SALIENT FEATURES OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: SOCIALIST STATE


The word “socialist” was not there originally in the Preamble. It was added to
the Preamble by the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution in 1976. Thus, the
concept of “socialism” has been made explicit and India’s commitment to this
ideal has been underlined and strengthened.


The term “socialist” has not been defined in the Constitution. It does not however envisage doctrinaire socialism in the sense of insistence on state ownership as a matter of policy. It does not mean total exclusion of private enterprise and complete state ownership of material resources of the Nation. In India, there has always been emphasis on mixed economy, i.e., along with a public sector, the private sector also has a role to play. The government accepts
the policy of mixed economy where both public and private sectors co-exist side by side. However, the private enterprises has so far been rigorously controlled by the government, but signs are appearing on the horizon that in future the private enterprise is going to play a much more important economic role than it has
played so far.


The Supreme Court has in a number of decisions referred to the concept of socialism
and has used this concept along with the Directive Principles of State
Policy to assess and evaluate economic legislation. The Court has derived the
concept of social justice and of an economically egalitarian society from the concept
of socialism. 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.”
Democratic socialism aims to end poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality
of opportunity. Socialistic concept of society should be implemented in the true
spirit of the Constitution.

In Samatha v. State of Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme
Court has stated while defining socialism : “Establishment of the egalitarian
social order through rule of law is the basic structure of the Constitution.”

The Court has laid emphasis on social justice so as to attain substantial degree
of social, economic and political equality. Social justice and equality are complimentary
to each other.
Another idea propounded by the Court is that socialism means distributive
justice so as to bring about the distribution of material resources of the community
so as to subserve the common good.
By reading the word ‘socialist’ in the Preamble with the Fundamental Rights
contained in Arts. 14 and 16, the Supreme Court has deduced the Fundamental
Right to equal pay for equal work and compassionate appointment.

SALIENT FEATURES OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: PREAMBLE

Unlike the Constitutions of Australia, Canada or the U.S.A., the Constitution
of India has an elaborate Preamble. The purpose of the Preamble is to clarify who
has made the Constitution, what is its source, what is the ultimate sanction behind
it; what is the nature of the polity which is sought to be established by the
Constitution and what are its goals and objectives?


The Preamble does not grant any power but it gives a direction and purpose to
the Constitution. It outlines the objectives of the whole Constitution. The Preamble
contains the fundamentals of the Constitution. It serves several important
purposes, as for example:


(1) It contains the enacting clause which brings the Constitution into
force.
(2) It declares the great rights and freedoms which the people of India
intended to secure to all its citizens.
(3) It declares the basic type of government and polity which is sought to
be established in the country.
(4) It throws light on the source of the Constitution, viz. the People of India.


The words in the Preamble, “We the people of India…in our Constituent Assembly…
do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution”, propound
the theory that the ‘sovereignty’ lies in the people, that the Constitution,
emanates from them; that the ultimate source for the validity of, and the sanction
behind the Constitution is the will of the people; that the Constitution has not
been imposed on them by any external authority, but is the handiwork of the Indians
themselves.


Thus, the source of the Constitution are the people themselves from whom the
Constitution derives its ultimate sanction. This assertion affirms the republican
and democratic character of the Indian polity and the sovereignty of the people.
The People of India thus constitute the sovereign political body who hold the ultimate
power and who conduct the government of the country through their
elected representatives.
The claim that the People of India have given to themselves the Constitution
is in line with similar claims made in several other democratic Constitutions,
such as those of the U.S.A., Ireland, etc.

As regards the nature of the Indian Polity, the Preamble to the Constitution declares
India to be a ‘Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic’. The term
‘Sovereign’ denotes that India is subject to no external authority and that the state
has power to legislate on any subject in conformity with constitutional limitations.
The term ‘democratic’ signifies that India has a responsible and parliamentary form
of government which is accountable to an elected legislature. The Supreme Court has
declared ‘democracy’ as the basic feature of the Constitution. The term ‘Republic’
denotes that the head of the state is not a hereditary monarch, but an elected functionary.
As to the grand objectives and socio-economic goals to achieve which the Indian
Polity has been established, these are stated in the Preamble. These are: to
secure to all its citizens social, economic and political justice; liberty of thought,
expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and opportunity, and to
promote among them fraternity so as to secure the dignity of the individual and
the unity and integrity of the Nation.
Emphasizing upon the significance of the three concepts of liberty, equality
and fraternity used in the Preamble, Dr. Ambedkar observed in his closing speech
in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949 : “The principles of liberty,
equality and fraternity are not to be treated as separate items in a trinity. They
form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat
the very purpose of democracy. Liberty cannot be divorced from equality, equality
cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced
from fraternity. Without equality liberty would produce the supremacy of the few
over the many. Equality without liberty, would kill individual initiative”.
The Supreme Court has emphasized that the words “fraternity assuring the
dignity of the individual” have “a special relevance in the Indian context” because
of the social backwardness of certain sections of the community who had
in the past been looked down upon.
To give a concrete shape to these aspirations, the Constitution has a Chapter
on Fundamental Rights which guarantee certain rights to the people, such as,
freedom of the person, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc.
According to the Supreme Court, “The Constitution envisions to establish an
egalitarian social order rendering to every citizen, social, economic and political
justice in a social and economic democracy of the Bharat Republic.” The Constitution
thus ensures economic democracy along with political democracy.
The goals and objectives of the Indian Polity as stated in the Preamble are
sought to be further clarified, strengthened and concretized through the Directive
Principles of State Policy.

The Preamble lays emphasis on the principle of equality which is basic to the
Indian Constitution. The principle of equality is a basic feature or structure of the
Constitution which means that even a constitutional amendment offending the
basic structure of the Constitution is ultra vires. A legislature cannot transgress
this basic feature of the Constitution while making a law.

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.