Powers
  • Articles 245 - 255 on Distribution of Legislative Relations
Chapter II - Articles 256 - 263 on Administrative Relations
  • Articles 256 - 261 - General
  • Article 262 - on Disputes relating to waters.
  • Article 263 - on Co-ordination between States
Chapter I - Articles 264 - 291 on Finance
  • Articles 264 - 267 General
  • Articles 268 - 281 on Distribution Revenues between the Union and the States
  • Articles 282 - 291 on Miscellaneous Financial Provisions
Chapter II - Articles 292 - 293 on Borrowing
Chapter III - Articles 294 - 300 on Property, Contracts, Right, Liabilities, Obligations and Suits
  • Articles 294 - 300 on Succession to property assets, liabilities, and obligations.
Chapter IV - Article 300A on the Right to Property
  • Part XIII - consists of Articles on Trade and Commerce within the territory of India
  • Articles 301 - 305 on Freedom of Trade and Commerce, and the power of Parliament and States to impose restrictions on the same
  • Article 306 - Repealed - Replaced by the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956, s. 29 and Sch.
  • Article 307 - Appointment of authority for carrying out the purposes of articles 301 to 304.
  • Part XIV - consists of Articles on Services Under the Union and the States
Chapter I - Articles 308 - 314 on Services
  • Articles 308 - 313 on Services
  • Article 314 - Repealed - Replaced by the Constitution (Twenty-eighth Amendment) Act, 1972, s. 3 (w.e.f. 29-8-1972).
Chapter II - Articles 315 - 323 on the Public Service Commissions
  • Articles 315 - 323 on Public Service Commissions
  • Part XIVA - consists of Articles on Tribunals
  • Articles 323 A - 323 B
  • Articles 324 - 329 on Elections
  • Article 329A - Repealed - Replaced by the Constitution (Forty-fourth Amendment) Act, 1978, s. 36 (w.e.f. 20-6-1979).
  • Part XVI - consists of Articles on Special Provisions Relating to certain Classes.
Chapter I - Articles 343 - 344 on Language of the Union
  • Articles 343 - 344 Official Language of the Union
  • Chapter II - Articles 345 - 347 on Regional Languages
  • Articles 345 - 347 on Language of the State
Chapter III - Articles 348 - 349 on Language of the Supreme Court, High courts, Etc
  • Articles 348 - 349 on Language used in Supreme Court, High courts Etc
Chapter IV - Articles 350 - 351 on Special Directives
  • Article 350 - on Language to be used in representations for redress of grievances.
  • Article 350A - on Facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at primary stage.
  • Article 350B - on provision for Special Officer for linguistic minorities.
  • Article 351 - on Directive for development of the Hindi language.
  • Part XVIII - consists of Articles on Emergency Provisions
  • Articles 352 - 359 on Emergency Provisions
  • Article 359A - Repealed - Replaced by the Constitution (Sixty-third Amendment) Act, 1989, s. 3

(w.e.f. 6-1-1990).

Article 360 - on Provisions as to financial emergency.
  • Part XIX - Miscellaneous
  • Articles 361 - 361A - Miscellaneous
  • Article 362 - Repealed - Replaced by the Constitution (Twenty-sixth Amendment) Act, 1971, s. 2.
  • Articles 363 - 367 - Miscellaneous
  • Part XX - consists of Articles on Amendment of the Constitution
  • Articles 368 on the Power of parliament to amend the constitution and procedure therefor
  • Part XXI - consists of Articles on Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions
  • Articles 369 - 378A on Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions
  • Article 379 - 391 - Repealed - Replaced by the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956,

s. 29 and Sch.

  • Article 392 - on the Power of the President to remove difficulties.
  • Part XXII consists of Articles on short title, date of commencement, Authoritative text in Hindi and Repeals.
  • Articles 393 - 395 Commencement, authoritative text in Hindi and repeals [3]
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  1. Source: Preamble of the Constitution of India
  2. For the full text of methods of Constitutional amendment see here
  3. Source: Constitution of India
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