Federalism in India

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Part XI of the Indian constitution defines the power distribution between the federal government (the Centre) and the States in India. This part is divided between legislative, administrative and executive powers. The legislative section is divided into three lists: Union list, States list and Concurrent list. Unlike the federal governments of the United States, Switzerland or Australia, residual powers remain with the Centre, as with the Canadian federal government.

Legislative powers[edit]

The power of the states and the Centre are defined by the constitution and the legislative powers are divided into three lists. i.e.[1]

Union List[edit]

Main article: Union List

Union list consists of 100 items (previously 97 items) on which the parliament has exclusive power to legislate with including: defence, armed forces, arms and ammunition, atomic energy, foreign affairs, war and peace, citizenship, extradition, railways, shipping and navigation, airways, posts and telegraphs, telephones, wireless and broadcasting, currency, foreign trade, inter-state trade and commerce, banking, insurance, control of industries, regulation and development of mines, mineral and oil resources, elections, audit of Government accounts, constitution and organisation of the Supreme Court, High Courts and union public service commission, income tax, custom duties and export duties, duties of excise, corporation tax, taxes on capital value of assets, estate duty, terminal taxes.[2]

State list[edit]

Main article: State List

State list consists of 61 items (previously 66 items). Uniformity is desirable but not essential on items in this list: maintaining law and order, police forces, healthcare, transport, land policies, electricity in state, village administration, etc.The state legislature has exclusive power to make laws on these subjects. But in certain circumstances,the parliament can also make laws on subjects mentioned in the State list.Then the parliament has to pass a resolution with 2/3rd majority that it is expedient to legislate on this state list in the national interest.

Though states have exclusive powers to legislate with regards to items on the State list, articles 249, 250, 252, and 253 state situations in which the federal government can legislate on these items.[2]

Concurrent List[edit]

Main article: Concurrent List

Concurrent list consists of 52 items (previously 47 items). Uniformity is desirable but not essential on items in this list: Marriage and divorce, transfer of property other than agricultural land, education, contracts, bankruptcy and insolvency, trustees and trusts, civil procedure, contempt of court, adulteration of foodstuffs, drugs and poisons, economic and social planning, trade unions, labour welfare, electricity, newspapers, books and printing press, stamp duties.[2]

Administrative powers[edit]

The Union and states have independent executive staffs fully controlled by their respective governments and executive power of the states and the Centre are extended on issues they are empowered to legislate.[2]

Union control over states[edit]

See also: Article 356

According to the Article 356 of the Constitution of India, states must exercise their executive power in compliance with the laws made by the Central government. Article 357 calls upon every state not to impede on the executive power of the Union within the states. Articles 352 to 360 contain provisions which empower the Centre to take over the executive of the states on issues of national security or on the breakdown of constitutional machinery. Governors are appointed by the Central government to oversee states. The president can dissolve the state assembly under the recommendation of the council of ministers by invoking Article 356 if and when states fail to comply with directives given by the Centre.[2]

The Constitution provides that, except in a few cases, union law trumps state law. If any provision of a law made by the Legislature of a State is repugnant to any provision of a law made by Parliament which Parliament is competent to enact, or to any provision of an existing law with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List, then, the law made by Parliament, whether passed before or after the law made by the Legislature of such State, or, as the case may be, the existing law, shall prevail and the law made by the Legislature of the State shall, to the extent of the repugnancy, be void. There is an exception to this in cases "where a law made by the Legislature of a State with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List contains any provision repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law made by Parliament or an existing law with respect to that matter, then, the law so made by the Legislature of such State shall, if it has been reserved for the consideration of the President and has received his assent, prevail in that State. Provided that nothing in this clause shall prevent Parliament from enacting at any time any law with respect to the same matter including a law adding to, amending, varying or repealing the law so made by the Legislature of the State."[3]


  1. ^ Robert L. Hardgrave and Stanley A. Koachanek (2008). India: Government and politics in a developing nation (Seventh ed.). Thomson Wadsworth. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-495-00749-4. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Babulal Fadia (1984). State politics in India Volume I. Radiant publishers, New Delhi. pp. 92–122. 
  3. ^ http://lawmin.nic.in/olwing/coi/coi-english/Const.Pock%202Pg.Rom8Fsss(16).pdf

External links[edit]