Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and his Satyagraha, a unique non-violent campaign, India threw off the yoke of British rule on 15 August, 1947. Free India's first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, described the moment as a "tryst with destiny". In less than three years of attaining freedom, India had framed a Constitution and declared itself a Republic on 26 January, 1950. The Constitution was given shape by some of the finest minds of the country who ensured the trinity of justice, liberty and equality for the citizens of India. The Constitution was made flexible enough to adjust to the demands of social and economic changes within a democratic framework.
Adopting the path of democracy, the country held its first general elections in 1952. Elections to the Lower House of Parliament, Lok Sabha, have been held regularly every five years.
India is a Union of twenty-eight States and seven centrally administered Union Territories. The States are Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and West Bengal. The centrally administered territories are Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Lakshadweep, Delhi and Pondicherry. Delhi has its own legislature and head of the government, but it is still not considered as a full-fledged state.
The country attained freedom on 15 August 1947. The Constitution of the Republic came into effect on the 26th of January 1950.
The Constitution provides for single and uniform citizenship for the whole nation and confers the right to vote on every person who is a citizen of India and is 18 years of age or older.
The Fundamental Rights of every Indian citizen include the freedom of speech, expression, belief, assembly and association, migration, and choice of occupation or trade. These rights also protect every Indian from discrimination on grounds of race, religion, creed or sex, and are enforceable in courts of law.
The Legislature: India has a parliamentary form of government based on universal adult franchise. The executive authority is responsible to the elected representatives of the people in Parliament for all its decisions and actions. Sovereignty rests ultimately with the people.
Rajya Sabha (Council of States): The Council of States consists of not more than 250 members, of whom twelve are nominated by the President of India and the rest elected. It is not subject to dissolution, one-third of its members retiring at the end of every second year.
The elections to the Council are indirect. The allotted quota of the representatives of each State is elected by the members of the Legislative Assembly of that State, in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote. The nominated members are persons with special knowledge or practical experience in literature, science, art and social service. The Rajya Sabha is presided over by the Vice-President of India.
Lok Sabha (House of the People): The House of the People consists of 545 members. Of these, 530 are directly elected from the twenty-eight States and 13 from the seven Union Territories. Two members are nominated by the President to represent the Anglo-Indian community.
Unless dissolved sooner, the term of the House is five years from the date appointed for its first meeting. The Lok Sabha elects its own presiding officer, the Speaker.
The Executive: The President of India is the Head of the State and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He is elected by an electoral college composed of members of both the Houses of Parliament (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha) and the legislatures of the constituent States. The President holds office for five years and can be re-elected.
The President does not normally exercise any constitutional powers on his own initiative. These are exercised by the Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister, which is responsible to the popularly elected Parliament.
The Vice-President is elected jointly by the members of both the Houses of Parliament. The person enjoying support of the majority in the Lok Sabha is appointed Prime Minister by the President. The President appoints other ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister can remain in office only as long as he or she enjoys majority support in Parliament.
The Judiciary: The judiciary is independent of the executive. It is the guardian and interpreter of the Constitution. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial tribunal, standing at the apex of a single unified system for the whole country. Each State has its own High Court. A uniform code of civil and criminal laws applies to the whole country.
The States: The States have their own Legislative Assemblies and in certain cases a second chamber. All members of the Legislative Assemblies are elected by universal adult franchise. The heads of the States are called Governors. Appointed by the President, they normally exercise the same powers in the States as the President does in the Union government. As in the Central Government, each State has a Cabinet headed by the Chief Minister responsible to the elected State Legislature.
Election Commission: The electoral machinery is centralised in an independent statutory body called the Election Commission. The Commission is responsible for the 'superintendence, direction and control' of the electoral rolls for all elections to Parliament and to the State Legislatures and also for conducting the elections.
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