VIII NCERT – Social and Political Life – 1

Why a country does needs a constitution?

  • First, it lays out certain ideals that form the basis of the kind of country that we as citizens aspire to live in. A constitution helps serve as a set of rules and principles that all persons in a country can agree upon as basis of the way in which they want the country to be governed. This includes not only the type of government but also an agreement on certain ideals that they all believe the country should uphold.
  • The second important purpose of a constitution is to define the nature of a country’s political system. In countries that have adopted a democratic form of government or polity, the Constitution plays a crucial role in laying out certain important guidelines that govern decision-making within these societies. In democratic societies, the Constitution often lays down rules that guard against this misuse of power by our political leaders.
  • 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. The constitution usually contains rules that ensure that minorities are not excluded from anything that is routinely available to the majority.
  • The constitution helps to protect us against certain decisions that we might take that could have an adverse effect on the larger principles that the country believes in.

The Indian Constitution: Key Features

  1. Federalism: This refers to the existence of more than one level of government in the country. Under federalism, the states are not merely agents of the federal government but draw their authority from the Constitution as well. All persons in India are governed by laws and policies made by each of the levels of government.
  2. Parliamentary Form of Government: The Constitution of India guarantees universal adult suffrage for all citizens.
  3. Separation of Powers: According to the Constitution, there are three organs of the state. These are the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The legislature refers to our elected representatives. The executive is a smaller group of people who are responsible for implementing laws and running the government. 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 and this ensures the balance of power between all three.
  4. Fundamental Rights: the section on Fundamental Right has often been referred to as the ‘conscience’ of the Indian constitution. Fundamental Rights, therefore, 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. The Constitution also guarantees the rights of minorities against the majority. The object of fundamental rights is two-fold. The first objective is that every citizen must be in a position to claim those rights. And secondly, these 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. This section was designed by the members of the Constituent Assembly to ensure greater social and economic reform, and to serve as a guide to the independent Indian State to institute laws and policies that help reduce the poverty of the masses.

The Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution include:

a) Right to Equality: All persons are equal before the law. This means that all 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 their religion, caste or sex. Every person has access to all public places including playgrounds, hotels, shops etc. The State cannot discriminate against anyone in matters of employment. The practice of untouchability has also been abolished.

b) Right to Freedom: This includes the right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to form associations, the right to move freely and reside in any part of the country, and the right to practice any profession, occupation or business

c) Right against Exploitation: The Constitution prohibits trafficking, forced labor, and children working under 14 years of age.

d) Right to Freedom of Religion: Religious freedom is provided to all citizens. Every person has the right to practice, profess and propagate the religion of their choice.

e) Cultural and Educational Rights: The Constitution states that all minorities, religious or linguistic, can set up their own educational institutions in order to preserve and develop their own culture.

f) 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.

      5. Secularism: A secular state is one in which the state does not officially promote any one religion as the state religion.