WHETHER EUROPEAN UNION, USA AND INDIA ARE FEDERAL POLITIES?
Among European Union, USA and India, USA is the only federal polity and has a strong federal
structure. All the states were formerly independent of each other and later, they came together to
form a country. These states were not mere administrative units of a larger nation nor there existed
any common political identity, as there was no USA before drafting of the American constitution.
All these constitutive states were independent and for them to become federal, more centralisation
was needed. To reach an optimum level of federal state, the centre had to become stronger and the
states weaker. The constitution of USA is precise and renders it difficult for the government to
amend it. USA provides dual citizenship to its citizens. The power is equally distributed between
the state and centre. These features make USA a strong federal nation.
Whereas, India is a quasi federal nation i.e. a state where the centre has disproportionate powers. In
India, the powers are distributed between centre and state but the centre has been given more
powers. It can be seen through the example of concurrent lists, both the levels of government can
make laws on matters mentioned in concurrent list, however, if a contention arises the law of centre
will prevail. Centre has the authority to transfer any subject from state list to union list. Any law
made by the state government can be overridden by the centre in the name of national interest.
There is no equal representation of states in Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of
India. These features make India a quasi federal nation.
European Union cannot be termed as a federal polity, it is somewhere between a confederal and
federal state. In a confederal state, the centre is subordinate to the state and state enjoys more
autonomous powers. EU has certain features which make it a federal state such as a central
European court of human rights, central legislature, common agricultural policies et cetera.
However, the member states still maintain their autonomy in certain areas of governance, it can
become a federal state in future given the advancements that are taking place.
Would a non-federal constitution will qualify to be called as one having constitutionalism?
A non- federal constitution will not qualify to be called as one having constitutionalism.
Constitutionalism refers to a principle which attempts to limit the power of the government and stop
them from practising arbitrariness. In a unitary system, besides the centre, there is local government
which is not constitutionally acknowledged. The centre decides what and how much power will be
delegated to the local government. This system of government will not qualify as having
constitutionalism as it does not allow the citizens to hold government accountable for its activities
and actions and there is no body to check the arbitrariness practiced by the government. Essential
features of federalism like rigid constitution will also be absent which will allow the government to
abridge the fundamental rights of the citizens.