Despite federalism being the part of the basic structure of constitution, Indian model of federalism leans in favour of a strong centre. Discuss.

The Article 1 of the constitution declares India i.e. Bharat as Union of States. According to the constitutional bench of Jindal Steel vs Union of India, India’s federalism is sui generis model which cannot be abridged in a sentence or two.

Similar to Canadian model, India’s federal structure leans in favour of a strong centre.

Federal features:

  • Distribution of powers between centre and state (legislative, executive, financial).
  • Three tier government.
  • Independent judiciary.
  • Written constitution (delineated sphere).
  • Rule of law.

Centralising tendency:

  • Residuary powers with centre.
  • Emergency powers.
  • Integrated judiciary.
  • Single citizenship.
  • Single election machinery.

Reasons for strong centre:

  • Protect unity and integrity of India.
  • Political factors – India surrounded by hostile neighbours, need to secure its interest.
  • Historical factors – check separatist tendencies of states and acute regionalism.
  • Ensure states run according to constitutional vision.

It is a reminder that India is not a result of agreement between states and states are not free to secede. Federalism is only to secure administrative convenience.

Nature of federation:

  • Strong centre does not mean states are agents of centre. They are supreme in their own sphere.
  • According to Dr. Ambedkar, India’s federalism is like amphibian – can be both unitary and federal according to the need of the time.
  • Federalism remains the basic feature of the constitution.
  • Increasing emphasis on cooperative and competitive federalism as seen from NITI Aayog to unleash dynamism and promote cooperation among the state-centre.

Federalism remains the cornerstone of Indian constitution. Both union and state have clearly delineated sphere of influence under the constitution with necessary tools to ensure unity and integrity of India.


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