This article is written by Anshika Agrawal student of Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida affiliated by Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut discussing the Federal strucure of Indian Constitution.


It has been suggested by certain people that the Constitution of India is not exactly federal but this is not accurate statement, there are certain peculiarities of the Indian Constitution which make the Constitution favouring the union over the states but that does not mean that the Indian Constitution is not federal in nature. There cannot be the same standard applied to federal Constitutions throughout the world, they have different standards depending upon the social, economic and other peculiar conditions prevailing in the particular country.

Features of a Federal Constitution are:-

  • Distribution of powers:  An essential feature of every federal Constitution is the distribution of powers between the Central and the State governments. That is two tiers of government share the powers, each government is deriving its power and is controlled by the government. This feature is present in India.
  • Supermacy of the Constitution: Neither of the governments in a federal Constitution should be in power to override the provisions of the Constitution relating to the power and status which it is enjoying. This requirement is satisfied if the supermacy of the overriding authority is accorded only to the provisions relating to the division of power. Other provisions of the Constitution, which do not relate to the relationship between the Centre and units need to be supreme. Even the judges are bound by it. Every power executive, judicial or legislative whether belongs to nation or to individual state is subordinate to and controlled by the Constitution. This feature is present in India.
  • Written Constitution: The Constitution in any federal structure should be written in form otherwise it would be impossible to maintain supermacy of the Constitution. To base a federal structure only upon conventions like in case of English Constitution would be very difficult thing to do and hence it should be in written form. Also due to centripetal forces (centralised power) and centrifugal forces (decentralised power), explicit division of power, written constitution is needed. Indian Constitution is a written one, so it passes this test also.
  • Authority of Courts: In any federal structure there must be an independent and impartial Judiciary to decide on the powers, limitations etc of the Federal (Central) and State Governments. It basically has two aspects, firstly there must be an independent authority in the form of Court of law which can prevent both the government’s form encroaching upon the other’s power and declare laws made by them, secondly it is not enough to give the Courts this power but is also important to ensure the independence of the Courts from Central or State Government and Courts should have the final say in the interpretation of the Constitution. If we analyse then the Judiciary in India is independent and has on many occassions struck down laws and even constitutional amendments on account of them being ultra vires of the Constitution. The Judiciary in India is free from executive, their term, tenure, salary is free from control of government. The Courts have power of judicial review which is widely used by them therefore this requirement is also satisfied. Indain Judiciary acts as the guardian of Indian Constitution. It is impartial and resolve disputes arising between center and state government.
  • Rigidity: The written Constitution tend to be rigid and the federal Constitution, since it needs to be reduced into writing it is by default a rigid Constitution. However, Rigidity does not mean that it is immune to any change but rather it means that it is comparatively difficult to amend, particularly those provisions which regulate the status and powers of the Federal and State Government should be especially rigid so that Center and State do not divert easily. This means that the Center and State do not stretch their powers by easily amending the Constitution.  Indian Constitution also passes this test of rigidity and cannot be amended easily. In certain cases the rigidity is so strong that it needs special majority along with attestation of the constituent states. Indian Constitution is a blend of rigidity & flexibility, so this requirement is also satisfied.
  • Dual Polity: Government co-ordinate their authority properly and is neither legally nor politically superior. Center government and State government both have their own elections and own elected government. National or federal government and government of each component state are considered. Fusion of several states into single state in regard to matters affecting common interests while each component state enjoys autonomy in regard to other matters.
  • List System: There are 3 lists conferred by the Indian Constitution under Schedule 7 where subjects are divided between central and state government. In which Union List consists of 97 subjects of national importance which represent power conferred upon the Central government, State List consists of 66 subjects which represent power conferred upon the State government and Concurrent List consists of 47 subjects in which power is shared by both of them.
  • Bicameralism: The Constitution of India also provides for a bicameral Legislature at the Centre consisting of Lok Sabha (Lower House) and Rajya Sabha (Upper House). It is Upper House units alone that gets equal representation and secure federalism in the country.

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