Keeping the spirit of federalism alive


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Federal system

Mains level: Paper 2- Federal character of India polity


Conscious recognition of the federal character of our polity is essential to protect our national character.

Federal spirit and ideas in Indian Constitution

  • Conscious of the differential needs of the populations of different states, the drafters of the Constitution made provisions for an equitable share of powers and responsibilities among different levels of governments. 
  • The lists in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution — Union, state and concurrent — are an example of this division, wherein each level of government has its own sphere, enabling context-sensitive decision-making.
  • Local self-government: Later, institutions for local self government were added through the 73rd and 74th amendments, which strengthened grass roots democracy.
  • Division of responsibility: Article 246 and Article 243 G provide for this division of responsibilities.
  • Finance Commission: Article 280 provided for the constitution of Finance Commission to define the financial relationship and terms between the Union and states.
  • Inter-State Council: Article 263 provided for the establishment of an Inter-State Council for smooth transition of business between the Union and states and resolution of disputes.
  • The inter-state tribunals, the National Development Council and other informal bodies have served as vehicles of consultations between the Union, states and UTs.
  • Rajya Sabha: Apart from these institutions and the Rajya Sabha, the Constitution makers also left much scope for consultative and deliberative bodies so as to strengthen the spirit of cooperation and federalism.

Steps against the spirit of federalism

  • The Planning Commission has been scrapped.
  • The Inter-State Council has met only once in the last seven years while the National Development Council has not met at all. 
  •  The tenure of the 15th Finance Commission was mired in controversy and many states expressed apprehensions about devolution.
  • The GST has already taken away much of the autonomy available to states and has made the country’s indirect tax regime unitary in nature.
  • Article 370 was removed without consulting the state legislature.
  • Parliament legislated on “agriculture”, entry no. 14 in the state list, to enact the three contentious farm laws, overstepping its jurisdiction and imposing a law on the states.
  •  The New Education Policy has been flagged as encroaching on the federal nature of the polity.
  •  The BSF’s jurisdiction was extended in Assam, West Bengal and Punjab without any consultation with the concerned states.
  • The constitutional office of governor has come under scrutiny several times for encroaching on the powers of state executive and legislature.


It should be underlined that Article 1 of our Constitution declares that “India that is Bharat is a union of states”, and that devolution of powers is necessary in such a setting.

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