Chapter : 2. Federalism
India - A Federal Country
India – A federal country
A federation is a political arrangement in which the activities of the government are divided between the central government and various state governments such that each level of the government has certain powers under its jurisdiction. The features of a federal government are :
(i) Division of Powers : The most important feature of a federation is the division of powers between the central government and various state governments. The subjects of national importance are placed under central government's authority and subjects of regional and states' importance are placed under state government's authority.
(ii) Written and Rigid constitution : The second feature of a federal government is that it has a written, rigid and a supreme constitution. Constitution is an agreement and it lays down the basic structure of government under which the people are to be governed. It is a rigid constitution in the sense that no changes can be made in it unless both the national and state government approve of the changes. The constitution is supreme which means that the central and state legislatures exercise their powers as specified by the constitution.
(iii) An independent Judiciary : India has an independent judicial system. The Supreme Court of India has original powers and has the exclusive authority of settling disputes between the government of India and one or more states, or between two or more states.
(a) Division of Power :
The constitution clearly provides a three-fold distribution of legislative powers between the Union Government and the State Government.
1. Union list :
(A) It includes subjects of national importance e.g. defence of the country, foreign affairs, communication and currency.
(B) There is a uniform policy on these matters throughout the country.
(C) The union government alone can make laws relating to the subjects mentioned in the union list.
2. State List :
(A) It contains subjects of state and local importance e.g. Police, Trade, Commerce, agriculture and irrigation etc.
(B) The state government alone can make laws relating to the subjects mentioned in the state list.
3. Concurrent List :
(A) It includes subjects of common interest to both the union government as well as the state government- education, forest, trade unions, marriage, adoption and succession.
(B) Both the union as well as the state government can make laws on the subjects mentioned in the list.
(C) If their laws conflict with each other, the law made by the union government will prevail.
Subjects that do not fall in any of the three lists, or subjects like computer software that came upon after the constitution was made, the Union government has the power to legislate on these 'residuary' subjects.
All states in the Indian union do not have identical powers. Some states enjoy a special status. Jammu & Kashmir has its own constitution. Many provisions of the Indian constitution are not applicable to this state without the approval of the State Assembly. Indians who are not permanent residents of this state can not buy land or house here.
Areas like Chandigarh or Lakshdweep or the Capital city of Delhi are called Union Territories. These territories do not have the powers of a state. The central government has special powers in running these areas.
(b) Changes to Power Sharing Arrangement :
Sharing of power between the union government and the state government is basic to the structure of the constitution. It is not easy to make changes to this power sharing arrangement. The Parliament can not on its own change arrangement. Any change to it has to be first passed by both the houses of Parliament with at least two thirds majority. Then it has to be ratified by the legislature of at least half of the total state.
In case of any dispute about the division of power, the High Court and the Supreme Court make a decision.
The judiciary plays an important role in overseeing the implementation of constitutional provisions and procedures. In case of any dispute about the division of powers, the High court and the Supreme Court makes a decision.
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