written constitution in the world has its own unique characteristics, and no
exception is the Indian Constitution. But the Indian Constitution has many
prominent features that distinguish it from the other Constitutions. This
article clearly explains the Indian Constitution’s 8 key features.
1. World’s Longest Constitution
The Indian Constitution contains 395 articles and 12 schedules, making it the world’s longest written constitution. Just compare it with other countries Constitutions. For example, the UK has no written constitution, while the US Constitution contains only seven articles.
Not only have this but since 1951 about 90 articles and more than 100 amendments been added. However, since the articles are not added separately as part of an existing article (e.g. Article 21A, 35A etc.) the total number of articles remains the same at 395.
2. Taken from various sources
The Indian Constitution was framed from multiple sources including the 1935 Government of India Act and Other Countries Constitutions.
Feature of Indian Constitution
||Borrowed From (Source)|
|Basic structure (Federal scheme, Judiciary, Governors, Emergency powers, Public Service Commissions, Administrative details etc.)||Government of India Act 1935|
|Fundamental Rights||American Constitution|
|Directive Principles||Irish Constitution|
|Cabinet form of government||British Constitution|
In addition to these, the Constitutions of Canada, Australia, Germany, the U.S.S.R., and France also adopted various provisions.
3. Federal System with Unitary Features
Federal System with Unitary The Indian Constitution includes all the federal characteristics of governance such as dual government system (center and state),division of powers between the three state organs (executive, judiciary and legislature), constitutional supremacy, independent judiciary and bicameralism (lower and upper house).
Nevertheless, the Indian Constitution is unique in that it includes many unitary features such as a strong centre, all India services common to the center and the states, emergency provisions that can transform the Constitution into a unitary one if necessary, appointment of governors by the president on the advice of the center, etc.
Indeed, Article 1 clearly states that India is a ‘ Union of States ‘ rather than a federation of States. In India, the states did not come together to form the centre (or Union) like in the case of the USA which is the purest form of a federation. Rather, for administrative convenience, it is the center that created the states. Article 3 of the Indian Constitution makes Parliament the sole authority to create new states clearly indicating that the Indian Constitution is of a unitary nature with certain federal characteristics.
4. Parliamentary Form of Government
On the pattern of the British parliamentary system of government, the Indian Constitution has opted for the parliamentary form of government. The key characteristics of the parliamentary form of government are:
1. Executive are members of the legislature
2. Collective responsibility to the legislature of the Council of Ministers
3. Rule of the majority party
4. Prime Minister’s or chief minister’s leadership in the state
5. Lower house dissolution (Lok Sabha and state assemblies)
6. Government form of the Cabinet
5. Balance between the Sovereignty of Parliament and Judicial Supremacy
A fine balance has been struck between parliamentary sovereignty and judicial supremacy by the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court is vacuumed by Articles 13, 32 and 136 with the power of judicial review. By its power of judicial review, it can strike down any parliamentary law as unconstitutional.
On the other hand, the Parliament, being the representative of the people’s will, has the authority to make laws, and it can also amend the major part of the Constitution through its video vested powers under Article 368.
6. Independent and Integrated Judicial System
In India, unlike the United States where there is a two-tiered judiciary, a single judicial system prevails with the Supreme Court at the top, the State and District High Courts and other subordinate courts below and subject to the supervision of the High Courts.
It is the duty of all levels of courts in India to enforce both central and state laws unlike in the US, where federal courts adjudicate on federal matters and state courts on state matters.
Not only is the judiciary system well fully integrated in India, but because of the following provisions it is also independent
1. Appointment of judges of Supreme Court and High Courts by collegium system
2. Removal of judges in Parliament through an impeachment procedure that is very difficult to pass
3. Supreme Court judges salaries, pensions, and allowances are charged to India’s Consolidated Fund
4. Power to punish for self – disregard
5. Ban on judges practice after retirement…etc
7. Directive Principles of State Policy
In Part IV of the Constitution, the Directive Principles of State Policies (DPSPs) aims to make India a welfare state. Therefore, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar calls the Directive Principles as the Indian Constitution’s novel feature. The Principles of the Directive are inherently unjustifiable, that is, they are not enforceable for their violation by the courts.
Their usefulness, however, lies in their moral obligation to apply these principles to the state in making laws. As such, the principles of the directive are fundamental to the country’s governance.
8. Combination of rigidity and flexibility
The Indian Constitution strikes a fine balance between rigidity and flexibility when it comes to ease of modification. Article 368 lays down two types of modifications:
1. Some provisions may be amended by a special parliamentary majority, i.e. a 2/3rd majority of the members of each House present and vote and majority (i.e. more than 50 %) of each House’s total membership.
2. Some other provisions can be amended by a special parliamentary majority and with half of the total states ratifying them.
This ensures that with the widest possible majority, the Constitution is amended.
At the same time, in the manner of the ordinary legislative process, certain provisions of the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority of Parliament. Such amendments are not within the scope of Article 368.