India is a Union of States and Union Territories. It is a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic, with a parliamentary system of government. The Republic is governed in terms of the constitution which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949 and came into force on January 26, 1950.
The constitution which envisages parliamentary form of government is federal in structure with unitary features. President of India is constitutional head of executive of the Union. Article 74(1) of the constitution provides that there shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as head to aid and advise the President who shall in exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice. Real executive power thus vests in the Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as head. Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. Similarly, in states, Governor is head of the executive, but it is the Council of Ministers with Chief Minister as head in whom real executive power vests. Council of Ministers of a state is collectively responsible to the State Legislative Assembly or the Vidhan Sabha.
The constitution distributes legislative power between the Parliament and state legislatures and provides for resting of residual powers in Parliament. The power to amend the constitution also vests in Parliament. The constitution has provision for independence of judiciary, Comptroller and Auditor General, Public Service Commissions and the Chief Election Commissioner.
The States and the Union Territories
India comprises 26 States and 6 Union Territories. The names of States are: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The Union Territories are: Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, and Pondicherry.
The constitution of India provides for a single and uniform citizenship for whole of India. Every person who was at the commencement of the constitution (January 26, 1950), domiciled in the territory of India and : (a) who was born in the territory of India or (b) either of whose parents was born in the territory of India, or (c) who has been ordinarily resident in the territory of India for not less than five years immediately preceding such commencement, shall be a citizen of India. The Citizenship Act, 1955 provides for acquisition and termination of citizenship after the commencement of constitution.
The constitution offers all citizens, individually and collectively some basic freedoms. These are guaranteed in the constitution in the form of broad categories of Fundamental Rights which are justiciable. Article 12 to 35 contained in Part III of the constitution deal with Fundamental Rights. These are : (i) Right to equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth and equality of opportunity in matters of employment; (ii) Right of freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union, movement, residence and the right to practice any profession or occupation (some of these rights are subject to the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency
or morality); (iii) Right against exploitation, prohibiting all forms of forced labour, child labour, and traffic in human beings; (iv) Right to freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion; (v) Right of any section of citizens conserve their culture, language or script and right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice; and (vi) Right to constitutional remedies for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
By the 42nd Amendment to the constitution, adopted in 1976, Fundamental Duties of the citizens have also been enumerated. Article 51 ‘A’ contained in Part IV A of the constitution deals with Fundamental Duties. These enjoin upon a citizen, among other things, to abide by the constitution, to cherish and follow noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom, to defend the country and to render national service, when called upon to do so and to promote
harmony and spirit of common brotherhood amongst all people of India, transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities.
Directive Principles of State Policy
The constitution lays down certain Directive Principles of State Policy which though not justiciable are “fundamental in governance of the country” and it is ‘the duty of the state to apply these principles in making law. These lay down that the state shall strive to promote welfare of 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 its policy in such a manner as to secure the right of all men and women to work, education and to public assistance in the event of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement 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 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 subserve 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.
Some of the other important directives relate to provision of opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner.