Salient Features of Indian Constitution - Unitary, Federal, Borrowed Features 

By Shubhra Anand Jain|Updated : September 15th, 2022

Salient features of Indian Constitution are inspired from the constitution of other nations, while the rest are adopted from the Government of India Act 1935. The Indian Constitution begins with the Preamble, which includes the basic principles, objectives, and ideals of the Indian Constitution. The Indian Constitution was adopted on 26 January 1950 and is the longest written constitution in the world, with provisions for the smooth functioning and maintenance of law and order in the country.

All the Basic Features of the Indian Constitution are listed below along with details of each characteristic that distinguishes it from the constitutions of the other countries in the world.

Table of Content

What are the Salient Features of Indian Constitution?

The Constitution of India was formed and adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1946 under the Cabinet mission plan. The head of the Indian Constitution’s drafting committee was Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. 

Salient Features of Indian Constitution PDF

18 distinguishing features of the Indian Constitution accounts for its uniqueness. List of all Key Features of Indian Constitution are listed below.

  1. Lengthiest Constitution of the World
  2. Features from Various Sources
  3. Mixture of Rigidity and Flexibility
  4. Preamble of the Constitution
  5. Federal System with Unitary Bias
  6. Democratic system
  7. Parliamentary Form of Government
  8. Fundamental Rights 
  9. Fundamental Duties
  10. Universal Adult Franchise
  11. Integrated and Independent Judiciary
  12. Directive Principles of State Policy
  13. Emergency Provisions
  14. Secularism
  15. Three-tier Government
  16. Rule of Law
  17. Single Citizenship
  18. Independent Constitutional and Non-Constitutional Bodies 

Characteristics of Indian Constitution

Even though few features are adopted from other countries, they suit the Indian Polity and government. The Indian Constitution reflects the following ideologies-

  1. Secularism- it is the hallmark of the Constitution of India.
  2. Democracy- borrowed from the West.
  3. Sarvodaya- means the development and welfare of all.
  4. Socialism- Vedanta’s philosophy
  5. Decentralization- aspect of Sarvodaya
  6. Humanism- peculiar features of the Indian ideology
  7. Liberalism- Indian context of liberalism
  8. Mixed Economy- a salient feature of Indian ideology
  9. Gandhism- representation of the moral and ethical India

Overview of the Indian Constitution & its Features

Go through the highlights and important points to note about the Indian Constitution and what makes it unique. 

Basic Features of Constitution

Indian Constitution was adopted on

26 November 1946

Indian Constitution Day

26 November

Constitution of India Borrowed Features

11

No. of Schedules and Articles in the Constitution 

12 schedules and 448 articles

Explain Salient Features of Indian Constitution

The salient features of the Indian Constitution that make it a dynamic creation include the following-

Lengthiest Constitution of the World

The Constitution of India is a detailed, elaborated, and comprehensive document that is distinguished from the rest of the constitutions by being the lengthiest written document. There are two kinds of constitutions - Written and Unwritten. The British Constitution is an unwritten constitution, whereas the American Constitution is a good example of a written one. 

  • Indian Constitution is the lengthiest written constitution in world as it contains the preamble, approx 448 articles combined into 25 parts. There are 12 schedules and 5 appendices. The constitution has been amended 104 times. 

The factors like the history, geographical features, single documents for states and the center, and legal luminaries’ dominance in the Constituent Assembly account for the bigger size of the Indian Constitution. It includes the non-justiciable and justiciable rights and the fundamental principles of governance.

Drawn from Various Sources

It cannot be denied that the Indian Constitution has derived a few of its features from the Constitutions of other countries. Yet, it is unique as it has adopted only those features that suit the Indian government and polity perfectly. Most features are carried forwards by the Government of India Act of 1935. There are almost 250 provisions that the Indian Constitution has adopted from the Government of India Act of 1935. The features adopted from the Government of India Act of 1935 are as follows-

  • Administrative details
  • Emergency provisions
  • Public Service Commissions
  • Judiciary
  • Office of governor
  • Federal Scheme

Mixture of Rigidity and Flexibility

There are two types of Constitutions- the Rigid Constitution (like the Constitution of America, which requires a particular procedure to get amended) and the flexible Constitution ( like the British Constitution, that does not require a special procedure and are amended according to ordinary law). 

However, the Indian Constitution shows both the qualities of being flexible and rigid at the same time. There are three amendments to the Indian constitution, depending on the amendment’s nature. Initially, the simpler ones and then the most difficult ones.

Preamble of the Constitution

Indian Constitution has a Preamble that accounts for the basic principles, ideals, and objectives of the Constitution. It is the nature of the Indian state. The Preamble, directly and indirectly, is responsible for the change in the flow of the objectives of the Constitution. The different objectives stated in the Preamble are committed to securing Indian citizens.

Federal System with Unitary Bias

It establishes the Federal System of government as it depicts two governments: the Constitution's rigidity, bicameralism, the supremacy of the constitution, division of powers, and independent judiciary. These are the usual features of the federal system. Along with the federal features, the Indian Constitution holds the non-federal features. These include the integrated judiciary, all-India services, appointment of state governor by the Centre, a single Constitution, a strong Centre, and much more. Thus, it is considered a Federal system with unitary bias.

Democratic system

According to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, India is a republic, meaning it doesn’t nominate a head of state, nor the monarch rules it. Instead, the nation's people elect a head of state for a five-year fixed term. The reflections are repeated after every 5 years.

Parliamentary Form of Government

The Indian Constitution adopts the parliamentary form of government from the British government. It is based on the coordination and cooperation of the executive and legislative organs of the government. In this form of government, Prime Minister plays a significant role. Thus, the Parliamentary Form of Government is often called Prime Ministerial Government.

Fundamental Rights and Duties

Indian Constitution has provisions for protecting the fundamental rights of Indian citizens. According to the Indian Constitution, every citizen must enjoy basic and fundamental rights. There are six fundamental rights. These are-

  • Right to Constitutional Remedies
  • Cultural and Educational Rights
  • Right to Freedom of Religion
  • Right Against Exploitation
  • Right to Freedom
  • Right to Equality

Also, the 42nd Amendment, 1976 of the Indian Constitution, has provisions for the fundamental duties of an individual.

Universal Adult Franchise

As per the Indian Constitution, there is no difference between men and women. Both are treated equally and have the same rights to vote (with the condition that they need to be above the age of 18 years). Not only this, all the registered voters of India stand a chance to cast a vote in elections.

Integrated and Independent Judiciary

The states and the Union have a single and integrated judiciary system. According to the Constitution of India, the high courts works at the state level while the Supreme court works at the apex level, and all the other courts work under the high court of the respective state.

The Indian Constitution also ensures the independent judiciary that functions independently of the Executive and legislative. It has complete independence in terms of finances and administration.

Directive Principles of State Policy

Directive Principles of State Policy were considered the novel features of the Constitution of India by Dr. B R Ambedkar. These principles are stated in Part IV of the Indian Constitution and were involved in the Constitution to provide economic and social justice to Indian citizens. It aims to form a welfare state in India.

Emergency Provisions

In the Constitution of India, there is a well-elaborated provision responsible for dealing with the challenges that come in the way of the unity and security of the country. Three different types of emergencies are-

  • Article 360- Financial Emergency
  • Article 356 & 365- Emergency because of the failure of constitutional machinery in states
  • Aricle 352- Emergency caused by armed rebellion, external aggression, or war.

Secularism

India is a vast country with plenty of religions, and the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion to all. The Indian citizens are free to follow or preach any religion. It ensures equal rights to all without discrimination based on sex, religion, caste, or creed. Everyone has the right freely to profess, propagate and practice a religion. Thus, it embodies the positive concept of secularism. Along with this, minorities are granted special cultural rights.

Three-tier Government

According to the 73rd and 74th amendment act, urban and rural local bodies act as the third tier of the structure of government. These sections work on the aims of self-functioning villages in India.

Federal Features of Indian Constitution

As mentioned earlier, one of the Main Features of the Indian Constitution is the federal system with unitary features. Out of all the characteristics of the constitution, the following are the 7 federal features of the Indian Constitution. 

  1. Dual Polity
  2. Written Constitution
  3. Division of Powers
  4. Supremacy of the Constitution
  5. Rigid Constitution
  6. Independent Judiciary
  7. Bicameralism

Unitary Features of Indian Constitution

Unitary features or non-federal features of the Indian Constitution are as follows

  • Powerful Centre
  • The Indian Constitution suggests that the Federation of India is “an indestructible Union of destructible states.”
  • One Constitution 
  • Emergency Provisions
  • Single Citizenship 
  • All India Services such as IAS, IPS, etc.
  • Role of Governor

Borrowed Features of Indian Constitution

One of the most unique features of the Indian Constitution is that the constitutions of several countries inspired it.

 Features of Indian Constitution borrowed from Government of India Act, 1935

  • Federal Structure 
  • Governor Office 
  • Judiciary
  • Public Service Commissions
  • Emergency provisions

Sources

Features Borrowed

British Constitution

Bicameralism

Single Citizenship

Parliamentary form of Government

The rule of law

Legislative procedure

Cabinet system

Writs

The US Constitution

Independent judiciary and judicial review

Removal of Supreme Court and High Court judges

Impeachment of the President

Fundamental Rights

Post of Vice-President

Irish Constitution

President Election

DPSP

Rajya Sabha members nomination

Canadian Constitution

Advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

Strong Centre

Residuary powers with the Centre

Appointment of Governor

Australian Constitution

Concurrent list

Joint sitting of the Upper and Lower House

Freedom of trade

Weimar Constitution of Germany

Suspension of Fundamental rights during Emergency

USSR

Fundamental duties

Idea of justice (social, economic, and political)

French Constitution

Republic

The ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity

South African Constitution

Procedure for the amendment of the Constitution

Election of the members of the Upper House (Rajya Sabha)

Salient Features of Indian Constitution UPSC

Salient Features of Indian Constitution UPSC is one of the vital topics for the IAS Exam. Many questions have been asked about the topic in the UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains Exam. You can learn about this topic and all the related ones by going through the Polity Books for UPSC and NCERT Books for UPSC.

You can also solve the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to judge your preparation for the Exam.

Salient Features of Indian Constitution UPSC Questions

Few of the Salient Features of the Indian Constitution question that are being asked in the UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains exam is as under-

Questions for prelims- Which of the following statements about the Constitution of India is/are correct?

  1. Popular sovereignty and adult franchise are the Constitution's basic features.
  2. The Constitution, in so far as the division of powers between the Centre and the States is concerned, is rigid.
  3. The Constitution recognizes the interdependence of civil and economic rights.
  4. The Constitution mentions direct control by the people, such as a referendum, initiative, and recall.

Select the correct answer from the codes given below:

  1. A) Only 1
  2. B) 1, 2 and 4
  3. C) 2, 3 and 4
  4. D) 1, 2 and 3

Answer - 1, 2 and 3

Question- Which one of the following is not a salient feature of the Constitution of India?

  1. A) Written Constitution and supremacy of the Constitution
  2. B) Quasi-federal structure
  3. C) Committed Judiciary
  4. D) Distribution of Powers

Answer - Committed Judiciary

Question for Mains- Discuss the Salient features of Indian Constitution. How Indian secularism is different from the concept of western secularism. Discuss. (250 words)

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FAQs on Salient Features of Indian Constitution

  • There are approx 18 key features of the Indian constitution, few of them are 

    1. Written and Lengthiest Constitution
    2. The preamble in the Indian constitution
    3. Three Tier Government
    4. Secularism 
    5. Universal Adult Franchise
    6. Democratic Form of Government.


  • There are no defined features of the Indian Constitution; however, if analyzed for its uniqueness, there are 18 Salient Features of the Indian Constitution. Some of them are that the Indian Constitution is drawn from various sources and is a mixture of rigidity and flexibility.

  • The salient features of the Indian Constitution adopted from the Government of India Act of 1935 are as follows-Administrative details, Emergency provisions, Public Service Commissions, Judiciary, Office of the governor, and the Federal Scheme.

  • You can easily download the Features of Indian Constitution PDF form here. The compilation includes all important features and details of the Indian Constitution.

  • There are 11 sources that make a part of the main features of the Indian Constitution which include the Government of India Act 1935 (majority of Constitution) and the Constitution of different countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, Japan, Russia, the UK, the US, Germany, South Africa, and France.

  • Some of the salient features of the Indian Constitution that reflect the unitary nature of the constitution are:

    • Single Citizenship
    • Single Constitution for Union and States
    • Office of Governor
    • Veto over Concurrent List
    • Common All-India Services


  • The Indian Constitution is one of the lengthiest written documents in the world which is also a salient feature. It has 12 schedules and 448 articles with the Preamble at the front of the Constitution.

  • Yes, according to the Indian Constitution, there are three types of emergencies under which the state can declare an emergency. These are Financial emergencies, Emergencies because of the failure of constitutional machinery in states, and emergencies caused by armed rebellion, external aggression, or war.

  • The key features of the Constitution of India reflect the ideologies of Secularism, democracy, Sarvodaya, socialism, decentralization, humanism, liberalism, mixed economy, and Gandhism.

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