The Indian Constitution | Class 8 Social Studies | NMMS notes

 The Indian Constitution

Games, such as football, hockey or cricket, have rules according to which they are played.

Each of these rules helps define the game, and helps us distinguish one game from another.

 As these are fundamental to the game, we can also call them the constitutive rules of the game.

Like these games, a society also has constitutive rules that make it what it is and differentiate it from other kinds of societies

Have you ever wondered why we need a Constitution or been curious about how the Constitution got written, or who wrote it?

In 1934, the Indian National Congress made the demand for a Constituent Assembly.

During the Second World War, this assertion for an independent Constituent Assembly formed only of Indians gained momentum and this was convened in December 1946.

The photo on page shows some members of the Constituent Assembly.

 Between December 1946 and November 1949, the Constituent Assembly drafted a constitution for independent India.

Free to shape their destiny at last, after 150 years of British rule, the members of the Constituent Assembly approached this task with the great idealism that the freedom struggle had helped produce.

The photo alongside shows Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru addressing the Constituent Assembly.


Today most countries in the world have a Constitution.

While all democratic countries are likely to have a Constitution, it is not necessary that all countries that have a Constitution are democratic.

The Constitution serves several purposes.

First, it lays out certain ideals that form the basis of the kind of country that we as citizens aspire to live in.

Or, put another way, a Constitution tells us what the fundamental nature of our society is.

A country is usually made up of different communities of people who share certain beliefs but may not necessarily agree on all issues.

A Constitution helps serve as a set of rules and principles that all persons in a country can agree upon as the 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.

Until recently, Nepal was a monarchy.

The previous Constitution of Nepal, which had been adopted in 1990, reflected the fact that the final authority rested with the King.

 A people’s movement in Nepal fought for several decades to establish democracy and in 2006 they finally succeeded in putting an end to the powers of the King.

The people had to write a new Constitution to establish Nepal as a democracy.

The reason that they did not want to continue with the previous Constitution is because it did not reflect the ideals of the country that they want Nepal to be, and that they have fought for.

The country of Nepal has witnessed several people’s struggles for democracy.

There was a people’s struggle in 1990 that established democracy that lasted for 12 years until 2002.

In October 2002, King Gyanendra, citing the Maoist uprising in the countryside as his reason, began taking over different aspects of the government with the army’s assistance.

The King then finally took over as the head of government in February 2005.

In November 2005, the Maoists joined other political parties to sign a 12-point agreement.

This agreement signalled to the larger public an imminent return to democracy and peace.

In 2006, this people’s movement for democracy began gaining immense force.

 It repeatedly refused the small concessions that the King made and finally in April 2006 the King restored the Third Parliament and asked the political parties to form a government.

 In 2008, Nepal became a democracy after abolishing the monarchy.

The above photos show scenes from the people’s movement for democracy in 2006.

The people of Nepal adopted a new Constitution for the country in 2015.


The second important purpose of a Constitution is to define the nature of a country’s political system.

 Nepal’s earlier Constitution stated that the country was to be ruled by the King and his council of ministers.

 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 a democracy, we choose our leaders so that they can exercise power responsibly on our behalf.

However, there is always the possibility that these leaders might misuse their authority and the Constitution usually provides safeguards against this.

 This misuse of authority can result in gross injustice as demonstrated in the classroom situation below:

In democratic societies, the Constitution often lays down rules that guard against this misuse of authority by our political leaders.

we talked about the discrimination Omprakash faced because he was a Dalit.

You read about how the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to equality to all persons and says that no citizen can be discriminated against on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender, and place of birth.

 The Right to Equality is one of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

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.


Such unhealthy situations can occur in democratic societies too, where a majority can continuously enforce decisions that exclude minorities and go against their interests.

As the above storyboard illustrates, every society is prone to this tyranny of the majority.

The Constitution usually contains rules that ensure that minorities are not excluded from anything that is routinely available to the majority.

Another reason why we have a Constitution is precisely to prevent this tyranny or domination by the majority of a minority.

This can refer to one community dominating another, i.e. inter-community domination,

or members of one community dominating others within the same community, i.e. intra-community domination.

The third significant reason why we need a Constitution is to save us from ourselves.

This may sound strange but what is meant by this is that we might at times feel strongly about an issue that might go against our larger interests and the Constitution helps us guard against this.

Look at the storyboard below to understand this better:


Similarly, 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.

For example, it is possible that many people who live in a democracy might come to strongly feel that party politics has become so acrimonious that we need a strong dictator to set this right.

Swept by this emotion, they may not realise that in the long run, dictatorial rule goes against all their interests.

A good Constitution does not allow these whims to change its basic structure.

 It does not allow for the easy overthrow of provisions that guarantee rights of citizens and protect their freedom.


The Indian Constitution: Key Features

 By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Indian national movement had been active in the struggle for independence from British rule for several decades.

During the freedom struggle the nationalists had devoted a great deal of time to imagining and planning what a free India would be like.

Under the British, they had been forced to obey rules that they had had very little role in making.

The long experience of authoritarian rule under the colonial state convinced Indians that free India should be a democracy in which everyone should be treated equally and be allowed to participate in government.

What remained to be done then was to work out the ways in which a democratic government would be set up in India and the rules that would determine its functioning.

This was done not by one person but by a group of around 300 people who became members of the Constituent Assembly in 1946 and who met periodically for the next three years to write India’s Constitution.

These members of the Constituent Assembly had a huge task before them.

 The country was made up of several different communities who spoke different languages, belonged to different religions, and had distinct cultures.

 Also, when the Constitution was being written, India was going through considerable turmoil.

 The partition of the country into India and Pakistan was imminent, some of the Princely States remained undecided about their future, and the socio-economic condition of the vast mass of people appeared dismal.

All of these issues played on the minds of the members of the Constituent Assembly as they drafted the Constitution.

 They rose to the occasion and gave this country a visionary document that reflects a respect for maintaining diversity while preserving national unity.

The final document also reflects their concern for eradicating poverty through socio-economic reforms as well as emphasising the crucial role the people can play in choosing their representatives.

Baba Saheb Dr Ambedkar is known as the Father of the Indian Constitution.

Dr Ambedkar believed that his participation in the Constituent Assembly helped the Scheduled Castes get some safeguards in the draft constitution.

But he also stated that although the laws might exist, Scheduled Castes still had reason to fear because the administration of these laws were in the hands of ‘caste Hindu officers’.

He, therefore, urged Scheduled Castes to join the government as well as the civil services.


1. Federalism:

This refers to the existence of more than one level of government in the country.

 In India, we have governments at the state level and at the centre.

 Panchayati Raj is the third tier of government

The vast number of communities in India meant that a system of government needed to be devised that did not involve only persons sitting in the capital city of New Delhi and making decisions for everyone.

 Instead, it was important to have another level of government in the states so that decisions could be made for that particular area.

While each state in India enjoys autonomy in exercising powers on certain issues, subjects of national concern require that all of these states follow the laws of the central government.

The Constitution contains lists that detail the issues that each tier of government can make laws on.

In addition, the Constitution also specifies where each tier of government can get the money from for the work that it does.

 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 these levels of government.


2. Parliamentary Form of Government:

The different tiers of government that you just read about consist of representatives who are elected by the people.

The Constitution of India guarantees universal adult suffrage for all citizens.

When they were making the Constitution, the members of the Constituent Assembly felt that the freedom struggle had prepared the masses for universal adult suffrage and that this would help encourage a democratic mindset and break the clutches of traditional caste, class and gender hierarchies.

 This means that the people of India have a direct role in electing their representatives.

 Also, every citizen of the country, irrespective of his/her social background, can also contest in elections.

These representatives are accountable to the people.

“When the Constituent Assembly adopted the principle of universal adult franchise, Shri A.K. Ayyar, a member, remarked that this was done,

 “with an abundant faith in the common man and the ultimate success of democratic rule, and in the full belief that the introduction of democratic government on the basis of adult suffrage will bring enlightenment and promote the well-being, the standard of life, the comfort, and the decent living of the common man”

3. Separation of Powers:

According to the Constitution, there are three organs of government.

 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 government, 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 government and this ensures the balance of power between all three.

4. Fundamental Rights:

 The section on Fundamental Rights has often been referred to as the ‘conscience’ of the Indian Constitution.

Colonial rule had created a certain suspicion of the State in the minds of the nationalists and they wanted to ensure that a set of written rights would guard against the misuse of State power in independent India.

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.

 Moreover, the various minority communities also expressed the need for the Constitution to include rights that would protect their groups.

The Constitution, therefore, also guarantees the rights of minorities against the majority.

 As Dr Ambedkar has said about these Fundamental Rights, their object 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 reforms, 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:

1.       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. But there are exceptions to this that you will read about later in this book. The practice of untouchability has also been abolished.

2.       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 practise any profession, occupation or business.

3.       Right against Exploitation:

 Constitution prohibits human trafficking, forced labour, and employment of children under 14 years of age.

4.       Right to Freedom of Religion:

Religious freedom is provided to all citizens. Every person has the right to practise, profess and propagate the religion of their choice.

5.       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.

6.       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.

You now understand the ways in which a country’s history often determines the kind of Constitution that a country adopts for itself.

 The Constitution plays a crucial role in laying out the ideals that we would like all citizens of the country to adhere to, including the representatives that we elect to rule us.



The above photos show various members of the Constituent Assembly signing a copy of the Constitution at its final session on 24 January 1950.

 The first photo (from top) shows Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru signing.

 The second photo is of Dr Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly.

 The last photo shows the following persons (from right to left):

Shri Jairamdas Daulatram, Minister for Food and Agriculture;

Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Health Minister;

Dr John Mathai, Finance Minister;

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Deputy Prime Minister

and behind him Shri Jagjivan Ram, Labour Minister.


The Constitution also mentions Fundamental Duties.  11 Fundamental Duties