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Federalism In Indian Polity UPSC, Federal Features of Indian Constitution

Federalism in India means power is shared between the central government and individual states. This system, outlined in the Indian Constitution, allows states to have their authority while also ensuring national unity. It’s designed to accommodate India’s diverse cultures and languages, promoting cooperation between the central government and states on important matters like economic development and social welfare.

Federalism In Indian Polity

Federalism in the Indian system balances central authority and regional autonomy. The Constitution divides powers between the central (Union) government and state governments. The Union handles areas like defense, while states manage law and order. A written constitution and an independent judiciary ensure both stay within their limits.

However, the system favors the central government, with the Union List being longer and the Union Parliament being able to overrule state laws on shared subjects. This system supports national unity while addressing the diverse needs of individual states.

Federalism In Indian – Types of Federations

In a federation, power is distributed through two main categories: dual federations and cooperative federations. Dual federations divide authority between central and regional governments, each operating independently. Cooperative federations involve different levels of government working together, and sharing responsibilities and resources.

Coming Together Federations:

  • Imagine independent states agreeing to join forces and create a larger nation.
  • Power tends to be more decentralized, with states having more autonomy.
  • Examples: United States, Australia, Switzerland.

Holding Together Federations:

  • This is like a group needing to compromise to stay united.
  • A central authority often has more power, created to manage regional differences.
  • Examples: India, Spain, Belgium.


Also Read:- UPSC Indian Polity Notes

General Characteristics of Federalism

Federalism is a system of government where power is divided between a central authority and regional governments. Here are some general characteristics that define most federations:

  • Division of Powers: This is the core principle. A written constitution clearly outlines the specific powers of the central government and the regional governments (states, provinces, cantons, etc.). This prevents any one level from becoming too powerful.
  • Written Constitution: A supreme law establishes the framework for the federation. It defines the powers and limitations of both the central and regional governments and acts as the ultimate authority in case of disputes.
  • Dual Polity: There exist two levels of government, each with its own set of powers and responsibilities. They both operate within their designated spheres, serving the needs of the citizens.
  • Supremacy of the Constitution: The Constitution is the highest law of the land. Both the central and regional governments must comply with its provisions. Any law contradicting the constitution can be challenged in court.
  • Independent Judiciary: An impartial judicial system interprets the constitution and ensures both levels of government stay within their bounds. The judiciary can strike down laws deemed unconstitutional.
  • Federalism is Dynamic: Powers can be renegotiated or adjusted over time through amendments to the constitution. This allows the federation to adapt to changing circumstances.

These features ensure a balance of power, allowing for both national unity and regional diversity within a single political system.

Federalism in Indian Constitution Article

The Indian Constitution doesn’t specify a single article dedicated solely to federalism. However, several articles establish and govern the federal system in India. Here’s a breakdown of key articles:

Part XI (Articles 245 to 267): This entire part deals with the distribution of legislative powers between the Union (central government) and the States.

  • Article 246: This article outlines the three lists in the Seventh Schedule:
    ⇒ Union List (List I): Exclusive powers of the Union government (defence, foreign affairs, currency) [Article 246(1)].
    ⇒  State List (List II): Exclusive powers of the State governments (law and order, public health) [Article 246(2)].
    ⇒  Concurrent List (List III): Powers shared by both the Union and State governments (education, environment) [Article 246(3)].
  • Articles 247 to 251: These articles deal with situations where there’s a concurrent power:
    ⇒  In case of inconsistency between a Union law and a State law, the Union law prevails. [Article 251]
  • Articles 252 to 256: The Union government can take over state functions in case of a national emergency or breakdown of law and order in a state. [Article 256]
  • Article 261: This article deals with the distribution of financial powers between the Union and the States.
  • Article 355: This article mandates the Union government to ensure that the government of every State is carried on under the provisions of the Constitution.

A federal structure that benefits the federal government is established. State laws on the Concurrent List are subject to judicial review by the Union Parliament, and the Union List is longer. In times of crisis, the federal government obtains substantial authority over the individual states.

Studies research Indian federalism a lot. Some claim that because of the powerful central authority, it is similar to a unitary system, while others highlight the federal aspects and state sovereignty.

Also Read: UPSC Exam Date 2024

Features of the Indian Constitution

The Indian Constitution, the world’s lengthiest written constitution, is a complex and fascinating document that shapes the world’s largest democracy. Here are some of its key features:

Federalism with a Centralizing Tendency:

  • India functions as a federation with power divided between the central (Union) government and state governments.
  • However, the constitution also has features of a unitary system, granting the central government more power in certain situations.

Parliamentary Democracy:

  • India adopts a parliamentary form of government, where the executive branch derives its legitimacy from the legislature.
  • The Prime Minister and Council of Ministers are accountable to Parliament and can be removed through a no-confidence vote.

Fundamental Rights:

  • The Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all Indian citizens, essential for a free and just society.
  • These include rights to equality, freedom, religion, cultural expression, and education.

Directive Principles of State Policy:

  • These are guidelines for the government, outlining steps to promote social welfare and economic justice.
  • While not enforceable in court, they guide the government’s policies towards achieving a better standard of living for all.

Fundamental Duties:

  • Added later, these fundamental duties remind citizens of their obligations towards the nation, including upholding the Constitution,
  • respecting national symbols, and promoting social harmony.

Secular State:

  • India guarantees equal respect for all religions and prohibits discrimination based on faith.
  • The government cannot promote any particular religion or interfere in religious practices.

Single Citizenship:

  • India follows a single citizenship model, meaning there’s no separate citizenship for individual states.
  • Every Indian citizen enjoys the same rights and privileges throughout the country.

Autonomous Judiciary:

  • The Constitution establishes a strong and independent judiciary, crucial for upholding the rule of law.
  • The Supreme Court is the apex court, with the power to interpret the Constitution and strike down laws that violate it.

Rigid and Flexible Features:

  • The Constitution is partly rigid, requiring a special majority in Parliament for amendments.
  • This ensures stability. However, it also has flexible elements allowing for adaptation through amendments.

These features combine to create a unique constitutional framework for India, balancing national unity with regional diversity, and enshrining fundamental rights for all its citizens.

Significance of Indian Federalism

Indian federalism is a base of the country’s democratic structure, ensuring a balanced distribution of power between the central and state governments. This system is significant for several reasons:

  • Unity in Diversity: Accommodates India’s vast cultural, social, and economic diversity, maintaining national unity while respecting regional differences.
  • Decentralization of Power: Prevents power concentration at the center, promoting localized and effective governance.
  • Economic Development: Allows states to implement tailored economic policies, fostering regional and national growth through competitive federalism.
  • Political Stability: Provides checks and balances, reducing authoritarian risks and promoting political stability by representing diverse interests.
  • Enhanced Governance and Accountability: Increases government responsiveness and accountability to local constituents, encouraging public participation and oversight.

Federalism in Indian Polity Notes for UPSC

Indian federalism is a power-sharing system between the central government and states. The Constitution divides authority (defence to centre, law & order to states) but gives the centre more control. A written constitution and independent courts maintain balance. This system, balancing national unity with regional needs, is debated as some see it as more unitary due to the strong central government.

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What is the concept of federalism in India?

Federalism allows for the accommodation of diversity and regional autonomy within a larger political unit.

What is federalism in political system?

Federalism is a system of government in which the power is divided between a central authority and various constituent units of the country. Usually, a federation has two levels of government.

What is called Indian federalism?

Cooperative federalism means a combination of cooperation and interdependence between the Centre and the States to ensure smooth governance of the country.

What are the 5 features of federalism?

There are several important features of federalism like the division of power, Constitutional supremacy, written constitution, rigidity, independent judiciary and a bi-cameral legislature.

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