Unitary Features Of The Indian Constitution

(1) Strong Centre

The division of powers is in favor of the Center and is highly unequal from the federal point of view. First, the Union List contains more subjects than the State List. Secondly, more important subjects are included in the Union List. Third, the Center has overriding authority over the concurrent list. Ultimately, residuary powers are also left with the Centre, whereas in the US, they are vested in the states. Thus, the Constitution has made the Center very strong.

(2) States Not Indestructible

Unlike other federations, states in India have no right to territorial integrity. Parliament can change the area, boundary or name of any state by unilateral action. Moreover, it requires only a simple majority, not a special majority. Therefore, the Indian Union is “an indestructible union of destructible states”. The American Federation, on the other hand, has been described as “an indestructible union of indestructible states.”

(3) Single Constitution

Generally, in a federation, the states have the right to make their own constitution independent of the Centre. In contrast, no such power has been given to the states in India. The Constitution of India comprises not only the Constitution of the Union but also the Constitution of the States. Both the Center and the states should work within this single framework. The only exception in this regard is the case of Jammu and Kashmir which has its own (state) constitution.

(4) Flexibility of the Constitution

The process of constitutional amendment is less stringent than in other federations. Most parts of the Constitution can be amended by unilateral action of Parliament, either by a simple majority or a special majority. Furthermore, only the Center has the power to initiate amendments to the Constitution. In America, states can also propose amendments to the Constitution.

(5) No Equality of State Representation

States are given representation in the Rajya Sabha on the basis of population. Therefore, membership varies from 1 to 31. On the other hand, in America, the principle of equality of representation of the states in the Upper House is fully recognized. Thus, the US Senate has 100 members, two from each state. This principle is considered a security measure for small states.

(6) Emergency Provisions

The Constitution prescribes three types of emergencies – national, state and financial. During an emergency, the central government becomes omnipotent and the states come under the complete control of the Centre. It changes the federal structure to a unitary one without any formal amendment to the Constitution. This type of change is not found in any other federation.

(7) Single Citizenship

Despite dual politics, the Constitution of India, like that of Canada, adopted a system of single citizenship. Have only Indian citizenship and not citizenship of any other state. All citizens, regardless of the state in which they are born or reside, have equal rights throughout the country. Other federal states like the US, Switzerland, and Australia have dual citizenship, i.e. national citizenship as well as state citizenship.

(8) Integrated Judiciary

The Indian Constitution has established a unified judicial system with the Supreme Court at the top and state High Courts below it. This single system of courts enforces central laws as well as state laws. The US, on the other hand, has a dual system of courts, whereby federal laws are enforced by the federal judiciary, and state laws are enforced by the state judiciary.

(9) All-India Services

Across the United States, the federal government and state governments have their own separate public services. In India, the Center and the states have their own public services. But, apart from this, there are also All India Services (IAS, IPS, and IFS) which are common to both the Center and the States. The recruitment and training of members of these services is done by the Center which also has ultimate control over them. Thus, these services violate the principle of federalism under the Constitution.

(10) Integrated Audit Machinery

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India audits the accounts not only of the central government but also of the states. However, his appointment and removal were done by the President without consulting the states. Therefore this office restricts the financial autonomy of the states. In contrast, the US Comptroller General has no role regarding the states’ accounts.

(11) Parliament’s Authority Over State List

Even over the limited area of authority allotted to them, the States do not have exclusive control. Parliament has the right to make laws on any subject in the State List if the Rajya Sabha passes a resolution to this effect in the national interest. This means that the legislative capacity of Parliament can be increased without amending the Constitution. It is noteworthy that this can be done only when there is no emergency of any kind.

(12) Appointment of Governor

The Governor, who is the head of state, is appointed by the President. He holds office at the pleasure of the President. He also acts as the agent of the Centre. Through him, the Center exercises control over the states. In contrast, the US Constitution provided for an elected head of state. In this regard India adopted the Canadian system.

(13) Integrated Election Machinery

The Election Commission conducts elections not only for the Central Legislature but also for the State Legislature. But, this body is constituted by the President and the states have no power in this matter. The same is the situation with regard to the removal of its members. On the other hand, America has separate machinery for conducting elections at the federal and state levels.

(14) Veto Over State Bills

The Governor has the power to reserve certain types of bills passed by the State Legislature for the consideration of the President. The President can withhold his assent to such bills not only for the first time but also for the second time. Thus, the President has an absolute veto (not a suspensive veto) over state bills. But in the US and Australia, states are autonomous in their areas and there is no provision for any such reservation.

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