Distinctive Federal features of Indian Constitution by Shikha at LexCliq

India is a federal state which has federal features distinct from the other federal states like the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Australia etc. For example, here exist a unique relation between the two federal units i.e. the Union and the States which is not seen in any other federations.  These features are as follow:

  • Dual polity- Dual polity – The constitution established a dual polity with the union at the centre and the states on the outside. Each is given sovereign power to exercise in the sphere that the constitution has designated for them. Each unit has its own power structure. The union government is responsible for issue of national importance as defence, international affairs, and currency, while the state government is responsible for regional and local issues such as public order, agriculture, health, and local governance. However, there is a strong centre, as the majority of power divided in favour of the centre. To begin with, the union list has98 subjects in its list. It comprises more subjects than the state list which has only 66 subjects. Also, the union list contains the most important subjects. Residuary powers are also vested in the Union. As a result of the constitution, the centre has become more powerful.


  • Supremacy of the Constitution- India’s Constitution is ultimate, and neither the Centre nor the States may change it. The courts of law are there to protect the dignity of the people whenever any organ of the state dares to violate any provision of the Constitution. At all costs, the Constitution is upheld.


  • Written Constitution– The Constitution is not just a written document, but it is also the world’s longest. It now consists of a Preamble, around 465 Articles, split into 25 Parts and 12 Schedules . It lays forth the structure, organisation, authorities, and functions of the union and state governments, as well as the parameters within which they must work.


  • Rigid and flexible constitution- Only if the process of amending the constitution is rigid can the division of power created by the constitution, as well as the supremacy of the constitution, be maintained. The constitution is only rigid to the extent that provisions relating to the federal structure can only be amended by a joint action of the federal and state governments. These provisions of the constitution require a majority vote in Parliament as well as approval by the State legislature, as in the case of constitutional amendment (impeachment of president, addition or removal of any state boundary). However, the procedure of amending the constitution is less rigid because it must be approved by parliament by either a simple majority or a special majority. Furthermore, only the centre has the authority to undertake a constitutional amendment.


  • Bicameral Legislature– In a federation, a bicameral system is regarded necessary because it is only in the Upper House that the units can be given equal representation. The Indian Constitution also establishes a bicameral legislature at the national level, consisting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. While the Lok Sabha is made up of people’s elected representatives, the Rajya Sabha is mostly made up of legislators elected by state legislatures. However, the Rajya Sabha does not have equal representation for all states.


  • Independent judiciary– The constitution established an independent judiciary, led by the Supreme Court, for two purposes. First, to safeguard the supremacy of the constitution by exercising the power of judicial review and second To resolve a conflict between the centre and the state, or between the states.


  • Centre-State relation – The federal system functions best when the centre and the states are in perfect harmony, and coordination between them is crucial. The constitution has detailed provisions on the many dimensions in connection to the centre and the state. These could be separated into three categories:-
  1. Legislative relations – Part XI of the constitution deals with the legislative relationship between the centre and the state in Articles 245-255. The constitution allows for parliamentary legislation in the state field only in exceptional circumstances, hence there are four conditions under which parliament can legislate in the state area:

When the Rajya Sabha passes a resolution stating that it is required in the national interest for parliament to make laws regarding goods and services tax or a matter on a state list, the parliament becomes the legislature. A resolution requires the support of two-thirds of the members voting and being present.

While the proclamation of national emergency is in effect, the parliament gains the ability to legislate.

When the legislatures of two or more states pass a resolution requesting that the parliament enact laws on a state list subject then  Parliament can legislate laws to regulate that state list matter.

To put a national agreement into effect, the parliament can pass laws on any subject on the state list in order to put international treaties, accords, and conventions into effect.


  1. Administrative relation- Part XI of the constitution deals with the administrative relationship between the centre and the state. The executive power of the central government extends to the entire country, to matters over which the parliament has sole legislative authority, and to the exercise of any rights, authority, or jurisdiction conferred on it by any treaty or agreement.


  1. Financial relations– 3. Articles 268-293 of Part XII of the constitution deal with financial relations. There is a distribution of tax revenue and a distribution of taxing power, non-tax revenue allocation, state grant in aids, goods and service tax council, and finance commission. Borrowing power is explained in Articles 292 and 293, where the centre has the ability to borrow money on the consolidated fund of India’s security or can provide both guarantees with the government’s set limit.


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