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Indian Constitution: How It Defines The Country’s Character And Governance

Parliament House,New Delhi

Constitution

Indian Constitution: How It Defines The Country’s Character And Governance

The document lays down the rules of engagement for the government, its institutions and its people

India is a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. Governance of the Indian Republic is guided by an exhaustive set of principles known as the Constitution of India.  Finalized by a Drafting Committee headed by Dr B R Ambedkar, it was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. The Indian Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950, the day India became a Republic. India is a Union of States and this is reflected in the provisions of the Constitution which has laid down a Parliamentary system of government that is essentially federal in structure.

Key Features

In keeping with the Indian Constitution, the President is the head of the executive arm of the union of India. He functions under the aid and advice of a Council of Ministers which is headed by the Prime Minister. The Parliament of the Union of India consists of the President and the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the House of People (Lok Sabha).

Indian Constitution has also laid down the legislative and executive structure at the state level. Each state has a Legislative Assembly (some states have a bicameral system and also have a Legislative Council in addition to the assembly). Each state has a Governor who is the head of the state’s executive. As in the case of the President, the Governor functions on the aid and advice of the council of ministers of the state.

Indian Constitution distributes legislative powers between the Parliament and the State Legislature.

When it comes to Jammu and Kashmir, certain exceptions and modifications are provided for in Article 370 and the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954.

Structure

The Constitution begins with a Preamble. The Parts which follow deal with the Union and its Territory; Citizenship; Fundamental Rights; Directive Principles of State Policy; Fundamental Duties; the Union (Executive, Parliament, Legislative powers of the President, the Union Judiciary); the States; Union Territories; the Panchayats; the Municipalities; the Scheduled and Tribal Areas; Relations between the Union and the States; Finance, Property, Contracts and Suits; Trade, Commerce and Intercourse within the territory of India; Services under the Union and the States; Tribunals; Elections; Special Provisions relating to Certain Classes; Official Language; Emergency Provisions; Miscellaneous; Amendment of the Constitution; Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions.

The Constitution of India began with 395 Articles in 22 parts. There have been over 100 amendments since.    

Preamble

Indian Constitution: The Preamble

Indian Constitution: The Preamble (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The introductory statement to the Constitution of India, known as the Preamble, lays down the guiding principles.

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

(Indian Constitution)

The words “socialist” and “secular” were added to “sovereign democratic republic” through the Forty-second Amendment to the Constitution on December 18, 1976. This amendment also changed the expression “unity of the nation” to “unity and integrity of the nation”.

Fundamental Rights

A country’s citizens have certain ‘claims’ or ‘entitlements’ for their individual development. The Indian Constitution underlines such principles and guarantees them through a set of Fundamental Rights. These rights are enforceable through the court of law and the judiciary can step in if a law seems to restrict these rights.

The Fundamental Rights are:

Right to Equality:

Towards this end, the Constitution also abolished Untouchability and Titles.

Right to Freedom: The Constitution lays down that all citizens shall have the right –

  • to freedom of speech and expression;
  • to assemble peaceably and without arms;
  • to form associations or unions;
  • to move freely throughout the territory of India;
  • to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
  • to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business (this was not part of the original Right to Freedom and was inserted through the Forty-second Constitution Amendment in 1978)

Right against Exploitation: This right prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour. It also lays down that no child below the age of 14 years will be employed in factories, mines or other hazardous sectors.

Right to Freedom of Religion: This right lays down that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, propagate and propagate religion. This is, however, subject to public order, morality and health and to other relevant provisions laid down in the Constitution.  This Fundamental Right gives every religious denomination the freedom to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes and to manage their religious affairs.

Cultural and Educational Rights: This right protects the interests of the minorities. It says,” Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.” It prohibits any educational institution maintained by or aided/funded by the State from denying admission to any citizen only on the basis of religion, race, caste or language. The right also gives the minorities the freedom to establish and administer educational institutions.

Right to Constitutional Remedies: This provides for remedies for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights provided by the Constitution, including the right to move the Supreme Court of India.

Right to Education: This was included through the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002. It says that the state shall provide free and compulsory education between the age of six and 14 years “in such manner as the State may, by law, determine”.

One of the Fundamental Right originally included in the Constitution, the Right to Property, was removed through the Forty-second Constitutional Amendment in 1978.

Fundamental Duties

Fundamental Rights have real meaning only if the citizens also perform certain duties in the interests of other citizens and their country. The Constitution has listed these as Fundamental Duties and says that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India—

(a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem

(b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom

(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India

(d) to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;

(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;

(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture

(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;

(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;

(i) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence

(j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement;

*[(k) who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years

*Ins. by the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, s. 4 (which is yet not in force, date to be notified later on).

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