How many of us really know about the nuances of governance? How many are aware of our rights as citizens and more importantly our duties for the harmonious development of society? Such awareness is termed as functional literacy. Even well-educated people in cities are not aware of many issues which constitute governance.
Let us take a journey to demystify governance so that we become aware to ask the right type of questions as citizens and also provide ethical answers through our lawful conduct. What better way to start that than with understanding our Constitution?
The Indian Constitution is one of the longest written constitutions and is divided into 22 major parts and 12 schedules. There are 395 Articles, which specify various procedures relating to implementation of the basic tenets of the Constitution and the system of governance. Article 368 details procedure for constitutional amendment and so far there have been 100 amendments.
Justice, liberty. equality and fraternity are the basic pillars on which the Indian Constitution is built and the Constitution solemnly resolves to secure those rights for its citizens. This constitutes the preamble to the Constitution and the Supreme Court has held that the preamble is part of the basic structure of the Constitution which cannot be amended.
Ours is a democratic polity, and through the lawfully elected government the commitment made in the Constitution when India became a Republic in 1950 are to be secured for the people. The country is divided into various states which were reorganised in 1956 on the basis of language spoken with a strong Union at the centre and the powers to legislate on various subjects clearly specified in the Union, state and concurrent list. Hindi is the official language while regional languages of States are listed in the eighth schedule.
The preamble declares India to be a socialist, secular, democratic republic. Secularism means the state has no religion and citizens are free to profess any religion of their choice and there shall be no discrimination on the basis of religion.
The Constitution operates as a fundamental law and governmental organs derive their authority from the Constitution and discharge responsibilities within its framework. Ours is a federal structure characterised by the supremacy of the Constitution, division of powers between the Union and the States , independent Judiciary and a rigid procedure for the amendment to the Constitution.
Part III of the Constitution gives us the fundamental rights – freedom of speech, equality before law, freedom to form associations, freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights. Article 21 guarantees protection of life and personal liberty, protection against arrest and detention except by procedure established by law. By an amendment, Article 21A has been added making primary education compulsory and free.
Part IV of the Constitution enumerates the directive principles of state policy which should guide governance. Providing means of livelihood, equitable distribution of natural resources, to prevent monopoly, ensuring equal pay for equal work and protecting the environment are some of the important features of State policy.
Duties of citizens are equally important, which are enumerated in Article 51A. In fact all educational institutions should have this prominently displayed.
Part V defines the Executive’s functions. President is the Head of State and is advised by a Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister. President is the supreme commander of the Armed Forces and all Executive functions are taken in the name of the President. The President is elected for a term of five years by the elected members of the State Legislature and both Houses of Parliament by a single transferable vote.
The Parliament consists of a Upper House or ‘Council of States’ also known as Rajya Sabha elected by the respective State Legislature, and the House of the People or the Lok Sabha (Lower House) where members are directly elected by the people from the territorial constituencies of States.
The Prime Minister is elected by the majority of the members of the Lok Sabha. The term of the Lok Sabha is five years. The Parliament passes all money bills and enacts laws which after getting assent of the President comes into force. This part also defines the Constitution of Judiciary with the Supreme Court and High Court in all states . There are subordinate courts at district level in each state. Judiciary is independent and protects the Constitution.
Part VI deals with State assemblies, duties of the Governor, who acts on advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister. There are 29 states and seven centrally administered Union Territories. Maintenance of Law and order is the primary function of the State government.
Important Constitutional functionaries are the Election Commission, Comptroller and Auditor General, Attorney General, Solicitor General and Public Service Commissions ,Finance Commission etc. The Constitution also defines how finances are to be managed, devolution, sharing finance between States and the Union and also how disputes between states are to be resolved. Article 356 provides for declaring emergency in the event of breakdown in internal security, financial or constitutional crisis. India declared National Emergency once in 1975 -77.
The entire gamut of administration stems from the Executive with elected representatives enacting laws and formulating policies which are implemented by the bureaucracy, defined in part XIV (All India Services), which is the steel frame of administration.