Features of the Constitution of India


The sixteen centralizing features of the constitution of India are as follows:

1. A Very Strong Centre:

The unitary character of the Indian Constitution is demonstrated fully by the provisions which provide for a very strong Central government.


The following facts reflect this feature:

(a) The Union List, over which the Union Government has the exclusive jurisdiction, is the largest list with 97 subjects. It contains most important and high revenue-earning subjects.

(b) The Concurrent List contains 47 subjects (in reality 52 subjects). It is also virtually in the hands of the Union, because of the rule that in case of a conflict between a Union Law and a State Law over a subject of Concurrent List, the central law gets precedence over the state law.

(c) The Constitution of India gives the residuary powers to the Union and not the States.


(d) The constitutional history of India since 1950 shows that there has been a tendency to limit the State List by the incorporation of more and more subjects either in the Union List or in the Concurrent List.

Thus the division of powers in India favours the Union vis-a-vis the States.

2. The Power of the Union to Reorganise the States and Change their Boundaries:

The Union Government can change the boundaries of the States, even without the consent of the concerned states. In 1956, the Union Parliament passed the States Re-organisation Act and made wholesale changes in the territories of the States.


In the recent past Uttaranchal, (Now Uttrakhand) Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh States were carved out of UP, Bihar and MP respectively. All the changes in the boundaries of the federating units of India have been the result of central actions. This feature reflects the Unitarian spirit of the Indian Constitution.

3. Some Limitations Upon the Jurisdiction of States over the State Subjects:

Each State has the power to legislate and administer the subjects contained in the State List. However, in this respect also there are present several limitations

Limitations on Legislative Power of a State:


(a) The Governor of state has the right to reserve any bill passed by a State Legislature for the assent of the President.

(b) Upon a request made by two or more State Legislatures, the Union Parliament can make a law on a State subject.

(c) During the period of emergency, the Union Parliament gets the power to legislate on the state subjects.

(d) When the Rajya Sabha, acting under Article 249, passes a resolution supported by 2/3rd majority and declares that the a state subject has become a subject of national importance, the Union Parliament gets the right to legislate on it for one year.


(e) The Union Parliament has the power to make any law necessary for meeting any obligation resulting from an international treaty or a treaty made by India (Union Government) with another State of the world.

Thus, under certain circumstances the Union’s power extends to the subjects of State List.

4. Emergency Provisions of the Constitution:

Emergency Provisions of the Indian Constitution also reflect the Unitarian spirit of the system. In the event of an emergency arising due to an external aggression or war against India or due to an internal armed rebellion, the President can declare a national emergency in India. After such a declaration the Union government gets the power to make any law or decision which is deemed necessary for meeting the emergency. In such an event, it becomes the duty of the States to follow the central directives and authority.

When the President of India declares a constitutional emergency in a State, the administration of that State directly comes under the President. On his behalf, the Governor becomes the real executive head of the State and starts running its administration. The Union Parliament gets the power to legislate for that State on the subjects of State List.

The relationship between the Union and that State becomes Unitarian. Further, the President can declare a financial emergency in India. He can take all suitable steps for meeting such an emergency and for this can issue any instruction to the States, which are binding on them.

5. Control of the Union over States in Certain Cases:

Each State of the Indian Union has been assigned the duty to exercise its executive authority in such a manner as can ensure compliance of Union Laws. For this purpose the Union can give necessary directions to the States. It can issue all necessary directions to the States. Moreover, the Union government, with the consent of the concerned State, can entrust any function of the Union to a State government.

6. Role of the Union regarding Inter-State rivers or River-valley Disputes:

The Union Parliament has the power to provide by law for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use of water of any inter-state river or river valley.

7. Single Constitution:

The Indian Constitution is a single unified common constitution for the Union and the States. The States, with the exception of Jammu and Kashmir, do not have their separate constitutions.

8. Most of the Constitution can be Amended by the Union:

Another feature which reflects the unitary spirit of the Constitution is the procedure of amendment of the Constitution. The Union alone can initiate the process of amending the Constitution. Only some amendment proposals are required to be sent to the State Legislatures for ratification. The role of the States in amending the Constitution has been kept limited.

9. Single Citizenship:

The Constitution of India provides for a single uniform citizenship to all the citizens irrespective of their domiciles, In ideal federations like the U.S.A. and Switzerland, the people enjoy a dual citizenship. They are the citizens of their respective provinces as well as of the Federation.

10. Unequal Representation of the States in the Rajya Sabha:

The States do not enjoy equality of representation in the Union. They get seats in the Rajya Sabha in proportion to their populations and as fixed by the Constitution. These do not enjoy equal seats in the Rajya Sabha. The Indian system of giving representation to the States in the upper house as such is not based on the true federal principle of equal representation of all the federating states.

11. Single Integrated Judicial System:

Even while adopting the federal structure incorporating a division of powers between the Union and the States, the Constitution of India provides for a single integrated judiciary common for the Union and the States. The Indian judicial system is a single hierarchical system with the Supreme Court at the top, High Courts in the middle (State level) and subordinate courts at the local (District) level.

12. Common All India Services:

The provision for common All India Services like the IAS and IPS for the Union and the States is again a Unitarian feature of the Indian Constitution. The personnel belonging to these services occupy all high administrative positions m the State administration as well as in the Union.

13. Common Election Commission:

For organizing elections to the Union Parliament as well as to the State Legislatures, the Constitution of India provides for a single common Election Commission. The Election Commission of India has the sole responsibility for conducting all elections, or by-elections for the Union Parliament and State Legislatures. The Parliament has the right to legislate on matters of election. The States can pass laws for organising elections but they have to refrain from violating the laws made by the Union.

14. Common Comptroller and Auditor General:

The President has the power to appoint, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). The CAG verifies and checks the accounts of the Union and the States. He formulates the rules regarding the manner of maintaining the accounts and records.

15. Centre’s Power to Appoint the Governor of each State:

The head of the State administration is the Governor. However, the State has little share in having its Governor. The Governor of a State is appointed by the President of India and he holds office during the pleasure of the President. This makes the Governor a central representative in the state. At times, he behaves as an instrument of central control/interference in the State administration.

16. Financial Superiority of the Union:

The Constitution of India lays down in detail the financial relations between the Union and the States. It provides in detail the allocation of taxes to the Union and the States. In doing so added importance has been given to the Union. It has been given a bigger share in revenue. The States been made dependent upon Central grants-in-aid. The Centre uses this power as lever to influence the policies of the States.

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