Today is the 72nd republic day. On this day, 1950, our holy constitution came in to force.

India is diverse country with numerous castes, religions, tribes, languages, ethnicities etc. The founding fathers of Indian Constitution knew this and hence after 3 years long debates came up with such a Constitution which would be flexible enough to accommodate all the diverse needs, plus also be rigid in right areas so that India as a nation remains strong.

Let me highlight the major strengths and unique features of the Indian constitution.

  1. Well Defined basic Structure of Indian Constitution: It was Indira Gandhi’s tenure. Using the powers of Article 368(which speaks about amending the Constitution), she was making changes left and right in Indian constitution. Especially, the nature of the 39th and 42nd Amendments clearly indicated her desire to destroy democracy and make India a dictatorship like USSR. Supreme Court steps in. In the “Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala” it defines the “Basic Structure”. What the judgement says is important: The power to amend the constitution doesn’t equal to the power to writing a new constitution using those powers. It defined many things like “Parliamentary democracy”, “Independent Judiciary”, “Separation of powers”, “Federal structure” etc. as basic structures of Indian Constitution which cannot be amended. In other words, SC declared that our Constitution is based on certain universal principles which will never change, and any change we do should be coherent with these basic principles.
  2. A balance between flexibilities and rigidities: US Constitution is extremely difficult to amend. Long back, citizens were given rights to bear arms and was made part of the Constitution – now, there is no need for that. But, US is unable to amend it as the procedure is very tough. They need to learn from Indian Constitution. India has an “unchangeable basic structure” which I explained above. They are essentially the core principles on which Indian nation is founded and cannot be changed. There are articles/sections which can amended even with more than 50% of votes in each house of parliament, for e.g. creation/altercation of a new state/Union Territory. Most other articles need a 2/3rd majority in both houses to be amended. There are sections which need approval from at least 50% of state legislatures in addition to an approval by a 2/3rd majority in both the houses – for e.g. articles related to judiciary, legislative relations between center and states, GST council etc. Looking at this, Indian constitution is inflexible where it is ought to be and provides varying levels of flexibility depending on the nature of change. Indian Constitution sits midway of US Constitution(which is extremely tough to amend) and UK (which doesn’t have a written Constitution and very easy to amend).
  3. Elaborate explanations of the functions of various institutions: Indian Constitution is the longest in the world. I consider this as a great strength. If you look, the functions, powers and responsibilities of all institutions are well defined. Whether it is President, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Supreme Court, High Court, UPSC, Election Commission, Vidhan Sabha, Vidhan Parishad, CAG etc., the powers, duties, appointment process and removal process are elaborately mentioned. This reduces any scope of confusion or conflicts.
  4. Well defined fundamental rights, duties and directive principles: Part III (Articles 5 to Article 31) and Part IVA (Article 51A) defines the fundamental rights and fundamental duties of citizens which are elaborate and meet the global standards. In Part III, in Article 19 -21, it clearly outlines the “Right to freedom” and the limitations the state can impose. The directive principles(Part IV) define the ultimate goal of India as a nation, which should be kept in mind in formulating any principle. All these indicate the desire of makers of the Constitution to make India a free and progressive state.
  5. Inclusivity: Why did Bangladesh get separated from Pakistan? If I need to speak 1 most important reason: Bangladeshis were not allowed to speak, write and propagate their language i.e. Bengali. Urdu was forced on them. Here Pakistan should have learnt from India, the 8th schedule lists 22 official languages using which people can officially communicate. MPs can speak in any of these languages in Parliament and translation to Hindi and English is available for others. Each state can have its official communication in these languages. This ensures that no region feel neglected or get a sense that they are being repressed. Plus English being a foreign language (and widely used) ensures that no one feels language of another region being imposed on him/her. Lets take another example, We have many tribal areas where they people are bound by their own customs and have not come to mainstream. We have the Fifth and Sixth schedules which outline special provisions that would be applicable for them. For e.g., the fifth schedule defines the scheduled areas. After an area is defined as a Scheduled area by President, the Governor can withhold application of any law or part of it in those areas. The sixth schedule defines the tribal areas where elected district councils have been provided some autonomy in matters of making laws with regards to marriage, inheritance, forest management etc. This sounds rational, as the people living in forests wont find it possible to adapt to modern personal law codes and laws. Indian Constitution, therefore, doesn’t adopt an “One size fits all” approach and gives the right amount of flexibility and autonomy to its citizens depending on the circumstances.
  6. Separation of powers : Indian is a federal country with 3 tiers of Govt – Central, State and Local governments. The 7th schedule clearly list the areas where Central Govt, State Govt and both can make laws. The 11th and 12th schedules list the areas where Panchayats and Municipalities have their work cut out. Also, there is separation and well defined powers for Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. These are the traits of a modern nation state.

There is also scope of improvement, let me list some:

  1. Judiciary has no accountability: In India, judges appoint judges. SC collegium consisting of Chief Justice and 4 senior most judges appoint the rest of other judges and HC judges. This is done in a opaque manner, the public doesn’t know why one judge got appointed and other did not. We should have a fully autonomous body appoint the Judges so that there is accountability and transparency. On this aspect, Judiciary acts as a check to powers of Legislature and Executive, but there is little/no Check on Judiciary.
  2. There should be limit on terms for top Constitutional posts: The terms/tenure of important constitutional positions like Prime Minister, President, Chief Minister and Governor should be limited. Power corrupts. Indiraji became powerful because she stayed in power for long time. For e.g., no person should be allowed to hold to office of PM/CM for a period not more than 10 or 15 years. This will force the political parties groom second rung leadership and would ultimately destroy dynastic politics.
  3. Reforms in the Electoral system: We are always remaining in an election mode. We need to have a system where there is one or maximum of two elections.
  4. Equal treatment of all religions: Article 30 and Article 31 indeed discriminate Hinduism. They should be amended or repealed. 
  5. Major constitutional positions should be appointed by a neutral body. Here

In nutshell, though there are few shortcomings, I consider Indian Constitution the best Constitution designed to fit the Indian people in best possible manner.

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.