• Federalism does not consist of a set of fixed principles, which are applied, to different historical situations rather it is a principle of government that has evolved differently in different situations.
• Federalism is an institutional mechanism to accommodate two sets of polities—one at regional level and other at national level. Each government is autonomous in its own sphere.
• In some federal countries, there is even a system of dual citizenship. India has only single citizenship.
• people likewise have two sets of identities and loyalties—they belong to region as well as nation, for example, we are Gujaratis or Jharkhandis as well as Indians. Each level of polity has distinct powers and responsibilities and has a separate system of government.
• details of this dual system of government are usually spelled out in a written Constitution, which is considered to be supreme and which is source of power of both sets of government. Certain subjects, which concern nation as a whole, for example, defence or currency, are responsibility of Union or Central government. Regional or local matters are responsibility of regional or State government.
• To prevent conflicts between Centre and State, there is an independent judiciary to settle disputes. judiciary has power to resolve disputes between Central Government and States on legal matters about division of power.
Federalism in India
• Constitution of India does not mention word federation.
• Constitution describes India as:
• Article 1:
(1) India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
(2) States and territories there of shall be as specified in First Schedule.
• There are two sets of government created by Indian Constitution: one for entire nation known as Union Government [Central Government] and one for each unit or state known as State Government.
• Both of these have Constitutional status and clearly identified areas of activity.
• If there is any dispute about which powers come under control of Union and which are under States, this can be resolved by Judiciary based on Constitutional provisions.
• Constitution demarcates subjects which are under exclusive domain of Union and those under States.
• One of important aspects of this division of powers is that economic and financial powers are centralised in hands of Central Government by Constitution.
• States have immense responsibilities but very meagre revenue sources. This is usually accepted that Indian Constitution has created a strong Central Government.
• very existence of a State including its territorial integrity is in hands of Parliament. Parliament is empowered to ‘form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States’. It can alter boundary of any State or even its name. Constitution provides for some safeguards by way of securing view of concerned State legislature.
• Constitution has certain very powerful emergency provisions, which can turn our federal polity into a highly centralised system once emergency is declared. During an emergency, power becomes lawfully centralised. Parliament assumes power to make laws on subjects within jurisdiction of States.
• Central Government has very effective financial powers and responsibilities. items generating revenue are under control of Central Government. Thus, Central Government has many revenue sources and States are mostly dependent on grants and financial assistance from centre.
• Governor has power to reserve a bill passed by State legislature, for assent of President. This allows Central Government to delay State legislation and to examine such bills and veto them completely.
• There may be occasions when situation may demand that Central Government needs to legislate on matters from State list. It is possible if move is ratified by Rajya Sabha.
• Constitution clearly states that executive powers of Centre are superior to executive powers of States. Furthermore, Central Government may choose to give instructions to State Government.
Role of Governors and President’s Rule
• role of Governors has always been a controversial issue between States and Central Government.
• Governor is not an elected office-holder. Many Governors have been retired military officers or civil servants or politicians.
• Governor is appointed by President [in consultation with Central Government], therefore actions of Governor are often viewed as interference by Central Government in functioning of State Government.
• Sarkaria Commission was appointed by Central Government [1983; it submitted its report in 1988] to examine issues relating to Centre-State Relations, and recommended that appointments of Governors should be strictly non-partisan.
• One of most controversial articles in Constitution is Article 356, which provides for President’s Rule in any State. This provision is to be applied when a situation has arisen in which Government of State cannot be carried on in accordance with provisions of this Constitution. It results in takeover of State Government by Union Government.
• President’s proclamation has to be ratified by Parliament. President’s rule can be extended till three years.
• Governor has power to recommend dismissal of State Government and suspension or dissolution of State Assembly. This has led to many conflicts.
Jammu and Kashmir
• Earlier state of Jammu and Kashmir had a special status under article 370 of Indian Constitution, but on 5th of August 2019, President of India promulgated Constitution [Application to Jammu and Kashmir] Order, 2019.
• order effectively abrogates special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir under provision of Article 370 – whereby provisions of Constitution which were applicable to other states were not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir [J&K]. Jammu and Kashmir was one of large princely States which had option of joining India or Pakistan or remaining independent.
• At present, special status given under 370 no longer exists. By Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019, State has been bifurcated into two Union Territories viz., [i] Jammu & Kashmir and [ii] Ladakh. new arrangement has come into effect from 31 October 2019.