SALIENT FEATURES OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: WRITTEN CONSTITUTION

India’s Constitution is a lengthy, elaborate and detailed document. Originally
it consisted of 395 Articles arranged under 22 Parts and eight Schedules. Today,
after many amendments, it has 441 Articles and 12 Schedules. It is probably the
longest of the organic laws now extant in the world.

Several reasons contributed to its prolixity.

First, the Constitution deals with
the organization and structure not only of the Central Government but also of the
States.

Secondly, in a federal Constitution, Centre-State relationship is a matter
of crucial importance. While other federal Constitutions have only skeletal provisions
on this matter, the Indian Constitution has detailed norms.

Thirdly, the
Constitution has reduced to writing many unwritten conventions of the British
Constitution, as for example, the principle of collective responsibility of the
Ministers, parliamentary procedure, etc.

Fourthly, there exist various communities and groups in India. To remove
mutual distrust among them, it was felt necessary to include in the Constitution
detailed provisions on Fundamental Rights, safeguards to minorities, Scheduled
Tribes, Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes.

Fifthly, to ensure that the future India be based on the concept of social welfare,
the Constitution includes Directive Principles of State Policy.

Lastly, the Constitution contains not only the fundamental principles of governance
but also many administrative details such as the provisions regarding citizenship,
official language, government services, electoral machinery, etc.

In other Constitutions,
these matters are usually left to be regulated by the ordinary law of the
land. The framers of the Indian Constitution, however, felt that unless these provisions
were contained in the Constitution, the smooth and efficient working of the
Constitution and the democratic process in the country might be jeopardized.
The form of administration has a close relation with the form of the Constitution,
and the former must be appropriate to, and in the same sense as, the latter. It
is quite possible to pervert the Constitutional mechanism without changing its
form by merely changing the form of the administration and making it inconsistent
with, and opposed to, the spirit of the Constitution. Since India was emerging
as an independent country after a long spell of foreign rule, the country lacked
democratic values. The Constitution-makers, therefore, thought it prudent not to
take unnecessary risks, and incorporate in the Constitution itself the form of administration
as well, instead of leaving it to the legislature, so that the whole
mechanism may become viable.
It would, however, be wrong to suppose that the Indian Constitution with all
its prolixity finally settles all problems of government. It leaves a number of
matters to be taken care of by ordinary legislation. It also provides scope, though
not so much as in Britain, for the growth and development of conventions.


Thus, the relationship between the President or the State Governor and his Council
of Ministers, the concept of ministerial responsibility for acts of the officials,
the relationship between the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister in a State and
his Council of Ministers, the appointment of a State Governor, dissolution of the
Lok Sabha or of a State Legislative Assembly by the President or the Governor
respectively, the relations between the President and the Governor, are some of the
matters which are left to be evolved by conventions.


It is not correct to assume that the conventions of the British Constitution would operate suo motu in India wherever relevant and applicable. In course of time, some of these conventions have been questioned, and new conventions are in the process of emergence. This is mainly because most of the conventions of the British Constitution have been evolved in the context of a two-party system, while in India, a multiparty system is evolving. More will be said on this subject in later pages.