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Union of States

‘Union’ means anything to do with the whole country.

If we talk about the Union Government, we may simply mean that it is a government which the whole country operates by not having any interrelation to any internal federation.

But a Union Government actually runs along with the Federal government (having a few exceptions in some countries like the People’s Republic of China).

Though the country and the people may be divided into different States for convenience of administration, the country is one integral whole, its people are living under a single imperium derived from a single source.

The constitutional system of India is basically federal but with striking unitary features. To support this conclusion, let us look at some of the essential minimal features of the federal system.

  1. Dual Government-In a federal system, there are two governments- a Union Government and a Government of each component state. While in a unitary state, there is only one government (likewise China).
  2. Distribution of powers- A Federal state has the division of authority between the Central and state governments (Ex. Maharashtra) though the method of distribution may not be alike in federal system (Ex. Jammu and Kashmir).
  3. Supremacy of the constitution-A Federal state derives its existence from constitution, just as corporation derives its existence from grant of statute by which it is created. Every power – executive, legislative, or judicial whether it belongs to centre or state is subordinate to and controlled by constitution likewise India
  4. Authority of the Courts– Democracy is solely dependent on the distribution of powers. Distribution of powers among the Union and state governments and coordinate branches of government is secured by vesting in the courts a final power to interpret the constitution and nulify action of the Government or their organs, which violates the provision of the Constitution.

But the following features of the federal system are not found in the system adopted by India:

  1. Mode of formation– Voluntary agreement between the sovereign and independent states for administration of certain affairs, which is in the USA.
  2. Position of the states in the federation.
  3. Nature of polity– Dual citizenship, a double set of officials and a double system of courts, likewise in the USA.

So, basically India has a federal system with striking unitary features.

The Government of India did not itself adopt the name as India, it is provided for in our Constitution. Constitutionally our country is named as both Bharat as well as India. There had been many deliberations in our Constituent Assembly and finally the two names were adopted, citing various operational and historical reasons.

On September 18, 1949, the Constituent Assembly deliberated upon the ‘namakaran’ or naming ceremony for the newborn nation. Various suggestions were made. In the end, the Assembly resolved as follows:

“Article 1. Name and territory of the Union.

1.1. India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”

The Indian constitution is Quasi-Federal. It has all the elements of a federation but still, the union government holds the last say. It is different from other types of unitary government as such union on certain issues can’t make laws on certain aspects and needs the consent of state to make it a nationwide law, a deviance from unitary structure. But at the same time, the union has special powers to override the state government’s laws through presidential means. This makes it un-Federal.

Due to its amicable nature; India is called a Union of States and not as a Federation of States.

A state cannot secede from India but states can join the Union of India(as in the case of Sikkim). On joining, such states wouldn’t have federal characteristics, which they enjoyed as a free country but would be in accordance to the parliament in Delhi; that is; under the Union government’s arbitrariness. This was done absolutely to make it clear that how the nature of states and its relation shall be, so that no question on its interpretation shall arise in future.

However, Article 370 is a different and complicated story. Though by the wording of constitution which is a living document and agreement, it could be interpreted that when Jammu and Kashmir signed into the Indian Union, they are bound by its rules and wording of the constitution.

But the thing is the Instrument of Accession was signed before the Agreement over adopting constitution so in legal terms, the first agreement is valid. And under those terms, someone got over excited and progressive by implementing terms like plebiscite, separate constitution and others.

As a sovereign independent state, India is free both internally and externally to take her own decisions and implement these for her people and territories. The doctrine of “sovereignty of Parliament” is associated with the British Parliament and this principle has three implications:

  1. The Parliament can make, amend, substitute or repeal any law.
  2. The Parliament can make constitutional laws by the same procedure as ordinary laws.
  3. The Parliamentary laws cannot be declared invalid by the Judiciary as being unconstitutional. In order words, there is no system of judicial review in Britain.
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