Nature of Indian Federation

In spite of the fact that the Indian Constitution establishes a federal structure, it is indeed very difficult to put the Indian Constitution in the category of a true federation.

The framers of the Constitution have modified the true nature of the Indian federation by incorporating certain non-federal features in it.

These are:

Article I of the Constitution describes India as a ‘Union of States’, which implies two things: firstly, it is not the result of an agreement among the States and secondly, the States have no freedom to secede or separate from the Union. 

Besides, the Constitution of the Union and the States is a single framework from which neither can get out and within which they must function.

The federation is a union because it is indestructible and helps to maintain the unity of the country.

The Centre appoints the Governors of the States and may take over the administration of the State on the recommendations of the Governor or otherwise.

The working of the Indian federal system clearly reveals that the Governor has acted more as the center’s representative than as the head of the State.

This enables the Union government to exercise control over the State administration.  The control of the Union over states after the imposition of the National Emergency.

The equality of units in a federation is best guaranteed by their equal representation in the Uppers House of the federal legislature (Parliament).

However, this is not applicable in the case of the Indian States.

They have unequal representation in the Rajya Sabha.

In a true federation such as that of the United State of America every State irrespective of their size in terms of area or population it sends two representatives in the upper House i.e. Senate.

In addition to all this, all important appointments such as the Chief Election Commissioner, the Comptroller and Auditor General are made by the Union Government.

Besides, there is single citizenship. There is no provision for separate Constitutions for the states.

The States cannot propose amendments to the Constitution. As such amendments can only be made by the Union Parliament.

All India Services such as IAS and IPS have been created which are kept under the control of the Union.

In financial matters too, the States depend upon the Union to a great extent. The States do not possess adequate financial resources to meet their requirements.

During Financial Emergency, the Center exercises full control over the State’s finances.

In case of disturbances in any State or part thereof, the Union Government is empowered to depute Central Force in the State or to the disturbed part of the State.

Also, the Parliament, by law may increase or decrease the area of any State and may alter its name and boundaries.


The federal principle envisages a dual system of Courts.

But, in India, we have unified Judiciary with the Supreme Court at the apex.

The Constitution of India establishes a strong Centre by assigning all-important subjects to the Centre as per the Union List.

The State Governments have very limited powers.

Financially the States are dependent on the Centre.

From the above discussion, it is clear, that the Indian Constitution is federal in form but unitary in spirit.

Constitutional experts have called it ‘semi-federal’ of the ‘quasi-federal’ system.


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