There has been always a unsettled controversy as to the question where the Indian Constitution is Federal or unitary?

   Some characterized it is as Federal, while some characterised it as unitary, whereas, some called it Quasi Federal.

           Article 1(1) of our constitution says, "India i.e. Bharat shall be a union of States", While submitting the Draft of Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar, the Chairman of drafting committee, stated that "although its Constitution may be Federal in structure, the Committee had used the term 'Union because of certain advantages. 

This advantages, he explained in the Constituent Assembly, were to indicate two things -

a) that the Indian federalism is not the result of an agreement by the units, and

b) that the component units have no freedom to secede from it.

       We have, therefore, to examine the provisions of the Constitution itself apart from the label given to it by its craftsman, to determine whether it provides a federal system as claimed by Dr Ambedkar.

 A federation, therefore, must possess the following essential minimum features of federal system. -

1) Existence of dual Government -

                  There cannot be a federation without two sets of government, one at the centre had other at regional level. i In India we have the Government of the Union of India at the centre, and governments of various States, as regional units. Hence, Indian constitution for Federal character.

2) Written constitution -

               India has a written constitution in which the distribution of powers between both governments and dispute can be settled according to the provisions of the Constitution.

3) Distribution of power i.e. legislative Relations :

               In Indian Constitution all legislative powers are enumerated in three lists of the 7th Schedule.

List first : deals with the matters in respect of which Union has exclusive power to legislate the subjects of national importance are given in list firs.

List Second: the States have exclusive legislative power respect of the subjects. The subjects of regional, local importance are mentioned in list II.

List Third : Is a concurrent list both Union and States have power to legislate in respect of these matters. Thus the Constitution provides for the distribution of powers ensuring substantial Independence to governments of both levels.

4) Supremacy of the Constitution :

                Constitution is Supreme. It is fundamental and highest law of the country. In sub committee on judicial accountability vs. Union of India (1991) 4, SC 699. Supreme Court held that in India, the Constitution and not the parliament is supreme.

5) Independent arbiter of power :
        There must be some independent authority to interpret the Constitution and to resolve the dispute between Central and regional Governments. Under the Indian Constitution, power to interpret the Constitution rests with Courts and independence of the courts are ensured.

6) Rigid process of amendment :

              For a federation, it is necessary that power to amend the Constitution should be given exclusively to Centre or regional units. Under Article 368 of the Indian Constitution, certain matters, which can affect Federal structure, it cannot be amended by Parliament alone even by special majority and at least half of the States must ratify the amendment.
              Thus all the essential elements of Federal constitution in principle are embodied in our Constitution, yet our Constitution has been branded as Quasi Federal or as unitary with Federal features
      Granville Austin described the Indian Constitution as "Co-operative" federalism in case of Administration, legislation and Finance .


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