Federalism is a basic feature of the Constitution of India in which the Union of India is permanent and indestructible. Both the Centre and the States are co-operating and coordinating institutions having independence and ought to exercise their respective powers with mutual adjustment, respect, understanding and accommodation. Tension and conflict of the interests of the Centre and the respective units is an integral part of federalism. Prevention as well as amelioration of conflicts is necessary. Thus, the Indian federalism was devised with a strong Centre. Federalism with a strong Centre was inevitable as the framers of the Indian Constitution were aware that there were economic disparities as several areas of India were economically as well as industrially far behind in comparison to others. The nation was committed to a socio economic revolution not only to secure the basic needs of the common man and economic unity of the country but also to bring about a fundamental change in the structure of Indian society in accordance with the egalitarian principles. With these considerations in mind the Constitution makers devised the Indian federation with a strong Union.
Territorial spatial arrangement for administrative convenience.In other sense it is the existence of two chambers of Govt.I is the existence of dual government.Federalism constitutes a complex governmental mechanism for the governance of a country. It seeks to draw a balance between the power in the Centre and those of number of units. A federal Constitution envisages a demarcation of governmental functions and powers between the Centre and the regions by the sanction of the Constitution, which is a written document.
The framers of the Indian Constitution attempted to avoid the difficulties faced by the federal Constitutions of U.S.A, Canada and Australia and incorporate certain unique features in the working of the Indian Constitution. Thus, our Constitution contains certain novel provisions suited to the Indian conditions. The doubt which emerges about the federal nature of the Indian Constitution is the powers of intervention in the affairs of the states given to the Central Government by the Constitution .According to Wheare, in practice the Constitution of India is quasi-federal in nature and not strictly federal. Sir Ivor Jennings was of the view that India has a federation with a strong centralizing policy. In the words of D.D.Basu The Constitution of India is neither purely federal nor unitary, but is a combination of both. It is a union or a composite of a novel type.
The Indian Constitution is not only regarded as Federal or Unitary in the strict sense of the terms. It is often defined to be quasi-federal in nature also. Throughout the Constitution, emphasis is laid on the fact that India is a single united nation. India is described as a Union of States and is constituted into a sovereign, secular, socialist, democratic republic.
It should be remembered that the aforementioned provisions in the Constitution are aimed at establishing a working balance between the requirements of national unity and autonomy of the States. Dr Ambedkar, one of the architects of the Indian Constitution, rightly prophesied: Our Constitution would be both unitary as well as federal according to the requirements of time and circumstances.
Onstitutional Intent of Indian Federalism
ederal Features of the Constitution of India
on-Federal features of the Constitution of India
udicial Interpretation on Indian Federalism
The debate whether India has a ‘Federal Constitution’ and ‘Federal Government’ has been grappling the Apex court in India because of the theoretical label given to the Constitution of India, namely, federal, quasi-federal, unitary.
The finer federal facet has often been misinterpreted by the central operators. So the battle for federal affirmation and restoration of democratic decentralization has gained momentum over the decade. Important Commissions like Rajamannar and Sarkaria Commission have stressed on the federal soul of the Constitution. In the opinion of Amal Ray, the Indian Constitution is a product of two conflicting cultures one representing the national leader’s normative concern for India’s unique personality and the other over-emphasizing the concern for national unity, security, etc. And as a result, the founding fathers opted for a semi-hegemonic federal structure where the balance is in favour of the Centre. This concept is aptly described in the insight offered by Dr. Ambedkar: the Indian Constitution would work as a federal system in 'normal times' but in times of 'emergency' it could be worked as though it were a unitary system. The critics of the Indian Federal system must not ignore the fact that not only the Federal Government in India has been made deliberately strong, there is also a centralizing tendency in the other federal states of the world such as Switzerland, Australia, Canada and the United States.
In an attempt to assert their independence the States have, at various points of time tried to flout the Centre’s orders. An example was the disobedience of Karnataka to confirm to the Centre’s directives regarding release of water to Tamil Nadu. Such actions have generated wide spread opposition from interested parties. A similar situation arose when Punjab Termination of Agreements Bill, 2004, was flouted by the State of Punjab recently. The unilateral termination of a tripartite agreement raised a controversy in which the authority of the State to commit such an act is being questioned. Annulling the very basis on which the Supreme Court had pressured the State to implement the river water-sharing agreement of 1981, the Bill has created an unprecedented Constitutional crisis.
In a response to the increasing number of water disputes the United Progressive Alliance Government has proposed to set up two Commissions to look into the Centre- State relations, including river water- sharing, and to examine administrative reforms.
In the light of the past experiences of misuse of power certain amendments should be effected which will strengthen the federal nature of our Constitution. Firstly, there should be devolution of more financial resources and powers on the States so that they do not have to depend on the Centre for financial assistance. Secondly number of statutory grants to which the States are entitled should increase. Thirdly, the States should also be given greater autonomy to undertake developmental programmes. Lastly, there should be some inbuilt safeguards against the blatant misuse of Article 356 by successive central Governments.
It is time to undertake a study of Indian Federalism with a view to valuate the trends, frictions and difficulties which have developed in the area of inter-governmental relations and to seek to evolve ways and means to meet the challenging task of making the Indian federation a more robust, strong and workable system so that the country may meet the tasks of self-improvement and development.
The responsibility lies on not only the jurists and policy framers, but also the citizens of the country to work in a harmonious manner for the development of the country.
LECTURER IN POLITICAL SCIENCE