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Concept of federalism part 1- Federalism And Parliamentary Form Of Government

Federalism |Concept of federalism part 1- Federalism And Parliamentary Form Of Government

  • Federalism is a system of government in which powers have been divided between the centre and its constituent parts such as states or provinces.
  • It is an institutional mechanism to accommodate two sets of politics, one at the centre or national level and second at the regional or provincial level.
  • In a federation system, there are two seats of power that are autonomous in their own spheres.
  • A federal system is different from a unitary system in that sovereignty is constitutionally split between two territorial levels so that each level can act independently of each other in some areas.

Types Of Federations 

  • Holding Together Federation– in this type, powers are shared between various constituent parts to accommodate the diversity in the whole entity. Here, powers are generally tilted towards the central authority. Example: India, Spain, Belgium.
  • Coming Together Federation– in this type, independent states come together to form a larger unit. Here, states enjoy more autonomy as compared to the holding together kind of federation. Example: USA, Australia, Switzerland.

Features of the Federal System of India

  • Governments at least two levels
  • Division of powers between various levels
  • Rigidity of constitution
  • Independence judiciary
  • Dual citizenship
  • Bicameralism

All federations might not have all the above features. Some of them may be incorporated depending on what type of federation it is.

Federalism in India | 

  • India is a federal system but with more tilt towards a unitary system of government. It is sometimes considered a quasi-federal system as it has features of both a federal and a unitary system. Article 1 of the Indian Constitution states, ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of states’. The word federation is not mentioned in the constitution.
  • Elements of federalism were introduced into modern India by the Government of India Act of 1919 which separated powers between the centre and the provincial legislatures.

Federal Features of the Indian Union

  • Governments at two levels – centre and states
  • Division of powers between the centre and states – there are three lists given in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution which gives the subjects each level has jurisdiction in:
    • Union List
    • State List
    • Concurrent List
  • Supremacy of the constitution – the basic structure of the constitution is indestructible as laid out by the judiciary. The constitution is the supreme law in India.
  • Independent judiciary – the constitution provides for an independent and integrated judiciary. The lower and district courts are at the bottom levels, the high courts are at the state levels and at the topmost position is the Supreme Court of India. All courts are subordinate to the Supreme Court.

Strength of India’s Federalism

  • Horizontal and vertical power sharing
  • Independent judiciary
  • Written constitution
  • Supremacy of constitution
  • Bicameralism

Critical Appraisal of Indian Federalism | 

Though, India has adopted federal form of government, but it does not follow certain principles of federalism. Our constitution has made centre more powerful which is in resemblance to the feature of unitary government. These features have been mentioned here:

  • Not a rigid constitution: The constitution of India is a blend of rigidity and flexibility. Some of its provisions can be easily amended by the parliament and in some provisions ratification from the states is required. The procedure to amend the constitution is tough where the amendments seek to make changes in the arrangements of federalism. But, In any case, the procedure for passage of amendments is not as tough as in the USA.
  • Centre more powerful: The constitution has made centre more powerful as the Union List has more subjects than the State List. Moreover, it has empowered the parliament to override the law made by a state legislature on the matters related to concurrent list. In some cases, the parliament is also empowered to make laws on state list subjects. The residuary power are vested in the centre which are not in line with the principle of federalism.
  • Unequal representation of states in Upper House: The states in India do not have equal representation in Rajya Sabha. The representation is based on the population. For example-Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Goa have 31, 10 and 1 representative respectively in the Rajya Sabha. Whereas, in a federal country, the representation of each state should be equal in Upper House.    ( Concept of federalism part 1- Federalism And Parliamentary Form Of Government)
  • Executive is a part of legislature: The political executive of the centre and the states are the part of the parliament and the state legislature respectively. It betrays the principle of division of powers between the different organs of the government. However, checks and balances limit the power of the executive , the legislature and the judiciary.
  • Lok Sabha more powerful than Rajya Sabha: The Lok Sabha is more powerful than the Rajya Sabha. Certain bills such as money bill can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha. A no-confidence motion against the government can only be initiated in the Lok Sabha. However, Rajya Sabha has been given certain powers which are not available to Lok Sabha such as introduction of a bill for new All-India Service. Unequal powers to two houses is not in line with the features of a federation.
  • Emergency Powers: The centre has been provided with emergency powers. Three types of emergency are national emergency, state emergency (president’s rule) and financial emergency. During emergency, the level of control of centre over the states increases. These provisions undermine the autonomy of states.
  • Integrated judiciary: Judiciary in India, though indepent, is integrated. That means, India does not have separate judiciary at the centre and the state level.
  • Single citizenship: The constitution provides for a single citizenship for the citizens of the country. It does not provide for state’s citizenship to the citizens separately. The provision of single citizenship increases the feeling of nationality among the citizens which helps in maintaining unity in spite of cultural and regional diversity. It is also in line with some fundamental rights such as freedom of movement and residence in any part of the country.
  • Appointment of governor: The governor of a state is appointed by the President. The state has no role in his appointment. He acts as an agent of the central government in the state.
  • All India Services: Services including Indian Administrative Services (IAS), Indian Police Services (IPS) and Indian Forrest Services (IFS) are part of All India services. The centre, through these services, intrudes into the power of the states and control the executive functions of the states. Though immediate control of these services is in hand of state but unlimate powers lies with the centre. These services provide efficiency and uniformity in administration throughout the country.
  • States not indestructible: Parliament may by law, form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States or parts of States or by uniting any territory to a part of any State. It can also increase or diminish the area, alter the boundaary or change the name of state. Parliament require to pass such a bill following the procedure of an ordinary bill. That means, states in India are not indestructible entity.
  • Veto over states bill: The governor of a state has the authority to reserve certain types of bills for the consideration of the president. The president enjoys the absolute veto on these bills. He can even reject the bill at the second instance i.e if the bill is sent after reconsideration by the state legislature. Most of the state legislatures have single house. So, the provision empowers the President to check any arbitrary decision by the state assembly. But, this provision is a deviation from the principles of federalism.
  • Integrated Election Machinery: The Election Commission of India is responsible to conduct free and fair elections at both the centre and the state level. The Chairman and the members of the election commission are appointed by the president.
  • Integrated Audit Machinery: The Comptroller and Auditor General is appointed by the President. However, he audits the account of both the centre and the states. There is no separate provision for an audit machinery at state level.
  • Authority to remove key functionaries: The state legislature or government is not empowered to remove government functionaries even at state level such as Election Commissioner of a state, member or chairman of state public service commission, judges of the high court etc.

 Parliamentary System in India | 

  • The democratic system of government can be divided into the parliamentary and the presidential system based on the relationship between the executive and the legislature. In a parliamentary system, executive is a part of legislature, which implements the law and plays an active role in framing it as well.
  • In a parliamentary system, the head of the state may be a monarch or a president, but both of these positions are ceremonial. The head of the government, who is generally called as the Prime Minister, is the real head. Thus, all the real executive powers are vested in the Prime Minister.
  • The parliamentary government is also called as the Cabinet government due to concentration of executive powers in the cabinet. Articles 74 and 75 deals with the parliamentary system at the centre and Article 163 and article 164 deals with the Parliamentary system at the states.

Elements and Features of Parliamentary System | 

  • Nominal and Real Head: The head of the state holds a ceremonial position and is the nominal executive. For example, the President.
    • In India, the head of government is the Prime Minister who is the real executive.  Article 75 of the Indian constitution provides for a Prime Minister to be appointed by the president. According to Article 74, the Prime Minister headed council of ministers would aid and advise the President in the exercise of his functions.
  • Executive is a Part of Legislature: The Executive forms a part of the legislature. In India, the person should be a member of parliament to become a member of the executive. However, the constitution provides that a person can be appointed as a minister for a period of not more than six consecutive months if he is not a member of the parliament, after which the person ceases to be a minister.
  • Majority Party Rule: The party which wins majority seats in the elections of the Lower House forms the government. In India, the President invites the leader of the majority party in Lok Sabha to form the government. The President appoints the leader as the Prime Minister and the other ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. The President may invite a coalition of parties to form the government, in case, no party has got majority.
  • Collective Responsibility: The council of ministers are collectively responsible to the parliament. The lower house of parliament has an ability to dismiss a government by getting the no confidence motion passed in the house. In India, the government survives till the time it enjoys support of the majority of members in the Lok Sabha. Thus, Lok Sabha is empowered to introduce no-confidence motion against the government.
  • Prime Minister as the Centre of Power: In India, the Prime Minister is the real executive. He is the head of the government, the council of ministers and the ruling government. Thus, he has to play a significant and important role in the working of the government.
  • A Parliamentary Opposition: No government in the parliament can get hundred percent majority. The opposition plays an important role in checking the arbitrary use of authority by the political executive.
  • Independent Civil Service: The civil servants advice and implement decisions of the government. Civil servants hold permanent appointments based on merit-based selection process. They ensure continuity of employment even when the government changes. The civil service also ensures efficiency in execution of duties and responsibilities.
  • Bicameral Legislature: Most of the countries following parliamentary system, including India, have bicameral legislature. The members of the Lower House of all these countries are elected by the people. The Lower House can be dissolved, in case, the term of the government is over or there is no scope of government formation due to lack of majority in house. In India, the President can dissolve the Lok Sabha on recommendation of the Prime Minister.
  • Secrecy: The members of the executive in this system have to follow the principle of secrecy in matters such as proceedings, executive meetings, policymaking etc. In India, the ministers take oath of secrecy before entering their office.

Advantages of Parliamentary System | 

The parliamentary system has the following advantages over the presidential system:

  • Represents Diverse Group: The parliamentary form of government provides opportunity to various ethnically, racially, linguistically and ideologically diverse groups to share their views in framing of laws and policy making. Countries, such as India, which have high level of diversity enables accommodation by providing political space to various diverse sections of the society.
  • Better Co-Ordination Between Legislature and Executive: The executive is a part of the legislature. As the government enjoys the support of majority of members in the lower house, the tendency of disputes and conflicts decreases. It makes easy for the government to pass the legislation in the parliament and implement them.
  • Prevents Authoritarianism: In a parliamentary system, the tendency of authoritarianism decreases as the power is vested in the council of minister rather than a single individual. The parliament can remove the government through no-confidence motion.
  • Responsible Government: The parliament can check the activities of the executive as the latter is responsible to the former. In a presidential system, the president is not responsible to the legislature. The members of the parliament can ask question, move resolutions, and discuss matters of public importance to pressurize the government. Such provisions are not available in Presidential system.
  • Availability of Alternate Government: The lower house of the parliament can introduce and pass a no-confidence motion. In such a situation, the head of the state invites the leader of the opposition party to form the government. In the United Kingdom, the opposition forms a shadow cabinet for the cabinet of the government, so that they can become ready for the role.

Differences between Presidential System and the Parliamentary Democracy

  • President has the executive | power and is directly voted upon by the people. The President is answerable to the voters rather than the legislature.
  • While, in a parliamentary system, the legislature holds supreme power. The prime minister is chosen by members of the legislature and in practice is the leader of the majority party in the legislature. The prime minister along with his cabinet members must also belong to the legislature, and they are individually and collectively responsible to the legislature.



Indian Polity

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