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1. The Indian Constitution

This chapter tells us about the Indian Constitution’s key features.

Every society has constituted rules that make it what it is & differentiate it from other kinds of societies. In large societies, where different communities live together, these rules are formulated through consensus & are available in written form.

A written document in which we find the rules constituted by a society consensus is called a Constitution.

1.1    Why does a country need a constitution?

The Constitution serves several purposes –

1.1.1    lays down the fundamental nature of our society

  • A Constitution serves as a set of rules that all persons in a country can agree upon as the basis of the may in which they want the country to be governed.
  • The Constitution not only decides the type of government but also an agreement or the ideas that they all believe the country should uphold.

Eg. Nepal, India’s neighbour or North, has recently become a democracy, in 2006. Differences between the Nepal, the Monarchy & Nepal, the democracy is quite stark.

  • Nepal, the Monarchy: The previous Constitution of Nepal, adopted in 1990, reflected the fact that the final authority rested with the King.
  • Nepal, the Democracy: In the democracy the powers rest with the head of the government who is an elected person.
  • The people of Nepal do not want to continue with the previous Constitution because it does not reflect the ideals of the country that they want Nepal to be.

1.1.2    defines the nature of a country’s political system

Constitution plays a crucial role in laying out certain important guidelines that govern decision making within these societies.

  • In a democracy, we choose our leaders so that they can exercise power responsibly on our behalf. However, these leaders might misuse their authority & the Constitution provides safeguards against this.
  • Indian Constitution guarantees the right to equality to all persons & says that no citizen can be discriminated against on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender & place of birth.
  • Constitution also ensures that a dominant group does not use its power against other, less powerful people or groups.
  • Constitution prevents domination by the majority of a minority. This refers to one community dominating another i.e., inter-community domination or, members of a community dominating others within the same community i.e., intra-community domination.

1.1.3    Constitution saves us from ourselves

This means that we might feel strongly about an issue that might go against our larger interests & the Constitution helps us guard against this. Ex Many party politics is become acrimonious & we need a strong dictator to set this right. Swept by the emotions, they may fail to realize that in the long run, dictatorial rule goes against all their interests. A good constitution does not allow these whims to change its basic structure.

1.2    The key features of the Indian Constitution are

1.2.1    Federalism

This refers to the existence of more than one level of government in the country.

  • In India, we have governments at the state level & at the centre. Panchayati Raj is the third tier of the govt.
  • The Constitution also specifies where each tier of govt. can get the money from, for the work that it does
  • The states are not merely agents of the federal govt, but draw their authority from the Constitution as well. All persons in India are governed by laws & policies made by each of these levels of government

1.2.2    Parliamentary Form of Government:

  • The different tiers of government consist of representatives who are elected by the government.
  • Constitution of India guarantees universal adult suffrage for all citizens.
  • This means that the people of India have a direct role in electing their representatives. Also, every citizen of the country, irrespective of his/her social background can also contest in elections.
  • These representatives are accountable to the people.

1.2.3    Separation of PowerS

According to the Constitution, there are three organs:

  • Legislature – The legislature refers to our elected representatives
  • Executive – The Executive is a smaller group of people who are responsible for implementing laws & running the government.
  • Judiciary – The judiciary refers to the system of courts in this country.

In order to prevent the misuse of power by any one branch of the state, the Constitution says that each of these organs should exercise different powers.

Through this, each organ acts as a check on the other organs of the state & ensures the balance of power between all three. 

1.2.4    Fundamental RightS

  • Fundamental rights, protect citizens against the arbitrary and absolute exercise of power by the state.
  • The Constitution, thus, guarantees the rights of individuals against the state as well as against other individuals.
  • Fundamental Rights, have two fold objective. The first objective is that every citizen must be in a position to claim those rights. And secondly, those rights must be binding upon every authority that has got the power to make laws.
  • In addition to Fundamental Rights, the Constitution also has a section called Directive Principles of State Policy to ensure greater social & economic reform & to serve as a guide to the independent Indian State to institute laws & policies that help reduce the poverty of the masses.

The Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution

1.2.4.1       Right to Equality

  • All the persons are equal before the law. This means that all the persons shall be equally protected by the laws of the country.
  • It also states that no citizen can be discriminated against on the basis of sex, caste or religion.
  • The state cannot discriminate anyone on the basis of employment.
  • The practice of untouchability has also been abolished.
1.2.4.2       Right to Freedom
  • This includes the right of freedom of speech & expression.
  • The right to move freely & reside in any part of the country.
  • The right to practice any profession, occupation or business.
1.2.4.3       Right against Exploitation

The Constitution prohibits trafficking, forced labour & children working under the age of 14 years.

1.2.4.1.4       Right to Freedom of Religion

Religious freedom is provided to all citizens. Every person has the right to practice, profess & propagate the religion of their choice.

1.2.4.5       Cultural & Educational Rights

The Constitution states that all minorities, religious or linguistic, can set up their own educational institutions in order to preserve & develop their own culture.

1.2.4.6       Right to Constitutional Remedies

This allows citizens to move the court if they believe that any of their Fundamental Rights have been violated by the State.

1.2.5    Secularism

A secular state is one in which the state does not officially promote any one religion as the state religion. All religions are equal in the eyes of the law.

Important Questions

Q 1. Why does a democratic country need a Constitution?

Constitution is a set of rules according by which a country is governed.

  1. It lays out certain ideals that form the basis of the kind of country that we, as citizens want to live in.
  2. A Constitution helps serve as a set of rules & the principles that all persons in a country can agree upon as the basis of the way in which they want the country to be governed.
  3. A Constitution defines the nature of a country’s political system.
  4. The Constitution plays a crucial role in laying out certain important guidelines that govern decision making within these societies.
  5. Another important function that a Constitution plays in a democracy is to ensure that a dominant group does not use its power against other, less powerful people or groups.
  6. Constitution is to save us from ourselves. This means that we might at times, feel strongly about an issue that might go against our larger interests & the Constitution helps us guard against this.

Q 2. What is the difference in who exercises ‘Executive Power’ in the two constitutions of Nepal? Keeping this in mind, why do you think Nepal needs a new Constitution today?

Executive Powers mean the powers to run or administer the country. Executive Powers rest with the head of the government in a democratic country. The head of the government is an elected person.

1)   Under 1990 Constitution of Nepal:

The Chief Executive Powers of the country were rested with monarch who had the right to run the country or even dismiss an elected government.

2)   Under 2007 Interim Constitution of Nepal:

It was written that the Chief executive powers would be vested in Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister.

Since, Nepal had voted for a change from Monarchy to Parliamentary Democracy, therefore, it needs a new Constitution & the People of Nepal also need political rights.

Q 3. What would happen if there were no restrictions on the power of elected representatives?

In a democracy, we choose our leaders, so that they can exercise powers responsibly on our behalf. However, there is always the possibility that these leaders might misuse their authority & the Constitution usually provides safeguards against this.

  1. This misuse of authority can result in gross injustice.
  2. These elected representatives may assume dictatorial powers & may encroach the rights of the people. Therefore, to ensure the protection of the rights of the citizens, some restrictions should be there on the powers of the elected representatives.

Q 4. Identify the minority community in your school and give your reasons on why it is important to protect their rights.

  1. Females are in a minority. It is important to respect the views of females so that their wishes are also heard & the school does not become male dominated.
  2. Buddhists are in a minority. It is important to respect the views of Buddhists so that they have the right to practice the religion of their choice.
  3. Non-vegetarians are is a minority. It is important to respect the views of non-vegetarians so that they have the right & the freedom to choose what they want to eat.
  4. Students from poor background are in a minority. It is important to respect the views of the students from poor background so that they do not get dominated by the students from well-off families & are not discriminated against due to their financial background.

Q 5. Give significance of key features mentioned below

Key Feature Significance
Federalism Federalism is important so that decisions can be taken for a particular area by the state govts. It happens only because states are not merely agents of the federal govt, but enjoy autonomy & draw their authority from the Constitution as well.
Separation of Powers This signifies that all the organs of the state – legislative, executive & judiciary, should exercise different powers. Each organ acts as a check on the other organs of the states & this ensures the balance of power between all through.
Fundamental Rights Fundamental Rights are significant as these protect citizens against the arbitrary & absolute exercise of power by the State.
Parliamentary form of Government  This is significant because people of India have a direct role in electing their representatives & irrespective of their social background & gender, they can also contest in elections.