Unitary Features Of Indian Constitution

1. Center-State Relations (More Powers in the hands of Centre)

“The relations between the Centre and the State Governments in India itself highlight the domination of the Centre over the State. There is a clear division of legislative power between Centre and State by the way of Lists, i.e., Union List, State List, and Concurrent List.[8]Powers related to residual subjects, that is those not covered by the three lists, are left with the union. Even in matters in the concurrent list, the constitution provides that the union government shall prevail[9]. The Constituent Assembly had two main purposes when bestowing extensive powers on the Union Government in the Union and the Concurrent Lists. One was constitutional flexibility. As per Ambedkar, Federalism suffered from rigidity and the nations adopting federal structure always sought to remove this disadvantage as once Australia attempted to do by conferring upon the Parliament of Commonwealth large powers of concurrent legislation. The authority of the Indian parliament as proposed in the Draft constitution was ninety-one matters in the Concurrent List. In this way, the draft constitution has secured greatest possible elasticity in federalism, which is supposed to be rigid in nature. The second purpose of these extensive powers was to enable the Union to meet the needs and to withstand the pressures of the times. Several documents were prepared for the Government which needed immediate action like agricultural production policy, the establishment of higher educational institutions, and food distribution. It was evident that if the Government is to fulfill these responsibilities, it must have the constitutional powers to do so[10].

 

Besides, Article 249 empowers the parliament to make laws with respect to any matter in the state list, if the council of states (Rajya Sabha) declares by a resolution supported by at least two-thirds of the members present and voting that it is necessary or expedient in the national interest. In other words, this Article of our Constitution empowers the Union Parliament to take up for legislation by itself any matter enumerated in List II (State List)[11]. Not only this, the Parliament can also invade the law-making power of List II of the State by Article 253 which talks about legislation for giving effect to international agreements. The effect of this article is that of a treaty, agreement or convention with a Foreign State deals with a subject within the competence of State Legislature, the Parliament alone, notwithstanding Art. 246 (3), the power of laws to implement the treaty, agreement or convention or any decision made at any international conference, association or other bodies [12].

 

Article 254 states that in case of inconsistency between the law made by the Parliament and law made by the State, the Union Law will prevail and the State law to the extent of the inconsistency be void”.

 

2. Centre’s dominance in time of Emergency

“The basic idea of the constitutional framers was that India would be a Federal in the peacetime and in times of emergencies, India would be a Unitary. Hence, the Union has been given exclusive powers in case of Emergency. By the virtue of Article 250 the Parliament, during an emergency, can legislate upon any matter in the State list.[13].

 

The proclamation of emergency is made by the president under Article 352 if he is satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security of India or any part of India is threatened either by war, external aggression or armed rebellion. The effect of the proclamation is that the Centre’s executive power is extended. Article 353 states that during the proclamation of emergency the power of Union shall extend to giving directions to the State and this power may even extend to a State other than the State in which the proclamation is in operation[14]. Article 356 states that in case of breakdown of constitutional machinery President issues a proclamation and assume to himself all the functions of the Governor and State Government. He may also declare that the powers of the State Legislature shall be exercisable under the authority of Parliament.

 

From the above discussion, it is now clear beyond doubt that during any emergency, it is the Centre which comes into power and the State government’s role is abandoned till the proclamation of emergency is still in existence. In spite of having a clearly written constitution, a scope of flexibility is left so as to meet the demands of the situation. Thus, highlighting an important aspect in the Unitary feature of the Constitution.

 

3. Single Citizenship: The Constitution of India gives single citizenship to the people of the country. All the people irrespective of the states or territories in which they reside are the citizens of the country. This is unlike USA, where a citizen is a citizen of USA and the state in which he/she resides.

4. Single Constitution: India is a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic with a parliamentary system of government. The Republic is governed in terms of the Constitution of India which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November, 1949 and came into force on 26th January, 1950.

5. Unity in Judiciary: The Indian Constitution has established an integrated judicial system with the Supreme Court at the top and the state high courts below it. This single system of courts enforces both the Central laws as well as the state laws.

 

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