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Updated on December 9, 2015

The concept of a republic is not alien to India, as there are evidences of its existence in ancient times. But a truly democratic republic came into existence, only after India became independent. After centuries of despotic rule, both alien and indigenous, India had the chance of adopting a truly representative democracy, guaranteed by a constitution. Though a lot has been borrowed from the earlier Government of India Act of 1935, the present constitution has a lot of new features. But the reason for adopting the British parliamentary system was because of the familiarity of both the electors and elected of the working of a democratic government.


The Indian constitution was the handiwork of the first constituent assembly formed in July 1946. The President of this august body was Rajendra Prasad, who later became the first President of the republic. The arduous task of framing the constitution was entrusted to Bhim Rao Ambedkar, who was the chairman of the drafting committee. He was ably assisted by Jurist Benegal N Rao, who was constitutional adviser to the Constituent assembly and was delegated the task of studying the constitutions of several countries. It took nearly two years and eleven months to prepare the draft constitution and it was discussed threadbare. Legal luminaries like, Gopalaswami Ayyangar, K.M.Munshi, Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer actively participated in the debates.

The original constitution which came into force had 395 articles and eight schedules. While presenting the draft constitution, Bhim Rao Ambedkar remarked ‘if the constitution did not work, we should say, not that it had failed, but that man is vile’. His confidence in the constitution was because; it contained provisions which were intended to protect the rights of the individual.


The constitution starts by enunciating the preamble, which proclaims the aims and objectives of the document and it is not something which is enforceable by law. The soul of the constitution is the fundamental right, which guarantees, equality, absence of discrimination, eradication of un-touchability, freedom to believe, protection of minorities and abolition of titles. No right which guarantees individual freedom is complete without right to constitutional remedies. The Supreme Court was entrusted with safeguarding the freedom of the individual for which there are five writs available. They are:

· HABEAS CORPUS, an order to physically present an individual before the court within 24 hours of arrest.

· MANDAMUS, a directive issued to an individual, office or court to carry out their duties.

· PROHIBITION, orders issued to an inferior court to stop acting outside their jurisdiction

· QUO WARRANTO, demanding on what authority power is being claimed and exercised

· CERTIORARI, Higher court taking over a case from a lower court.

Directive principles of State policy in the constitution are merely guidelines for government to implement programs for the overall good of the people. Uniform civil code is one example of this. This concept was borrowed from the constitution of Ireland.

A later addition to the constitution was the inclusion of ten fundamental duties, which was borrowed from the Soviet constitution.

Though based on Westminster model of parliamentary democracy, Indian constitution is different from the British in many ways. India has a written constitution, but British constitution is unwritten. India is a republic, but Britain has a monarchy. India has a quasi-federal set up, but Britain has a unitary Government. Presently the constitution contains 444 articles and 12 schedules, which reveals its flexible nature

There was however dissenting voices against the constitution too. Marxist leader EMS Namboodiripad for example denounced the constitution as an instrument of bourgeois institutions, and Dravidian movement leader E V Ramasami Naicker viewed it as an obstacle to the formation of Dravida nadu. To the critics and Doubting Thomases of Indian constitution, the eminent jurist Nani Palkivala had this rejoinder, ‘it is not the constitution which has failed the people -- it is our chosen representatives who have failed the constitution.’ This statement contains the echo of a statesman who commented on a similar vein more than 250 years ago “A republic ….if you can keep it” (Benjamin Franklin)

Indian Constitution


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