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Constitution of India

What is a Constitution?

A constitution is a written document that contains a set of rules for a government. It defines the fundamental political principles establishing the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of a government. It limits the power of the government to prevent exploitation and guarantees certain rights to the people. The term constitution can be applied to any overall law that defines the functioning of a government.

Historical Background

A Drafting Committee was set up by the Constituent Assembly on 29th August 1947 to frame the Indian Constitution under the chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. It took almost three years to draft the Constitution holding eleven sessions over a 165 day period. The Constitution of India draws extensively from Western legal traditions in its outline of the principles of liberal democracy. It follows a British parliamentary pattern with a lower and upper house. It embodies some Fundamental Rights which are similar to the Bill of Rights declared by the United States Constitution. It also borrows the concept of a Supreme Court from the United States.

The Indian Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly of India on 26 November 1949 and was made effective on 26 January 1950 which is celebrated as the Republic Day. The Constitution replaced the Government of India Act, 1935 as the country’s fundamental governing document, and the Dominion of India became the Republic of India. To ensure constitutional autochthony (the process of asserting constitutional nationalism from an external legal or political power), its framers repealed prior acts of the British parliament by enacting Article 395 of the Indian Constitution.

References from other Constitutions

References from other Constitutions:

British Constitution

  • British Constitution
  • The idea of single citizenship
  • The idea of the Rule of law
  • Institution of Speaker and his role
  • Lawmaking procedure

United States Constitution

  • Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is similar to the United States Bill of Rights
  • Federal structure of government
  • Power of Judicial Review and independence of the judiciary

Irish Constitution

  • Constitutional enunciation of the directive principles of state policy

French Constitution

  • Ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity

Canadian Constitution

  • A quasi-federal form of government (a federal system with a strong central government)
  • The idea of Residual Powers

Australian Constitution

  • The idea of the Concurrent list
  • Freedom of trade and commerce within the country and between the states

Soviet Constitution

  • The Planning Commission and Five-Year Plans
  • Fundamental Duties

Preamble to the Constitution of India

References from The Preamble highlights few fundamental values and guiding principles on which the Constitution of India is based. It serves as the guiding light for both, the Constitution as well as the judges who interpret the Constitution in its light. The opening few words of the Preamble – “We, the people” – signifies that the power is vested in the hands of the people of India. The Preamble is as follows:

“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.”

Initially, the preamble was not the part of the Constitution of India but the Supreme Court, in the case of ‘Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala’ found it to be a part of the Constitution which is essential to interpret ambiguous areas of the Constitution.

Terms of the preamble explained

Sovereign – It means supreme or independent. The preamble declares the Republic of India as both, internally as well as externally sovereign. Externally it is free from any foreign power and internally it exercises a free government directly elected by the people and makes laws that govern the people.

Socialist – The word was added by the 42nd amendment act of 1976. It implies social and economic equality. Social equality means there is no discrimination on the grounds of caste, color, creed, sex, religion, language, etc. Each one enjoys equal status and opportunities. By economic equality it means that the government will endeavor for equal distribution of wealth and to provide a decent standard of living for all, hence a commitment in forming a welfare state. Abolition of Untouchability and Zamindari, the Equal Wages Act and the Child Labour Prohibition Act were few steps taken by the government in this context.

Secular – The word was inserted by the 42nd amendment act of 1976. Secular implies equality of all religions and religious tolerance. No state in India has an official state religion. Anybody can preach, practice and propagate any religion of his or her choice. In the eyes of law, all citizens are equal irrespective of their religious beliefs. No religious instruction is imparted in government schools or government-aided schools.

Democratic – This means that the government of all levels is elected by the people through a system of universal adult franchise. Every citizen irrespective of caste, creed, color, sex, religion or education who is 18 years of age and above is entitled to vote, if not debarred by law.

Republic – The term means that the head of the state is elected, directly or indirectly, for a fixed tenure. The President of India is elected by the Electoral College for a fixed period of five years.

Articles under the Indian Constitution

There are 449 articles under the Indian Constitution which have been divided into 25 parts. Initially, the constitution contained only 22 parts and 395 articles along with 8 schedules. However, multiple amendments have been made to the constitution since its inception. As of October 2018, a total of 123 amendment bills have been introduced out of which 102 amendment acts have been brought into effect. A summary of the articles of the Constitution of India has been given below:

PART I (Articles 1 to 4): The Union and Its Territory

The first part of our Constitution deals with the States and Union territories of India. It describes the country “India that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States” and then frames the laws under which the States can be divided or merged with a simple Parliamentary Majority. The boundaries can be altered and the names of states can be changed. It also gives a clause in which territories can be annexed into the Union. Currently, there are 29 States in India and 7 Union Territories.
This part itself is a part of the Basic structure of the Constitution and hence cannot be amended via article 368. However small amendments can be made like the Constitution (40th amendment) act, 1976, substituted a new Article 297 so as to vest in Union of India all lands, minerals, and other things of value underlying the ocean within the territorial waters or continental shelf or exclusive economic zone of India. Sikkim was admitted as a state in India on 26 April 1975. The latest effect of this law can be seen in Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014 where Telangana was formed as a new state.

PART II (Articles 5 to 11): Citizenship

This Article decides whether a person can carry the Blue Indian passport or not. It has 7 articles which are given below:

  • Citizenship at the commencement of the Constitution.
  • Rights of Citizenship of certain persons who have migrated to India from Pakistan.
  • Rights of Citizenship of certain migrants to Pakistan.
  • Rights of Citizenship of certain persons of Indian origin residing outside India.
  • Persons voluntarily acquiring citizenship of a foreign State not to be citizens.
  • Continuance of the rights of citizenship.
  • Parliament to regulate the right of citizenship by law.

Using the power vested in Parliament by Article 11 of the Constitution of India, a comprehensive law “The Citizenship Act, 1955″ was passed by the Parliament. This act has been amended from time to time to make space for provisions as and when required. Primarily, India was a country which only allowed Single citizenship, but the Citizenship Bill 2003 allows people of Indian origin lining in 16 specific countries to acquire dual citizenship. Citizenship can also be acquired in the following ways:

  1. A person who was born in the territory of India or
  2. A person either of whose parents were born in the territory of India or
  3. A person who has been ordinarily resident in the territory of India for not less than five years

PART III (Articles 12 to 35): Fundamental Rights

The most important part of the Constitution. The Fundamental Rights are the core rights citizens enjoy and all laws are made around them to either protect them directly or indirectly. Although this part has been prone to various contraventions, amendments and political debates, it was settled in the Kesavananda Bharti case that this Part is included in the “Basic Structure” of the Constitution and can be only amended positively and progressively. However, these rights are subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law e.g. Like some Rights can be taken away in case of Emergency. The Fundamental rights have been explained in the following paragraphs:

Equality before Law
Everyone including a non-citizen is equal before the law. The State ensures equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. 

Prohibition of Discrimination on grounds of Religion, Race, Caste, Sex or Place of Birth
The makers of our Constitution wanted an egalitarian (based on the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities) society. Hence, they ensured that the State did not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. But then nothing shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally Backward Class of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as also given in Part 29 (2) holds good. 

Equality of Opportunity in matters of Public Employment
Much similar to Article 15 which prohibits discrimination, in this case from public employment. Hence a person can very much be from Bihar and work in Mumbai. 

Abolition of Untouchability
The social abuse of untouchability practiced in ancient India which was prevalent in many parts of the country was totally abolished under this article. 

Right to Freedom of Speech
A much-debated article especially with the ongoing clamor and barrage of news channels and the unregulated Social Media. We ought to remember that this freedom is not absolute and no one can stop the State from making any law which imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. 

Protection in Respect of Conviction for Offences A person cannot be convicted of any offense except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the Act, nor be prosecuted and punished for the same offense more than once. No person accused of any offense shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. 

Protection of Life and Personal Liberty
The ambit of this law is the largest among all Fundamental Rights. It says that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Article 21(A) added by the Right to Education 2005 makes it compulsory for the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years. 

Protection against Arrest and Detention in certain Cases
Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest Magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest. The writ of Habeas Corpus enumerates from this article. 

Prohibition of Traffic in Human Beings and Forced Labor
Article 23 deals with the right against exploitation and prohibits the traffic in human beings and forced labor such as begging. 

Prohibition of Employment of Children in factories
Children below the age of fourteen years cannot be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment. 

Right to Freedom of Religion
Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. 

Freedom to Manage Religious Affairs
This right is subject to public order, morality, and health. 

Cultural and Educational Rights
Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same. No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them. 

Right to Constitutional Remedies
Also described by Dr. Ambedkar as the “Heart & Soul of Indian Constitution” Remedies for enforcement of rights are conferred by this Part. A person can move to the High court or Supreme Court to ensure his rights. The Court shall have the power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by this Part. 

PART IV (Articles 36 to 51): Directive Principles of State Policy

These are Directives to the Union and state governments to make laws for a more healthy, law-abiding and idealistic society. These were inspired by the Irish Constitution. They promote the general welfare of people but cannot be enforced by the means of Writs in the Courts of law.
The directives are, 
State to secure a social order for the promotion of the welfare of the people. 
Certain principles of policy to be followed by the State are, 

  1. The citizens, men, and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood;
  2. The ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to sub serve the common good;
  3. The operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;
  4. Equal pay for equal work for both men and women;
  5. The health and strength of workers, men, and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength;
  6. That children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
  7. Equal justice and free legal aid to be provided by the state (39A).

PART IV-A (Articles 51A): Fundamental Duties

Inspired by the Russian Constitution the Fundamental Duties are the responsibilities of a citizen towards the nation. Though the duties cannot be enforced in a court of law, the Constitution expects the people of India to follow them duly. These were not part of the original Constitution they were added on the recommendations of Swaran Singh Committee by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976. These are,

  1. To abide by the constitution and respect its ideal and institutions
  2. To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom
  3. To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India
  4. To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so
  5. To promote the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India
  6. To preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture
  7. To protect and improve the natural environment
  8. To develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry
  9. To safeguard public property
  10. To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity

Further, under 86th Amendment of the Constitution in 2002 one more Fundamental Duty has been added to the Indian Constitution which is Right to Education which says it is the duty of parent or guardian, to provide opportunities for education to his child.

PART V Articles (52 to 151): Government at the Union Level

This part deals with duties and functions of the President, Prime Minister, Ministers, Attorney General, Parliament, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha, Comptroller and Auditor General.

Articles 52 to 62 outline the Powers of the President and the Executive. The election, re-election, eligibility, manner, qualifications and also the procedure of impeachment of the President. Articles 63 to 71, in the same manner, talk and regulate the position of the Vice President. Article 72 lays down the power of the President to grant pardons in certain cases. Article 73 gives the extent of Executive powers of the Union. Article 74 tells how the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers are binding on the president.

Article 75 says that the Prime Minister is to be appointed by the President and also the other ministers to be appointed by him on the advice of the Prime Minister. It also lays down some other provisions as to the Ministers. 

Article 76 lays down the appointment and duties of the Attorney General of India. Articles 77-78 regulate the conduct of Government Business. 

Articles 79 to 122 lay down details of the Parliament. The Constitution and Composition of both the houses, duration, sessions, prorogation of these houses. Further, the qualifications and appointment of members, their salaries, the appointment of speakers and deputy speakers. The legislative procedure of the Parliament is also described in these articles. Article 123 lays down the power of President to promulgate Ordinances. 

Articles 124 to 147 details the Union Judiciary. The establishment of Supreme Court, the appointment of Judges, their salaries and powers. It also lays down the procedures of the working, powers, jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India. 

Articles 148 to 151 describe the role, powers, procedures, and duties of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. 

PART VI (Articles 152 to 237): Government at the State Level

This part of the Constitution deals with the duties, functions of a Chief Minister and his Ministers, Governor, State Legislature, High courts and the Advocate General of the State.

Article 152 to 164 details the Governor of the State. It describes the executive powers, appointment, term of office, qualifications and the methodology and procedure to discharge the powers of the Governor. It describes how the advice of the council of minister is binding on the Governor. Article 165 lays down the duties of advocate general of the state. 

Article 168 to 195 details the state legislature, the formation, composition, duration, and desolation of legislative assemblies and councils. It also talks about the qualifications, nominations, and disqualifications of the members of these houses. The appointment of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, their powers and their salaries are also detailed in these Articles. 

Articles 196 to 212 detail the legislative procedure of the State Legislature. These Articles define bills, money bills, appropriation bills and how these bills are tabled to become law. Article 213 talks about the power of Governor to promulgate ordinances during the recess of legislature. 

Articles 214 to 231 detail the establishment of High Courts of States. The appointment of Judges, their salaries, their transfers, appointment of Chief Justice and acting Judges, jurisdiction of High Courts, their power to issue writs, their extension to some Union Territories and/or States is also provided in these Articles. Articles 233 to 237 describe the procedures and application of Sub-ordinate Courts and its Judges. 

PART VIII (Articles 239 to 242): Union Territories

Articles 239 to 242 lays down the procedures of administration and provisions in Union Territories and special character of Delhi as National capital Territory. It details the power of the Lieutenant Governor. Article 242 was repealed by the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956

PART IX (Articles 243 to 243O): The Panchayats

Articles 243 to 243O describes the Constitution of Panchayats and Gram Sabha, their working duration, qualifications and disqualifications of memberships, powers, authority, and responsibilities of a Panchayat. This part also gives procedures of financial management, audits, and applications of the Panchayats. Schedule 11 was added by the Seventy-Third Amendment in 1992.

PART IX-A Article (243P to 243 ZG): The Municipalities

Articles 243P to 243ZG describes the Constitution of Municipalities their working duration, qualifications and disqualifications of memberships, powers, authority, and responsibilities of the Municipality. This part also gives procedures of financial management, composition of a committee for metropolitan planning, audits, and its applications. Schedule 12 was added by the Seventy-Fourth Amendment in 1992.

PART X (Articles 244 to 244A): Scheduled and Tribal Areas

Article 244 and 244A describes the procedures of administration for Scheduled and Tribal areas. The provisions of the Fifth Schedule control the Scheduled areas and Tribes with the exception of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram where the provision of Sixth Schedule shall apply.

PART XI (Articles 245 to 263): Relations between the Union and States

Articles 245 to 261 details the distribution of Legislative powers between the Centre and the States. They describe the extent of laws which can be made by the Parliament and by the Legislatures of States. The power of Parliament to legislate in the State list for national interest, in a proclamation of emergency is prescribed in this part. The obligation of States and Union towards each other and the control of the Union over States in certain cases is also provided. Article 262 provides for adjudication of disputes relating to waters and interstate rivers while Article 263 gives provisions with respect to an interstate Council.

The 101st Amendment Act, GST inserted two important articles to this Part. It states that (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in articles 246 and 254, Parliament, and, subject to clause (2), the Legislature of every State, have the power to make laws with respect to goods and services tax imposed by the Union or by such State. (2) Parliament has exclusive power to make laws with respect to goods and services tax where the supply of goods, or of services, or both take place in the course of inter-State trade or commerce.

PART XII (Article 264 to 300A): Finance, Property, Contracts and Suits

This part deals with the distribution of revenue between Union and States, appointment of the Finance Commission (under Article 280), contracts, liability, taxes, consolidated funds, public accounts, and grants etc.
Here also the GST has made a few important amendments. The first amendment has been made to the Article 269A. This article says that in case of the inter-state trade, the tax will be levied and collected by the Government of India and shared between the Union and States as per the recommendation of the GST Council. The article also makes it clear that the proceeds such collected will not be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India or state but respective share shall be assigned to that state or Centre. The reason for the same is that under GST, where Centre collects the tax, it assigns the state’s share to state, while where the state collects the tax, it assigns Centre’s share to Centre. If that proceeding is deposited in the Consolidated Fund of India or State, then, every time there will be a need to pass an appropriation tax. Thus, under GST, the apportionment of the tax revenue will take place outside the Consolidated Funds.

The second amendment has been made to the Article 279A. This Article provides for Constitution of a GST Council by President within sixty days from this act coming into force. The GST Council will constitute the following members,

  1. Union Finance Minister as Chairman of the council
  2. Union Minister of State in charge of Revenue or Finance
  3. One nominated member from each State who is in charge of Finance or Taxation.

PART XIII (Articles 301 to 307): Trade, Commerce and Intercourse within the Territory of India

This part talks about freedom of Trade, Commerce and Intercourse throughout the territory of India. It also mentions the power of the Parliament to impose restrictions and also the power of States to do the same. Article 307 appoints an authority for carrying out Trade and Commerce for the purposes of Article 301 to 304. Article 306 was repealed by the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act 1956.

PART XIV (Article 308 to 323): Services under the Union and the States

Article 308 to 314 details the Union Public Service Commission and its appointments, tenures, dismissals, and reduction in ranks. Articles 315 to 323 detail the State Public Service Commission and its functions, appointments, tenures, dismissals, and reduction in ranks.

PART XIV-A (Articles 323A and 323B): Tribunals

This part deals with administrative tribunals, their composition, working, jurisdiction, procedures, powers, and exceptions exercised by Tribunals in different States. It was introduced to hear disputes and complaints regarding the Union, States or Local Government employees in the year 1976 by the 42nd Amendment.

PART XV (Articles 324 to 329A): Elections

This part deals with the conduct of Elections and the Election Commission. It gives the right of Superintendence, Direction, and Control of Elections to be vested in the Election Commission. Three Election Commissioners are to be appointed with one of them as the Chief Election Commissioner who will be responsible for the conduct of Elections. Article 329A was repealed by the Constitution 44th Amendment Act 1978.

PART XVI (Articles 330 to 342): Special Provisions relating to Certain Classes

This part deals with certain provisions for Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes, and Anglo-Indian representation. Article 330 and 332 reserve seats for Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes in the house of people and Legislative Assemblies respectively while Article 331 and 333 reserve them for the Anglo-Indian community. Article 338 details the establishment of a national commission of a Schedule Caste while Article 339 to 342 lay procedures to investigate the conditions of Backward Classes.

PART XVII (Articles 343 to 351): Official Language

Article 343 of this part says that the Official Language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devnagri script. Article 344 provides for a commission and a committee of Parliament on Official Language. Article 345 to 347 describes the roles of regional languages while Articles 348 to 351 lay down Languages to be used in Supreme Court, High Court, in Acts and Bills. These Articles also contain some directives of development for Hindi and other languages.

PART XVIII (Articles 352 to 360): Emergency Provisions

The provisions of Emergency have been borrowed from the German Constitution. Article 352 describes the procedure and other details of the procurement of Emergency while Article 353 describes the effect of Emergency. Article 354 to 359 detail the application, the duties, provisions and the exercise of the legislative powers during Emergency. Article 360 provides provisions for a Financial Emergency.

PART XIX (Articles 361 to 367): Miscellaneous

Article 361 provides for the protection of the President and other Legislators. Article 362 which was repealed by the Constitution (Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Act 1971 had rights and privileges of rulers of Indian States. Similarly, Article 363A abolishes any recognition granted to rulers and cessation of their privy purses. Article 366 gives some common definitions of words used in the Constitution.

PART XX (Articles 368): Amendment of the Constitution

One of the most important Articles of the Constitution provides the power to the Parliament to amend the Constitution and procedure thereof. Here we must take into consideration the famous case of Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala in which the Supreme Court stated that the basic structure of the Constitution cannot be amended.

PART XXI (Articles 369 to 392): Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions

Article 369 gives temporary power to the Parliament to make laws with respect to certain matters in the state list and concurrent list. The much debated and controversial Article 370 gives special but temporary status to provisions with respect to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This Article does not permit the state to make matters given in the State list. The Article also gives special powers to the State Legislature.
Article 371 and 371A gives special privileges and provisions to the state of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Nagaland respectively. Article 371B for Assam, 371C for Manipur, 371D and E for Andhra Pradesh, 371F for Sikkim, 371G for Mizoram, 371H for Arunachal Pradesh and 371I for Goa.

PART XXII (Articles 393 to 395): Short Title, Commencement, Authoritative Text in Hindi and Repeals

The Constitution in its “short title” form may be called the Constitution of India. Article 394 says that the Constitution shall come into force on 26th January 1950. Article 394A talks of authoritative text in the Hindi language. Article 395 repeals the Indian Independence Act 1947 and the Government of India Act 1935 together with all enactments supporting the same