Essay on Indian Constitution – Federal in Form but Unitary in Spirit

Although the word “Federation” has not been used in our Constitution, Article I of the Constitution declares India as “Union of States”. The structure of the Indian polity is made federal and there is a dual polity and constitutional division of powers. An independent Judiciary is provided to interpret the Constitution and safeguard the rights of both the Centre and the States.

Thus there are all federal features in our Constitution; but at the same time the unitary spirit of the Constitution is not ruled out. The Union is more powerful than the Units. There is provision of emergency in which the State Governments can be suspended and put under the Central administration.

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The appointment of Governors, the provisions of All India Services, integrated Judiciary, Single Citizenship, etc., are some of the features in our Constitution which promote unitarianism. This has led critics to say that the Constitution is largely unitary or “Quasi-Federal” one.

Another critic has said that the Constitution of India is “federal in structure and unitary in spirit”. It seems there is a happy blend between unitarianism and federalism in our Constitution. The framers of the Constitution were not motivated to produce a purely federal or purely unitary Constitution.

A balance is struck between the unitarianism and federalism and rightly it was felt that it was the need of the time. The story of partition of India and its concomitant evils were so disastrous that the framers could not forget them and as such they to provide various safe-guards against such fissiparous tendencies.

Further, federalism all over the world has become more centralised. In modern times a centripetal tendency is found in all federations of the World. The Indian federalism is conformity with the tendency of the modern federalism and, such it is unitary in spirit. A detailed discussion about it will follow in the subsequent chapters.

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