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The Federal and Unitary Features of Indian Constitution

Federal Features of Indian Constitution


Supremacy of the Constitution: The constitution is supreme. Both, the Union and the State Governments, shall work within the limits set by the Constitution and both the union government and the central government derive their powers from the constitution.

Written Constitution: The Constitution of India is a written constitution; it is the most elaborate Constitution of the world.


Rigid Constitution: The constitution of India is a rigid constitution and this is one of the basic features of federal constitution. Indian Constitution provides that some amendments require a special majority. Such an amendment has to be passed by majority of total members of each house of the Parliament as well as by two-thirds majority of the members present and voting there in. In addition to this process, some amendments must be approved by at least 50% of the states.

Division of Powers: In Indian constitution the powers of state and centre are clearly defined and there are very clear limits of both the centre and the state for law making powers.

Supremacy of the Judiciary: Supremacy of judiciary is another very important feature of a federal state where there is an independent judiciary to interpret the Constitution and to maintain its sanctity. The Supreme Court of India has the original jurisdiction to settle disputes between the Union and the States. It can declare a law as unconstitutional, if it contravenes any provision of the Constitution.


Unitary Features of Indian Constitution:


The following provision of Indian constitution makes it unitary

Union of States: Article I of the Constitution describes India as a ‘Union of States’.

Appointment of Governor: The constitution provide that the Governor, who is the constitutional head of a State, is to be appointed by the President and stays only until the pleasure of the President.

Representation in the Legislature: The equality of units in a federation is best guaranteed by their equal representation in the Uppers House of the federal legislature, the Parliament. However, this is not applicable in case of Indian States. They have unequal representation in the Rajya Sabha.

Appointment on Key Positions: All important appointments such as the Chief Election Commissioner, the Comptroller and Auditor General are made by the Union Government.

Disturbances in the state:  In case of disturbances in any State or part thereof, the Union Government is empowered to depute Central Force in the State or to the disturbed part of the State. Also, the Parliament, by law may increase or decrease the area of any State and may alter its name and boundaries.

Unified Judiciary: The federal principle envisages a dual system of Courts. But, in India we have unified Judiciary with the Supreme Court at the apex.

Power to make laws: The Constitution of India empowered the central government to make laws on the subjects in the state list. It is exercised only on the matters of national importance and that too if the Rajya Sabha agrees with 2/3 majority. The constitution establishes a strong Centre by assigning all-important subjects to the Centre as per the Union List. The State Governments have very limited powers.

Emergency Provisions: The President of India can declare three different types of emergency, viz; an act of foreign aggression or internal armed rebellion, failure of constitutional machinery in a state and financial emergency respectively.. During the operation of an emergency, the powers of the State Governments are greatly curtailed and the Union Government becomes all in all.

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