It is criticized by some writer that India is federal in form but unitary in spirit. K.P. Mukherjee remarks that “India is not a federation at all”. K.C.Wheare describes India as “quasi-federal”. He is of opinion that it is more appropriate to describe India as a unitary state with subsidiary federal features than a federal state with subsidiary’ unitary features. The following features reflect the unitary character of our constitution.
1. Important powers have been assigned to the union (National Importance)
In India, the important powers have been assigned to the union. For example, matters of national importance like defence, external affairs, railways, Income Tax, Audit and Accounts, Posts and Telegraphs, Atomic energy, shipping etc. have been assigned to the states. But matters of local interest like land revenue, agriculture, police, local self government etc. are in the hands of the states. Concurrent power like civil and criminal law, Trade Union and Labour Disputes, Marriage and Divorce are in the hands of both the centre and the states. Residuary powers are assigned to the centre following the Canadian model. This shows a strong unitary bias in our constitution.
2. Parliament can make law with respect to the matters in the state list —
Under certain circumstances Parliament can make law with respect to the matters in the state list. For example, during national emergency and state emergency, Parliament can make laws for the states. Again under Article 249 if the Rajya Sabha passes a resolution by a two thirds majority of the members present and voting that it is necessary or expedite in the national interest that Parliament can make law with respect to a matter enumerated in the state list, Parliament can do so. It continues for one year and not six months after the year or renewed as the case may be.
3. The President is empowered to give direction to the State Executive –
The President is empowered to give direction to the State Executive not to disobey the executive power of the union in the states, to maintain means of communication which are of national or military importance and to protect the railways and water ways within the state. If any state violates the directives, President may impose president’s rule in the state as it will mean violation of the constitution.
4. Governor is the head of the state administration
The Governor is the head of the state administration but he works as the agent of the state. Every Governor sends a fortnightly report to the president regarding the administration of the state but if the Governor of a state sends a report that the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance to the provisions of the constitution, the president may be justified in imposing president’s rule in that state. During president’s rule the centre becomes very powerful.
5. Common Election Commission is another unitary feature of our constitutions
For conducting elections to the Parliament and the state legislatures, the constitution of India provides for a single election commission. The President appoints the Election Commissioners on the advice of the Prime-Minister. The Election Commission has the sole responsibility of conducting General Elections, Midterm Elections and By Elections for the union and state Legislature.
6. The states have no guarantee over their territories
According to Article 3 of the constitution a new state •can be created by the Parliament by separation of territory from other states. But in America no new state can be created without their consent. So America is called an “Industructible union of indestructible states”.
7. There is a common Comptroller and Auditor General for India
He is known as the CAG. He verifies and checks the accounts of the union and also the states. He has to see that expenditure does not exceed the limits for which it was granted and that it was spent for the purpose for which it was sanctioned.
8. Appointment of All Indian officers like IAS arid I.P.S
There are All Indian officers like IAS and I.P.S who are posted to the states arid who try to bring about coordination policy between the states. Again full faith and credit shall be given to all Public Acts, records and Judicial Proceedings of the state throughout the territory of India.
9. States are not financially viable
The most important factor strengthening the centre is that the states are not financially viable. They depend upon the centre for finance. The Centre gives grants-in-aid and matching grants to the states. But these grants are not without strings. If a state does not obey the conditions, the centre will withdraw grants from them. Besides these, there are some extra-constitutional factors which go for a strong centre First is war. When the constitution was being framed there was the threat of war from our neighbors. Therefore, the makers of the constitution deliberately made the centre strong. Unless there were a strong centre, it would not meet the challenges of war. Our history tells us that whenever the central power was weak, it fell a prey to foreign aggression and whenever it was strong the neighbouring states dared not attack India. Hence the makers of the constitution provided for a strong centre. Secondly, there is the Planning Commission. It is entrusted with the task of the mobilization of the human and material resources of the country for the development of India. It is said that planning is the band master who calls the tune of the economic policy of the state. It is in the name of planning that the centre interferes in season and out of season in the affairs of the state.