cooperative federalism in india
Image Source:

This article is written by Shreya S.K Pandey, a student of Law College Dehradun Faculty of Uttaranchal University. In this article, she discusses the concept of Federalism in India, its nature and Principles.

Table of Contents

What is Federalism?

Federalism is derived from the Latin word “foedus”, which means “covenant, pact and treaty”. Federalism is a principle which defines a system wherein the government divides its power among the National Government and State Government. It is dual machinery system upon which a government works. There is a distribution of powers between the central authority and various state authorities. 

Download Now

The principle followed by these types of government is “Separation of Power”. India works on the principle of two levels of government system in which it divides its power between Central Government and State Government. The constitution of India which envisages the Parliamentary form of Government is federal in structure with unitary features. Main branches of Federal Government are the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.

Principles of Federalism in the Constitution

Federalism is based on two principles:

  • Separation of Power
  • Check and balances

The Federal form of Government highly maintain these two principles. Power of each machinery of government is distributed and none of the machinery interferes in the work of others. The first judgement concerning the principle of Separation of Power was given in the case Ram Jawaya v State of Punjab[1], where the Supreme Court laid down that “The principle of separation of power was not fully accepted in India”. However, the same principle found a clear place in the Indian context from the case Indira Nehru Gandhi vs. Raj Narain[2].

The principle of checks and balances in the federal system is required for the proper functioning of all levels of organs of government. Each organ of government checks the functioning of other organs so that the other organ may not violate the principle of separation of power and no organ becomes too powerful. Some examples of check and balances are:

  1. Judiciary may exercise judicial review upon legislature and executive.
  2. The executive has the power to appoint the judges for courts.
  3. Legislation may review the functioning of the judiciary. 

Function of Federalism

The basic function of federalism is to maintain separation of power among the Central Government and State Government. Central Government make laws from the areas listed in List I of the Seventh Schedule (e.g, Foreign Affairs, Extradition, Foreign Jurisdiction etc) and State Government make laws from the areas listed in List II of the Seventh Schedule ( e.g, Public order, Public health and sanitation etc). List III is Concurrent List, it talks about the areas where both of the governments have the autonomy to make law.

Another function of federalism is to maintain justice by the supremacy of the Supreme Court. Also, there is proper check and balance under this form of government so that no branch becomes more powerful suppressing the other. According to James Madison “If men were angels. No government would be necessary”[3]. 

Features of Federalism

Main features of federalism include:

  1. There are two tiers government i.e. Central and State.
  2. There is a separation/division of power.
  3. There is a written constitution.
  4. Powers and functions of each level of the government are guaranteed by the constitution.
  5. The supremacy of the Constitution.
  6. Rigid constitution; i.e. Provisions of the Constitution cannot be amended by any level of the government.
  7. Independent Judiciary.
  8. Bicameral legislature: Parliament of a country consists of two houses (upper or lower house).

Nature of Indian Federalism 

Indian Federalism is not federal in the sense of federalism of the US. It is a “federation of its own type” ( federation sui generis). Though the Indian Constitution talks about the division of power through which neither union nor state has absolute sovereignty, many provisions are existing in the Indian Constitution which goes against the principle. President of India under Article 352, 356 and 360 have the power to declare an emergency.

Also, Article 200 of the Indian Constitution provides that the Governor may reserve certain bills passed by the legislature of the State for the consideration of the President. It acquires the quality of federalism with unitary character, thus making it as quasi-federal in nature. 

Importance of Federalism in India

Decentralization of power

Power in Indian administration flows from the centre to the local bodies i.e. Panchayat. Decentralisation is necessary so that central may not acquire all powers which will reflect in a unitary form of Government.

Governance becomes easy

This system helps the overburdened administration. There are three organs of government present in India. Executives sitting at the centre are unable to reach villages. Hence, the local Government help the executive to reach a lower level and also citizens to have active participation in democracy.

Maintains supremacy of Constitution

Constitution remains the supreme law of the land in a federal form of government unlike in unitary where supremacy lies with the Parliament and monarchy where the king is the supreme. Rule of law is strictly followed. In India also, supremacy lies over the Constitution

Diversity is maintained

India consists of the population from different races and religions. The government adopted a secular idea which was added in Preamble through the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. India is a secular country which means India cannot promote one religion or race.

Unitary or Non- Federal Features

In Unitary form of government, power is fully vested in the central government. It is a type of political system where most power lies with the Central Government. Britain and Sri Lanka have a unitary form of government. In India, the Central Government exercises full control over the smaller government in many cases. Prof. K.C Wheare has defined India as “a quasi-federal state”. There are some non – federal features in Indian Government and these are as follows:

Division of power is not equal

Despite being a quasi-federal state, in India, the Central Government acquires more powers than State Government during the time of emergency. Powers is not equally distributed among Centre and State.

A Constitution is not strictly rigid

The Federal States have a rigid constitution but in India Parliament may amend the constitution even without approval from the state legislature. There is a frequent amendment in the Indian Constitution. There is a total of 103 Constitutional Amendment until now. The Last amendment was “Economic Reservation in India”.

Single Constitution

India is governed by only one Constitution for both tiers of government whereas federation like the United States have two constitutions governing central and state separately.

Centre’s control over States

The Central Government may encroach the area of State Government in case of emergency and public welfare, but vice-versa is not possible. In case of conflict of laws in Concurrent List made by both the government, laws made by central always prevail.

Rajya Sabha does not represent the equality of the States

Both houses in Indian Parliament do not have equal representation. Rajya Sabha being upper house have less representation in Parliament than Lower House (Lok Sabha). Very few states have their members representing in Parliament due to which they lack in various opportunities. 

Existence of States depends on the Centre

Under Article 2 to 4 and Schedule-I of the Indian Constitution, centre derives power to create a new state. So, the power of the formation of a new state solely depends upon the centre. 

Proclamation of emergency

Under Article 352, 356 and 360, at the time of declaration of emergency central government becomes more powerful than the State Government and state loses its autonomy. At the time of emergency, the Indian system shows unitary feature which hampers federalism

Single citizenship

Indian citizens acquire single citizenship, i.e. Citizenship of nation whereas U.S citizens acquire citizenship of state as well as central (dual citizenship). There is a system of double citizenship in the US. 

Unified judiciary

Supreme Court is the apex court among all the courts. High courts are higher in the State’s judicial administration but they are subordinate to the Supreme Court. 

Federalism in the USA

The United States of America has adopted the federal form of Government. It is the method of government where the Central Government works in their domain without encroaching upon the domain of fifty states. There is a balance of power between the states and the centre. 

The 10th amendment in the US constitution talks about the structure of federalism. The tenth amendment of the US Constitution gave the states the power to make the laws in the subject which is not delegated to the Central Government. The State Government may regulate whatever not given to the centre.

Click Here

Example – According to Article I, Section 8 of the US constitution, Centre (Congress) has power relating to coining money and declaring war. This express provision prohibits the states from all the things relating to coining money and declaring war. India has brought a federal system from the United States. 

Article VI, Section 2 of the US Constitution states about the supremacy clause. It is an important part of Federalism. It talks about the power which the federal government may perform or which the federal government does not have. The supremacy clause states that the Constitution and the federal laws are the “Supreme Law of the Land’. In the famous case of McCulloch vs. Maryland[4], Chief Justice John Marshall defines the principle that the supremacy clause means states cannot regulate, interfere or control federal issues. Where there is a conflict between state law and the central law, supremacy clause works to invalidate state law, if central law is in pursuance of the US Constitution.

Government of India Act, 1935 vs Constitution of India, 1950

Government of India Act, 1935 was passed by the British Parliament on August 1935. It was the longest Act ever passed by the British Parliament. But after independence, sovereign India has its own Constitution which was enforced on 26 January 1950. This constitution reflects some provisions from Act of 1935. Here is a comparison between both:

Government of India Act, 1935

Constitution of India, 1950

Describes India as a “ Federation of States”.

Describes India as a “Union of States”.

An Instrument of Accession gives power to princely state either to stay out of federation or join it.

There is no concept of state secession. Only Jammu and Kashmir have a concept of Instrument of Accession under Article 370.

British King or Queen and Governor-General was a political head.

President became head of Union.

States holds right to mint coins, maintain state paramilitary forces, may use state flags.

Union has power to mint coins, there is only one flag for the whole nation and Para Military is controlled under Union Government.

States had independent criminal codes and civil codes.

Every state has a similar criminal code” except Jammu and Kashmir. And except Goa and Jammu and Kashmir, every state has a similar civil code.

Governors for the Provinces were appointed by Governor-General.

President appoints Governor-General under Article 155.

Governor-General has the right to modify, create and dissolve provinces.

Parliament of India has the right to modify, create and dissolve states.

Powers are distributed into Federal list, concurrent list and Provincial List.

Powers are distributed into State List, Union List and the Concurrent List under Schedule VII

Governor-General has residuary powers.

Parliament has residuary powers.

Governor-General may declare a provincial emergency.

Under Article 356, the President has the power of declaring state emergency on advice of Union.

During Provincial Emergency, Governor-General alone makes laws for that province.

Parliament has the power to make law during a state emergency.

Governor-General may declare a Federal emergency.

There is no concept of the imposition of emergency upon the union.

Amendment in any provision of the Act is done by the British Parliament.

Amendment in any Act, Code or Constitution is done by Parliament under Article 368.

From the very first Article of the Indian Constitution, it is clear that “India is a Union of States”. No state has the power to secede from the union. They have power in their domain, which shows that the Indian Constitution has a federal structure. Some of the features of the Indian Constitution which make it a federal state are: What makes India a federal Country

Division of Power

Constitution of India provides a division of powers between the Central Government (Union) and State Government. Under Article 246, Schedule-VII of the Constitution, three lists were given:- Union List, State List, and Concurrent List. The Centre is required to control the subjects given under Union List i.e. List I, whereas State controls the subjects enlisted in Entries of State List i.e. List II. Concurrent List or List III contains entries in which both the Government may make laws.

One government is not allowed to encroach the sphere of others. This maintains the principle of separation of power.

  • Legislative powers

Legislative Power of state and centre differ from each other. State Government have power over jurisdiction of its territory but Parliament has power over the whole territory of India. Article 245 – 255 of Part XI of Indian Constitution envisages State – Centre relations.

Union List

Union List is the List- I provided in Schedule VII (Article 246) of Constitution with 97 Entries. The subjects in the list includes Foreign Affairs, Defence, War and Peace, Currency and Coinage, Atomic Energy, Railways, National Resource, Citizenship, Post and Telegraph, Foreign Trade, Navigation and Shipping, Inter-State Trade and Commerce, Insurance, Banking, National Highways, Election, Census, Institutions of Higher Education and others.

State List

State List is the List- II provided in Schedule VII (Article 246) of Constitution with 66 Entries. State Legislatures make laws in the subjects provided under this list. Subjects in the List includes Police, Public Order, Prisons, State Court Fees, Public Health and Sanitation, Pilgrimages within India, Hospitals and Dispensaries, Communications, Agriculture, Intoxicating Liquors, Irrigation and Canals, Fisheries, road passenger tax and goods tax and others. 

Concurrent List

Concurrent List contains 47 Entries on different subjects. It is List III of Schedule VII. In this list, both Government may make laws. Subjects in the list include Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Criminal Law, Contempt of Court, Evidence and Oaths, Trust and Trustees, Administration of Justice, Forests, Education, Protection of Wild Animals and Birds, Trade Unions, Labour Welfare, Stamp Duties, Food Stuffs, and others.

  • Executive Powers

Executive powers of Centre and State is based on the legislative powers. They follow the pattern of their legislative competence. Central Government exercises the power over the subject matter of Union List. Similarly, States have executive power over the subject matters mentioned in List II.

President is the Nominal Head of Executives in India. He acquires authority from Article 52 to 78 of the Constitution. All the executive powers are vested in him. Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as head aid and advise the President in his functions. President of India acquires many powers through the constitution, but they are exercised by his ministers. Therefore, he is a nominal head rather than real head like President of the USA.

Whereas Executive power of the state is vested upon Governor who acquires authority from Article 153 to 167. He is empowered to exercise the executive power of state vested upon him either directly or through officers.

  • Financial Powers

The Financial Power of centre and state are different. Where annual budget of a nation is laid before Parliament of India with the approval of the President, the annual budget of the state is presented in the State Legislative Assembly with the prior approval of the Governor.

  • Disputes

Sometimes one government encroaches the sphere of the other government which results in the dispute between the two governments. There are several mechanisms provided in the Indian Constitution for the settlement of Union and State disputes or inter-state disputes. These judicial mechanisms are:

Article 131

This Article talks about Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. It gives express power to the Supreme Court to have original jurisdiction in any dispute between :

  1. Union and one or more states:
  2. Union and any state on one side and one or more states on the other side. 
  3. Two or more states.

Article 262

This article talks about “Adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter-state rivers or river valleys”. Parliament has the power to make laws relating to any dispute in respect of use, distribution or control of waters of any inter-state river or river valley. Also, Parliament may make laws which barred the supreme court and any other court from the jurisdiction of such disputes or complaints.

Article 263

This article talks about the “Establishment of the inter-state council”. President may suo moto establish a council for the interest of the public, and charge them with the duty of:-

  1. Inquire and advise states, if disputes arise between them.
  2. Investigate and discuss the subject in which some or all state or union and one or more states have common interests.
  3. Make recommendations upon subject and recommendation for better coordination of policy.

Written Constitution

India has written a constitution and it was written by Prem Behari Narain Raizada and is the longest written constitution in the world with 25 Parts, 448 Articles and 12 Schedules. The written constitution makes India a federal country.

Supremacy of Constitution

Constitution of India is the supreme law of the land and this feature makes India a sovereign country. It derives its authority from the case Minerva Mills Ltd. & Ors v. Union of India and Ors[5]. This case not only strengthens the “Doctrine of Basic structure” which was propounded in Keshvananda Bharti vs. State of Kerala[6] but also held that all the machinery of government, legislature and executive and judiciary are bound by the constitution, and nobody is above the constitution. 

Supreme Judiciary

Constitutional supremacy is somehow related to the supreme judiciary. Judiciary is supreme in its sector but it cannot exceed limits as prescribed by the constitution of India. Judiciary may declare any law passed by the legislature as unconstitutional if they find that law against the “Rule of Law”. Supreme Court’s judgement is final in any dispute and it has a strong binding effect on other courts.

Bi-Cameral Legislation

Like many federal countries, India also has bi-cameral legislation. There are two houses present in Parliament of India i.e Upper House (Rajya Sabha) and lower house ( Lok Sabha). For any amendment in the constitution or any laws, a bill is required to pass by both the houses.

Comparison with the USA and EU


European Union


Union does not give power to any state to leave the Union.

It is the state’s autonomy. They may leave at any time.

The State has no power to secede from the Union, but territory may be surrendered or ceded.

Example: 100th Constitutional Amendment, where territory is ceded with Bangladesh.

The states are not allowed to merge and split unless with the consent of Congress and state which is affected.

With the consent of citizens, merging or splitting may be done.

Under Article 3, a state may split into a new state or merge with another state to form one.

There is a direct election by citizens to elect their head through an electoral college.

There is no head of the European Union.

There is an indirect election of a head of union i.e. President. But Union Government head i.e. Prime Minister is directly elected by the citizens of the nation.

There is free movement of goods and labour within the states.

Free movement of Goods and Labour across the states.

Constitution authorises the free movement of goods and labour under Article 300 and 303.

They are considered a highly developed democratic country.

They are also considered to be a highly developed democratic country.

India is a developing country.

Union government control single currency, armed forces and foreign policy.

They comprised of the single currency but individual armed forces and foreign policy.

Union Government has control of single currency, common armed forces and single foreign policy.

Rights of raising tax and to impose tax vested in the state.

Has no power to raise taxes.

Constitutional rights of imposing a tax and raising debts are vested upon the state.

There is a high standard of the judiciary and speedy delivery of justice.

There is a high standard of the judiciary and speedy delivery of justice.

There is a speedy trial of justice in some cases while in some other cases there is a delay injustice.

Citizens of the state directly elect their head.

There is a direct or indirect election of a head of constituent units of the European Union.

President appoints a head of the state i.e. Governor under Article 155 of the Indian Constitution whereas the head of state government i.e. Chief Minister is directly elected by the people of the state

Quasi Federalism

Quasi federalism is a mixed form of government, having a federal structure with some unitary features e.g. India and Canada. In this form of government, though there have separation of power between the Central Government and State Government, power or major control lies with the central government.

India is a quasi-federal country. India is a union of states working on the principle of Distribution of Power. All 29 states acquire authority to make laws in the areas provided in the Schedule-VII, List-II. Also, State government may make laws in the entries provided in the List-III i.e. Concurrent list. But, if any dispute arises in the subject matter of Concurrent List, laws made by the central government will always prevail. Strong central machinery makes Indian system a quasi-federal Government.

Central Government becomes more powerful in case of emergency, conflict in-laws made by the entries in the concurrent list, in the appointment of governor of states through the President, Parliament power to change the boundaries of states, single citizenship etc. 

Fiscal Federalism

Fiscal Federalism is a term first given by American Economist Richard Musgrave in 1959. Fiscal Federalism deals with the division of functions and financial relations between different levels of government.

It is the distribution of various functions and financial matters of government relating to expenditure and tax of the public with different tiers of government. Both levels of Government share tax and spend policies. The Union Government provides funds and grants to the state government for their development is to work in fiscal federalism. It is an arrangement of distribution of tax between the Union Government and State Government

Distribution of financial relationship is necessary for the betterment of the nation. The Union cannot approach to local to see what they need for their development. As responsibilities about expenditure and tax get divided among different levels of government, people will take more benefits from it.

Main Aspect of Fiscal Federalism

  • Division of Functions
  • Revenue Powers of the Center.
  • Revenue Power of the State.
  • Division of Borrowing power.
  • Fiscal imbalances in India.

Fiscal Federalism in India

In India, responsibilities relating to expenditure and tax is distributed among Union government and State Government. Fiscal federalism in India is important for the successful operation of federalism. It is also required that both the governments i.e. Centre and State should work independently in these matters so that they can raise adequate revenues.

Schedule VII (Article 246) of Indian Constitution lays down three lists on various subjects of national importance. Lists also include entries relating to the power of taxation. Taxation power of Union and State differ from each other. The List I (Union List) includes excise duties, customs and corporation tax, agricultural income etc. On the other hand, List-II (State List) includes excise on Alcoholic liquors, Land Revenue, estate duty, tax on agricultural incomes etc. These separate list on the power of taxation provides for the share of resources available to the Centre or State. Also, the state has shared resources that are available to the centre.

Division of Taxing Power

India being a federal country doesn’t follow the principle of separation of power in a strict sense. India governs through the mechanism of “Distribution of Power”. The power of making laws relating to taxes are also distributed among Union and States and include in the distribution of legislative powers. Union Government makes laws to levy a tax on the subjects given in List I of the Schedule VII whereas State Government levy taxes on the subjects provides in List II of the same subject. List III (Concurrent List) does not include any important taxes.

There are 12 items of taxation under the Union List, these taxes were divided into four parts. These are-

  1. Taxes which are levied by Union and Collected by Union and profit is retained by Union. Example: Corporation Tax, Capital Gain Tax, Custom Tax.
  2. Taxes which are levied and collected by the Union and share with the state. Example: Income Tax other than Agriculture, Duties on Tobacco, Taxes on Stock Exchange. 
  3. Taxes which are levied and collected by the Union but the whole amount is sent to the state. Example: Terminal Tax, Death Duty, Excise duty.
  4. Taxes which are levied by Union and which are collected by State.

Example: Excise duty on medical and mix drugs medicines, stamp duty on financial documents.

101st (One Hundred and First) Amendment of constitution talks Goods and Services Tax. Amendment inserted Article 246A stating that State Legislature has the power to make laws relating to Goods and Services Tax imposed by Union. It also amended the Entry 84 of List I (Union List) and Entry 52 and 62 of List II (State List).

Cooperative Federalism in India

Federalism means where power is divided among Union and Centre. But India has the feature of Quasi-Federalism because Union has slightly more power than State. The concept of cooperative federalism evolve so that Union and State do not have any tussle relating to power, instead, they cooperate to achieve development.

Cooperative federalism means a subset, where central government, state government and local government works in cooperation or collective manner to resolve a common problem. It is harmonious working between the centre, state and other local bodies by coordinating and supporting each other. This system forms a relationship were Central Government holds higher hand in policy and the behaviour of State Government. The Central government provide funds to the state for various works and implement policies.

India is a vast country with extreme diversity and enormity. India is “an indestructible union of destructible states”. States are an integral part of the country and they cannot secede from the Union of India. Article 1 states that “India is a Union of States”. Constitution gives more power to the union to make it stronger than states. But for the development process and enhance the progress of regions in the nation, cooperation between the Union and State is important.

Center State Relations: Division of powers between the Union and the State Governments

Indian Constitution distributes powers between the Centre and State for the proper functioning of Legislation, Administration and Financial. Part XI of Indian Constitution talks about “Relations Between the Union and the States”. In this Part, Chapter I deals with Legislative Relations and Chapter II deals with Administrative Relations. Part XII, Chapter I deals with “Distribution of Revenues between the Union and the States”.

Legislative Relations

Legislative Relations is provided from Article 245 to 255 in Part XI, Chapter I. The State Legislation has powered up to their territorial jurisdiction. The State legislature may make laws for the state in the subjects mentioned in State List (List II) and also subject provided in the Concurrent List (List III) and they are confined to that only. 

Whereas the Union has quite vast power about the state. Because they not only make laws in the subject provided in Union List (List I) but in case of conflict in respect of subject provided in the Concurrent List (List III) laws made by Union will prevail. In case of emergency, the state loses its power to make law and all the lawmaking authority shifts to Union. 

Administrative Relations

Administrative Relations is provided from Article 256-263 in Part XI, Chapter II. the relation between Union and State in the executive matter is coextensive with the legislative matters. This refers to the power of state government concerning executive matter extends up to the subjects of legislative jurisdiction. This means executives of the state have power up to List II.

Whereas Union has the power over the matters in which Parliament has lawmaking power. Also, under Article 73 of the Indian Constitution, it is stated that the Executive power of Central extend to the matter in which Parliament has power and to exercise the rights conferred by treaty or agreement.

Financial Relations

Financial Relations is provided in Part XII, Chapter1 from Article 264 to 281. Union and State work together to maintain the nation’s economy. Union makes laws on the Tax subject provided in List I. Union collects, levy and appropriate revenue on the items listed in the Union List. 

Example: Custom Duties etc.

State make laws on the tax subject provided in List II. State collect, levy and appropriate revenue on the items listed in the State List.

Example: Tax on Agricultural Income, Land Revenue etc. State also collect certain revenue which Union levy upon them. Stamp Duties is one of them.

Some taxes are collected and levied by the Union Government but these are distributed between State and States. Excise Duties is one of them. 

15 issues and challenges faced by Indian Federalism

India is a Union of States, and all the states diverse from each other in language, religion or race. Managing a country with such a vast diversity cause many challenges, which is tackled by the government. These are:


Federalism leads to the distribution of powers among states. When state works according to the democratic system they sometimes feel like left out. Centre starts focusing upon bigger states due to which smaller states feel neglected. This tussle between Union and State leads in demanding freedom from the Union.

Example: Northeast states feel neglected on many occasions, demanding of a new state from the other such as Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh, Telangana from Andhra Pradesh etc. 

Division of Power

India follows the principle of Division of Powers. Constitution has distributed the powers between State and Union. Where Union works in accordance with List I, State works in accordance with List-II. Concurrent List gives power to both State and Union to make laws in the matter provided in the list.

But due to some unitary feature, Union supersedes the States in many cases. In case of conflict relating to the subject matter of Concurrent List, Emergency, Article 200 which talks about the reservation of State Bills by the Governor for consideration of President etc.

Absence of Fiscal Federalism 

Fiscal federalism means the distribution of responsibilities among Union and States relating to financial expenditure and tax. But in the true sense, the Union holds much power than the state. Union have finance commission who decides the share of the state in the centre’s revenue, also they get grants from the Planning Commission. This mechanism creates an imbalance in the system.

Unequal representation of units

Indian federalism has no provision dealing with equal representation of states in Upper House i.e. Rajya Sabha unlike many federations in the world. 

Centralized amendment power

Amendment power under Article 368 lies with the centre. Centre may amend any provision without considering state. Even state ratification is used in a limited area. Whereas the power to amend in a federal form of government lies on both, State and Union.

The indestructible union with destructible units

According to Article 1 of the Constitution, India is a Union of State. Constitution does not give the power of secession to any state from the Union of India. However, frequent demand from Northeastern causes a threat to its federalism.

According to Article 2 to 4, the Constitution gives power to the Union to change the boundaries and territory of states. This power solely lies with Parliament whereas in true federation a prior consent from the state is required to change their geographical territory.

Office of the governor

In India, Governor of State is appointed by the President of India under his hand and seal (Article 155) and he holds office during the pleasure of president (Article 156). Though Governor is State Executive head, he is superseded by President in many matters.

The imposition of President’s rule in any state under Article 356 on the report of Governor, questions the federal structure of India when there is elected Government in the State.

Single constitution and citizenship

India has one constitution for all states except Jammu and Kashmir which has its constitution. There is a single citizenship formula in India that means people acquire citizenship of nation and there is no concept of state citizenship unlike the United States of America. This is based on the idea of “one nation one citizen”.

Integrated services

India has integrated services of Judiciary, election, account, and audits. There is no separate platform dealing with this service in the state. Judiciary works in a hierarchy from the Supreme Court to the District Court. High Courts are higher judicial administration in the state but they are subordinate to the Supreme Court. They cannot deal with state matters especially. 

The election in Central legislature and State Legislature is conducted by the Election Commission of India. And the process of both the election is the same. In-State Legislature Election, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) has the responsibility of election but he is supervised by Election Commission.

Centralised planning

India has a Planning Commission which works for Centre and State both. The state has a financial dependency upon Centre which means they have to first pass a budget in their legislature for any works and development in State. Union have power for National and State planning, and with this, they pass a budget for State.

Example: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Swarnjayanti Gram Yojana (SGSY), Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) etc all are Rural Development program initiated by the Planning Commission.

Language conflicts

Part XVII of the Constitution of India speaks about “Official Language” from Article 343 to 351. Schedule VIII of the Indian Constitution specifies 22 languages. There are thousands of languages spoken in different regions of the country. There is tussle in India for one official language. Hindi is always opposed as an official language by the Southern States. 

Issue of religion 

India is a secular state and it has incorporated the concept in the Constitution through the 42nd Amendment. Word “Secular” was inserted in the Preamble. India is a country which does not promote one religion. There is no special status to one religion.

But India is a diverse country with people from a different religion. Fight between two religions and feeling of neglect by one religion makes Indian Federalism weak. 

Economic incompatibilities of the unit

In India, economic compatibility of all states is not equal. Some are declared poor whereas some afford luxurious lives. When there is an economic difference and fiscal incompatibility it causes a threat to the federation.

Physical environment

Sometimes physical environment makes hurdles for the Government to keep in touch with all of its units. These hurdles may be created by difficulty in transportation or communication by which central becomes unable to connect with state. Due to this state feels neglected and receives less resource for their development.

Example: Northern Eastern states.

External forces

Nowadays, External forces are becoming popular reasons for the disturbance in the Federal structure of India. Continuous ceasefire at LOC, China claim on a portion of Arunachal Pradesh etc, cause an internal disturbance in Indian federal structure.


Indian structure of Government is federal with some feature of Unitary form of Government. Union and State follow the principle of separation of power but not in the strict sense. Principle of Distribution of powers is usually followed in India. This makes India a federal country of its own types. For easy convenience, it is described as Quasi- Federal Country.


LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.


  1. Ram Jawaya v State of Punjab, AIR 1955 SC549
  2. Indira Nehru Gandhi vs. Raj Narain, 1975 Supp SCC 1
  3. Editors; “Federalist Papers”;; July 3, 2019.
  4. McCulloch vs. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316 (1819)
  5. Minerva Mills Ltd. & Ors v. Union of India and Ors, 1980 AIR 1789, 1981 SCR (1) 206
  6. Keshvananda Bharti vs. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here