Federalism in India – Features of Indian Federalism: Meaning & Characteristics

Last Updated on: 26th July 2022, 01:33 pm

In this article – Features of Indian federalism, we are going to read both the unitary and federal features of the Indian Constitution and know why there is a need for Centralized federalism in India.

In the federal government, the powers are distributed between the centre and the states by the constitution, and both the government work within their jurisdiction as no government interfaces in the jurisdiction of each other.

According to Hamilton – “Federation is an association of the states that form a new one”

Characteristics and Features of Indian Federalism –

o   Written constitution

o   Rigid Constitution

o   The supremacy of constitution

o   Dual polity

o   Division of power between centre and states

o   Supremacy of judiciary

o   Double citizenship

o   Double constitution

These are the characteristics and features of federalism of an ideal federal government but all of these characteristics may not be found in every federal state as every country has its own model of the federal government.

Features of Indian Federalism

features of indian federalism
features of indian federalism

1. Written Constitution – 

A written constitution is the 1st characteristic or feature of Indian federalism; which the Indian constitution fulfills. The Indian constitution is written which has 448 articles and 12 schedules and about 117,369 words have been used.

The framers of the constitution have given a written form even to the minutest details so that there may be the least possibility of disputes between centre and state.

2. Rigid Constitution –

The constitution of India is also rigid,  two methods have been mentioned in Article-368 for making amendment in the constitution.

i) According to the 1st method, the 2/3rd majority of members of parliament of the present can amend the constitution.

ii) According to the 2nd method, after the 1st method, the ratification by at least half the state legislative assemblies is essential.

3. The supremacy of the Constitution – 

In India, the principle of supremacy of the constitution has been given acceptance as any law passed by the union parliament and state legislature, against the constitution shall be declared unconstitutional.

4. Dual Polity –

In a federal form of government, there is a dual polity such as union government and state government and the constitution of India provides for dual set of government.

Under/Article-1 of the constitution, India has been declared as “Union of states” and at present, it consists of 28 states and 9 union territories.  There is one union government for the whole of India and states have their separate government which makes use of powers entrusted to them by the constitution.

5. Supremacy of the Judiciary –

In a federal system, the judiciary is granted supremacy for the protection and interpretation of the constitution and for settling disputes between the centre and states.

For attaining this objective provision has been made of the Supreme Court in India which performs the role of the guardian and protection of the constitution.

After reading the above-written characteristics of the Indian constitution, we come to the conclusion that there is a federal government in India, though the word ‘federal’ has not been used anywhere in the constitution.

All the above mentioned points fulfill all the features of indian federalism.

Unitary Features of Indian Constitution

1. Absence of the word ‘Federation ’in the constitution –

The word federation has not been used in the constitution of India, rather word ‘union’ has been used which is more hear to ‘Unitary’.

According to Article-1 of the constitution, ‘India that is Bharat, shall be union of states’.

2. Division of subjects in favor of the centre –

According to the constitution of India, the division of subjects has been done in such a way that the centre enjoys supremacy on the 98 subjects in the union list and 52 subjects included in the concurrent list. Thus, it is natural that centre is powerful.

3. No separate constitution of the states –

Generally in the federal states such as America, Switzerland, etc, there is the dual constitution.

On the contrary, a provision has been made for a single constitution for the centre and states in India.

4. Single Citizenship –

Generally, the principle of dual citizenship is adopted in federal states.

But on the contrary, the principle of single citizenship has been adopted in India.

5. During Emergency Federal structure changes into Unitary –

In the federal states like the USA, Australia, etc… the centre has no right to limit the autonomy of states.

But in India, the union government can do away with the autonomy of the states by declaring national and constitutional emergencies.

During a national emergency, the federal structure of India changes into unitary and union government can issue directions to the states regarding the use of executive and financial powers. Consequently, the autonomy of the states is at the mercy of the centre.

6. Central supremacy in the process of a Constitutional Amendment –

Many articles of the Indian constitution can be amended by the centre government alone and there are very few articles for the amendment of which the approval of the states is required.

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Factors which are responsible for centralized federalism in India

features of indian federalism
features of indian federalism

1. Past Experience –

The history of India bears testimony to the fact that whenever the central government became weak, we became slaves.

The people remained dividing due to mutual conflicts. So, the framers of the Indian constitution did not want to repeat such a mistake again.

2. For the Protection of External Sovereignty –

There has been a danger to the external sovereignty of India at all times.

  • In 1948, Pakistan attacked India,
  • In 1962, China attacked India and
  • In 1971 Pakistan again attacked India.

Today, Pakistan is encouraging terrorist activities in India. So, a strong centre is required to face all these dangers.

3. For the balanced progress –

The economic condition of India had worsened much due to a long period of slavery.

Agriculture and cottage industries were completely destroyed. So there was the need for reconstruction of the economy. For this, centralized planning and uniform policies were required by a strong central government. 

Due to these reasons, there is centralized federalism in the Indian constitution.

Conclusion – Features of Indian Federalism

We have studied the above-detailed description of the federal and unitary features and factors that promote decentralization and centralization and we have arrived at the conclusion that India is a centralized federal state. The Indian constitution is federal in form and unitary in spirit.

In last, do share this article – features of indian federalism, with your friends.

Features of Indian Federalism [FAQ]

What are the features of Indian federalism?

a) Written Constitution
b) Rigid Constitution
c) The supremacy of the Constitution
d) Dual Polity
e) Supremacy of the Judiciary
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What are the unitary Features of Indian Constitution ?

a) Absence of the word ‘Federation ’in the constitution
b) Division of subjects in favor of the centre
c) No separate constitution of the states
d) Single Citizenship
Continue reading

[Features of Indian Federalism]

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