Features of Indian Federalism

The Constitution of India has adopted federal features; though it does not, in fact, claim that it establishes a federation.

The question whether the Indian Constitution could be called a federal constitution troubled the minds of the members of the Constituent Assembly.

This question cannot be answered without going into the meaning of federalism and the essential features that are evident in federal state.


Written Constitution

The most important feature of a federation is that its constitution should be a written one, so that both the Union Government as well as the State can refer to that as and when needed.

The Constitution of India is a written document and is the most elaborate Constitution of the world.

It establishes supremacy of the Constitution because both the union and the states are given powers by the Constitution as to be independent in their spheres of governance.


Rigid Constitution

The procedure of amending the Constitution in a federal system is normally rigid.

Indian Constitution provides that some amendments require a special majority.

Such an amendment has to be passed by majority of total members of each house of the Parliament as well as by two-thirds majority of the members present and voting there in.

However, in addition to this process, some amendments must be approved by at least 50% of the states.

After this procedure the amendment is signed by the head of the state i.e. the President.

Since in India important amendments can be amended through this procedure.

Hence, Indian Constitution has been rightly called a rigid constitution.


Division of Powers

In our Constitution, there is a clear division of powers, so that the States and the Centre are required to enact and legislate within their sphere of activity and none violates its limits and tries to encroach upon the functions of the other.

Our constitution enumerates three lists, viz. the Union, the State and the Concurrent List.

The Union List consists of 97 subjects of national importance such as Defence, Railways, Post and Telegraph, etc.

The State List consists of 66 subjects of local interest such as Public Health, Police etc.

The Concurrent List has 47 subjects important to both the Union and the State, such as Electricity, Trade Union, Economic and Social Planning, etc.


Supremacy of the Judiciary

Another very important feature of a federation is an independent judiciary to interpret the Constitution and to maintain its sanctity.

The Supreme Court of India has the original jurisdiction to settle disputes between the Union and the States.

It can declare a law as unconstitutional, if it contravenes any provision of the Constitution.