[Nutshell] Indian Constitution: Nature & Features

Listen to this article

Indian Constitution-Nature and Features

Nature of Indian Constitution- Whether Federal Or Unitary?

Constitutional Scientist has classified constitution in 2 types namely: Unitary and Federal. So far as Indian Constitution is considered, it is hybrid of unitary and federal features meaning thereby that it has some Unitary feature and some Federal feature but a close analysis will led to the conclusion that it has more Federal feature than Unitary one.

Characteristics of Unitary Constitution

  1.  Appointment of Governor by The President.
  2.  Power of Parliament to Make Law on the Subject of State List In National Interest.
  3.  The Power of Parliament to Make New States and Change the Characteristic of Existing State including name, area and boundaries.
  4.  Emergency Provision
  5.  Single Constitution for State and Centre
  6.  Single Citizenship
  7. All India Services

Characteristic of Federal Constitution[1]:

·         Dual System of Government along with Distribution of power so as the both Government work independently in their own sphere or arena.

·         Supremacy of Constitution meaning thereby that all authority including Legislature, Executive and Judiciary are sub-ordinate to it.

·         A Written Constitution.

·         It must be a Rigid Constitution.

Hence, it is submitted that Indian Constitution is federal in nature but some scholar hesitates in calling it truly federal.

Austin and A.R. Birch calls it Co-operative Federation.

Ivor Jenning opines that Indian Constitution as Federation with strong centralising tendency[2].

KC Wheare calls it Quasi-Federal. He further adds that India is unitary state with subsidiary feature rather than a federal state with subsidiary unitary feature.

D.D. Basu calls it neither unitary nor federal but a combination of both.

Prof Alexandrowic said that it is Federation Sui- Generis.

Feature of Constitution Of India

1.      The longest Constitution in The World

2.      Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic and Republic 

3.      Parliamentary Form of Government

4.      Fundamental Rights

5.      Directive Principle of State Policy

6.      Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility

7.      Independence of Judiciary 

8.      Single Citizenship

9.      Fundamental Duties

Rigidity and Flexibility With Respect To Indian Constitution

The Indian Constitution is a written constitution and is subject to amendment. there are provisions which require special procedure to be adopted to make amendment whereas other provisions can be modified by special majority what is simple majority. (Refer: Article 368) that it is owing to this reason constitutional scientist have said that Indian Constitution is rigid and flexible at the same time.

View of Supreme Court

In State of West Bengal v. UOI[3], it was said by SC that Indian Constitution is not truly federal.

In S.R. Bommai v. UOI[4], the Court in para 276 said that federalism in the Indian Constitution is not a matter of administrative convenience, but one of principle the outcome of our own historical process and a recognition of the ground realities. …enough to note that our Constitution has certainly a bias towards center vis-a-vis the States’ .

In Kuldeep Nayar v. UOI[5], held that India is ‘pseudo-federation or quasi- federation in an amphibian form’.

Parliamentary or Presidential: Governing System

Indian Constitution is based on Parliamentary form of Government. In this form, the position of president is of titular head of government. The real power is vested in the elected representatives to be called as Council of Ministers.  The Prime Minister is the head of the council of ministers.

Indian Constitution vis-a-vis other Constitution

Indian Constitution is not original in its form but various provisions have been borrowed from Constitution of other nations. Following is the table which enlighten you upon this point:





Judicial Review



United State


Fundamental Rights




Equality before law


Parliamentary System



United Kingdom


Art 14 ( Rule of Law)


Suspension of Fundamental Rights


Parliamentary Privileges


Equal protection of law


Idea of Preamble


Idea of Federalism with strong Centralised Government




Residuary Power of Centre





Amendment of Constitution

South Africa


Freedom of Trade



Procedure Establish by Law



Fundamental Duties



Emergency Provisions

Germany & Government of India Act, 1935

Important Case Law

S.R. Bommai v. Union of India,

(1994) 3 SCC 1 : AIR 1994 SC 1918


S.R. Bommai was the Chief Minister of the Janata Dal government in Karnataka. His government was dismissed on April 21, 1989 under Article 356 of the Constitution and President’s Rule was imposed. The dismissal was on grounds that the Bommai government had lost majority following large-scale defections engineered. The then Governor refused to give Bommai an opportunity to test his majority in the Assembly despite the latter presenting him with a copy of the resolution passed by the Janata Dal Legislature Party. Bommai’s party went to Supreme Court against the Governor’s decision to recommend President’s Rule.


The Supreme Court held following on the said topic:


Means religious tolerance and equal treatment to all religions


It broadly indicates a division of powers between a Central (federal) Government and the units (States) comprised therein.

Excel Wear v. Union of India,
(1978) 4 SCC 224

It was held that the socialism is basic structure of constitution and in our economic structure it is not possible to say that the principles of socialism and social justice can be pushed to such an extent as to ignore completely the interest of private ownership 

Kuldeep Nayar v. UOI, (2006) 7 SCC 1

Supreme Court held that India is ‘pseudo-federation or quasi- federation in an amphibian form’


[1] DAPP 2008, UPSC CS 2001

[2] UP CJ 2015

[3] State of West Bengal v. UOI, AIR 1963 SC 1241.

[4] S.R. Bommai v. UOI, (1994) 3 SCC 1

[5] Kuldeep Nayar v. UOI., (2006) 7 SCC 1

Leave a Reply