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Indian Constitution: Federal or Unitary

Usually the constitution is either federal or unitary in nature. In a unitary constitution the powers of the government are centralised in one government i.e central government. But in a federal setup the power is equally divided among the centre and the state.

If we talk about Indian constitution there is a difference of opinion among the experts. Some claim that our constitution is quasi federal and contains both unitary and federal features. But the framers of the Indian constitution claim that Indian constitution is purely federal.

Now to know the nature of the Indian constitution we have to examine the arguments in favour and against the subject matter.

Arguments In Favour That Indian Constitution Is Federal

  • Division of powers

    In a federal setup the most essential feature is division of power between the centre and state level. This feature can be seen in Indian constitution . We have different government and legislature at centre and state. In centre we have lok sabha and rajya sabha and in state level we have vidhan sabha in all states and in addition vidhan parisad in some states. The division of power is done in such a manner that the matters of national interest like external affairs ,defence etc are with central government and matters of regional importance like health, law and order are with state government.

  • Supremacy of the constitution

    A federal state derives its existence from the constitution. The constitution is regarded as the supreme law of the land and no one is above the constitution. The organs of the state i.e the executive, the legislative and the judiciary perform their respective duties in accordance to the constitution.

  • Rigid and written constitution

    Every federal state has a written and rigid constitution. The setup of a federal state is complex and it will be impossible for a country to run without written rules. India contains the worlds lengthiest constitution. And if we talk about rigidity in a rigid constitution the process of amendment is quite difficult.

  • Independence of judiciary

    As we know in a federal setup the powers are divided between the central and the state level so to maintain the division of power an independent and impartial body is required. This independent body is court or the judiciary. In India the supreme court is the highest court of law and it is empowered to even strike down laws and amendments that are unconstitutional.

Arguments Against The Federation of Indian Constitution

  • Power of the governors

    The governors is the constitutional head of the state however they are appointed by the president of India and are answerable to him. So it can be said that they are not independent in their sphere.

  • Parliament power to legislate

    Under article 249 parliament can make law in matters enumerated in the state list if rajya sabha passes the bill by 2/3 majority and the bill is in the national interest.

  • Parliament power over state boundary

    The parliament may form new state, diminish the existing one and can even change the name of any state. Thus the sweet will of the state depends on the union government.

  • Emergency provision

    If the emergency is proclaimed under article 352 (emergency due to war) then the division power among the state and the centre undergo a vital change. The executive body of the state is directly controlled by the union government


If the emergency is proclaimed under article 356 (emergency due to failure of constitutional machinery) then the whole state’s legislature is dissolved and the normal division of power is suspended.

Conclusion
In short it may be concluded that the Indian constitution is a combination of both unitary and federal state where more features are there for federal. Thus Indian constitution is mainly federal with some unitary features for national unity and growth.

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