Federal System of government


A federal government is one in which powers are divided between the national government and the regional governments by the Constitution itself and both operate in their respective jurisdictions


The federal features of the Constitution of India are:

  • Dual Polity: The Constitution establishes a dual polity consisting the Union at the Centre and the states at the periphery. Each is endowed with sovereign powers to be exercised in the field assigned to them respectively by the Constitution
  • Written Constitution: It specifies the structure, organisation, powers and functions of both the Central and state governments and prescribes the limits within which they must operate. Thus, it avoids the misunderstandings and disagreements between the two
  • Division of Powers: The Constitution divided the powers between the Centre and the states in terms of the Union List, State List and Concurrent List in the Seventh Schedule
  • Supremacy of the Constitution
  • The Constitution is the supreme (or the highest) law of the land. The laws enacted by the Centre and the states must confirm to its provisions.
  • Thus, the organs of the government (legislative, executive and judicial) at both the levels must operate within the jurisdiction prescribed by the Constitution
  • Independent Judiciary: The Constitution establishes an independent judiciary headed by the Supreme Court to settle the disputes between the Centre and the states or between the states

However, the India federal system of government has a power tilt towards the centre:

Strong Centre

    • The division of powers is in favor of the Centre AS:
    • The Union List contains more subjects than the State List
    • The more important subjects have been included in the Union List
    • The Centre has overriding authority over the Concurrent List.
    • Finally, the residuary powers have also been left with the Centre

States Not Indestructible

The states in India have no right to territorial integrity. The Parliament can by unilateral action change the area, boundaries or name of any state

Flexibility of the Constitution

    • The bulk of the Constitution can be amended by the unilateral action of the Parliament, either by simple majority or by special majority
    • Further, the power to initiate an amendment to the Constitution lies only with the Centre

No Equality of State Representation

The states are given representation in the Rajya Sabha on the basis of population.

Emergency Provisions

During an emergency, the Central government becomes all powerful and the states go into the total control of the Centre. It converts the federal structure into a unitary one without a formal amendment of the Constitution

Parliament’s Authority Over State List

    • The Parliament is empowered to legislate on any subject of the State List if Rajya Sabha passes a resolution to that effect in the national Interest
    • This means that the legislative competence of the Parliament can be extended without amending the Constitution

Veto Over State Bills

The governor is empowered to reserve certain types of bills passed by the state legislature for the consideration of the President. The President can withhold his assent to such bills not only in the first instance but also in the second instance