A Brief Overview of The Indian Constitution

The Constitution of India is the supreme law of the country. It is the fundamental governing document that provides a comprehensive framework to guide and govern the country. The Constituent Assembly of India on adopted the Constitution on 26th November, 1949. It came into effect on 26th January 1950, celebrated as Republic Day in India, replacing the Government of India Act 1935, and the Dominion of India became the Republic of India. 

The Constitution of India establishes the main organs – executive, legislature, and judiciary, defining their powers, states the fundamental rights and the responsibilities of citizens. The Indian Constitution is the world’s lengthiest for any sovereign nation. At its enactment, the original text of the Constitution contained 395 articles in 22 parts and 8 schedules. At about 145,000 words, it is the second-longest active Constitution in the world, after the Constitution of Alabama. The Constitution has a preamble and 470 articles, in 25 parts, with 12 schedules and 5 appendices. It was neither printed or typed, but was handwritten and calligraphed in both Hindi and English.

The Constituent Assembly:

The Constituent Assembly was responsible was drafting the Constitution. The members were elected indirectly by the people by the ‘Provincial Assemblies’ by a single, transferable-vote system of proportional representation. The Constituent Assembly met for the first time on 9 December 1946, reassembling on 14 August 1947 as a sovereign body. The constitution was drafted by 299 delegates, and the assembly took almost 3 years to frame the document holding 11 sessions over 165 days.

Dr. B.R Ambedkar, the chairman of the Drafting Committee, was the chief architect and widely known as the Father of the Indian Constitution. Some of the prominent members of the assembly included – Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Rajendra Prasad, Vallabhbhai Patel, Abul Kalam Azad, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Nalini Ranjan Ghosh, and Balwantrai Mehta, Sarojini Naidu, Hansa Mehta, Durgabai Deshmukh, Amrit Kaur, and Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit. Following India’s independence from the British Government in 1947, its members served as the nation’s first Parliament.  

The Preamble:

A preamble is an introductory statement in a document that explains the philosophy and objectives behind it. The Preamble contains the intention of the makers and the history behind its creation. The Preamble declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic. The objectives stated by the Preamble are to secure justice, liberty, equality for all citizens and promote fraternity to maintain the unity and integrity of the nation. These objectives specified in the Preamble cannot be amended and constitute the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. 

Keywords of the Preamble:

We, The People of India: The Constitution was created and made by the people through representatives, without any external power. 

Sovereign: People have the supreme right to make decisions on internal as well as external matters. No external power can dictate the government of India.

Socialist: Wealth is generated socially and should be shared equally by society. Government should regulate the ownership of land and industry to reduce social and economic inequalities.

Secular: Citizens have complete freedom to follow any religion. The government treats all religious beliefs and practices with equal respect. 

Democratic: A form of government where people have equal political rights, elect their rulers, and hold them accountable. 

Republic: The head of the state is an elected person and not a hereditary position.

 Justice:  Citizens will not be discriminated against by their caste, religion, and gender. Government should work for the welfare of all, especially of the disadvantaged groups.

Liberty: There are no restrictions on the citizens in what they think, how they wish to express their thoughts, and the way they want to follow up their ideas in action.

Equality: All are equal before the law. The government must ensure that there are no social inequalities. 

Fraternity: All of us should behave as if we belong to the same family. No one should treat a fellow citizen as inferior.

Fundamental Rights:

Fundamental Rights are the basic human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India. These rights are justiciable, and an individual can move the Supreme Court or the High Courts if there is an encroachment on any of these rights. 

(i) Right to Equality

(ii) Right to Freedom

(iii) Right against Exploitation 

(iv) Right to Freedom of Religion 

v) Cultural and Educational Rights 

vi) Right to Constitutional Remedies. 

Governmental Sources of Power:

The Constitution is considered federal in nature and unitary in spirit. It has features of a federation, including a codified, supreme constitution; a three-tier governmental structure (central, state, and local); division of powers; bicameralism; and an independent judiciary. It also possesses unitary features such as – a single constitution, single citizenship, an integrated judiciary, a flexible constitution, a strong central government, appointment of state governors by the central government, All India Services (the IAS, IFS, and IPS), along with emergency provisions. This unique combination makes it quasi-federal in form.

The executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government receive their power from the Constitution. It provides for the Parliamentary form of government with a bicameral legislature at the Centre consisting of Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) and Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament). The President is the nominal head of the state and the Parliament. In actual practice, the Prime Minister, aided by the Council of Ministers, heads the executive and is responsible for governance. 

An impartial judiciary, independent of the legislature and the executive, is one of the main features of the Constitution. The Supreme Court of India is the highest court of the country, and is known as the guardian of the Constitution. Each state has a High Court as its highest court. Under powers of judicial review, the Supreme Court and High Court can declare a law as unconstitutional or ultra vires if it contravenes any provisions of the Constitution.