Evolution of Indian Constitution

Mains Marks Booster     29th July 2023        
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Indian Constitution

A constitution is a comprehensive framework of laws and regulations that establishes the structure of a state's government. It delineates the roles and interactions of various governmental institutions. 

Historical underpinnings of the Indian Constitution 

  • The Constitution of India is a product of a historical process that draws upon a rich array of constitutional antecedents.
  • It represents a seamless blend of historical legacy and progressive change, embodying a continuum of development. 

Important British Acts during colonial time

Regulating Act of 1773, Charter Act of 1833, Indian Councils Act of 1861, Government of India Act of 1919, Government of India Act of 1935 etc.

Constituent Assembly

Formation: December 9, 1946 

Duration: From December 1946 to November 1949   

Adoption of Constitution: November 26, 1949


Provide flexibility, address deficiencies, reflect social change, enhance democracy, protect fundamental rights, meet international obligations, and ensure constitutional stability.

Basic Structure Doctrine

Originated: Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala case in 1973.

Current Role

The Constitution has been amended to address evolving needs, but its core principles remain intact.

Evolution of the Indian constitution 

British colonial rule in India shaped the bedrock of the Indian Constitution:

  • Regulating Act of 1773: Changed the post of Governor of Bengal to “Governor-General of Bengal” and Supreme Court at Calcutta. Prohibited private trade and bribery by Company servants. Strengthened British Government control over the Company.
  • Pitt's India Act of 1784: Introduced double government system: Court of Directors for commercial affairs, Board of Control for political affairs. Designated Company's Indian territories as "British possessions in India. "Enhanced political control of British Government over the Company.
  • Charter Act of 1813: Abolished trade monopoly of East India Company, except for tea and China trade. Allowed Christian missionaries for spreading Western education. Strengthened British Government's regulation and oversight of the Company.
  • Charter Act of 1833: Replaced the Governor-General of Bengal with the Governor-General of India. Changed laws made under previous acts from "Regulations" to "Acts. "Ended the commercial activities of the East India Company, making it purely an administrative body.
  • Charter Act of 1853: Separated legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General's council. Established the Indian (Central) Legislative Council, functioning as a mini-Parliament. Introduced the spirit of open competition for civil services.
  • Government of India Act of 1858: Transferred the governance of India from the East India Company to the British Crown. Introduced the office of the Viceroy of India, replacing the Governor-General. Established the Secretary of State for India as a member of the British Cabinet.
  • Indian Councils Act of 1861: Introduced representative institutions by including Indians in the law-making process. Restored legislative powers to the Bombay and Madras presidencies. Recognized the portfolio system and empowered the Viceroy to issue ordinances.
  • Indian Councils Act of 1892: Increased the number of non-official members in central and provincial legislative councils. Expanded the functions of legislative councils, including budget discussions and questioning the executive. Promoted greater Indian participation in the legislative process.
  • Indian Councils Act of 1909 (Morley-Minto Reforms): Enlarged the size of legislative councils, both central and provincial. Introduced separate electorates, legalizing communal representation. Allowed Indians to join the executive councils of the Viceroy and Governors.
  • Government of India Act of 1919 (Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms): Introduced diarchy, dividing subjects into transferred and reserved categories. Established bicameral legislatures with direct elections. Extended separate electorates for Sikhs, Christians, Anglo-Indians, and Europeans.
  • Government of India Act of 1935:Proposed an All-India Federation (not implemented) and introduced provincial autonomy. Divided subjects into federal, provincial, and residuary lists. Extended separate electorates for depressed classes, women, and labourers. 
  1. Indian Independence Act of 1947: It declared India as an independent and sovereign state, effective from August 15, 1947. The act facilitated the partition of India, resulting in the creation of two dominions: India and Pakistan. Additionally, it empowered the Constituent Assemblies to draft and adopt a constitution, and to repeal any law or act, including the Independence Act itself.

Constituent assembly

  • Vision, ideals, and philosophy of constituent assembly of India -The Indian Constitution is founded on the principles of creating a fair and equal society that respects individual freedom.
  • Enactment and enforcement of the constitution by the assembly: Dr. B.R. Ambedkar presented a motion on November 26, 1949, marking the significant day when the Indian people, through the Constituent Assembly, adopted, enacted, and bestowed upon themselves the Constitution of India.
  • January 26, 1950, was selected as the official "date of commencement" for the Constitution.

Critics have raised several concerns about the Constituent Assembly, highlighting the following issues:

  1. Lack of Representation: The members of the Constituent Assembly were not directly elected through universal adult franchise.
  2. Lack of Sovereignty: The assembly was formed based on British Government proposals and conducted its sessions with their permission, undermining its independence and sovereignty.
  3. Domination by Congress Members: The Constituent Assembly was dominated by the Indian National Congress, raising concerns about political diversity and exclusion.
  4. Influence of Lawyers and Politicians: The dominance of lawyers and politicians in the Constituent Assembly resulted in a lengthy and technical Constitution, potentially making it less accessible to the public.

Samvidhan Divas: Celebrating India's Constitution

Samvidhan Divas, observed on 26th November annually, honors the adoption of the Constitution of India, representing the nation's dedication to its fundamental principles and values.


The Constituent Assembly drafted the Constitution for Independent India, creating a legal framework and India-specific systems that granted dignity to millions of people. We can conclude that even though indirectly elected, the Constituent Assembly was representative in the sense that it consisted of the people from all sections of the Indian society. Although with some limitations, constituent assembly drafted a comprehensive constitution.

Features of the Indian Constitution

The Indian Constitution is not merely a rulebook for governing the nation, but a visionary blueprint that sought to uphold the ideals of dignity and Swaraj (self-rule) that emerged during the Indian national movement. 

Salient features of the Indian Constitution 

The Indian Constitution is a remarkable blend of various constitutional frameworks from over 60 countries.

  • Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility, Synthesis of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy, Quasi-Federal System with Unitary Bias, Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles, and Fundamental Duties, Universal Adult Franchise, Single Citizenship, Emergency Provisions, Independent Judiciary and Constitutional Bodies, Three-Tier Government, Indian Model of Secularism.

Sources of Indian Constitution

Convention, judicial interpretation, and the written portion of the composition from a variety of sources mainly from the Government of India Act, 1935.


Features taken


Directive Principles of State Policy, Ability Representation in the Rajya Sabha, and the process for electing the Indian President


Fundamental Rights


Parliamentary system of Government


Emergency provision

South Africa

Two-thirds majority amendment procedure in Parliament and election of Rajya Sabha members