Government of India
constitution of India, the longest and most exhaustive constitution
of any independent nation in the world, came into force on January
26, 1950. The preamble of the constitution defines India as a
sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. India has a
quasi-federal form of government and a bicameral parliament
operating under a Westminster-style parliamentary system. It has
three branches of governance: the Legislature, Executive, and
The President of India is the official head of state elected
indirectly by an electoral college for a five-year term. The Prime
Minister is, however, the de facto head of government and exercises
most executive powers. The Prime Minister is appointed by the
President and, by convention, is the candidate supported by the
party or political alliance holding the majority of seats in the
lower house of Parliament.
The legislature of India is the bicameral Parliament, which consists
of the upper house called the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and
the lower house called the Lok Sabha (House of People). The Rajya
Sabha, a permanent body, has up to 250 members serving staggered six
year terms. Most are elected indirectly by the state and territorial
legislatures in proportion to the state's population. The 543 of the
Lok Sabha's 545 members are directly elected by popular vote to
represent individual constituencies for five year terms. The other
two members are nominated by the President from the Anglo-Indian
community if, in his opinion, the community is not adequately
The executive branch consists of the President, Vice-President, and
the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet being its executive committee)
headed by the Prime Minister. Any minister holding a portfolio must
be a member of either house of parliament. In the Indian
parliamentary system, the executive is subordinate to the
legislature, with the Prime Minister and his Council being directly
responsible to the lower house of the parliament.
India has a unitary three-tier judiciary, consisting of the Supreme
Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India, twenty-one High Courts,
and a large number of trial courts. The Supreme Court has original
jurisdiction over cases involving fundamental rights and over
disputes between states and the Centre, and appellate jurisdiction
over the High Courts. It is judicially independent, and has the
power to declare the law and to strike down union or state laws
which contravene the Constitution. The role as the ultimate
interpreter of the Constitution is one of the most important
functions of the Supreme Court.
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