Federalism is a system of government in which the power is divided between a central authority and various constituent units of the country. Ex. Central government and State government.
1) 2 or more levels of government
2) Though the different levels govern the same citizens, each has its own “jurisdiction” for administration, taxation, legislation etc.
3) Existence and authority of each level is constitutionally guaranteed
4) Disputes between various levels of government is handled by the highest court.
5) Sources of revenue for each level of government are clearly specified to ensure its financial autonomy
India – characteristics of a federal state
Written Constitution that clearly divides powers between centre and states.
Supremacy of the Constitution: supreme source of strength for centre and states. No organ of state can violate the constitution. Courts ensure that.
In a federation constitution is rigid. Provisions of union-state relations can be amended only by a two-thirds majority of members present and voting in Parliament. Should be ratified by at least one-half of state legislatures.
Division of powers
Clear division of powers between central and state governments through 7th Schedule of the constitution. Central list, State list, Concurrent list, Residuary powers. Clear list prevents encroachment of powers upon the the functions of other organs.
A federation must have an independent and impartial judiciary acting as guardian of the constitution. In India, Supreme and High court judges are independent of the executive.
India – characteristics of Unitary Federalism
Single Constitution for Centre & states
India has one single constitution for Centre and States.
Under federal system, State have their own constitution (USA)
Centre’s power over name and boundary of states
In India, the Centre has the power to change the name and geographical boundaries of state by a simple majority of the Parliament.
In a federation, the Centre has no powers to alter the boundaries of a state.
In India, single integrated judicial system with Supreme Court at the apex, high court in each state and district courts at local levels. Same code of constitutional, civil and criminal laws are applicable throughout the country.
In USA, States have their own judicial system unrelated to the federal judiciary in federations.
Unitary during emergencies
Federal under normal circumstances, unitary under emergency. Constitution provides emergency powers to President. During emergency, centre assumes all legislative powers.
Role of Governor
Governor appointed by the President and acts as an agent of the Centre in the state. Governor has certain powers to recommend dismissal of the State government and the dissolution of the Assembly.
Control over state laws
The Governor has the power to reserve a bill passed by the State legislature for the consideration of the President not only in the first instance, but also in the second instance.This gives the central government an opportunity to delay the State legislation and also an absolute veto over state bills.
Financial dependency on Centre
States are dependent on the grants and financial assistance from the centre. Planning, as an instrument of development after independence led to considerable centralisation of economic decision making. Planning commission appointed by the union government is the coordinating machinery that controls and supervises the resources management of the States
Integrated administrative system
The all-India services are common to the entire territory of India and officers chosen for these services serve in the administration of the States. Thus, an IAS officer who becomes the collector or an IPS officer who serves as the Commissioner of Police, are under the control of the central government. States cannot take disciplinary action nor can they remove these officers from service.
Special powers of Rajya Sabha
The central government may need to legislate on matters from the State list. This is possible if the move is ratified by the Rajya Sabha. The Constitution in Article 257 (1) clearly states that executive powers of the centre are superior to the executive powers of the States. The central government may choose to give instructions to the State
Armed Forces Special Power Act
Articles 33 and 34 authorise the Parliament to protect persons in the service of the union or a state in respect of any action taken by them during martial law to maintain or restore order. This provisions further strengthens the powers of the union government. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act has been made on the basis of these provisions. This Act has created tensions between the people and the armed forces on some occasions.
The unitary features of the Indian Constitution show that India has a strong Centre. But that does not mean that theres is no federation. India can be described as a Centralised Federation.