The constitution of India as enforced on January 26, 1950 contained 395 Articles, 8 schedules and 22 parts. It is lengthiest written constitution of the world. Today, the constitution contains 448 articles in 25 parts and 12 schedules.
Important Features of the Indian Constitution are as follows:
Only one Constitution for Union and States: India has a single Constitution for Union and all the States except Jammu and Kashmir which has a separate constitution.
Preamble: The Preamble declares India to be a Union of states. That means, India is a 'Holding Together' Union of the states rather than 'Coming Together' federation.
Single Constitution: Single Constitution empowers only the Parliament of India to make changes in the constitution.
Rigidity and Flexibility: The constitution of India is neither rigid nor flexible. A rigid constitution means that the special procedures are needed for its amendments whereas a Flexible constitution is one in which constitution can be amended easily.
Secular State: India has no official religion of the state and all the religions in India are equal. The constitution of India adopts the positive concept of secularism. That means, that all the religion in India gets equal protection and support from the state. It provides equal treatment to all religions by the government and equal opportunities for all religions. Some of the provisions which gives India a secular character are:
Federalism in India: The Constitution of India calls India as a Union of States and the word 'Federation' is not used anywhere. The constitution of India provides for division of power between the Union and the State governments. It also fulfils some other features of the federalism such as the rigidity of the constitution, written constitution, bicameral legislature, independent judiciary and supremacy of the constitution.
Parliamentary form of government: The system of government in India is adopted from the British constitution. India has bicameral legislature with Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as the two houses. In Parliamentary form of government, there is no clear cut separation of powers of legislative and executive organs. Political executive is itself the part of legislature.
Single Citizenship: The Constitution of India provides for single citizenship to every individual in the country whereas in federal countries such as the USA, there are provisions for dual citizenship- one for the country and another for the state.
Integrated and Independent Judiciary: The Constitution of India provides for an integrated and independent Judicial system. The Supreme Court is the highest court of India with authority over all the other courts in India. Below the Supreme Court, there are High courts at the state level.
Fundamental Rights: The Constitution provides political and social equality to all the citizens. These are included in Part III under the below categories:
(1) Right to equality (Arts. 14-18)
(2) Rights to freedom (Arts. 19-22)
(3) Rights against exploitation (Arts. 24 and 25)
(4) Rights to freedom of religion (Arts. 25-28)
(5) Cultural and Educational rights (Arts. 29-30)
(6) Right to constitutional remedies (Arts. 32-35)
Directive Principles of State Policy: Part IV (articles 36 to 50) of the constitution mentions about the Directive Principles of State Policy. These are general direction of governance to the state, so that social and economic democracy could be promoted. These are non-justiciable in nature. Broadly, these can be classified into three categoies- Socialistic, Gandhian and Liberal-intellectual.
Fundamental Duties : The Fundamental Duties were recommended by the Swaran Singh Committee. These were added to the constitution by 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act (1976). A new Part IV-A was created for the pupose and ten duties were inserted under Article 51-A.
Universal Adult Franchise: In India, every citizen who is above the age of 18 years has right to vote without any discrimination on the ground of caste, race, religion, sex, literacy etc.
Emergency Provisions: The President is empowered to take certain steps to tackle any extraordinary situation to maintain the sovereignty, security, unity and integrity of the nation. The President can impose emergency under three categories.
(a) Under Article 352, National Emergency can be imposed in the event of war or external aggression or armed rebellion.
(b) State Emergency (President's Rule) can be imposed on the ground of failure of constitutional machinary in the state (Article 356) or failure to comply with the directions of the centre (Article 365).
(c) Under Article 360, Financial Emergency can be imposed on the ground of threat to the financial stability or credit of India.
Three-tier Government: Originally, the constitution of India included only two tier government, One at the Union level and other at the state level. Looking at the diversity of the nation and variation in local needs, a requirement of third level of Governance was felt. In 1992, the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Act gave provision for local government in India.