The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers and duties of government institutions and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles and the duties of citizens. It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, containing 448 articles in 25 parts, 12 schedules, 5 appendices and 98 amendments (out of 120 Constitution Amendment Bills). Besides the English version, there is an official Hindi translation. Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is widely regarded as the architect of the Indian Constitution.
The Constitution follows parliamentary system of government and the executive is directly accountable to the legislature. Article 74 provides that there shall be a Prime Minister of India as the head of government. It also states that there shall be a President of India and a Vice-President of India under Articles 52 and 63. Unlike the Prime Minister, the President largely performs ceremonial roles.
The Constitution of India is federal in nature. Each state and each Union territory of India has its own government. Analogues to President and Prime Minister, each has a Governor (in case of states) or Lieutenant Governor (in the case of Union territories) and a Chief Minister. The 73rd and 74th Amendment Act also introduced the system of Panchayati Raj in rural areas and Municipality in urban areas. Also, Article 370 of the Constitution gives special status to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Constitution was adopted by the India Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949, and came into effect on 26 January 1950. The date of 26 January was chosen to commemorate the Purna Swaraj declaration of independence of 1930. With its adoption, the Union of India officially became the modern and contemporary Republic of India and it replaced the Government of India Act 1935 as the country's fundamental governing document. To ensure constitutional autochthony, the framers of constitution inserted Article 395 in the constitution and by this Article the Indian Independence Act, 1947 was repealed. The Constitution declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens of justice, equality, and liberty, and endeavors to promote fraternity among them. The words "socialist" and "secular" were added to the definition in 1976 by constitutional amendment (mini constitution). India celebrates the adoption of the constitution on 26 January each year as Republic Day.
The Constitution, in its current form (September 2012), consists of a preamble, 25 parts containing 448 articles, 12 schedules, 5 appendices and 98 amendments to date.
The individual Articles of the Constitution are grouped together into the following Parts:
Part I – Union and its Territory
Part II – Citizenship.
Part III – Fundamental Rights.
Part IV – Directive Principles of State Policy.
Part IVA – Fundamental Duties.
Part V – The Union.
Part VI – The States.
Part VII – States in the B part of the First schedule(Repealed).
Part VIII – The Union Territories
Part IX – The Panchayats.
Part IXA – The Municipalities.
Part IXB – The Co-operative Societies.
Part X – The scheduled and Tribal Areas
Part XI – Relations between the Union and the States.
Part XII – Finance, Property, Contracts and Suits
Part XIII – Trade and Commerce within the territory of India
Part XIV – Services Under the Union, the States.
Part XIVA – Tribunals.
Part XV – Elections
Part XVI – Special Provisions Relating to certain Classes.
Part XVII – Languages
Part XVIII – Emergency Provisions
Part XIX – Miscellaneous
Part XX – Amendment of the Constitution
Part XXI – Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions
Part XXII – Short title, date of commencement, Authoritative text in Hindi and Repeals
Schedules are lists in the Constitution that categorize and tabulate bureaucratic activity and policy of the Government.
First Schedule (Articles 1 and 4) - This lists the states and territories of India, lists any changes to their borders and the laws used to make that change.
Second Schedule (Articles 59(3), 65(3), 75(6), 97, 125, 148(3), 158(3), 164(5), 186 and 221)- – This lists the salaries of officials holding public office, judges, and Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
Third Schedule (Articles 75(4), 99, 124(6), 148(2), 164(3), 188 and 219)—Forms of Oaths – This lists the oaths of offices for elected officials and judges.
Fourth Schedule (Articles 4(1) and 80(2)) – This details the allocation of seats in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of Parliament) per State or Union Territory.
Fifth Schedule (Article 244(1)) – This provides for the administration and control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes (areas and tribes needing special protection due to disadvantageous conditions).
Sixth Schedule (Articles 244(2) and 275(1))— Provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
Seventh Schedule (Article 246) —The union (central government), state, and concurrent lists of responsibilities.
Eighth Schedule (Articles 344(1) and 351)—The official languages.
Ninth Schedule (Article 31-B) – Validation of certain Acts and Regulations.
Tenth Schedule (Articles 102(2) and 191(2))—"Anti-defection" provisions for Members of Parliament and Members of the State Legislatures.
Eleventh Schedule (Article 243-D) —Panchayat Raj (rural local government).
Twelfth Schedule (Article 243-W) —Municipalities (urban local government).
Appendix I—The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954.
Appendix II— Re-statement, with reference to the present text of the Constitution, of the exceptions and modifications subject to which the Constitution applies to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Appendix III—Extracts from the Constitution (Forty-fourth Amendment) Act, 1978.
Appendix IV—The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002.
Appendix V— The Constitution (Eighty-eighth Amendment) Act, 2003.
The process of rewriting any part of the constitution is called amendment. Amendments to the Constitution are made by the Parliament, the procedure for which is laid out in Article 368. An amendment bill must be passed by both the Houses of the Parliament by a two-thirds majority and voting. In addition to this, certain amendments which pertain to the federal nature of the Constitution must be ratified by a majority of state legislatures. Unlike the ordinary bills (with exception to money bills), there is no provision for joint sitting of the two houses of the parliament to pass a constitutional amendment bill.
As of September 2013 there have been 120 amendment bills presented in the Parliament, out of which 98 have been passed to become Amendment Acts. Most of these amendments address issues dealt with by statute in other democracies. However, the Constitution is so specific in spelling out government powers that many of these issues must be addressed by constitutional amendment. As a result, the document is amended roughly twice a year.
In 2000 the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) was set up to look into updating the constitution.
The Supreme Court has ruled in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala case that not every constitutional amendment is permissible, the amendment must respect the "basic structure" of the constitution, which is immutable. This "Doctrine of Basic Features" of the Constitution lays down that certain basic features of the Constitution cannot be abridged or deleted or repealed; what are the "basic features" has not been defined exhaustively anywhere and whether a particular provision of the Constitution of India is a "basic feature" will be decided as and when an issue is raised before the court in an individual case.
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