Constitution of India: A Unique Blend of Legal Wisdom


The Constitution of India is a legal masterpiece, a living document that serves as the foundational framework of the world’s largest democracy. It is a unique blend of legal wisdom, incorporating elements from various international legal systems while remaining distinctive in spirit and content. This article delves into the flexible nature of the Indian Constitution, significant amendments, the significance of the Preamble, and the chief features that make it a remarkable legal entity.

The Flexible Nature of the Indian Constitution

Unlike some rigid constitutions, the Indian Constitution is remarkably flexible, capable of adapting to the changing needs of the nation. This flexibility is evident through the numerous amendments it has undergone. Some of the most noteworthy amendments include the 7th, 42nd, 44th, 73rd, and 74th Amendments, each leaving a significant impact on the Constitution.

The 42nd Amendment – The “Mini Constitution”

The 42nd Amendment, often referred to as the “Mini Constitution,” played a crucial role in reshaping the Indian Constitution. Enacted during the Emergency in 1976, this amendment introduced sweeping changes. Its significance can be better understood in the context of the Kesavananda Bharati case in 1973, where the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament’s power under Article 368 did not empower it to alter the basic structure of the Constitution.

The 44th Amendment in the Constitution of India

Following the significant changes brought about by the 42nd Amendment, the 44th Amendment played a crucial role in reinstating some fundamental aspects of the Constitution, particularly the right to property as a fundamental right.

The Essence of the Preamble

One distinctive feature of the Indian Constitution is the inclusion of a Preamble, which serves as its introduction and essence. The Preamble is inspired by Pandit Nehru’s Objective Resolution, which was presented and adopted by the Constituent Assembly. Notably, the Preamble has evolved over time. In 1976, the 42nd Amendment incorporated the words ‘socialist,’ ‘secular,’ and ‘integrity’ into the Preamble, reflecting the evolving values of the nation.

Key Components of the Preamble

The Preamble encompasses four vital components:

Source of Authority: It emphasizes that the Constitution derives its power from the people of India, underlining the democratic foundation of the nation.

Nature of the Indian State: The Preamble defines India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, and republican state, reflecting the core principles that guide the nation.

Objectives of the Constitution: It outlines the objectives of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity, highlighting the goals that the Constitution seeks to achieve for its citizens.

Constitution’s Date of Adoption: The Preamble signifies the adoption of the Constitution on 26th November 1949, a historic moment in India’s journey toward becoming a republic.

A Constitution of Borrowed Features

The Indian Constitution is often referred to as a “Bag of Borrowing” due to its incorporation of various features from other legal systems worldwide. This borrowing has allowed the framers of the Constitution to adapt global best practices to suit India’s unique context, creating a legal framework that is both comprehensive and responsive to the needs of a diverse and complex nation. The influences from other constitutions are listed below.

ConstitutionBorrowed Features
BritishParliamentary system
Constitutional Head of State
Lower House of Parliament more powerful than the Upper House
Responsibility of Council of Ministers towards Parliament
Prevalence of the rule of law
Fundamental Rights
Functions of Vice-president
Amendment of Constitution
Nature and functions of the Supreme Court
Independence of the judiciary
List of concurrent powers
Procedure for solving deadlock over concurrent subjects between the Centre and the States
Directive Principles of State Policy
Method of nomination of members to the Rajya Sabha
Weimer Constitution of GermanyPowers of the President
CanadianProvisions of a strong nation
Name of the Union of India
Vesting residuary powers
South AfricanProcedure of amendment with a two-thirds majority in Parliament

Chief Features of the Indian Constitution

Federal System with Unitary Bias: The Indian Constitution establishes a federal system of governance, with all the expected features of a federal state, such as two government levels, division of power, supremacy and rigidity of the Constitution, a written Constitution, and bicameralism. However, it also incorporates unitary elements, such as single citizenship, a strong central government, a single Constitution, flexibility of the Constitution, all-India services, an integrated judiciary, the appointment of state governors by the Centre, emergency provisions, and more. Interestingly, the term ‘federation’ is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution; instead, it refers to India as a ‘Union of States.’ This implies that the Indian federation is not a result of an agreement by the states, and states do not have the right to secede from the federation.

Parliamentary Form of Government: The parliamentary form of government, borrowed from the British system, is a fundamental feature of the Indian Constitution. It is based on the principle of cooperation and coordination between the legislative and executive branches. This form of government, alternatively known as the Westminster model, responsible government, and cabinet government, is followed not only at the central level but also in the states. It encompasses various aspects, including nominal and real executives, the rule of the majority party, collective responsibility of the executive to the legislature, membership of ministers in the legislature, leadership of the prime minister or chief minister, and the dissolution of the lower House. However, there are some fundamental differences between the Indian and British models, particularly in the sovereignty of the respective parliaments and the nature of the head of state.

Parliament: Structural and Functional Dimensions: The Indian Parliament, consisting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, plays a pivotal role in the nation’s governance. The President, as the head of the executive, is also a constituent part of the legislature. This unique feature means that the President has various responsibilities with regard to the Parliament. However, the President cannot participate in the discussions within the houses. The President summons and prorogues the houses as needed and is a vital part of the legislative process, as every bill passed must receive presidential assent before becoming law. Additionally, the President has the power to dissolve the Lok Sabha, triggering general elections. At the start of each general election, the President addresses both houses in a special session. The President also possesses the authority to promulgate ordinances under Article 123. This unique structural and functional design ensures a balance of power and responsibilities within India’s federal system of government.

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