Explain why the Indian Constitution has been argued to have created a ‘federation with a centralizing tendency’.

Q. Explain why the Indian Constitution has been argued to have created a ‘federation with a centralizing tendency’.


The debate whether India has a ‘Federal Constitution’ and ‘Federal Government’ has been grappling us since the conception of our Constitution. In India, Federalism is considered as a basic feature of the Constitution, even though the word is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution.

The main features of the Indian Constitution which makes it closer to Federal state are as follows:

  • Written Constitution and supremacy of the Constitution– Written Constitution ensures that there is a clear division of powers between the central and state governments.
  • Rigid Constitution: All the provisions of the Constitution concerning Union-State relations can be amended only by the joint actions of the State Legislatures and the Union Parliament.
  • Division of Powers: The Seventh Schedule divides the subjects of administration into Union, State and Concurrent Legislative Lists. Independent Judiciary: The Constitution establishes an independent judiciary headed by the Supreme Court.
  • Bicameral Legislature: A bicameral system is considered essential in a federation because it is in the Upper House alone that the units can be given equal representation.
  • Dual Government Polity: In a federal State, there are two governments, one at the centre and the other at the state level.

But the Indian Constitution also has some unitary features which can be argued to have created a federation with centralizing tendency:

  • Strong Centre: The division of powers is in favour of the Centre and highly inequitable from the federal angle. For instance, the Union List contains important and higher number of subjects than the State List.
  • Special powers: The Parliament can make laws on subjects of state list under certain circumstances. For instance, under article 249, Parliament can make laws even on any of the state list matter. Emergency Provisions: During the time of emergencies the
  • Federal apparatus transforms into unitary system without any formal amendment to the Constitution.
  • States not indestructible: The states in India have no right to territorial integrity. The Parliament can by unilateral action change the area, boundaries or name of any state.
  • Role of governors: The Governor is appointed by the President on the advice of central government and his/her actions are viewed as interference by the centre in the functioning of the state government.
  • Financial Powers: There is concentration of financial powers in the hands of the union as more revenue generating items are under the control of the central government. Besides, the union government also uses its discretion to give grants and loans to the states.

It is true that the union has been assigned larger powers than the state governments, but this is a question of degree and not quality, since all the essential features of a federation are present in the Indian Constitution.

According to K.C. Wheare, in practice the Constitution of India is quasi- federal in nature and not strictly federal. It is a union or a composite of a novel type. Thus, it can be safely said that the Indian Federalism is unique in nature i.e. ‘federation with a centralizing tendency’ and is tailored according to the specific needs of the country.

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