Friday, October 1, 2021

The federal system in India


The federal system in India

Federalism in India refers to relationship between the Central Govt and the State governments of India. The Constitution of India establishes the structure of the Indian government. Part XI of the Indian constitution specifies the distribution of legislative, administrative and executive powers between the union government and the States of India. The legislative powers are categorised under a Union List, a State List and a Concurrent List, representing, respectively, the powers conferred upon the Union government, those conferred upon the State governments and powers shared among them. This federalism is symmetrical in that the devolved powers of the constituent units are envisioned to be the same. Historically, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was accorded a status different from other States owing to an explicitly temporary provision of the Indian Constitution namely Article 370 (which was revoked by the Parliament in 2019). Union territories are unitary type, directly governed by the Union government. Article 1 (1) of the constitution stipulates two tier-governance with an additional local elected government. Delhi and Puducherry were accorded legislatures under Article 239AA and 239A, respectively.

The fundamental rights of citizens are the same throughout India.


There are two or more levels (tiers) of government.

Each level of government has its own jurisdiction in matters of legislation, taxation, and administration even though they govern the same citizens.

Powers and functions of each tier of government are specified and guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has been given the power to settle disputes between state governments.

Executive powers

The Union and States have independent executive staffs controlled by their respective governments. In legislative and administrative matters, the union government cannot overrule the constitutional rights/powers of a state government except when presidential rule is declared in a State. The Union's duty is to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution as per Article 355 and Article 256. The State governments cannot violate the Central laws in administrative matters. When a State violates the Constitution, Presidential rule can be imposed under Article 356 and the President takes over the State’s administration with ex post facto consent of the Parliament per Article 357.

The federal system in India

Financial powers

Article 282 accords financial autonomy in spending financial resources available to the states for public purpose. Article 293 allows States to borrow without limit without consent from the Union government. However, the Union government can insist upon compliance with its loan terms when a state has outstanding loans charged to the consolidated fund of India or a federally-guaranteed loan. The President of India constitutes a Finance Commission every five years to recommend devolution of Union revenues to State governments. Under Article 360, the President can proclaim a financial emergency when the financial stability or credit of the nation or of any part of its territory is threatened. However, no guidelines define "financial emergency" for the country or a state or union territory or a panchayat or a municipality or a corporation. An emergency like this must be approved by the Parliament within two months by a simple majority and has never been declared. A state of financial emergency remains in force indefinitely until revoked by the President. The President can reduce the salaries of all government officials, including judges of the supreme court and high courts, in cases of a financial emergency. All money bills passed by the state legislatures are submitted to the President for approval. He can direct the state to observe economy measures.

Disputes Resolution

States can make agreements among themselves. When a dispute arises with other states or union territory or the union government, the Supreme Court adjudicates per Article 131. However, Article 262 excludes Supreme Court jurisdiction with respect to the adjudication of disputes in the use, distribution or control of interstate river waters. Under Article 263 the President can establish an interstate council to coordinate/resolve disputes between states and the Union. States have their own jurisdiction.

Academic research and theories

According to Kumarasingham, there are three distinctive features of India's federalism. First, its origins in Partition and the Princely States. Second, its constitutional power over the borders. Third, its early compromise of different cultural elements in the first decade.

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