Cooperative Federalism in India

The term federalism originated from the Latin word “foedus”, which means treaty or agreement. Therefore, a federation is a new state policy combining the principle of centralisation and power of non-centralised units.

India comprises different states with diverse cultures where adaptation of federalism is pivotal. The idea of Cooperative Federalism in India enhances the centre-state relationship as well as relationships between states and local governments.

Federalism is a system of government in which powers have been divided between the centre and its constituent parts such as states or provinces. Read about Federalism in India at the linked article.

Here is an extensive discussion on this topic that entails every detail required to cover the UPSC syllabus on this aspect.

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What Is Cooperative Federalism in India?

Cooperative Federalism in India reflects an ideology of a stable relationship between the centre and other units. It guides all the governing bodies to come forward and cooperate to resolve common social, political, economic and civic problems.
Watch a video on the federal characteristics of the Indian Constitution below:

Background of Cooperative Federalism in India

  • This idea of federalism may be something new to the world, but it existed in India since ancient times. The central power used to adapt a non-intervention policy in local matters due to the diversity of this subcontinent.
  • However, tendencies to centralise power was partly evident during some Mughal monarch rule. But after the Revolt of 1857, the British Government terminated its intervention policy.
  • The origin of cooperative federalism in modern India was rooted in the Regulating Act of 1773. Herein, the Crown rule of England supervised the East India Company and left the governing power to the local government.
  • The Government of India Act of 1919 anticipated a dual government system called ‘dyarchy’. According to this, the power will be divided between the hands of a British governor and local government. The Government of India Act of 1935 was made to attain this dual government system.
  • The responsibility of the constitutional framework from 1946 to 1950 lied upon the eminent leaders of Indian Independence. They formed a Constituent Assembly to frame the draft of India’s constitution. They aimed to build a political idea to unite a disintegrated and subdivided society. The Assembly’s members, therefore, opted for an intense centre with residual power.
  • The principle of centralising power became prominent during the 1980s. However, the distribution of power from union to state and state to panchayat was later escalated. This is how India’s cooperative federalism met the constitution’s objectives like unity, social justice, and democracy.

Cooperative Federalism in India: Articles of the Constitution

The Constitution makers endeavoured to create synergistic governance by distributing essential powers and responsibilities to the Centre and states. Nevertheless, they vested power on the decision of Parliament and judgement of the Supreme Court. Thus, the Centre is provided with more specific powers keeping the essence of Cooperative Federalism.

7th Schedule

The 7th Schedule of Indian Constitution divided all the power between central, state and concurrent lists giving some residual powers to the Centre. Article 249(5) authorises the Indian parliament to amend those subjects of the state list. However, the resolution must pass an in-state council with a 2/3 majority to make a change.

All India Services

All India Services caters for a unified judicial system to establish the Centre and state laws. Article 312 of the Indian constitution manifests this provision that works on integration under cooperative federalism in India. Article 263 talks about an inter-state council to consider common interest factors between the states and the Centre.

Full Faith and Credit Clause

Article 261 emphasises full faith and credit to all records, public acts and judicial proceedings of the Union and states throughout the Indian territory. This step encourages faith and cooperation between the Centre and states.

Zonal Council

There are 5 zonal councils for each zone like central, north, south, east and west to promote coordination. These are designed under the State Reorganization Act of 1956 while the northeast zonal council is made under a distinct act.

NITI Aayog

The Planning Commission was replaced with NITI Aayog to attain more cooperative federalism. This organisation advises the Centre and states to look after the discussion and coordination between these 2 powers.


101st Amendment Act of Indian Constitution passed unified taxation called GST. It is a unique tax that manufacturers impose directly on the consumer which obtains a “one nation, one tax” goal.

Several organisations have tried and failed to settle centre-state feuds making cooperative federalism in India difficult. Some ways to strengthen Cooperative Federalism can be states’ independence on making laws, fiscal support from the centre and decentralisation of power.

This article covers all the necessary points on this topic to help aspirants in their UPSC and IAS exam. Nevertheless, they must not pass over any current affairs related to this that can amplify their preparation.

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Frequently Asked Questions


Who called Indian federalism a “cooperative federalism”?

Granville Austin mentioned Indian federalism as “cooperative federalism”.


What is the concept of cooperative federalism?

Cooperative federalism is a concept of a stable relationship between the centre and state governments to coordinate on issues of common interests.


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