In a federalism a number of separate or au­tonomous political units mutually agree to merge together to form a nation state with a single central or federal government. The legislative and execu­tive powers in a federation are divided in a co­ordinated manner between the federal (central) and the state governments through a written Constitu­tion.

In a federation the central and the state govern­ments exist on the basis of equality. There is a kind of compromise between the central and the states based on mutual cooperation. Federation is thus essentially a compromise between centripetal and centrifugal forces that are operative at the same time.

The formation of the Indian federation has been a long process. Some kind of loose federation existed throughout her history; however, India was not completely integrated as a sovereign nation even under Asoka, Samudragupta, or Akbar. It was the British who unified India and established their do­minion from the Indus in the west to the Brahmaputra in the east, from the Himalayas in the north to the Kanniyakumari in the south over the whole of the traditional territories of Bharatvarsha.

The British introduced all-India services, unified transport and communication system, uniform educational sys­tem through the medium of English and the univer­sal law under modern jurisprudence which helped in unifying the country.


The development of the federal structure in India started with the Indian Council of 1909 Act (the Morley-Minto Reforms) where the central and the provincial councils were given more powers. A report (Montagu-Chelmsford Report) submitted by the Indian Constitution Reform Committee in 1918 became the basis of the Government of India Act of 1919 which was the beginning of the federal system in India.

The Act provided provision for a system of dual government (central and provincial), relaxation of central control over the Provinces through a set of Devolution Rules, provision to prepare budget and levy taxes and include elected members in the Upper and Lower Houses. According to V. P. Menon (1956) the genesis of the present federalism in India lies in the Simon Report of May, 1930, which supported the concept of federalism. Between 1930 and 1933 three Round Table Conferences were held in which the federal structure of India was discussed.

At the conclusion of the First Round Table Conference in 1930 the British Government officially accepted the principle that the form of the new government of India was to be an all India federation embracing British India and the princely states. The recommen­dations of the Joint Select Committee became the Government of India Act of 1935. Under the Act, the Centre had powers to pass laws on 59 classes of subjects set forth in the Central List, provincial governments had authority to legislate upon 54 classes of subject as set forth in the Provincial List, and both federal and provincial governments were permitted to pass laws on 36 classes of subjects set forth in the Concurrent List.

The Act set forth the major outline of the federal system of government as finally evolved by the Constituent Assembly which framed the present Constitution of the Republic of India in 1950.


The framers of the Constitution realized that a real political danger to subnationalism might de­velop in India because of the variety of linguistic, cultural, religious, regional, economic and ideologi­cal differences that existed in the country. To unite the Indian nation in the presence of fissiparous tendencies a strong central authority was considered necessary. The Constituent Assembly endorsed the principle of federalism as the structure of new India. The Constitution of India is the longest Constitution in the world with 339 articles and 9 supporting schedules covering 272 pages.