Federal Structure of Indian Constitution
In view of the unitary features of Indian constitution, several political writers have asserted that the Indian Constitution is federal only in form but is unitary infact. It is not a genuine federation. Professor G.N. Joshi said that India is not striking a federal state for it has a quasi-federal constitution. Professor K.C. Where an authority on federalism, commented that India is a unitary state with subsidiary federal features rather than a federal state with subsidiary unitary features.
But such views are not accurate. In assessing the federal nature of a constitution, one should not only note its federal principle, but should also keep in mind its history and other aspects. Federalism is not a mathematical formula, which remains invariables under all circumstances. It is a political principle, which is applied with great variation in different countries. The essence of federalism is that powers are distributed between the Centre and the Units, not by any law made by the Centre but by the constitution itself. And this is exactly what the Indian Constitution has done. It has clearly and exhaustively distributed powers between the Union and the States. They have an autonomous position and do not exist by the sufferance of the Centre. The various unitary features of the constitution have been provided in it not to delete its federalism to tone down its federal nature but to defend it in such circumstances in which the `Federal Union would be destroyed or undermined such as the emergency or the breakdown of the constitutional machinery or the changes in the boundaries of the states etc. All these changes are temporary and as soon as the normal conditions prevail, the federal features and provisions are restored once again. The changes in the boundaries of a state are also made, not to abolish the state autonomy altogether, but to maintain it more effectively. As regard the single judiciary citizenship etc. they are found in many other federal constitutions as well.
In brief, the unitary features of the Indian Constitution do not violate its federal character. India is undoubtedly a federation, though it is a federation with strong center. But this does not militate against its federalism. There are many federal constitutions with strong center. Moreover, even in the old federal states like the USA there is a tendency towards strengthening the Centre by such means as the doctrine of implied powers. The only difference is that in India the centripetal bias in the federal structure of the Indian Union has been recognized from the very outset, while in the USA, it was brought in indirectly from the backdoor of the judicial review and such other extra-constitutional means as the political parties.