Introduction to the Constitution of India:
The Constitution is the fundamental law of a country that reflects the fundamental principles on which the government of that country is based. It is the vehicle of a Nation’s progress. More particularly, it is concerned with institutional fabric and the framework of the distribution of powers between the various organs of the government and between the Union and the States. The concept of the constitution was first originated in the U.S.A.
For the Constitution of India complete notes PDF, check the link – Constitution of India PDF.
1. The Need for a Constitution:
All Democratic countries have a constitution that governs them. A constitution puts down certain principles that form the basis of any kind of a state that we as citizens, desire to live in. A constitution tells us the fundamental nature of our society. A country is usually made up of different communities of people who have different beliefs; it will be helpful in fulfilling the beliefs of different segments of citizens.
2. Making of Indian Constitution:
The Constitution of India was framed by a Constituent Assembly set up under the Cabinet Mission Plan, 1946. The Assembly consisted of 389 members representing Provinces (292), States (93), the Chief Commissioner’s provinces (3) and Baluchistan (1).
The Assembly held its first meeting on December 9, 1946. Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha, the oldest member, was elected as the temporary President of the Assembly. While the work was in progress, Dr. Sahchidananda Sinha died. Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected as the President of the Assembly. Similarly, both H.C. Mukherjee and V.T. Krishnamachari were elected as the Vice-Presidents of the Assembly.
The Assembly met for 11 sessions along with 166 days of meetings. During the discussion, 2473 amendments were presented. Some of them were accepted. The Assembly worked through various committees and the draft of the Constitution was prepared by the Drafting Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. He is recognized as the ‘Father of the Constitution of India’.
After the draft had been discussed by the people, the press, provincial assemblies, and others, the Constitution was finally adopted on November 26, 1949, contained a Preamble, 22 parts, 395 Articles, and 8 Schedules. The drafted Constitution came into force on 26th January 1950. This day is known as Republic Day. It is being observed every year.
3. Salient features of Indian Constitution:
- It is the lengthiest of all the written constitutions of the world.
- It has borrowed most of its provisions from the constitutions of various countries.
- It is partly rigid and partly flexible.
- It establishes a federal system of government.
- It establishes the parliamentary system not only at the Centre but also in the states.
- It makes India as a secular state.
- It provides an independent judiciary.
- It introduces the Universal Adult Franchise and accords the right to vote to all citizens above 18 years of age without any discrimination.
- It provides single citizenship.
- It makes special provisions for minorities, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, etc.
The term ‘preamble’ refers to the introduction or preface to the Constitution. It consists of the ideals, objectives and basic principles of the Constitution. It contains the summary or essence of the Constitution. It has a great value and has been described as the ‘key to the Constitution’. The Preamble to the Indian Constitution is based on the ‘Objective Resolution’, drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on January 22, 1947. It has been amended once by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976, which added three new words – socialist, secular and integrity.
The Preamble begins with the phrase ‘We, the People of India’. This clearly implies that the Constitution derives its authority from the People of India. Thus, we can say that the people of India are the source of our Constitution. The Preamble of our Constitution states that India is a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. Its aim is to secure all Indian citizens Social, economic and political justice. The Constitution guarantees Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship to all. It gives Equality of status and of opportunity to all. It wants to promote Fraternity among all Indians.
The word ‘Citizen’ is derived from the Latin term ‘Civis’. It means a resident of a City State. The Constitution of India provides for a single and uniform citizenship for the whole of India. Articles 5 to 11 under part II of the Constitution deals with citizenship.
(a). Citizenship Act of 1955
The Citizenship Act of 1955 provides for acquisition and loss of citizenship after the commencement of the Constitution. This Act has been amended so far eight times. Originally, the Citizenship Act (1955) also provided for Commonwealth Citizenship. But, this provision was repealed by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003.
(b). Acquisition of Citizenship
The Citizenship Act of 1955 prescribes five ways of acquiring citizenship, viz, birth, descent, registration, naturalization and incorporation of territory:
According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, citizenship could be acquired through any of the following methods.
1. By Birth: All persons born in India on or after January 26, 1950, are treated as citizens by birth.
2. By Descent: A person born outside India on or after January 26, 1950, shall be a citizen of India by descent if his father is a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
3. By Registration: A person can acquire citizenship of India by registration with the appropriate authority.
4. By Naturalisation: A foreigners can acquire Indian citizenship, on the application for naturalization to the Government of India.
5. By Incorporation of Territory: In the event of a certain territory being added to the territory of India, the Government of India shall specify the persons of that territory who shall be the citizen of India.
(c). Loss of Citizenship
The Citizenship Act of 1955 prescribes three ways of losing citizenship whether acquired under the Act or prior to it under the Constitution, viz, renunciation, termination, and deprivation.
1. It can be voluntarily renounced by a citizen.
2. It can be terminated if a person acquires the citizenship of some other country.
3. The central government can deprive a naturalized citizen, if it satisfied that the citizenship was acquired by fraud, false representation or concealment of material facts or indulges in trade with enemy countries or if the person has been sentenced to imprisonment for a period of 2 years.
6. Fundamental Rights
The Fundamental Rights are enshrined in Part III of the Constitution from Articles 12 to 35. In this regard, the framers of the Constitution derived inspiration from the Constitution of the USA. Originally, the Constitution provided for seven Fundamental Rights. At present, there are only six Fundamental Rights. Part III of the Constitution is rightly described as the Magna Carta of India. While Fundamental Rights are available to all persons, certain Fundamental Rights are available only to Indian Citizens.
I. RIGHT TO EQUALITY
Art. 14 – Equality before law.
Art. 15 – Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Art. 16 – Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
Art. 17 – Abolition of Untouchability.
Art. 18 – Abolition of titles except military and academic.
II. RIGHT TO FREEDOM
Art. 19 – Freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association, movement, residence, and profession.
Art. 20 – Protection in respect of conviction for offenses.
Art. 21 – Protection of life and personal liberty. Art. 21A – Right to elementary education.
Art. 22 – Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.
III. RIGHT AGAINST EXPLOITATION
Art. 23 – Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labor.
Art. 24 – Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.
IV. RIGHT TO RELIGION
Art. 25 – Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.
Art. 26 – Freedom to manage religious affairs.
Art. 27 – Freedom from payment of taxes for promotion of any religion.
Art. 28 – Freedom from attending religious instruction or worship in certain educational institutions.
V. CULTURAL & EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS
Art. 29 – Protection of language, script, and culture of minorities.
Art. 30 – Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.
VI. RIGHT TO CONSTITUTIONAL REMEDIES
Art. 32 – It allows individuals to seek redressal for the violation of their fundamental rights.
Right to Property (Art. 31) was deleted from the list of Fundamental Rights by the 44th Amendment Act, 1978. It is made a legal right under Article 300-A in Part XII of the Constitution.
Right to constitutional remedies (Articles 32)
A writ is an order or command issued by a court in writing under its seal. It is in the nature of a command or prohibition from performing certain acts that are specified in the orders of the court. Both the Supreme Court and the High Courts are empowered to issue five kinds of writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari. That is why the Supreme Court is called the “Guardian of the Constitution”. According to Dr. Ambedkar, Article 32 is “the heart and soul of the Constitution”.
(a) Habeas Corpus: Safeguards people from illegal arrests.
(b) Mandamus: It protects the petitioner who requires legal help to get his work done by respective public authorities.
(c) Prohibition: It prohibits a subordinate court from acting beyond its jurisdiction.
(d) Certiorari: It quashes an order issued by a subordinate court by overstepping its jurisdiction.
(e) Quo Warranto: It prevents the usurpation of public office through illegal manner.
Suspension of Fundamental Rights
When the President makes a Proclamation of Emergency under Article 352, the freedoms guaranteed under Article 19 are automatically suspended. The President can suspend other fundamental rights through specific orders. These orders must be approved by the Parliament. But he cannot suspend the freedoms given under Arts. 20 and 21 (protection in respect of conviction for offenses and protection of life and personal liberty respectively) in any circumstances.
7. Directive Principles of State Policy
The Directive Principles of State Policy are enumerated in Part IV of the Constitution from Articles 36 to 51. The Constitution does not contain any classification of Directive Principles. However, on the basis of their content and direction, they can be classified into three broad categories, viz, socialistic, Gandhian and liberal-intellectual. These principles are not enforceable by the courts But they are fundamental for the governance of the country. The Government is duty-bound to apply these principles while making laws. They aim at promoting the Social Welfare of the people. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar described these principles as ‘novel features’ of the Indian Constitution.
8. Fundamental Duties
The Fundamental Duties in the Indian Constitution are inspired by the Constitution of the former USSR. In 1976, the Congress party set up the Sardar Swaran Singh Committee to make recommendations on fundamental duties. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 added some responsibilities of citizens to our Constitution called the Fundamental Duties. This amendment added a new part, namely, Part IVA to the Constitution. This new part consists of only one Article that is Article 51A which for the first time specified a code of ten fundamental duties of the citizens.
(a). List of Fundamental Duties
Article 51A declares it to 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 the 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 among 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 wildlife, 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 endeavor and achievement.
(k) To provide opportunities for education to his child or ward between the age of six and fourteen years. (The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002 has also introduced the 11th Fundamental Duty under 51A(k) under which all citizens of India or parents shall provide opportunities for education to their children between the age of 6 and 14 years)
9. Center-State Relations
The Constitution of India, being federal in structure, divides all powers between the Centre and the States. The Centre-state relations can be studied under three heads:
(a). Legislative relations
The Union Parliament has the power to legislate for the whole or any part of the territory of India, which includes not only the States but also the Union Territories or any other area, for the time being, included in the territory of India. The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution embodies three lists namely, the Union List, State List and Concurrent List consisting of 97, 66 and 47 items respectively. The Parliament enjoys the exclusive power to legislate on subjects enumerated in the Union List. The State Legislature has exclusive right to legislate on the State List. Both Parliament and State Legislatures have the power to legislate on subjects contained in the Concurrent List. But in case of conflict between the law of the State and the Union on a subject in the Concurrent List, the law of Parliament prevails.
(b). Administrative relations
The Administrative power of a State extends only to its own territory and with respect to which it has legislative competence, whereas the Union has exclusive executive power over:
(a) the matters with respect to which Parliament has exclusive power to make laws and (b) the exercise of its powers conferred by any treaty or agreement.
(c). Financial relations
Article 268-293 in Part XII deals with the Financial relations between the center and the states. The Centre and States are empowered by the Constitution to impose various kinds of taxes. And certain taxes are imposed and collected by the center and divided between center and states based on the recommendation of the Finance Commission appointed by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution.
Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appointed the Sarkaria Commission in 1983 to make an inquiry into the Centre-State relations. The Central government has implemented 180 (out of 247) recommendations of the Commission. The most important is the establishment of the Inter-State Council in 1990.
10. Official Language
Part XVII of the Constitution deals with the official language in Articles 343 to 351. Its provisions are divided into four heads namely, Language of the Union, Regional languages, Language of the judiciary and texts of laws and Special directives.
The First language committee was appointed in 1955. It submitted its report in 1956. As a follow up of the report, parliament enacted the Official Language Act, 1963. The act laid down that even after 15 years, English may be continued to be used along with Hindi for all official purposes of the Union and also for the transaction of business in parliament. Again through the Official Languages (Amendment) Act, 1967, it was provided that the use of English would continue indefinitely. The Constitution also permitted certain regional languages to be used for intra-state official transactions. Initially, the Constitution recognized 14 regional languages which were included in the Eighth Schedule. At present, 22 languages are recognized.
11. Emergency Provisions
The Central Government has been vested with extraordinary powers to deal with conditions of emergency. Three types of emergencies are envisaged in the Constitution:
(a). National Emergency (Article 352)
The President under Article 352 can declare an emergency if he is satisfied that India’s security is threatened due to war, external aggression or armed rebellion, or if there is an imminent danger or threat. When a national emergency is declared on the ground of war or external aggression it is known as an external emergency. On the other hand, when it is declared on the ground of armed rebellion it is known as an internal emergency. This type of emergency has been declared three times so far: in 1962, 1971 and 1975.
(b). State emergency (Article 356)
Under Article 356, the President can declare an emergency in a state if the Governor reports that a situation has arisen under which the government of a State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. The continuance of such an emergency beyond one year is possible only if emergency under Art. 352 are in operation or the Election Commission certifies that there are difficulties in holding Assembly elections. The maximum duration of the emergency can be three years. In this kind of emergency, the States lose much of their autonomy in legislative and executive matters. After such an announcement state legislature is suspended and the State is governed by the Governor on behalf of the President. For the first time, the President’s Rule was imposed in Punjab in 1951.
(c). Financial emergency (Article 360)
Article 360 authorizes the President to declare a financial emergency if he is satisfied that the financial stability or credit of India or of any of its parts is in danger. In this type of emergency, salaries and allowances of any class of persons serving State or Union, including judges of the Supreme Court and High Court can be reduced by an order of the President. This type of emergency has not been declared in India so far.
12. Amendment of the Constitution
The term amendment denotes change, improvement, and modification. Usually, this term is associated with one or more changes made in the Constitution of a country. Article 368 of the Constitution in Part XX, deals with the powers of Parliament to amend the Constitution and its procedure.
(a). Procedure of Amendment
An amendment of this Constitution may be initiated only by the introduction of a Bill for the purpose in either House of Parliament, and when the Bill is passed in each House by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting, it shall be presented to the President who shall give his assent to the Bill and thereupon the Constitution shall stand amended in accordance with the terms of the Bill. The constitution amendment can be brought about only by the Parliament. State legislatures cannot initiate any amendment to the Constitution.
(b). Types of Amendments
Article 368 provides for three ways of amendments, that is, by a special majority of Parliament and also through the ratification of half of the states by a simple majority. But, some other articles provide for the amendment of certain provisions of the Constitution by a simple majority of Parliament, that is, a majority of the members of each House present and voting (similar to the ordinary legislative process). Notably, these amendments are not deemed to be amendments of the Constitution for the purposes of Article 368. Therefore, the Constitution can be amended in three ways:
1. Amendment by a simple majority of the Parliament.
2. Amendment by a special majority of the Parliament.
3. Amendment by a special majority of the Parliament and the ratification of half of the state legislatures.
13. Constitutional Reform Commissions
The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution was set up by a resolution of the Government of India in 2000 headed by M.N.Venkatachaliah. In April 2007, a three-member commission headed by the former Chief Justice of India M.M.Punchchi was set up by the then Government to take a fresh look at relative roles and responsibilities of various levels of Government and their inter-relations.
For the Constitution of India complete notes PDF, check the link – Constitution of India PDF.