federalism in india

Sasidharan Puthiyedath Meethal

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When we read about the system of government prevailing in our country we come across the word federation or federalism even though our constitution does not use the term ‘federal state’ rather the constitution declares India as a union of states. However, it envisages a federal form of government in India under which the government at the Centre and the governments in the states share, on an agreed basis, the totality of governmental power with their own constitutional status.

Why Federalism
India is a land of immense diversity with an underlying unity. The choice of federalism as a constitutional form and as the basis of government was practised in India even during the British period. Federalism was only Hobson's choice for a multi-racial, multilingual and multiregional country like India with an enormous size and a huge population. Federalism makes our system of government truly democratic. It provides ample opportunity to a large number of people to take part in governments at various levels. Federalism also ensures decentralization of power and accommodates regional diversity.

Federalism in Practice
When governments exist at various levels, the overlapping of governmental powers may create hurdles in their smooth functioning. To avoid such a possibility the powers to be exercised by governments at different levels are clearly demarcated in the constitution. This is what is called the constitutional division of power. Under this the administrative subjects are divided into three separate lists. These are known as Union List, State List and the Concurrent List. The Central Government and State Governments can pass laws on subjects included in the Union and State Lists respectively. Our constitution identified certain powers as subjects of common concern to both the central and state governments. These subjects are included in a separate list called the Concurrent List upon which both governments can legislate with a spirit of mutual concurrence. However, if the central law and state laws are contradictory and conflicting in nature then the Central law will prevail and the state laws would become null and void. There is however one exemption to this rule. According to this, a later law of the state legislature on any subject in the Concurrent List shall be effective over an earlier law of the Central legislature on the same subject, if the state law gets the presidential assent. Subjects which are not included in any of the three lists are known as Residuary Subjects. Only parliament can make laws on such subjects.
Our constitution originally provided for a two-tier system of government, but later a third-tier was added in the form of local governments such as Panchayats, Municipalities and Municipal Corporations. State governments are required to share some powers and revenue with local bodies in consequence of the passage of the Panchayati Raj Amendment Act, 1992.

Unitary Bias
Our federal system is not free from criticism and adverse comments. Some constitutional experts are inclined to call Indian Federalism as quasi-federal because more powers are vested with the central government. In some other federations the central and state governments are equal in their powers. Here in India almost all important subjects are included in the Union List. Besides, the Union Government also enjoys the residuary powers. The central government has more financial resources than the state governments. Moreover, the Union government has an upper hand over the Concurrent List. At the time of a national emergency, the country runs practically as a unitary state ignoring its federal character. That is why some critics prefer to call India a ‘Centralised Federation’ or a federalism with a unitary bias. In spite of all its pitfalls our federalism has withstood the test of time and our constitution continues to be a great source of hope and expectation to the millions across the country who enjoy the blessings of parliamentary democracy and secularism. Power sharing is the spirit of federalism.


Archipelago- ദ്വീപ സമൂഹം
Archaeology- പുരാവസ്തുശാസ്ത്രം
Compunction- കുറ്റബോധം
Pedigree- വംശം
Effulgence- പ്രഭാപൂരം
Antonym - വിരുദ്ധപദം
Hypocrite -ആത്മവഞ്ചകൻ
Provenance -ഉത്പത്തി
തയ്യാറാക്കിയത്‌: ജ്വാല

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