Nature of Indian Federalism
Ever since the inauguration of the Indian Constitution a controversy has been going on about its federal nature. At is said that it is Federal in form but unitary in spirit and that it is quasi-federal that is it appears to be federal but is really unitary form of constitution for it has armed the Central. Government with huge powers which lessen or nullify the autonomous position of the component states. Its defenders assert that it is definitely a federal constitution but it can become a unitary one as and when time and circumstances required. In order to decide this controversy and judge the true nature of the Indian Constitution, we must understand federal constitution.
A federal constitution is one which is based upon the following federal principles
- It establishes two sets of government, one at the Centre and the other in the component units of the federation.
- The federation is a union of autonomous units called Provinces as in Pakistan, or ‘States’ as in India and USA etc.
- There is a clear distribution of powers of the state between the Government of the Centre and of the units.
- The government of the component units is independent and autonomous within the sphere of its own powers and the Centre cannot interfere in them.
- There is an impartial and independent Judiciary or the Supreme Court, which preserves the federal structure of the state by means of the judicial review.
- The constitution of a federal state is written and rigid, so that its provisions may not be changed by the Centre as to curtail the powers and jurisdiction of the units.
In order to assess the federal nature of the Indian Constitution let us now see how far it upholds these features.