India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, with a parliamentary system of government. India is governed in the terms of its Constitution. It is federal in structure, with some unitary features. The President of India is the Constitutional Head. The Constitution provides that there shall be a Council of Ministers, led by the Prime Minister, to advise the President, who shall, in exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice. The real executive powers are vested in the Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister as its head. They are collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha (House of the People). Similarly, in the States, the Governor is the head of the executive, but the real executive powers are vested in the Council of Ministers, with the Chief Minister as head. They are collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly.
The Supreme Court is the highest and final judicial tribunal in India. It consists of a Chief Justice and not more than 25 other judges, all appointed by the President of India. They hold office till the age of 65. A retired judge of Supreme Court cannot practice in any court of law or before any other authority in India. The Supreme Court has both original and appellate jurisdiction. Its exclusive, original jurisdiction extends to all disputes between the Union and State or States inter.
Besides, it has extensive original jurisdiction in regard to enforcement of Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The Constitution of India embodies and enumerates an impressive list of Fundamental Rights to all its citizens, collectively and individually. These are the very cornerstones of our democracy as they ensure proper moral, material and social welfare of the people. Since these rights and freedom form an integral part of the Constitution, they cannot be violated or taken away in ordinary circumstances.
These rights are: (i) The rights to equality, including equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, sex, or place of birth and equality of opportunity in the matter of employment, (ii) The right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union, movement, residence, and the right to practice any profession or occupation. Some of these rights and freedom are subject to security of the state, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency and morality, (iii) The right against exploitation, prohibiting all forms of forced labour, child labour and traffic in human beings, (iv) The right to freedom of conscious and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, (v) The right to conserve culture, language, or script and the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice, (vi) The right to Constitutional remedies for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
Indian Constitution also enumerates certain Fundamental Duties. These enjoin upon a citizen, among other things, to abide by the Constitution, to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom, to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so and to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India, transcending religious, linguistic, regional and sectional diversities.
The Constitution has laid down certain Directive Principles of State Policy. These are not justifiable like the Fundamental Rights and yet it is the duty of the State to keep these in view while enacting laws. These direct that the State shall strive to promote welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may, a social order in which justice—social, economic and political shall inform all institutions of national life. The State shall direct the policy in such a manner as to secure the rights of all men and women to an adequate means of livelihood, equal pay for equal work and within the limits of its economy, capacity and development, to make effective provision for securing right to work, education and to public assistance in the event of employment, old age, sickness and disablement or other cases of undeserved want. The State shall also endeavour to secure to workers a living wage, humane conditions’ of work, a decent standard of life and full involvement of workers in the management of industries.
In the economic sphere, the State is to direct its policy in such a manner as to secure distribution of ownership and control of material resources of community to sub serve the common good and to ensure that operation of economic system does not result in concentration of wealth and means of production to common detriment. Thus, these principles underline what is really desirable or what ought to be but cannot be enforced. In running the administration, these are ideals which should always be kept in view as far as possible. They all aim to take the country to the goal of peace, progress and prosperity.
The salient features of the Indian Constitution are: (i) It is right as well as flexible, (ii) It is the longest in the world, (iii) It reconciles Parliamentary sovereignty with judicial supremacy, (iv) It provides Fundamental Rights and their Constitutional remedies, (v) It proclaims that the people are sovereign, (vi) It has established parliamentary form of government, (vii) It is federal in form but unitary in spirit, (viii) It has introduced universal franchise, (ix) It incorporates Directive Principles of State Policy and Duties of the citizens, (x) It establishes independent judiciary with provisions for judicial review.
The Constitution of India provides for a single citizenship. Under the Constitution, the following categories of persons are considered as citizens of India at the commencement of the Constitution.
1. Persons born and domiciled in India.
2. Persons domiciled in the territory of India, whose parents were born in India.
3. A person who has domiciled in the territory of India and has been residing in India ordinarily for a period of at least five years.
4. Certain categories of persons who had migrated to India from Pakistan.
5. Indians who are residing abroad but who make a clear application to acquire Indian citizenship.