Nature of Indian Constitution, Whether Federal or Unitary or Quasi- Federal?

Updated November 10, 2022

The constitution of India is the largest and most unique constitution of the world. It is enormous on topics that elaborates treatment for every act. Though it is written, it is flexible enough and incorporates a balancing and adjusting provisions so as to tackle the new situations and challenges. All this together, make the Indian Constitution unique in nature.

Amalgamation of the Best from Far & Wide

Yes, Constitution of India is super mix of the best possible provisions across democracies. The Indian constitution is the longest because it has borrowed from all other constitutions their best features like Fundamental Rights from the American Constitution, the Directive Principles of State Policy from the Irish Constitution.

It borrows Parliamentary form of the government, and cabinet system from the British Constitution. Along with the provision of a Union Government, the Indian Constitution lays down the structure of the States also. And, this is the reason that the bulk of the Indian Constitution has increased considerably.

Owing to the peculiar problems of country, like size, population, geographies and religion, etc. the Indian constitution has enshrined the provisions in a very unique way. At one hand while it protects minority it also provisions for aboriginals. Similarly, the notified hill areas enjoy separate booster provisions.

Just like governments, the constitutions are of two kinds, federal and unitary. The Constitution of any country would be either unitary or federal but the Indian constitution reflects the nature of both Federal as well as unitary.

What’re Federal vs Unitary Provisions?

In the federal constitution, the power is divided between the Central and state government in such a way that the Central and State governments are each, within a sphere, coordinated and independent.

And in Unitary, the powers of the government are centralized to the Central Government and States are subordinate to it. In unitary government, all the powers held by the government belong to a single, central agency. Now, let’s have look at the features that make the Indian constitution, Federal as well as Unitary at the same time

Federal Nature of Indian Constitution

The federal principle is the method of dividing the power between general and regional government in such a way that each is within a sphere or what is given to one is denied to others. The constitution of India has adopted the federal features in such a way that though normally and essentially federal, it can assume quite a unitary character when required. Some of the Federal features are listed below.

Distribution of Powers:- A Federal constitution defines a sphere or boundary for each the Central and State government and both have to act upon their own sphere. They cannot interfere within the other’s field.

A written Constitution:- It is almost necessary to be a Federal Constitution a written constitution because it is quite tough to make the distribution of powers orally.

Supremacy of the Constitution:- Every organs and institution of the State derive their power from the Constitution and have worked within the demarcation defined by it. And because of it, the Constitution is considered the supreme law of the land in the Federal System.

Authority of Court:-   In the Federal Constitution the court makes and has the authority to give the final interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution for maintaining the supremacy of the constitution. The Judicial decisions on any dispute between Central and States are the final decision.

Rigidity:- Federal Constitution should almost necessarily be a written constitution and written constitutions are rigid in nature, its provisions require a special procedure to be amended.

Unitary Nature of Indian Constitution

Though the Indian Constitution is almost a Federal constitution, it can assume quite a unitary character when exigencies of the country so require. Some of the Unitary features are mentioned below.

Appointment of Governors:- The Governors are appointed by the president and are answerable to him. There is no role of the state in appointing the Governors.

Parliament’s Power to Legislate in the National Interest:- According to the provisions under Article 249, any matter enumerated in the state list has become of national importance on 2/3rd voting by the members of the council of state.

Parliament’s Power to Form the New States and Other Boundaries of existing States:- Parliament is empowered by Article 3 to form new states out of the existing, and to increase or diminish, the area of any state and to change the boundaries or name of any state.

Enactment of Law by the Union Parliament During the Period of Emergency:- The Union Parliament, while the proclamation of emergency is in operation, can make or enact any law in relation to the matters in the state list.

Federal / Unitary/ Quasi- Federal

The nature of Indian Constitution is almost Federal but it posses some Unitary features too when exigencies of the country so require. So, you can say that the nature of Indian constitution is Federal with Unitary features or, Unitary with Federal features or Quasi-Federal.

Beyond Federal vs Unitary Talk Under General Studies Reads

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