This article has been written by Akalya Shanmugam, a final year student of Government Law College (Coimbatore),Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University.
Indian constitutionalism refers to the principles and practices that underpin the Constitution of India, which was adopted in 1950. The Indian Constitution is one of the longest and most comprehensive in the world, and it sets out the framework for the governance of the country. Indian constitutionalism draws upon a rich history of political and legal traditions, including British common law, the Indian independence movement, and the country’s diverse religious and cultural heritage. The Constitution establishes a federal system of government, with a separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. It also includes a Bill of Rights that guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms to all citizens. Indian constitutionalism has been tested over the years through a series of challenges, but it remains a cornerstone of the country’s political and legal system.
KEY PRINCIPLES OF INDIAN CONSTITUTIONALISM
The key principles of Indian constitutionalism are:
Separation of Powers: The Indian Constitution establishes a clear separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Each branch has its own specific powers and responsibilities, and they are meant to serve as checks and balances on one another.
Fundamental Rights: The Indian Constitution includes a Bill of Rights that guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms to all citizens. These rights include the right to equality, the right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to freedom of religion, and the right to life and personal liberty. The judiciary has been active in protecting these fundamental rights.
Federalism: The Indian Constitution establishes a federal system of government, with powers divided between the central government and the state governments. The Constitution also provides for a mechanism for resolving disputes between the central and state governments.
Rule of Law: The Indian Constitution is founded on the rule of law, which means that all citizens, including the government, are subject to the law. This principle is upheld through an independent judiciary and the separation of powers.
Sovereignty: The Indian Constitution recognizes the sovereignty of the people of India and establishes India as a democratic republic. The Constitution provides for free and fair elections, and the people of India have the right to choose their own representatives.
Secularism: The Indian Constitution recognizes and respects the diversity of religions and cultures in India. It establishes India as a secular country and guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens.
Socialism: The Indian Constitution includes provisions for the promotion of social welfare and economic equality. These provisions include the right to work, the right to education, and the right to adequate means of livelihood.
These key principles of Indian constitutionalism have helped shape the country’s political and legal system, and they continue to guide the work of the Indian government and judiciary.
CASES LAWS ANALYSING INDIAN CONSTITUTIONALISM
Here are a few key cases that have helped shape Indian constitutionalism:
Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973): This landmark case established the doctrine of the Basic Structure of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held that while Parliament had the power to amend the Constitution, it could not alter its basic structure. This case reaffirmed the supremacy of the Constitution and the role of the judiciary in protecting it.
Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978): This case expanded the scope of Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. The Supreme Court held that this article includes the right to travel abroad and the right to a fair hearing. This case established the principle of natural justice and emphasized the importance of procedural safeguards.
Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain (1975): This case tested the limits of the separation of powers and the role of the judiciary in preserving the integrity of the electoral process. The Supreme Court held that the Prime Minister could be held accountable for electoral malpractice and that the judiciary had the power to overturn election results if necessary.
S.R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994): This case established the principle of federalism and the importance of preserving the rights of state governments. The Supreme Court held that the central government could not dismiss a state government on the grounds of political opposition, and that such a dismissal could only be justified on the grounds of constitutional breakdown.
Minerva Mills v. Union of India (1980): This case tested the limits of parliamentary power and the importance of balancing the rights of citizens with the needs of the state. The Supreme Court struck down certain provisions of the Constitution that gave Parliament unfettered power to amend the Constitution. The Court held that the Constitution was a living document and that its basic structure could not be altered.
These cases demonstrate the important role of the judiciary in interpreting and enforcing the Constitution, and in protecting the rights and freedoms of all citizens. They also highlight the ongoing challenges of balancing competing interests and upholding the principles of Indian constitutionalism in a rapidly changing world.
In conclusion, Indian constitutionalism is a unique and complex system of government that is founded on a set of key principles, including the separation of powers, fundamental rights, federalism, rule of law, sovereignty, secularism, and socialism. These principles have been shaped and refined over time through landmark court cases and through the work of the Indian government and judiciary. Despite ongoing challenges and criticisms, the Indian Constitution remains a vital document that reflects the aspirations and values of the people of India, and provides a framework for democratic governance and the protection of individual and collective rights. It is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of Indian democracy, and a source of inspiration for those who seek to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world.
1.Indian Constitutional Law, M.P. Jain, LexisNexis Publication.
2.Introduction to the Constitution of India, Dr. Durga Das Basu, 20th Edition Reprint 2011, LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa Nagpur Publication.
3.Constitutional Law, Mamta Rao, Eastern Book Company, Lucknow
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