Did the Constitution of India borrow ideas and many of its stand-out features from the constitutions of other countries?


It turns out that our founding fathers liberally chose what features to embed into our Constitution and, in many cases, remoulded them to suit diverse local realities.

Lined Circle

Here are nine constitutions that inspired India:



United States 

1. ‘The Ayes Have It’ — The United Kingdom

India borrowed its parliamentary system of government from the British. This includes the primacy of the rule of law, the legislative procedure, the cabinet system, parliamentary privileges, and bicameralism (Lower and Upper House of Parliament).

2. Fundamental Rights — United States of America

The interim president of the constituent assembly, Sachchidananda Sinha, and Dr B R Ambedkar were also heavily influenced by the US Constitution. The very idea of fundamental rights was borrowed from America’s Bill of Rights.

Even our preamble, which begins with “We the people”— a phrase which confers ideas of equality — came from the US Constitution.

Concepts of the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, judicial review of acts by legislative bodies, and the process of impeachment came from the US Constitution.

3. Directive Principles of State Policy — Ireland

India adopted its Directive Principles of State Policy from the provision of Article 45 of the Irish Constitution.

Article 37 of the Indian Constitution states: “The provisions contained in this part shall not be enforced by any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country, and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws.”

4. Federalism - Canada

While the British and Americans influenced the principle of federalism that India adopted, it is Canada, which shares the closest link with India. The similarities extend to the fact that “both are parliamentary and federal democracies, and both have institutionalised judicial review of constitutional matters.”

5. 'Concurrent List' - Australia

The distribution of state power in India is divided along the lines of three lists — Union List, State List and Concurrent List. The first two outline the jurisdiction of the Union and State Government power respectively.

The Concurrent List includes subjects that give powers to both the Centre and State Governments like education, family planning, population control, protection of wildlife, etc. This is an idea we have borrowed from the Australian Constitution, which lists them as “concurrent powers” under Section 51 of its Constitution.

Besides this, we also borrowed ideas of freedom of trade between states and national legislative power to implement treaties, even on issues outside the jurisdiction of the Centre.

6. Liberty, Equality and Fraternity — France

The ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity, popularised by the French Revolution, laid the basis for the formulation of fundamental rights and the freedom struggle.

7. Emergency powers — Germany

The Emergency powers vested with the President of India are on the pattern of similar powers conferred on the President of the German Republic according to Article 48 of the Weimer constitution of Germany.

8. Legislative procedure — South Africa

From South Africa, we have adopted a similar legislative procedure involved in passing constitutional amendments requiring a 2/3rd majority and electing members to the upper house based on proportional representation by the State legislatures.

9. Procedure established by law — Japan

Article 31 of the Japanese constitution mentions the right to personal liberty and life. According to the law procedure in the Japanese constitution, no criminal liability is allowed to be imposed.

This article is similar to Article 21 of the Indian constitution which states that no person can be denied the right to personal liberty and right to life, except based on the procedure that is established by law.