This article on “Features of the Indian Federal Government” is written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.
K.C. Wheare called the Indian Constitution as quasi-federal government. The founding fathers of the Constitution of India adopted a federal structure. But it is not purely federal in nature because the governmental structure of India contains a hint of unitary structure, so the Governmental structure of India is often known as a quasi-federal government. The features of the federal structure of government are more in number than the unitary governmental structure in the Indian Governmental structure. Let us see how the governmental structure of India is dominated by federal governmental features.
Meaning of Federal Structure of Government:
In the Federal structure of Government there are basically two tiers of government, one in the Centre and one in the States, both their powers are equally distributed and no one is more powerful than the other. The system of government in this type of structure is run by coordination between the two tiers of government and at the same time acting independently to serve the society by bringing in unity in diversity.
The structure of Government being ‘federal or quasi-federal in nature’ was first decided by the Supreme Court of India in the case of State of West Bengal V. Union of India. A suit was filed by the state of West Bengal government that the Parliament cannot make any laws which gives the Union power to acquire the rights of a land, which rests with the state.
In the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati also the Supreme Court stated that federalism to be one of the ‘basic features’ of the Indian Constitution.
In Union of India V. Sankalchand, Justice P.N. Bhagavati stated that the Constitution of India is ‘federal or quasi-federal’ in nature.
In Pradeep Jain V. Union of India, the Apex Court explained the concept in a modern way by stating that India is a Federal State but not in its traditional sense.
In the S.R. Bommai Case, the Supreme Court laid down that federalism as the ‘basic structure’ of the Indian Constitution.
In Kuldeep Nayyar V. Union of India, the Apex Court held federalism to be a fundamental feature of the Constitution of India.
Distinguishing Features of the Indian Federal Government:
There are some features that are present which forms a Federal structure of Government. The features which make the Indian governmental structure to be federal are as follows:
- Written Constitution – The Indian Constitution is a vast written document and is considered to be the longest Constitution in the world. Originally it consisted of 395 Articles divided into 8 Schedules and 22 Parts. Presently the content of the Indian Constitution is 448 Articles divided into 12 Schedules and 25 Parts.
- Supremacy of the Indian Constitution – The Constitution of India holds the Supreme power and the State and the Centre has to abide by the provisions of the Constitution and the Parliament should make laws not contradicting the provisions of the Constitution.
- Rigid Constitution – The Indian Constitution is also very rigid in nature. The process of alteration or amendment of the Constitution is a very complicated process and it is very time taking. The passing of a new law is also a very time taking and complicated process. Both the Houses of the Parliament needs to come in joint action to make any change in the governance.
- Independent Judiciary – The Independence of the Judiciary in the Indian Governmental system is one of the most vital features that have been provided by the Indian Constitution. This independence is necessary to maintain and protect the supremacy of the Constitution and solve disputes between States and between States and the Union.
- Dual Governmental System – The Constitution of India divides the governance system between the States and the Centre. There is to be Government in the States and a Government in the Centre to act as a periphery. Each government are provided with powers to act with sovereignty.
- Bicameralism – The Indian Constitution has made the provision for the creation for two Houses in the Central, one is the Upper House which represents the States, also known as the Rajya Sabha, and one is the Lower House, which represents the people of India as a whole, also known as the Lok Sabha. There is also the provision provided for creation of two houses in the State Legislature but the creation of an upper house is not mandatory in the State Legislature.
- Division of Powers – The Indian Constitution has divided the powers between the States and the Central by making lists. The Constitution has provided, vide the seventh schedule, with three lists, namely, Union List, State List and the Concurrent List. The Union List contains 97 subjects over which the Union exercises sole power. The State List contains 66 subjects over which the State Government exercises exclusive power under normal circumstances. The Concurrent List contains 47 subjects over which both the Union and the State Government can exercise power but the Union has more power than the State in respect of the subjects of this List.
These are the features which bring out the federal structure of governmental concept which is present in the Indian Governmental system.
The Indian Constitution is the amalgamation of many Constitutions of the world, that is, various concepts from various Constitutions of the world has been adopted by the Indian Constitution. The Federal Structure of the Governmental System has been adopted by the Indian Constitution from the American Constitution, which follows federalism strictly. But India does not strictly follow federalism because there are some features of Unitary governmental system present in the Indian Constitution. This gives the Indian Governance system an unique feature and it is thus often termed as a quasi-federal system of government which prevails in the Indian Governmental system. This is the reason that the Constitution of India describes India as an ‘Union of States’.
- Patil Amruta, 2021, Federal and Unitary Features-Indian Constitution-Indian Polity Notes, https://prepp.in/news/e-492-federal-and-unitary-features-of-indian-constitution-system-of-government-indian-polity-upsc-notes
- Mohita Negi, 7 Main Federal Features of the Indian Constitution, https://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/indian-constitution/7-main-federal-features-of-the-indian-constitution/24924
- Dalabehera Siddharth, 2015, Federalism in India-A Judicial Interpretation, https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/federalism-india-judicial-interpretation/