Federal Features of the Constitution of India

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The seven federal features of the constitution of India are as follows:

1. Division of Powers:

Like every other federal constitution, the Constitution of India divides powers between the Union and States.

It divides all the subjects in 3 parts:

(i) Union Subjects (97):

These are contained in the Union List. The Union Government legislates and administers all these subjects for the whole of India; The Union List contains subjects of national importance like defence, armed forces, foreign affairs, war and peace, railways, shipping, currency, banking and others.

(ii) State Subjects (66):

These are contained in the State List. Over these each State Government legislates and administers them in its own territory; The State List contains such subjects as require local decisions e.g. public order, police, prisons, public health, forests, fisheries, agriculture, local government and others.

(iii) Concurrent Subjects (47):

Concurrent list contains 47 (Now 52) subjects over which both the Union and State governments legislate and administer. The Concurrent List contains subjects of shared interests of the union and states like criminal law, criminal procedure, preventive detention, marriage, divorce, trade unions and others.

Besides these three exhaustive lists, the Constitution gives residuary subjects to the Union. Both the Union and the States derive their powers from the Constitution. Each exercises jurisdiction as defined by the Constitution of India. Division of Powers between the Union Centre and states reflects the federal character of the Constitution of India.

2. Dual Administration:

India establishes a dual polity. Each citizen is a subject of two governments—the government of the State in which he resides and the Government of India. He participates in elections to both these governments. He obeys both the Central as well as State laws. He pays taxes to both the governments. Both Governments act to provide him with services in their respective areas as stand demarcated by the Constitution.

3. Written Constitution:

India has a written constitution which lays down the division of powers between the Union and the States. It clearly defines the scope of powers of these two tiers of the federation. In its Parts XI and XII (Articles 245 to 300), it discusses the Legislative, Administrative and Financial relations between the centre and states. Demarcation of the limits between the two has been done clearly and in detail.

4. Supremacy of the Constitution:

Both the Union Government and State governments derive their powers from the Constitution. Both exercise their respective powers in accordance with the constitutional provisions. The Constitution of India is supreme and no one can violate it. The Supreme Court has the power to protect and interpret it.

5. Rigidity of the Constitution in respect of the Federal Features:

The Constitution of India lays down a special procedure of amendment for the Constitution. Particularly in respect of amendment of federal features, like the provisions covering Union-State relations, it provides for a very rigid method of amendment.

It lay down; firstly, the amendment proposal is to be passed by each of the two Houses of the Union Parliament individually by a majority of total membership and 2/3rd majority of the members present and voting; and secondly, the amendment bill so passed is to be sent to the State Legislatures for consent. It becomes an act only with the concurrence of at-least half of the several State Legislatures. It is indeed a rigid method of amendment.

6. Special Role of Judiciary:

The Constitution of India provides for an independent judicial system with the Supreme Court at its head. The Supreme Court has the power to settle the disputes arising between the Union and States as well as among the States. It is the final interpreter of the Constitution. It judges the constitutional validity of laws of both the Union and States and in case any law or any part of the law is found be unconstitutional, it rejects the same.

7. Bicameral Union Parliament:

A bicameral legislature is again considered to be an essential feature of a federal constitution. In such a legislature the upper house represents the units of the federation. The India Constitution who provides for a bi-cameral Union Parliament with the Rajya Sabha as the upper house and the Lok Sabha as the lower house. The Rajya Sabha represents the interests of the States of the Indian Union. Its members are elected by all the State Legislative Assemblies. The Rajya Sabha represents the interests of the States at the national level.


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