Constitution of India: Meaning, Structure, Enactment, Salient Features & Significance

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Constitution of India
Constitution of India

The Constitution of India, as the fundamental law of the land, embodies the values, principles, and governance framework of our country. It serves as the supreme law, guiding the state’s functioning and ensuring citizen’s rights and responsibilities. With its roots grounded in historical struggles, philosophical ideals, and societal aspirations, it reflects the nation’s collective journey toward democracy, justice, and equality. This article of NEXT IAS aims to explain the meaning, structure, salient features, significance, and other aspects of the Constitution of India.

A Constitution of a state is a fundamental set of principles or established precedents according to which the state is governed. It outlines the organization, powers, and limits of government institutions, as well as the rights and duties of citizens. It serves as the supreme law of the land, providing a framework for the functioning of the government, the protection of individual liberties, and the maintenance of social order.

The Constitution of India is the supreme law of the Republic of India. It lays down the framework for the country’s political system, defining the powers and responsibilities of government institutions, safeguarding fundamental rights, and outlining the principles of governance. It is a set of rules and regulations guiding the administration of a country.

Constitution of India

The Indian Constitution is one of the longest and most detailed written constitutions in the world. Various components of the structure of the Indian Constitution can be seen as follows:

  • Parts – A “Part” of the Constitution refers to a division within the Constitution that groups together Articles on similar subjects or themes.
    • The Indian Constitution is structured into various Parts, each dealing with a specific aspect of the country’s legal, administrative, or governmental framework.
    • Originally, there were 22 parts in the Constitution of India. As of now, there are 25 parts of the Indian Constitution.
  • Articles – An “Article” refers to a specific provision or clause within the Constitution that details various aspects of the country’s legal and governmental framework.
    • Each part of the constitution contains several articles numbered sequentially.
    • Originally, there were 395 articles in the Constitution of India. As of now, the Indian Constitution contains 448 articles.
  • Schedules – A “Schedule” refers to a list or a table attached to the Constitution that details certain additional information or guidelines relevant to the constitutional provisions.
    • They provide clarity and supplementary details, making the Constitution more comprehensive and functional.
    • Originally, there were 8 schedules in the Constitution of India. As of now, there are 12 schedules in the Indian Constitution.
  • The Constitution of India was framed by a Constituent Assembly which was established in 1946. The President of the Constituent Assembly was Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
  • On 29th August 1947, a resolution was moved in the Constituent Assembly for the appointment of a Drafting Committee to draft a permanent constitution of India. Accordingly, the Drafting Committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
  • The Drafting Committee took a total of 166 days, which was spread over 2 years, 11 months, and 18 days to prepare a draft constitution. The final draft of the Constitution was introduced in the Constituent Assembly on 4th November 1948.
  • After many deliberations and some modifications, the Draft Constitution was declared as passed by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1949. This is known as the “Date of Adoption” of the Constitution of India.
  • A few provisions of the Constitution came into force on 26th November 1949. However, the major part of the Constitution came into force on 26th January 1950, making India a sovereign republic. This date is known as the “Date of Enactment” of the Constitution of India.

The Constitution of India is the lengthiest of all the written Constitutions of the world. It is a very comprehensive and detailed document.

  • Several factors that have contributed to its elephantine size include – the need to accommodate the vast diversity of the country, a single constitution for both the Center and States, the presence of legal experts and luminaries in the Constituent Assembly, etc.

The Constitution of India has borrowed most of its provisions from the Government of India Act of 1935 as well as from the constitutions of various other countries.

Constitutions are classified into – rigid (requires a special procedure for its amendment) and flexible (can be amended in the same manner as ordinary laws are made).

  • The Constitution of India is neither rigid nor flexible, but a synthesis of both.

The Constitution of India establishes a federal system of government and contains all the usual features of a federation. However, it also contains a large number of unitary or non-federal features.

The Constitution of India has adopted the British Parliamentary System of Government. The parliamentary system is based on the principle of cooperation and coordination between the legislative and executive organs.

The synthesis of parliamentary sovereignty and judicial supremacy in India represents a delicate balance between the authority of the legislature to enact laws and the power of the judiciary to review and interpret these laws in light of constitutional principles.

  • While Parliament retains the ultimate authority to make laws, the judiciary serves as the guardian of the Constitution, ensuring that parliamentary actions adhere to constitutional norms and protect fundamental rights.

The Indian Constitution establishes an integrated and independent judicial system in the country.

  • An integrated judicial system means that a single system of courts, comprising of Supreme Court, High Courts, and Subordinate Courts, enforces both the central laws as well as the state laws.
  • An independent judicial system means that the Indian judiciary operates autonomously, free from the influence of the executive and legislative branches of government.

The Indian Constitution guarantees 6 fundamental rights to all citizens, which promotes the idea of political democracy in the country. They operate as limitations on the tyranny of the executive and arbitrary laws of the legislature.

The Indian Constitution contains a set of principles in the form of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs), which denote the ideals that the state should keep in mind while formulating policies and enacting laws.

  • The Directive Principles seek to establish a ‘Welfare State’ in India by promoting the ideal of social and economic democracy.

The fundamental duties are a set of moral and civic obligations outlined in the Constitution of India.

  • These duties serve as a guide for citizens to contribute towards building a strong and harmonious nation.

The Constitution of India does not uphold any particular religion as the official religion of the Indian State. Instead, it mandates that the state treat all religions equally, refraining from favoring or discriminating against any particular religion.

The Indian Constitution adopts universal adult franchise as the basis of elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies.

  • Every citizen who is not less than 18 years of age has a right to vote without any discrimination based on caste, race, religion, sex, literacy, wealth, and so on.

Single citizenship is a constitutional principle in India whereby all citizens irrespective of the state in which they are born or reside enjoy the same political and civil rights of citizenship all over the country, and no discrimination is made between them.

The Indian Constitution has established certain independent bodies which are envisaged as the bulwarks of the democratic system of Government in India.

The Indian Constitution contains emergency provisions to enable the President to meet any extraordinary situation effectively.

  • The rationale behind the incorporation of these provisions is to safeguard the sovereignty, unity, integrity, and security of the country, the democratic political system, and the Constitution.

The three-tier government refers to the division of governmental powers and responsibilities among three levels- the central government, state governments, and local governments (Panchayats and Municipalities).

  • This decentralized system allows for effective governance by delegating authority to address regional and local issues, promoting participatory democracy and grassroots development.

The 97th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2011 gave constitutional status and protection to co-operative societies.

  • Rule of Law – The Constitution establishes the framework for governance based on the rule of law, ensuring that no individual, including government officials, is above the law.
  • Protection of Rights – It guarantees fundamental rights to citizens, safeguarding their freedoms of speech, expression, religion, and more, while also providing mechanisms for legal redress if these rights are infringed upon.
  • Structure of Government – The Constitution delineates the structure of government, defining the roles, powers, and limitations of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. This separation of powers prevents the concentration of authority and promotes checks and balances.
  • Democratic Principles – Through provisions like a universal adult franchise, the constitution upholds democratic principles by ensuring citizens’ participation in governance through free and fair elections.
  • Stability and Continuity – The constitution provides stability and continuity in governance, serving as a framework for guiding successive governments and preventing abrupt changes in the political system.
  • National Unity – It fosters national unity by recognizing and respecting the diversity of the populace while also promoting a sense of common citizenship and allegiance to the nation.
  • Legal Framework – The constitution serves as the legal foundation upon which all laws and regulations are based, providing consistency and coherence in the legal system.
  • Adaptability – While providing a stable framework, the constitution also allows for necessary amendments to accommodate changing societal needs and values, ensuring its relevance over time.
  • Government of India Act of 1935 – Federal Scheme, Office of Governor, Judiciary, Public Service Commissions, Emergency Provisions, and Administrative Details.
  • British Constitution – Parliamentary System of Government, Rule of Law, Legislative Procedure, Single Citizenship, Cabinet System, Prerogative Writs, Parliamentary Privileges, and Bicameralism.
  • US Constitution – Fundamental Rights, Independence of the Judiciary, Judicial Review, Impeachment of the President, Removal of Supreme Court and High Court Judges, and the Post of the Vice-President.
  • Irish Constitution – Directive Principles of State Policy, the Nomination of Members to Rajya Sabha, and Method of Election of the President.
  • Canadian Constitution – Federation with a strong Centre, vesting of residuary powers in the Centre, appointment of state governors by the Centre, and advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
  • Australian Constitution – Concurrent List, Freedom of Trade, Commerce & Intercourse, and a Joint Sitting of the two Houses of Parliament.
  • Weimar Constitution of Germany – Suspension of Fundamental Rights during Emergency.
  • Soviet Constitution (USSR, now Russia) – Fundamental duties and the ideal of Justice (Social, Economic, and Political) in the Preamble.
  • French Constitution – Republic and the ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity in the Preamble.
  • South African Constitution – Procedure for amendment of the Constitution and election of members of Rajya Sabha.
  • Japanese Constitution – Procedure established by law.
SchedulesSubject MatterDescription
Schedule INames of the States and their territorial jurisdiction.
Names of the Union Territories and their extent.
Schedule IIProvisions relating to the emoluments, allowances, privileges, etc.This schedule outlines the salaries of various constitutional dignitaries, such as the President, the Vice President, the Governor, etc.
Schedule IIIForms of Oaths and AffirmationsThis schedule provides the forms of oaths and affirmations for various constitutional dignitaries such as MPs, MLAs, judges of the Supreme Court etc.
Schedule IVAllocation of Seats in the Rajya SabhaThis schedule determines the allocation of seats in the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) to states and union territories.
Schedule VProvisions as to the Administration and Control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes
Schedule VIProvisions as to the Administration of Tribal Areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram
Schedule VIIDivision of powers between the Union and the States in terms of Union List, State List, and Concurrent List.Presently, the Union List contains 100 subjects (originally 97), the State List contains 61 subjects (originally 66) and the Concurrent List contains 52 subjects (originally 47).
Schedule VIIILanguages recognized by the Constitution.Originally, it had 14 languages but presently there are 22 languages such as Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Gujarati, Hindi, etc.
Schedule IXIt deals with the acts and regulations of the state legislatures dealing with land reforms and the abolition of the zamindari system and the Parliament deals with other matters.This schedule was added by the 1st Amendment Act of 1951, which protects the laws that cannot be challenged on the grounds of violating fundamental rights.
Schedule XProvisions relating to disqualification of the members of Parliament and State Legislatures on the ground of defection.This schedule was added by the 52nd Amendment Act of 1985, also known as the Anti-Defection Law.
Schedule XISpecifies the powers, authority, and responsibilities of Panchayats.This schedule was added by the 73rd Amendment Act of 1992
Schedule XIISpecifies the powers, authority, and responsibilities of Municipalities.This schedule was added by the 74th Amendment Act of 1992
PartsSubject Matter
IThe Union and its Territory
IICitizenship
IIIFundamental Rights
IVDirective Principles of State Policy
IV-AFundamental Duties
VThe Union Government
VIThe State Governments
VIIIThe Union Territories
IXThe Panchayats
IX-AThe Municipalities
IX-BThe Co-operative Societies
XThe Scheduled and Tribal Areas
XIRelations between the Union and the States
XIIFinance, Property, Contracts, and Suits
XIIITrade, Commerce and Intercourse within the Territory of India
XIVServices under the Union and the States
XIV-ATribunals
XVElections
XVISpecial Provisions relating to certain Classes
XVIIOfficial Languages
XVIIIEmergency |Provisions
XIXMiscellaneous
XXAmendment of the Constitution
XXITemporary, Transitional and Special Provisions
XXIIShort title, Commencement, Authoritative Text in Hindi, and Repeals

Note – Part-VII (The States in Part B of the First Schedule), has been deleted by the 7th Constitutional Amendment of 1956.

In conclusion, the Indian Constitution stands as a testament to the nation’s democratic ideals and aspirations. Its meticulous crafting, rooted in historical struggles and visionary principles, continues to guide India’s journey towards a more just, inclusive, and prosperous society. The Indian Constitution stands as a testament to upholding its values, fostering unity amidst diversity, and safeguarding the rights and liberties of every citizen, thus ensuring a brighter future for generations to come.

  • Constitutionalism – Constitutionalism is a system where the Constitution is supreme and the institution’s structure and processes are governed by constitutional principles. It provides the template or framework within which the state has to carry out its operations. It also puts limitations on the government.
  • Classification of the Constitution – Constitutions across the world have been classified into the following categories and sub-categories:
TypeFormExample
CodifiedIn Single Act (Document)USA, India
UncodifiedFully written (In few documents)Israel, Saudi Arabia
Partially unwrittenNew Zealand, United Kingdom

When was the Constitution of India adopted?

The Constitution of India was adopted on 26th November 1949.

Why the Constitution of India is called a bag of Borrowing?

The Constitution of India is called a “bag of borrowing” due to its extensive adaptation of principles and provisions from various global sources. It amalgamates elements from multiple constitutions, including the British, American, Irish, Canadian, and others, reflecting India’s diverse legal heritage and democratic ideals.

Who is known as the ‘Father of Indian Constitution’?

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is regarded as the “Father of the Indian Constitution” for his pivotal role as the chairman of the Drafting Committee and his significant contributions in shaping the provisions of the Indian Constitution.

When do we Celebrate the Constitution Day?

Constitution Day also famously known as ‘Samvidhan Divas’, is celebrated in our country on 26th November every year to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution of India.

What is the Philosophy of the Constitution of India?

The philosophy of the Constitution of India revolves around several key principles such as Sovereignty, Equality, Justice, Liberty, Fraternity, Dignity, Secularism, Federalism, Democratic Principles, etc.

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