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ESSENTIAL FEATURES OF INDIAN CONSTITUTION

1. A written Constitution- Indian Constitution is the longest and most elaborate


constitution in the world. Written constitution is different from unwritten
constitution like in UK, wherein conventions and common laws (judge made
laws) are the main source of law.
2. A Socialist State- The word socialism was inserted in to the preamble of the
Constitution by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976. The socialism
is not defined in the Constitution. It does not however mean doctrinaire
socialism emphasizing state ownership of material resources by total exclusion
of the private enterprise. According to the Supreme Court, the principal aim
of socialism is to eliminate inequality of income and status and standards of
life, and to provide a decent standard of life to the working people.1

3. Concept of welfare state- The Preamble to the Constitution declares welfare


state as one of the social objectives to be achieved. It embodies a distinct
philosophy of governance wherein the State shall render social services to the
people and promotes general welfare. Underlying objective is to achieve the
economic democracy along with political democracy. This concept is further
strengthened by the Directive Principles of State Policy in part IV of the
Constitution.
4. A secular state- There is no official religion in India. There is no staterecognized church or religion. The state does not identify itself with, or favor,
any particular religion. The state is bound to treat all religions and religious
sects equally. The Supreme Court has declared secularism as the basic feature
of the Indian Constitution.2
5. Parliamentary form of government- In presidential form of government such
as in America, the system is based on the doctrine of separation of powers
between the executive and the legislature, the Indian Parliamentary system is
based on the principle of co-ordination and co-operation of the two organs. In
Indian system, the executive power is formally vested in the President, but is
in effect exercised by the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister
and collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. The President is merely
symbolic, a high dignitary having ceremonial functions.
6. Fundamental Rights- The Constitution of India secures to its people a dozen of
important fundamental rights under part III of the Constitution. A person can
claim FRs against the state subject to some permissible restrictions in the
interests of social control, expressly mentioned in the Constitution itself. No
law or executive action infringing a FR can be regarded valid. The Judiciaries
by means of Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution can further safeguard
these FRs effectively.

1 See, inter alia D.S. Nakara v. Union of India, Minerva Mills v. Union of India.
2 Kesavananda v. State of Kerala, S.R. Bommai v. Union of India.

7. Adult suffrage- Every citizen of India, male or female, who has reached the
age of 18 or over, has a right to vote without any discrimination.
8. Independent Judiciary- The independent judiciary having power of judicial
review is sine qua non to Indian Constitution. Judiciary is the guardian and
arbiter of the Constitution as well as the protector of the peoples FRs against
the State. To ensure the independence of Judiciary, the Constitution lays down
a condition that judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts are to be
appointed by the Central Executive on the advice of the judges themselves.
9. A federal constitution- India is essentially a federal state with some strong
unitary features. The basic condition of a federal state being the presence of
division of powers between the central government and the state governments.
States enjoy large autonomy and power within its sphere, which is very much
present in the Indian Constitutional scheme.3 Federalism has been declared to
be an essential feature of the Constitution and a part of its basic structure.
10. A rigid constitution- Indian Constitution is a rigid one because it cannot be
easily amended by an ordinary or simple legislative process, but only by a
special and elaborate procedure laid down by the Constitution itself.
Therefore, constitutional amendment process differs from the ordinary
legislative process. It is distinct from flexible constitution like that of British
Constitution that can be amended by an ordinary legislative process.


3 For detailed discussion on federalism and nature of Indian federalism, see S.R. Bommai v. Union

of India and State of West Bengal v. Union of India.