According to the traditional classification which was followed by the political scientists, constitutions are either unitary or federal in nature. In unitary construction, the powers of the government are centralized in one government which is the central government. In a federal set up on the other hand, there is a division of powers between the central and the state government and both are independent in their own spheres. Our Indian constitution is also federal in nature.
By ‘Federal principles’ Prof. K.C. Wheare observed that it means the method of dividing powers, basically to enable the general and regional government to co-ordinate and be independent in their own sphere.
What is federalism?
Federalism is a system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and various constituent units of the country.
The virtual division of powers among the different levels of the government is termed federalism.
Levels of Government:-
1. One government exists at the national or central level which primarily is responsible for the entire nation as a whole.
It particularly looks after the subjects which are of national importance.
2. Other government exists at the state level or at the provincial level which looks after the day-to-day administration of their respective states and also follows the guidelines of the central government.
Essential characteristics of a federal Constitution:-
A federal constitution usually has the following essential features:
1. Distribution of powers: The distribution of power between various levels of Government is an essential feature. There are two or more levels of the government. The authority of each tier of government is constitutionally guaranteed.
2. Supremacy of construction:-
A federal setup derives its very existence from the constitution of the nation. Every power be it executive, legislative, or judicial in nature is controlled ultimately by the constitution which is the supreme law of the country.
3. A written constitution:-
The foundation of a federal state is complicated in nature which makes it almost a necessity that a federal constitution should be a written constitution. It would be practically impossible to maintain the supremacy of the constitution unless its terms have been reduced to writing.
4. Rigidity: - A constitution with being the supreme law of the land should also be rigid in nature. Rigidity here means that the procedure for amendment is complicated and difficult
5. Authority of Courts:-
Judiciary is considered an important as well as an impartial authority that is beyond the federal or state legislature under the constitution and so it has the special power to interpret the constitution.
Federalism in India:-
The Indian constitution provides for a two-tier system of government: The union or the central government and the state governments. Later on panchayats and municipalities were also added.
The constitution contains three different lists which are as follows –
1. Union List:
It includes subjects related to national importance such as defense, foreign affairs, currency, communication and currency.
The Union government is empowered to make laws on the subjects mentioned in this list.
2. State list:
This list contains subjects of state and local importance.
These laws are made specifically by the concerned state government.
Subjects like police, trade and commerce, agriculture and irrigation.
3. Concurrent List:-
This list contains subjects of common interest for both union and state governments which includes education, forests, trade union, marriage adoption and succession.
Both union and state governments have the power to make laws on the subjects mentioned under this list.
How is federalism practiced?
Below are some ways mentioned in which federalism is practiced in India Linguistic states:-
The successful creation of linguistic states was a major test of democratic politics in India. From the time of independence till the present day many states have vanished and many new States have been created.
In 1947, the boundaries of various old states were changed to ensure that people speaking lived in the same state.
Hindi was identified as the official language. Besides Hindi, there are 21 other languages that are recognized as scheduled languages by t constitution.
Decentralisation in India:-
The process of taking away power from the central and state governments and giving it to local governments is known as decentralization. The main aim is to enable the local government to participate in decision-making and also to give them the power to resolve issues at the local level.
In 1992 an initiative was taken by the Indian government by amending the constitution and creating a three-tier system of government.
Following steps were taken to make it effective:
1. Elections were made constitutionally mandatory for these local bodies.
2. There was the reservation of seats for the scheduled castes, scheduled Tribes and other backward classes.
3. One-third reservations of seats were made for women.
4. State Election commission was established to conduct elections in a smooth manner at the panchayat and municipal levels.
5. Some share of power and revenue from the state government was given to these local bodies.
Panchayati Raj: Rural local government is popularly called the Panchayat Raj. Each village consists of a panchayat consisting of members who are directly appointed for a term of five years. These panchayats at the village level work under the supervision of Gram Sabha. Many Gram Panchayats grouped together form panchayat Samiti or Block. All the panchayat Samitis together constitute Zila Parishad at the district level.
Municipalities: Just like there are Gram Panchayats at the village level similarly municipalities are there for urban areas. Municipal corporations are constituted for big cities. Chairperson is the head of the municipality and he is called a Mayor.
It can be concluded here that federalism is the most remarkable feature of our Indian constitution giving independence and recognition to governments at various levels in the nation.