Amending Procedure of UK, US and Indian Constitution

  • The British constitution is a very flexible constitution. It can be amended, partially or wholly, by an ordinary law passed by the British parliament. There is no distinction between constitutional law and ordinary law and each can be amended or repealed or replaced by the British parliament.
  • The US constitution is a very rigid constitution. Article V of the US constitution lays down a difficult method of Amendment. An Amendment proposal in the US constitution has to pass through two stages: 1) Proposal stage, and 2) Ratification stage. An Amendment proposal which successfully passes the two stages do not require presidential signature.
  • The mixture of rigidity and flexibility in Indian constitution was devised to safeguard the basic provisions of the constitution from hasty changes and at the same time to render any easy alteration of its less important aspects possible and thus to impart a degree of flexibility to it.
  • Part XX of the constitution deals with amendment of the constitution. There are three basic ways in which amendment can be made.
  • Most of the provisions can be amended by the parliament through the passing of an amending act by a majority of total membership and 2/3rd majority of members present and voting in each house.
  • Ten provisions (articles/parts/chapters/schedules) of constitution can be amended first by passing the amendment bill in accordance with the specified procedure and then getting it rectified by at least half of the state legislatures.
  • Several specified constitutional provisions can be amended by the parliament by an ordinary law of the parliament passed by a simple majority. State legislatures have been denied the power to initiate amendments.

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  • Q1

    (a) Explain how the president of the United States is elected. [6]

    (b) Discuss briefly, the limitations that the constitution of the United States places on the powers of the President. [6]


    (a) Article II of the United States Constitution established the Executive Branch of the Government, including the President, Vice- President and other executive officers. Within Article II, rules are set as to who can become President and how a President is elected.

    Every four years, people in the United States elect a new President on a Tuesday followed by first Monday in November. Last year the date fell on November 8, 2016.

    The American election system is not straightforward, as mere votes do not allow one to win the presidency.

    Here is how the system works starting from who can become a presidential candidate to the day, a newly-elected President is inaugurated in five steps:

    1. The requirements: if one want to contest for the presidency one has to fulfill the following criteria:

    • One should be a natural born US citizen.
    • One has to be 35 years of age.
    • One must to be US resident for the past 14 years.

    2. Primaries and caucuses: each candidate is backed by a party and each party has its own believers. The primaries and caucuses help bring these like- minded candidate and believers of a party together to choose a candidate who will represent the party in a general elections.

    In a way, these are ‘elections before elections’ where one candidate of each party is selected by a party believers before they go on to face the general elections.

    In India scenario, this is equivalent to a party nomination a prime ministerial candidate.

    Primaries are straight-forward voting system where party believers vote for a particular candidate. They are run by state and local governments.

    During caucuses, voters divide themselves into groups according to who they support in the party. They then discuss and give speeches to convince others to join their group. Finally, votes are called in and the winner is chosen.

    These are private meetings organized by political parties.

    3. Delegates: At the end of every primary or caucus, the candidates of different parties pick up ‘delegates’. Each candidate of a party has to pick up a pre-determined number of delegates to win the nomination.

    If one wants to become a Democratic Party candidate one has to pick up 2,383 of 4,765 delegates. To become a Republican Party candidate one has to pick up 1,237 of 2,472 delegates.

    Delegates are of two types- pledged and unpledged.

    4. National conventions: Parties hold national convention to announce the candidates, who has picked up the required number of delegates, as the party’s nominee for the general elections.

    If no one has achieved the magic number then the convention becomes a brokered or contested one. The pledged delegates and unpledged delegates come into the spotlight. Contested convention is equivalent to the election of a Pope. Because there was no consensus in the primaries and caucuses, another round of voting is conducted. Wherein ‘pledged delegates’ usually have to vote for the candidate they were awarded to in the first round of voting, while unpledged delegates don’t.

    Pledged delegates may be allowed to choose any candidate in subsequent rounds of voting. The voting continue until a consensus emerges and a nominee is finalized.

    5. General elections: US citizens vote to choose their President during general elections. But here too they do not choose the president directly. The US follows an indirect method called Electoral College to choose the president. Under this system, citizens note for a group of people known as electors. And the electros, in turn, choose the president.

    In the Electoral College system, each state gets a certain number of electors based on its representation in the Congress. There is a total of 538 electoral votes.

    Each political party nominates electors who are state-elected officials, party leader or persons who have a personal or political affiliation with the presidentially candidate.

    Each selected elector casts one vote following the general election and the candidate who crosses the 270 mark wins.

    The newly-elected president is inaugurated in January.

    (b) Presidential power is derived from, and limited by, the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution lived in dread fear of a powerful executive and consequently, granted to chief executive sharply limited powers. Let us examine the limitations upon the powers of the president.

    1- Limitations in respect of tenure- the president once elected holds office for four years. He has to seek re-election after expiry of the first term. He cannot contest election for a third term.

    2- Limitations of holding an elected democratic office- the office of the president is an elected office and a person has to prove his popularity and ability. He has to climb the ladder slowly, scrupulously following democratic norms and demonstrating his ability as a leader capable of becoming the leader of the nation. His personality and conduct are always under the strict observation of the people, the groups, the press and the mass media.

    3- Limitations imposed by the constitution- the president exercises only those powers and that too strictly in accordance within the meaning laid down by the law, which have been given to him in provisions of the constitution.

    4- The threat of Impeachment- the US congress has the power and duty to remove the president through impeachment if it finds him guilty of treason, or bribery, or high crimes or misdemeanor. No doubt the method of impeachment is very difficult, nevertheless, its threat always acts as a restraint upon him.

    5- Congress can present a second major obstacle in the way of achievement of president’s programme. Many presidents started out to lead congress but found the way long and hard. Whether, the president is democrat or a republican, to all senators and representatives he is to some extent, a dangerous rival. In order to carry out his policy aims which may or may not be those of the president, he must enter into alliance with legislators and perhaps also with some interested groups.

    6-role of Judges- the constitution makes federal judges virtually independent of presidential control once they are nominated and confirmed, and many executive policies face major tests before the courts.

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  • Q2

    (a) Explain the important functions of the Lok Sabha. [6]

    (b) Compare the relative positions of the Rajya Sabha and the United States Senate in their respective systems. [6]


    (a) 1. Legislative Powers: An ordinary bill can become a law only after it has been passed by both the houses of parliament. The Lok Sabha can pass bills concerning all those subjects which have been included in the Union List and the Concurrent List. It can pass bills regarding state subjects also in case of emergencies or if Rajya Sabha by a resolution passed by majority of its total members and 2/3 of its members present and voting declared a particular state subject of national importance. However, such a bill can be valid for a year only.

    A non- money bill can be initiated in any of the two Houses. In case, the Houses cannot come to an agreement, The President may summon a joint session of both the Houses of Parliament. If the Bill is passed by the majority of the total members of the Houses concerned in joint session, it is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses of Parliament. Since the membership of Lok Sabha is almost double to that of the Rajya Sabha, The will of the former is likely to prevail. Thus supremacy of Lok Sabha over Rajya Sabha in ordinary or important non-money bills is self evident.

    2. Financial: The Lok Sabha’s control over purse is an undisputed fact. A money bill must be initiated in the Lok Sabha. When passed by the Lok Sabha, it is to be transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations. The Constitution, however, requires the Rajya Sabha to return it to the Lok Sabha with its recommendations within 14 days from the date of receipt of the bill.

    3. Control over the Executive: In a Parliamentary form of government, the most important function of a lower House is “Control over the Executive”. According to Article 75(3), the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. This means, the ministry must tender resignation if a vote of non-confidence is passed against it by the Lok Sabha.

    The Ministers in charge of various departments can be interrogated and censured by the members of the House. The bill introduced by the government may be rejected by the Houses. The adjournment motion may be moved to criticize the government or raise discussions on matters of vital importance for short duration. A resolution moving a token cut in the budget or the grant to a particular ministry may be passed, reflecting lack of confidence in the ministry by the majority in the House.

    4. Electoral Function: Article 54 of the Constitution vests electoral functions of the Parliament. The elected members of both the Houses of Parliament constitute a part of the Electoral College for the election of President. Article 66 provides for the election of the Vice-President by the members of both the Houses of Parliament at a joint session. The Lok Sabha elects its speaker as well.

    5. Discussions on Questions of Public Importance: The Parliament possesses unlimited power of discussing and debating questions. This is done usually on the occasion of the inaugural and annual address by the President of India. It is empowered to review and criticize the work of the different departments of state during the discussion on the estimates of expenditure, the appropriation and revenue bills. Through such criticism and review, the members of House can get their grievances redressed.

    6. Some other powers of Lok Sabha:

    (i) Approval of the ordinances issued by the president.

    (ii) Change of the boundaries of the states, creation of new states and change in the name of a state.

    (iii) Changes in the Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the high courts.

    (iv) changes in the qualification for the membership of the parliament and state legislatures.

    (v) Revision of the salary and allowances of the members of parliament and

    (vi) Constituting or setting up of joint public service commission for two or more states.

    (vii) it can also pass a resolution for abolishing or reconstituting the upper chamber of a state legislature.

    (b) Indian Rajya sabha though it is not as weak as the British House of Lords, nevertheless, is weaker than the US Senate. Both the Rajya Sabha of India and the Senate of USA are Upper Houses of their respective legislatures. Rajya Sabha is an indirectly elected house which, more in name than in reality represents the states of Indian Union. It has equal ordinary law making powers with the Lok Sabha but the joint session method of conflict resolution between the two houses favours the Lok Sabha. In respect of money bills, the Rajya Sabha has merely 14 days delaying power. It has little control over the executive as the cabinet is responsible to the Lok Sabha only. In these respects, it is definitely less powerful than the US Senate which is a major institution of legislative and financial work and is a device of control over the US president. The Indian Rajya Sabha is less powerful than the senate. Senate has strength of 100 members who always maintain and take pride in their solidarity and work.

    An upper house is less powerful than the lower house, as a general principle. This is because a lower house is directly elected by the people. However, USA can be said to be the “exception” to this. The Senate is considered to be the “most powerful upper house in the world”. In comparison, the Rajya Sabha is a weak, superfluous and redundant house.

    1. Election method: The Senators are in fact directly elected by the citizens of the states. Hence, they have direct support and approval of the people. In contrast, members of the Rajya Sabha are indirectly elected. They are elected by the legislatures of the state governments. They do not have direct representation of the people.

    2. Composition: The Senate gives equal representation to all states irrespective of size or population. This means that both small states and large state get two members. All states get an equal voice in the process of law-making. This is in contrast to Rajya Sabha members where each state’s representation depends on population. More populated states get a louder voice and hence rule of the majority is very common. This make it easy for the ruling party to ignore opposition and interests of the minorities.

    3. Powers: The Senate is more powerful than the House of Representative in many ways. First, the Senate has almost complete control over the Budget. Second, the President requires ratification of the Senate for treaties. The Rajya Sabha in comparison has no control over the Budget, except for a “delaying” power. Not passing a bill has no productive outcome since the joint sessions method for resolving a dispute between the houses favours the Lok Sabha since it would be headed by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha itself.

    4. Representation: Each member of the Senate represents says half of the state he/she is elected from (the other member representing the other half). Hence, they have more voter backing. The Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, represents a smaller number (a fixed number) and hence has a smaller voter backing.

    5. Compactness: Since the Senate has just 100 members, it makes discussions and deliberations simpler. Members get more time to speak as well. The Rajya Sabha, however, has 250 members. Members may not get enough time to speak. Plus, more people always lead to more chaos.

    One can say that both houses are similar merely in the fact that they are “upper houses” and represent state interests. But they radically differ in the context of powers, functions and the nuanced implications of the same.

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  • Q3

    (a) Discuss three merits and three demerits of the First-Past-the-Post system. [6]

    (b) Explain the rationale for minority representation in the legislature. [6]


    (a) Merits of FPTP system: First Past the Post, like other plurality/ majority electoral systems, is defended primarily on the grounds of simplicity and its tendency to produce winners who are representatives beholden to defined geographic areas and governability.

    The most often cited advantaged of FPTP system are:

    • It provides a clear-cut choice for voters between two main parties. The inbuilt disadvantages faced by third and fragmented minority parties under FPTP in many cases cause the party system to gravitated towards a party of the ‘left’ and a party of the ‘right’, alternating in power. Third parties often wither away and almost never reach a level of popular support above which their national vote yields a comparable percentage of seats in the legislature.
    • It gives rise to single-party governments. The ‘seat bonuses’ for the largest party common under FPTP (e.g. where one party wins 45 percent of the national vote but 55 percent of the seats) mean that coalition governments are the exception rather than the rule. This state of affairs is praised for providing cabinets which are not shackled by the restraints of having to bargain with a minority coalition partner.
    • It promotes a link between constituents and their representatives, as it produces a legislature made up of representatives of geographical areas. Elected members represent defined areas of cities, towns or regions rather than just party labels. Some analysts have argued that this ‘geographical accountability’ is particularly important in agrarian societies and in developing countries.


    However, FPTP is frequently criticized for a number of reasons:

    • It excludes smaller parties from ‘fair’ representation’ in the sense that if a party which wins approximately, say, 10 percent of the votes should win approximately 10 percent of the legislative seats. In the 1993 federal election in Canada, the Progressive Conservatives won 16 percent of the votes but only 0.7 percent of the seats and in the 1998 general election in Lesotho, the Basotho National Party won 24 percent of the votes but only 1 percent of the seats. This is a pattern which is repeated time and time again under FPTP.
    • It leaves a large number of wasted votes which do not go towards the election of any candidates. This can be particularly dangerous if combined with regional freedoms, because minority party supporters in the region may begin to feel that they have no realistic hope of ever electing a candidate of their choice. It can also be dangerous where alienation from the political system increases the likelihood that extremists will be able to mobilize anti-system movements.
    • It can cause vote-splitting. Where two similar parties or candidates compete under FPTP, the vote of their potential supporters is often split between them, thus allowing a less popular party or candidates to win the seat.

    (b) The concept of minority representation stands for ensuring representation of minorities along with the representation of the majority community. While some advocates of minority representation hold that minorities should be given representation in proportion to their strength in society, some others support the case for giving some representation to them. The former is known as proportional representation of all the people, while the latter is a concept of minority representation.

    There are many ways to enhance the representation of minorities and communal groups. Again, electoral systems which use reasonably large district magnitudes encourage parties to nominate candidates from minorities on the grounds that balanced tickets will increase their electoral chances. A very low threshold, or the complete elimination of a formal threshold, in PR systems can also facilitate the representation of hitherto under-represented or unrepresented groups by encouraging the formation of parties specifically representing them. In plurality/ majority systems in particular, seats are sometimes set aside in the legislature for minorities and communal groups.

    Reserved seats can be used to ensure the representation of specific minority groups in the legislature. Seats are reserved for identifiable ethnic or religious minorities in countries as diverse as Colombia, Croatia, India, Jordan, Niger, New Zealand, Pakistan, Palestine, Samoa, Slovenia, Taiwan and Iraq. Representatives from these reserved seats are usually elected in much the same manner as other representatives, but are sometimes elected only by members of the particular minority community designated in the electoral law. This requires a communal roll (a roll of those voters who, by belonging to that particular community, are eligible to vote in that election). While it is often deemed to be a normative good to represent small communities of interest, it has also been argued that it is a better strategy to design structures which give rise to a representative legislature without overt manipulation of the electoral and that quota seats may breed resentment on the party of majority populations and exacerbate mistrust between various cultural groups.

    Instead of formally reserved seats, regions can be over-represented to facilitate the increased representation of geographically concentrated groups. In the UK, Scotland and Wales have more MPs in the British House of Commons that they would be entitled to if population size alone were the only criterion.

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  • Q4

    (a) What are the characteristics of a federal state? [6]

    (b) Explain why India is characterised as a quasi-federal state. [6]


    (a) 1. Division of Powers: Division of powers between the central government on the one hand and the state/provincial governments on the other, is an absolutely essential condition of a federation. The powers may be distributed in one of the two ways. Either the Constitution states what powers the federal authority shall have or leaves the remainder to the federating units, or it states what powers the federating units shall possess and leaves the remainder to the federal authority.

    2. Written Constitution: Since in federation there has to be affected a division of powers, it becomes essential to do so in writing in order to make it definite and binding upon both the centre and the federating states. For this purpose a written constitution is a must for a federation.

    3. Rigid Constitution: The constitution of a federation should be better rigid so that it could be regarded as a sacred agreement, the spirit of which should not be easily violated. In order to maintain stability of the federal system, there is prescribed a special method of making the amendments in the constitution.

    4. Special Judiciary: In a federation there are possibilities of constitutional disputes arising between the federal centre and the units or between one unit and another or between the citizens and the government. All these disputes are to be adjudicated in the light of the constitution. For this purpose a special judiciary with wide powers must be established. It should act as the custodian and guardian of the constitution. It should be vested with powers of declaring any law, national or local, ultra vires if it is at variance with the articles of the constitution.

    5. Supremacy of the Constitution: The Constitution is the supreme law in a federation. Neither the central government nor the government of the units can go against its spirit.

    6. Dual Citizenship: Citizens in a federal state have dual interests and they should be given rights of double citizenship- citizenship of the state wherein they are domiciled and citizenship of federal state as a whole. But in India we have single citizenship.

    7. Bicameral Legislature: In a federation, the legislature of the federal government is made a bicameral legislature. In one house, the people of the federation are given representation while in the second house; the units of the federation are given representation equally.

    (b) India is characterised as a quasi-federal state due to federal and unitary features in its constitution, like

    Federal features

    Like a federal constitutions India divides powers between the union and state governments. It divides all the subjects in three parts: (i) Union list (ii) State list and (iii) concurrent list

    India establishes a dual polity. Each citizen is subject to two governments the government of the state in which he resides and the government of India.

    India has a written constitution which lays down the division of powers between the Union and the states.

    India adopted rigidity of the constitution in respect of federal provisions Amendment.

    The Supreme Court has the power to settle the disputes arising between the union and states as well as among the state.

    The Indian constitution also provides for a bi-cameral Union parliament with the council of states as the upper house and the house of people as the lower house.

    Unitary Features

    The unitary character of the Indian union is demonstrated fully by its provisions which establish a very strong central government. For example the constitution of India, unlike the U.S. constitution, vests the residuary powers in the Union and not in the states.

    In the Indian constitution, the union government can change the boundaries of the states.

    Emergency provisions of the Indian constitution also reflect the Unitarian spirit of the constitution. When such an emergency is proclaimed, the union government gets the power to make any law or take any decision. The constitution of India starts working as a unitary constitution.

    Each state of the Indian Union has been assigned the duty to exercise its executive authority in such a manner as can ensure compliance of Union laws.

    The Indian constitution is a single unified common constitution for the Union as well as for the states.

    Unlike a truly federal constitution, the constitution of India provides for a single uniform citizenship to all the citizens irrespective of their domiciles.

    In the Indian union, the states do not enjoy equality of representation in the Union. They get seats in the Rajya Sabha in proportion to their population. They do not enjoy equal seats in the upper house.

    The constitution of India provides for a single integrated Judiciary common for the Union and the states.

    The provision for common all India services is again a Unitarian feature of the Indian constitution.

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  • Q5

    Answer briefly each of the questions (i) to (x): [10 x 2]

    (i) State two features of a liberal democratic state.

    (ii) Distinguish between a flexible constitution and a rigid constitution.

    (iii) Distinguish between bi-party system and multi-party system.

    (iv) Give one reason why it is important for a federal state to have a bicameral legislature.

    (v) Distinguish between political executive and permanent executive.

    (vi) In which landmark case was judicial review first exercised by the Supreme Court of the United States?

    (vii) Why is November 26 celebrated as Constitution Day in India?

    (viii) Which fundamental right was removed by the 44th Constitutional Amendment?

    (ix) Briefly explain the composition of the ZilaParishad.

    (x) What is meant by communalism in the Indian context?


    (i) Features of Liberal Democratic State:

    Representative Government: One of the features of liberal-democracy is that it is operated under the principle of majority rule.the members of the legislature are elected by the people for a fixed term. In the taking of major national decisions, the will of the majority is obtained through a free and fair elections.

    Limited Government: Liberal democracy involves the concept of limited government. the government exercises only those powers as granted to it by the constitution.

    Preference for bi-partisan or multi-partisanship: A Liberal-democratic usually practices a bi-party or multi-party system.

    Civil Liberties: In a liberal-democracy, the constitution provides that rights of individual, such as the freedom of association, the right to life, right to own property, etc. are recognized and protected by the state.

    Free Press: A liberal-democracy upholds the freedom of the press.

    Impartial Judiciary: A liberal-democracy also makes room for an impartial judiciary. This is to ensure that when the rights of citizens are trampled upon, they can have a place to seek redress.

    (ii) A flexible constitution is one which can be amended in an ordinary legislative process by the ordinary legislature. A Constitutional law an ordinary law are treated alike.

    A rigid constitution is one which cannot be amended, in the manner in which ordinary laws are passed, amended or repealed. If a special procedure or organ is needed for its amendment, it is a rigid constitution.

    (iii) In a Bi-party system, power usually changes between two main parties. Several other parties may exist, contest elections and win a few seats in the national legislature. But only the two main parties have a serious chance of winning majority of seats to form government.

    When several parties compete for power and more than two parties have reasonable chance of coming to power either on their own strength or in alliance with others, we call it a multi-party system.

    (iv) It is important because federal states are vertically divided into two or more tiers. The term “bicameral legislature” refers to any lawmaking body of government that consists of two separate houses or chambers, such as the House of Representatives and the House of States. Bicameral legislatures enforce an effective system of checks and balances preventing the enactment of laws unfairly impacting or favoring certain factions of the government or the people.

    (v) There are several basic differences between the role and responsibilities of the two like-

    1. The political executive comprises the head of the state and the ministers who have charge of the different departments of the government. But the permanent executives consist of all the civil servants or the members of the bureaucracy.
    2. Political executives are the representatives of the people. They are responsible to the people for the working of the executive department as well as for all their acts, the programmes and the policies. The political executives are political leaders who are guided by the demands of their political careers and the nature of the party politics which exist at a particular time of period. On the other hand, the permanent executives are politically neutral and are not responsible to any particular political party.
    3. It is the responsibility of the political executive to get policies implemented through the permanent executives because permanent executives are professionals and experts, they provide with the expert advice and opinion, collect, classify and present data to the political executives, on these bases of information the political executives take decisions and formulate policies.
    4. In a parliamentary form of government, the political executives are responsible to the legislatures for all its activities. On the other hand permanent executives are not responsible to the legislature.
    5. The political executives are not trained according to the departments they head, but the permanent executives are experts and professionals of the subject which they deal with. A doctor or a business man can become the defense minister through election. But a civil servant has to pass the competitive examination and should have the required qualification and expertise for the post.
    6. The political executives are temporary members of executive since they hold the office for the period of five years- even less than that. After that they have to contest election and win it to get back his office while the permanent executives remain in office till their retirement.

    (vi) Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. The landmark decision helped define the boundary between the constitutionally separate executive and judicial branches of the American form of government.

    (vii) In 2015, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government at the centre declared 26 November as Constitution Day. Since then Constitution Day in India is celebrated every year on 26th November as the Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26th of November in the year 1949 and came into force on 26th of January in 1950.

    (viii) By the 44th Amendment to the Constitution, the right to property was removed as a fundamental right and instead, a new provision was added to the Constitution i.e., Article 300-A.

    (ix) A District Panchayat or Zilla Parishad is co-terminus with the district. Each district has one Zilla Parishad. This is the top tier of Panchayati Raj constituted at the district level by the Panchayat Samitis or mandals. Most members of the Zilla Parishad are elected.

    It comprises following categories of members:

    • Presidents of Panchayat Samitis.
    • Local MPs, MLAs and MLCs.
    • Persons representing women and scheduled castes and tribes.
    • Zilla Parishad chairperson is the political head of the Zilla Parishad.

    (x) Communalism implies a strong sense of belonging to a particular religious community to the exclusion of others. The concept of communalism holds that religious distinction is the most fundamental and overriding distinction that separates a particular community from others. Communalism as evident from the rise of politics based on religious identity has been an important factor in the Indian political system.

    In India communalism involves the exploitation of social pluralism of Indian society by fundamentalist groups, organisations and sects for securing their respective narrowly conceived political, religious and sectarian goals. Communalism has been a national menace, a mental disease and a big evil.

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