Basic Principles of the Constitution
All constitutions are a reflection of the ideas and ideals of the people who framed it. Though it is intended to be a document of permanent value, it is bound to reflect the prevailing conditions and circumstances of the period in which it is framed. Indian constitution is no exception to this.
A careful study of the constitution of India shows that it has at least 8 such basic principles which are:-
1. Popular Sovereignty
2. Fundamental Rights
3. Directive Principles
4. Cabinet Government
8. Judicial Independence.
Let's briefly examine the scope of these principles.
Popular Sovereignty- India is a Sovereign Democratic Republic. The starting words of the Preamble in the Constitution emphasizes the ultimate authority of the citizens of India. The Preamble proclaims the solemn resolution of the people to constitute India into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic. It was the will of the Indian citizens due to which constitution came into existence.
Popular Sovereignty here implies that all the powers of the government agencies arises from the will of the citizens of India as expressed in the Indian Constitution and the citizens have the ultimate right to determine in whose hands these powers should remain from time to time through elections. Moreover these representatives selected to Government are answerable to the legislature and through it to the citizens.
The elections to the House of the People (Lok Sabha) and the Legislative Assembly of every State have to held on the basis of adult suffrage and it is a must that these should be held at least once in every five years. Most important is the democratic ideal followed in the constitution that of "one man, one vote, one value" irrespective of the wealth, education, social status or any other importance of the citizen.
India is the largest democracy in the world. In 1952, when the first elections were held for the parliament the total number of eligible voters were around 173 million. During the Ninth General Elections during November 1989 this number was around 499 million and in 2004 this number rose to 650 million.
The framers of our constitution also made sure that elections are conducted freely by creating the independent constitutional body- the Election Commission of India- which is the total in charge of everything related to elections.
The fifteen General Elections that the independent India have so far proved that inspite of poverty, caste, widespread illiteracy and difficulties in communication, the people in general have been able to exercise robust common sense in electing candidates of their choice and thus, exercise their supreme authority in setting up a democratic, people's government.
Fundamental Rights - The report card of a democracy is as good as the extent of Freedoms and rights enjoyed by the citizens in general. A genuine democracy must always be careful from the temptation of transforming into a system under the ruling majority claims infallibility for itself. It is necessary precaution in a democracy that the will of the government be limited by the wishes of the citizen and also even the popular among the people should also be limited. To quote it in the words of Professor Laski "If in any State there is a body of men who posses unlimited political power, those over whom they rule can never be free." The complete overtaking by any majority government in a democracy is the biggest threat which should be strongly guarded against.
Safeguards in the constitution which can be taken to prevent such a condition are:
1. Safeguard the basic right s of the individual citizens by preventing any encroachment effort by Government.
2. Divide the powers of the State and entrust it to separate agencies so that nobody poses any ultimate power.
In the Indian Constitution the first choice has been chosen and tries to achieve the objective by embodying in it a set of fundamental rights and guaranteeing them through an independent judiciary. These rights keep both the legislative and executive under check. On one hand, the legislature is prohibited from passing certain laws which would curtail the individual's freedom and on the other hand the executive is compelled to adhere to certain formalities and procedures when it deals with the citizens. Thus the constitution delimits the respective spheres of activity of the State and the individual and erects a virtual wall between the Government and the citizens to secure the fundamental freedoms.
The constitution affirms the basic principle that every individual is entitled to enjoy certain rights as a human being and the enjoyment of such rights does not depend on the will of any majority or minority. No majority has the right to abrogate such rights. In fact, the legitimacy of the majority to rule is derived from the existence of these rights. These rights include all the basic rights such as the freedom of religious belief and cultural and educational freedoms. The Constitution has classified these rights into seven categories and one of them is the right to constitutional remedies which entitles every aggrieved person to approach even the Supreme Court of India to restore to him/her any fundamental right that may have been violated.
The prime importance of these rights is that while the will of the majority decided how these freedoms are to be implemented, the existence of the freedoms themselves is not subject to that will. On the contrary these freedoms set the conditions under which the will of the majority is to be formed and exercised. They establish the framework of "democratic legitimacy" for the rule of the majority.
It must be stressed, however, that the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution are not absolute. Individual rights, however basic they are, cannot override national security and general welfare. For, in the absence of national security and general welfare, individual rights are themselves not secure. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to instigate a mob to cause violence; freedom of movement does not mean freedom of settlement or even movement to "sensitive areas". The Constitution has made express provisions dealing with such limitations of fundamental rights so that those who seek to enjoy the rights may also realize the obligations accompanying them.
Basic Principles of the Constitution