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Federalism in India & Local Self Government

Author: Pyanshu Singla

Designation: Law Student; Sushant University (Erstwhile Ansal University)

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Federalism is the system of governance where decentralization of power is taken place among states of a particular nation. India is the union of states. However, it is not a true federal state because of the reason for the fact that significant power lies with the central government where makes restraints on the State government. For instance, under Article 356, the President has the power to proclaim the situation as an emergency if he is satisfied that conditions exist where state government fails to function as per provisions of the Indian Constitution. Moreover, the Governor of the state is appointed by the President and his term of office and conditions of service lies in the hands of the President which means he acts as partisan to the government at the central level i.e. Union Government. This fact restricts him from acting independently which affects the democratic mechanism of the country.

Over and above, it has been mentioned under article 200 of the Indian Constitution that the Governor has the power to withhold the assent of a bill passed by the State legislature and can reserve such a bill for the consideration of the President. The provisions demonstrate the restraint on the power of State.


The concept of Quasi -federalism has been evolved to devolve the power and authority among different tiers of government i.e. Union level, State level, and local level.

The devolution would provide convenience to people to govern themselves through their representatives. Essentially, the concept has emerged so that the function that people cannot do on their own can delegate to the local machinery, and where local machinery find it difficult to carry out certain actions could get a delegate to the higher level, i.e. State machinery and similarly, where state machinery find it inconvenient to perform functions should get devolve to the Union Machinery. But the contemporary situation has been inverted; the paramount role is performed by the Union level.

The constitutional provisions witnessed the existence of a structure of over-centralization. For instance, in the seventh schedule under article 246, 47 subjects are listed in the concurrent list, the subjects on which both the parliament and state legislatures can make laws. However, if there is any inconsistency between the laws of both organs, then Union laws will prevail.

Under article 248, Parliament has the power to enact laws on the subjects not mentioned in any of the lists.

Under article 249, the Parliament has the power to make laws on the subjects of the State list. Under article 252, if two or more states enact union law on some particular subject or subjects mentioned in the State list, then Parliament has the power to enact provisions and laws governing these two or more states. These constitutional provisions enumerated the biasness on part of the Union Government. The exclusive control over the terms of service of All India Services is exercised by the Union government as per article 312 of the Indian Constitution.

Fiscal Devolution is another area where power is highly centralized as it is the role of the State Finance Commission to allocate the resources and revenues to the local Government but in reality, an adequate proportion has not been provided to these local organs of Government. People govern themselves in the way that no other body can do, therefore Local self-governance is the essential feature of the Indian Constitution.

As per the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Indian Constitution, the 11th and 12th schedule has been included with the provisions of mandatory constitution and elections of local governments. However, in reality, these provisions are not implemented in the true sense of democracy. According to the 11th schedule, 29 subjects are listed that can be entrusted to the rural local Governments (Panchayats) and 12 subjects are listed for urban local governments under the 12th schedule. However under the 7th schedule as per List II States have full legislative and executive powers except in case of Emergency provisions. The state executes direct control over the powers mentioned under the 11th and 12th schedule. Due to which Local Governments cannot act independently.


With the motive to attain real democracy, routes of true federalism and local governance have to be followed. Union- State relations have to be reviewed where there is no phenomenon of partisan is available.

There is a need to reform the governance structure where more powers have to add to the State list and Union should be vested by certain special powers that help in maintaining the unity and integrity of the nation.

The governor's tenure of office should be fixed so that they can act independently and not at the behest of the Union Government. The control over All India Services should be transferred to the State Government. The fiscal devolution should be proportionally and adequately adhered to by the State Machinery.

The direct empowerment to the stakeholders of local institutions and public services should be provided by. This empowerment can be made available to the stakeholders who are visible and identifiable. For instance, parents availing the service of schools, farmers using irrigation sources, consumers of ration shops likewise.

Unless people perceive the nexus between their votes and services provided, taxes, and benefits available, the democratic principle cannot be realized and centralized coteries remain in existence.

Despite the constitutional provisions regarding the regular and proper elections for local bodies, the State Government is negligent and does not implement the available provisions in a true democratic spirit. It is the right of the people to govern themselves therefore these provisions should be strictly applicable.















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