What makes India a federal country?

The Indian Union is based on the principles of federalism- 

  • As per the constitution, a two-tier system of govt- the Union or the Central govt and the State govt have been provided. Panchayats and municipalities represent a third tier.

Distribution of legislative powers

The Union Government and the State Governments were given a clear three fold division of legislative authority under the Constitution. 

The 3 main lists are-

A. Union List

  • Subjects of national importance such as defense, foreign affairs, banking, communications, and currency .
  • Uniformity is essential to govern these matters.
  • Only the Union government is responsible to make and amend laws for these subjects in Union List.

B. State List

  • Subjects of State and local importance are included.
  • Police, trade, commerce, agriculture, and irrigation are a few main subjects.
  • Only the State govt of a particular state can form laws about these subject matters.

C. Concurrent List

  • Subjects of mutual interest to both- the Union and the State govt are included.
  • Education, forests, trade unions, marriage, adoption, and succession are a few main subjects.
  • Both the Union as well the State govern these subjects and the law by the Union govt is enforceable in an event of a conflict.

Residuary Powers

  • These include the subjects not included in three lists or subjects like computer software that came up after the Constitution was made.
  • Only the Union govt has the power to legislate on these 'residuary' subjects.

All the States in the Indian union do not have identical powers:

The Constitution of India does not grant equal powers to all States. Some States enjoy special status/powers as given below:

(i) Jammu and Kashmir: 

  1. (a) Under Article 370 , the concurrence of the state is required for making laws in matters mentioned in the Union and Concurrent Lists. 
  2. (b) Jammu and Kashmir has its own Constitution. 
  3. (c) Again Indians who are not permanent residents of this State cannot buy land or house there. 
  4. (d) Amendments to the Indian Constitution under Article 368 cannot apply without the concurrence of the J & K government.

(ii) North-Eastern and smaller States have been given more representation in the Rajya Sabha.

(iii) North-Eastern states satch as Assm, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram have a sizeable indigenous tribal population with a distinct history and culture which can be retained under Article 371.

(iv) There are areas which are too small to become an independent State but which could not be merged with any of the existing States. Such areas are like Chandigarh or Lakshadweep or the Capital city of Delhi . These are known is Union Territories . These territories do not have powers of a state . The central government has special powers in running these areas.  

Other constitutional provisions which makes India a federal country

  • Rigid constitution: Amendment to the Constitution is not easy. Sharing of powers or division of powers is basic to the structure of the Constitution and cannot be changed easily. The Parliament has to pass an amendment in both the Houses with at least a two-thirds majority . Then it has to be ratified by the legislatures of at least half of the total States.

  • Independent courts and interpretation of the Constitution: The judiciary plays an important role in the implementation of constitutional provisions and procedures. In case of any dispute about the division of powers, the High Courts and the Supreme Court decide the case.

  • Independent resources: The Union and the State Governments can raise their resources by levying taxes in order to carry on the government and the responsibilities assigned to each of them.
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Davneet Singh

Davneet Singh has done his B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He has been teaching from the past 14 years. He provides courses for Maths, Science, Social Science, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science at Teachoo.