Reflections on the ‘quasi-federal’ democracy [GS II]

Reflections on the ‘quasi-federal’ democracy [GS II]

CONTEXT: Events coinciding with the jubilee of India’s Independence draw attention to the federal structure of India’s Constitution,

INDIA:- which is a democratic country, where its units are based on language, caste, tribe or religion etc. The resolution of such conflicts needs some innovative federal craftsmanship and sensitive political management.

 The diversity of India is within its sovereign boundaries. With the features like universal adult franchise, integrated judicial system and governance, it is difficult to polarise its diversity, even with Hindutva.

In Spite of its operational weaknesses, the democratic structure and national integrity are interlinked.


  1. The uncontrollable Parliamentary sessions, where the Rajya Sabha Chairperson broke down (in August 2021), and was unable to conduct proceedings despite having marshals in the house. 

Still the House passed a record number of Bills through a number of adjournments. It is quite strange but has become like a new normal.

  1. Cross-border police firing by one State against another, causing casualties, resulting in revengeful action in the form of a ban on goods trade and travel links with its land-locked neighbour.

The Union Law Minister (while in Opposition) said that Legislative disruptions are ‘legitimate democratic right, and duty’, thus he was justifying the current debate and discussion.

Legislative scenes in 1960’s-

  • Posters with displays like ‘CIA Agent’, during debates 

  • Suitcases were transferred publicly to save the ruling Government

  • Honorable Members coming out from debates with injuries, on some of the occasions.

Legislative scenes in current scenarios:-

  • In the federal chamber, Honorable Members and Marshals are seen in physical contact both claiming injuries.

  • Official papers are normally vandalised. 

  • Chairpersons are immobilised

  • Assuming new dimensions in Inter-State conflict is new normal

Federal theorist K.C. Wheare consider India as quasi-federal

 Like popular voting behaviour, institutional preferences are based either on ethnic or kinship network, or like anti-incumbency factors, some personalities like:

  •  T.N. Seshan w.r.t→ the Election Commission of India

  •  J.F. Ribeiro→  the police 

  • Justices Chandrachud or Nariman →  the judiciary.


India’s federal structure, basic structure has been taken from the ‘GOI ACT1935 ’,which has :-

  •  Provincial Autonomy

  •  Attempted to democratise it by: renaming “Provinces” to autonomous “States” 

  • Transferring “Reserved Powers” to popular governance

  • Constitutionally dividing powers between the two tiers

  • Inserting federalism in the Preamble 

  • Inserting Part 3 and 4 containing citizens’ “Fundamental Rights” and “Directive Principles of State Policy” 

  • It is silent about States’ rights and their territorial boundaries 

Vacancies in judicial appointments are still continuing(approx 41% lying vacant), judicial promotion and transfers becoming a central prerogative. 

Indian federalism needs institutional amendment to be democratically federal.

Structural conflicts-

  • All India Services, including the State cadres.

  • The role of Governors

Joint sessions of LOK SABHA and RAJYA SABHA do not appear successful. 

TO CONCLUDE:- India’s federal structure is described in different ways like quasi Federal, having central tendency, sui Generis among others. In the democratic process, conflicts have to be resolved and opposition has also to be taken into consideration. India needs to arrive at a solution where Democratic Process should be restored with the participation of all also in the democratic process. Otherwise it will be a threat to national security.

plutus ias daily current affairs 12 Oct 2021

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