Free sample essay on Political and Administrative Structures in India


India has been a constitutional democracy since 1950, now comprised of 28 states, six “Union Territories” (UTs) and a National Capital Territory (NCT), Delhi. The NCT and the UT of Puducherry have their own elected legislatures, whereas the other UTs are governed directly by appointees of the center.

All the states have elected legislatures, with Chief Ministers in the executive role. Each state also has a Governor, nominally appointed by the President, but effectively acts as an agent of the Prime Minister.

The primary expression of statutory constitutional authority in India comes through the directly elected parliamentary- style governments at the national and state level, as well as nascent directly elected government bodies at various local levels.


Overlapping political authorities at the central and state levels have been dealt with through intra- party bargaining, and, more recently, through explicit bargaining and discussion.

The Inter-State Council (ISC) was created in 1990, and has become a forum where some political and economic issues of joint concern can be collectively discussed and possibly resolved. The ISC includes the Prime Minister; state Chief Ministers, and several central Cabinet Ministers as members.

While the ISC is merely advisory, it has formalized collective discussion and approval of several important matters impinging on India’s federal arrangements, including tax sharing and inter-state water disputes. Another, similar, body is older than the ISC, but narrower in scope.

The National Development Council (NDC) serves as a forum for bargaining over five year plan allocations.


Political and economic centralization have also been reflected in bureaucratic and judicial institutions.

The Indian bureaucracy is provided constitutional recognition. The central and state level tiers of the “public services” are given shape through the provisions of Part XIV of the Constitution. Since each political layer of government requires its own administrative apparatus, any bureaucracy in a federation will have a federal character. In particular, state governments must be able to appoint and dismiss bureaucrats to implement state-level policies.

This is certainly the case in India, where there is a central bureaucracy as well as an independent bureaucracy in each state. However, the key component of the bureaucracy is the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), whose members are chosen by a centralized process, trained together, and then assigned to particular states.

This structure was designed as a compromise between the desire to have an effective apparatus at the state level, and the fear of promoting regional loyalties over national ones. This compromise has been problematic, since conflicts arise between state and central politicians (the latter acting through IAS members assigned to the central government) in directing state-level IAS bureaucrats.


At the national and state levels, the judiciary constitutes a distinct branch of government, though the legislative branch influences appointments. At the local level, IAS members are vested with some judicial authority.

The Supreme Court stands at the top of the Indian Judicial hierarchy. The President, in consultation with the Prime Minister, appoints its Justices. Its powers include broad original and appellate jurisdiction and the right to pass on the constitutionality of laws passed by Parliament.

In practice, there has been conflict between the Supreme Court and the legislature/executive over the scope of these powers, and their boundaries remain subject to contestation. However, when specific issues of center- state relations have emerged with respect to taxation and property rights, to be adjudicated by the Supreme Court, the basic centralizing bias of the Constitution tilted the interpretation of the Court in favor of the center.

At the state level, below the Supreme Court, are the High Courts. Each High Court’s Justices are appointed by the President, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the state’s Governor. Paralleling the situation at the Center, the state’s Chief Minister is in a position to influence the Governor’s advice.


High courts also have both original and appellate jurisdiction. In addition, they superintend the work of all courts within the state, including district courts, as well as various courts subordinate to the district courts.

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