Constitutions are either unitary or federal. In the unitary government, the powers of the government are centralised in the central government & the states are subordinate to the centre. In the federal constitution, there is a division of power between the states & the central government & both are independent in their own spheres.
The nature of Indian Constitution can be understood as it is:
1. Federal with unitary features
2. Unitary with federal features
The federal features of the Indian Constitution can be understood in the following points:
The most essential feature of the federal constitution is that it has a dual government that means a dual polity consisting of the union at the centre and the states at the periphery. Each is endowed with sovereign powers to be exercised in the field assigned to them respectively by the Indian Constitution.
The Union government deals with the matters of national importance like defence, foreign affairs & so on. The state government look after the matters of the regional & local importance like health, agriculture & so on.
A federal constitution is almost necessary for a written constitution. The Indian Constitution is not only a written document but also the lengthiest constitution of the world.
The Indian Constitution has divided the powers between the centre & the state in terms of union list, state list & the concurrent list as mentioned in Schedule VII.
The Indian Constitution is the supreme law of the land which means all the authorities of the Union & the State are subject to the authority of the Indian Constitution.
The procedure of amending the constitution regarding the federal principle is rigid. The Indian Constitution cannot be changed unilaterally either by the centre or by the state government. Hence, the Indian Constitution is rigid to the extent of those provisions which are concerned with federal structure can be amended by the joint action of the centre and the state as well.
The Indian Constitution establishes an independent judiciary headed by the Supreme Court for two purposes i.e.
One, to protect the supremacy of the Constitution by exercising the power of judicial review &
Two, to settle disputes between the centre & the states or between the two states.
The unitary features of the Indian Constitution can be understood in the following points:
Article 1 of the Indian Constitution says that India is the union of states which implies two things i.e., it is not the result of an agreement among the states & the second is that the states have no power to separate itself from the Union.
In India, the government has the power to separate or alter the boundaries of the states & it is laid down in Article 3 of the Indian Constitution.
The process of a constitutional amendment is less rigid than what is found in other federations. The bulk of the Indian Constitution can be amended by the unilateral action of the parliament.
The Indian Constitution has established an integrated judicial system with the Supreme Court at the top & the states High courts below it.
There is single citizenship for both the union & the states. There is no provision of separate Constitution for the state in India, unlike the USA.
The quasi-federal feature of the Indian Constitution can be understood as it has always been a matter of debate that whether the Indian Constitution is federal or unitary in nature.
The Indian Constitution is both federal & unitary in nature as it is a combination of federal & unitary features.
In the federal set-up, there is a two-tier government with well-assigned powers & the functions of all the parts. Prevention as well as for the betterment of the conflict of the interest of the centre and the state is an integral part of federalism. No doubt that the essay characteristics of a federal constitution are present in the Indian Constitution. It is claimed that the constitution does not embody the federal principles because the centre can in certain contingencies encroach upon the field reserved for the states. The power of intervention given to the centre is inconsistent with the federal system as it places the states in a subordinate position.
From all the above-mentioned points, it can be concluded that the Indian Constitution is neither purely federal nor purely integral. It is a Harmonious mixture of both. It has contemplated the problems which the country may face in the future if the constitution were to be purely federal & therefore the Indian Constitution has made provisions converting it into a unitary mode on a temporary basis until the crisis overcome.