Trending: Call for Papers Volume 3 | Issue 4: International Journal of Advanced Legal Research [ISSN: 2582-7340]



This paper presents a comparative analysis of federalism in India and the United States. Federalism, as a political system, divides power between the central government and the subnational units. In both countries, federalism has evolved over time and has been shaped by historical, political, and cultural factors. The analysis compares the federal structures of India and the United States, including the distribution of powers, the roles and responsibilities of the central and state governments, and the mechanisms for intergovernmental relations. The paper also examines the challenges and opportunities presented by federalism in each country, including issues related to regional disparities, fiscal federalism, and the accommodation of diverse identities. The comparative analysis reveals similarities and differences between the two federal systems, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each. Ultimately, the paper argues that federalism has played a crucial role in promoting unity, diversity, and democracy in both India and the United States, and that an ongoing analysis and refinement of federal structures can help to address the challenges faced by both countries.


When we understand the concept of Federalism is a form of government in which the national government’s regional, state, or local counterparts cooperate with the national government on a national level. More broadly, we can say Federalism means a division of power and decision-making control between the central and state governments, with the central and state governments assigned power and authority with respective spheres. A federal government is stated as a system of divided Sovereignty. In order to ensure that excessive power does not cometo the hands of one government, the federation should focus on a system where there exists mutual interdependence between the two Governments.

In contrast to a unitary system, where a single central government serves as the fundamental and supreme power, a federal system of government has two levels of government (national and state). The United Kingdom is the perfect example of a unitary government with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland each having some authority granted to them by the British Parliament. What has been observed is that majority of the federal states share two similar characteristics. First, the states are comprised of several groups of states or constituent units which existed prior to the formation of the federation as they were in close proximity to one another and shared a political and cultural background. Secondly, the aim behind these units creating a federal structure was to come together as one for accomplishing various other motives including safety and administrative efficiency to language and cultural integration. We can say there are two main ways to understand Federalism. One way we can say Federalism means to unite people and bring together people already connected together by ties of Nationality through a political authority being divided among the different parts of the nation.Federalism, on the other hand, can be viewed as a way to unite many people without severing their fundamental links to the particular laws that make up the federal system.As a result, as long as there is federalism, this trend of mixing centralization and decentralisation is likely to continue.

India and USA are one of the largest democracies that formed their political structure on the basis of federalism.The USA promulgated its Constitution as a Federal Republic state in the year 1789, while India’s Constitution was enacted in the year 1950, making it a socialist, sovereign, secular democratic republic. With time Federalism form of government has progressed and become more powerful across the globe.The Indian Constitution was created by a committee headed by Dr. Ambedkar and contains many salient elements that are comparable to those of the American Constitution, but it was adopted in the [1]Indian meaning. Despite many similarities between India and U.S.A, there are a lot of differences though both the countries follow the principle of federalism. Owing to different social, economic and political situations a country needs to form a constitutional structure based on the idea of federalism which creates two forms of government with delegated authorities and power.Federalism is a component of the political order’s power structure. Individual freedom and common law are two federal concepts that are ingrained in the Indian Constitution. In simple terms, we can say Federalism is basically creating a relationship between Individuals, organisations and government in a permanent yet restrictive form so that the Individual needs are taken care of and thereby putting restrictions on the union to uphold the respective independence of both sides.Federalism is a dynamic system of government that is used to run a country. A single political union connects the several separate administrative divisions.

Therefore, federalism seeks to strike a balance between those elements that favour centralised power and those that favour dispersing power among a greater number of units. Thus, federalism seeks to balance nationalism with localism, unity with variation, and centralization with decentralisation.Federalism consists of the fundamental principle including two levels of government, separation of power, the supremacy of the constitution, Court jurisdiction, decentralisation, and written constitution. A federal Constitution creates a dual nation with government at two levels: a central government and the state government. The Centre and the States each have their own set of administrative authority and resources. Therefore, each aspect of government operates inside its designated area.


The Simon Commission, also known as the “Indian Statutory Commission,” which was formed in 1927, was the first to identify the beginnings of federalist ideals in India. The Indian Constitution should be amended by the Commission. The commission suggested making India a “confederation of self-governing units” in its 1930 report. India became a federation after being freed from the British Indian Empire. The Commonwealth of India is a union of several democratic nations that are partitioned and governed. The pre-independence centres and states were classified into her three lists: federation, state, and war list, and they evolved into a federation of nations with unique powers.

The Union of India, which ultimately evolved into a federation, took the place of the previous monarchy.There are two levels of government in the context of India. The debate of whether or not the Indian Constitution symbolises federalism arises since only the central government has the authority to declare war and establish an army, but state governments have control over things like education and civil lawthus it was articulated differently. the national implementation of the 1950 constitution.The 1950 constitution was to be executed nationally, keeping in mind the wide variety of races, faiths, and other differences in our highly diverse society. Federalism “is not a defined term; it has no fixed definition,” it was stated.A parliamentary system with federal features was finally accepted on January 26, 1950, but the states did not formally agree to join a “federation of states.”As a result, the Indian Federation has been referred to as “quasi-federal” or a “co-operative federation.” India will be a Union of States, not a Federation, stressed Dr B.R. Ambedkar.The nation as a whole will live under a single empire descended from one single source as one and the same, which is why the Federation is a Union and cannot be dissolved. The country can be divided into several states for the efficiency of administration. Federalism has been interpreted and defined in a number of ways by legal rulings over time.

The decision in the case of West Bengal vs Union of India where the Supreme court states how with Constitution has so many unitary aspects that somewhere the federal feature of the Constitution disappears. In the case of Rajasthan vs Union of India Beg said Indian Federation is federal in a way. However, for the nation to be advanced and developed, the essential requirement is to unite the nation, there needs to be political and economic coordination and there needs to be social upliftment in the society for the nation to grow. In the landmark case of Kesavananda Bhartivs the State of Kerala, the Supreme Court held the federal character of the Constitution was its basic feature. The essential of federal character is there should be a written constitution, it must be rigid, it must be supreme law of the land, there must be a division of power between the union and state, and an independent judiciary to interpret the laws. The state governments in this “union of states” receive their power from the federal government.  The Government of India Act, of 1935, which aimed for the union of British India and the founding States to form a federal Union, is where the [2]foundation of India’s federal system can be found. India’s immense size, religious and linguistic uniqueness, and other factors all had a role in the country’s federal system is established. As per the Indian Constitution it is the duty of the Union to protect the state from both internal and external aggression. It’s significant to observe how the federal character of India is essentially rejected by Article 356 of the Constitution. allows the Union Executive—the President of India—the authority to take control of a specific state if it is convinced that the state cannot abide by the Constitution’s requirements. Prior to 1977, the position was fairly established, with the President’s power exempt from court review. In S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, the Supreme Court made it clear that a declaration of “President’s Rule” was not final and may be challenged in court just like any other Executive action.In cases where the Centre may go into firmly state-reserved territory, it is frequently said that India is not federal in terms of federalism. As a result of equating the Centre with the State, this breaches the Federalism concept. Occasionally, India is also referred to as having a unitary system of government. This is because it is possible for there to be one during times of war or other emergencies. With the Union at its core and the States each given their own independent powers to be employed in the areas that are specifically assigned to them by the constitution, a federal constitution establishes a dual democracy. Therefore, we can conclude that the fundamental principle of federalism is the dividing the Power of legislative, executive, and financial power between the federal government and the states in accordance with the Constitution rather than any federal statute.India’s propensity as a powerful state is well established and closely fits with the legal basis of the basic structure concept.Indian Constitution is federal in nature with some exceptions but with provisions contained in Article 3 of the Indian Constitution can be used to question the federal form.One of the fundamental elements of the Indian Constitution is believed to be its federal nature. In the case of Golaknath & Ors.v. State of Punjab & Ors it was ruled by the Supreme Court of India that the Legislature cannot make any constitutional amendment that would take away or violate the fundamental rights established under Part 3 of the Indian Constitution.Any such alteration would be invalid if it were made. After six years, the Supreme Court overturned the Golaknath decision in the case of Kesavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala and decided that Parliament has the authority to change any provision of the Constitution as long as it does not conflict with the fundamental principles of the Constitution. Any constitutional amendment cannot change the Constitution’s fundamental design.Following Kesavananda Bharti, the Parliament passed the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution two years later in an effort to limit judicial review of constitutional amendments. To put it briefly, this amendment intended to expand the Parliament’s previously limited authority into an infinite one. The Supreme court once again the case of Minerva Mills& Ors. v. Union of India& Ors established the idea of basic structure ensuring that the Union Parliament can never be able to affect the federal framework of the Constitution. We can say by referring to landmark judicial pronouncements we can say that federalism is a part of the basic structure. The federal structure of India has seen enormous changes over the year for instance when new states have been added. Perhaps the idea of federalism as the basic form of government exists in cases where an unconstitutional state action aims to completely change the federal character of India.Maybe the idea of federalism as the basic form of government exists in cases where an unconstitutional state action aims to completely change the federal character of India.


Consider the Constitution of the United States, which break up government functions between the federal government and the state government. These governments work concurrently and independently in their assigned areas, without being tractable to each other. The vigorous interconnection between the state governments and the federal government of the United States is known as federalism in this country. The dual federalism system of the United States government has given way to associated federalism. The central government and the states “are in fact only separate administrators and representatives of the people, established with different authorities. Because the states have formed political institutions, the U.S. Constitution does not need to describe or explain federalism in a separate section, but it frequently highlights the rights and obligations of state governments and the states. officials from the state to the federal government. The nature of the United States is federal. James Madison referred to the National Government’s listed powers in Article 1 as being “limited and established.” The 13 North American colonies recognised the necessity to coordinate their military operations and cooperate together when they proclaimed their independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. The Articles of Confederation, a constitution that was approved and established an association of sovereign nations, called for cooperation between the states in critical areas including foreign policy, military ties, and other know the effectiveness. The articles barely held the states together during the war with England and, after its successful end, completely came apart as the states pursued their own interests rather than those of the newly formed United States of America.The autonomous sovereign states of the United States enjoy an enduring existence of their own, and they have united to form an unbreakable union. When compared to India, Parliament has the legal authority to create new states, change the names of existing states, increase or decrease the size of existing states, and even limit the authority of the legislative and executive departments by rewriting the Constitution.The residents maintain their fundamental independence within the American federal structure but also sacrifice some control to the federal government while leaving other authorities in the states’ hands. The people of both the State governments and the federal government are both made up of individuals. As per Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3(18) of the US Constitution states that the Central government has the ultimate power over defence and diplomacy. And, to some degree defined there is no clarity on how the clause gives Congress authority to “create posts and postal roads”. Other statutes are too not well defined and there has been a continuous debate since 1789 on the importance of the clause giving the power “to govern trade between the numerous States”.The government of the states in control is not mentioned anywhere in the United States Constitution. The structure of the state government, which consists of a chief executive who is elected, two legislative chambers, and the judiciary, is representative of that of the federal government. In addition to the fundamental principle, States have absolute power, but the national government has specialised authority. The state government is very different from the federal government. Each state has an own budget. The National Government is not required to keep its finances in check by the US constitution, and in recent years, it has rarely done so. Various Supreme Court decisions from the 1990s were cited as the catalyst for the federalist movement, according to observers. The primary avenues of the national government’s power centralization have been recognised through the use of legislative power in intergovernmental trade laws.There are other forces at play in Congress, and one, in particular, grows more prominent as the 20th century goes on.After enacting the sixteenth amendment, congress approved the collection of income tax (1913), providing the tax authorities a stronger use as the federal government was experiencing increasing growth. To ensure the security and welfare of the American people, Congress has the power to legislate and levy taxes. White Chief Justice Salman claimed that the United States is a Federation of Indestructible States in the Texas v. case. The United States has never acted arbitrarily in its entirety. It began among the colonies and developed as a result of common heritage, mutual understanding, mutual values, and geographic ties.The U.S. Supreme Court issued its first significant constitutional decision in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia in 1793.


One of the world’s most powerful nations is the United States, followed by India. One is the largest democracy in the world, while the other is the oldest. In both, democratic federalism is used. Through the adoption of its constitution in 1789, the United States transformed into a federal state; in contrast, India did not become a socialist, independent, or democratic republic until the 1950s. The federal government of the United States and the central government of India, which were both handed control, resulted from the union of numerous smaller nations under a single central authority.[3]


  • The Drafting Committee drafted the Indian Constitution. Both US and India had been experimenting with Democracy as both Nations were required to GuaranteeFreedom for everyone living in the nation.Both countries had to ensure that everyone residing in the country lived in good conditions. India undertook the difficult job of developing a constitution and a system of governance that was fair to all of its citizens at the same time that the idea of equality expanded in the United States.[4]
  • The written constitutions of the US and India both support a bureaucratic political system in which each legislature exercises its own authority. The constitutions of both nations provide changes in response to changing conditions and the growing social, economic, and political demands and necessities of each nation. The Indian Constitution guarantees the fundamental rights of the people as stated in Articles 14 to 34, much like the US Constitution guarantees its citizens the rights to equality, freedom, protection from exploitation, freedom of religion, rights to cultural and educational expression, the right to property, and other rights.
  • The central branch of government for both nations is the federal government, to which a number of states have joined. In comparison to the US, where 50 states are affiliated with the central government, the Indian Union recognises this system of governance in up to 29 states and 8 Union territories. States that have embraced the federal structure do not have the autonomy to break away from the Union Government or the Central Government in either the US or India. On the subjects covered by the Concurrent list, both the Central and State governments have the authority to enact laws; but, in some cases, the Central government’s laws would take precedence.
  • In both US and Indian Constitutions, A three-way separation of powers between the executive, legislative branch, and the judicial branch is created.Each division has a unique set of authority. The judicial branch protects the rule of law, the legislative branch passes laws, and the executive branch manages national affairs.In the US, the President serves as the chief executive, but in India, the Prime Minister-led Union Cabinet serves as the true executive branch. Indian and American legislatures both have two houses. The lower and upper houses of the US Congress are referred to as the House of Representatives and the Senate, whereas the lower and upper houses of the Indian Parliament are referred to as the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, respectively.
  • The Chief Executive, who serves as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, appoints the members of the “Kitchen Cabinet.” Additionally, the Chief Executive has the authority to select the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. He must ratify the agreement with other countries. However, the Senate’s House must ratify any agreements made by the Chief Executive. Any other way would render the Agreement ineffective. The Prime Minister and his cabinet are in charge in India. If a no-confidence resolution is passed by both chambers of the legislature, they could be dismissed from their position. The majority needed in the parliament must be obtained before a policy choice may become law. The laws enacted by the parliament must, however, be reviewed by the legal system.


Constitutional Differences

After the American War of Independence, the United States of America was established.The British were defeated here, and the American colonies proclaimed their independence. In 1789, the U.S. Constitution became operative. It has one of the world’s strictest and shortest constitutions. There are twenty-seven amendments and seven articles in it. The Indian Constitution came into existence in 1950 being one of the lengthiest constitutions with 448 provisions and 104 amendments. The U.S. and Indian Constitutions are varied in length since they were created at distinct historical times. At the time when the Constitution of the USA was being created, the United States governed 13 colonies. The population living in the US was uniform comprising of European people who migrated to the country in search of better opportunities while talking of India, it had a diverse population which was still struggling to recover from the impact of British rule. The main responsibility on the nation was to bring the divided nation together. conclusion, democracy and a constitutional government were norms in the majority of nations. India was able to include several elements from other countries’ constitutions.The Indian Constitution became more adaptable as a result. It had to adapt to the changes and was in charge of bringing a sizable population under democratic rule for the first time. [5]

Democratic Differences

When we talk about the differences between Us and Indian Federalism, one of the most noticeable differences is that both countries have different forms of Government Structures. When we talk about the US, it has a federal form of Government where each state has its own Constitution. In India, a system of Cooperative Federalism. Here the whole country is governed by the Constitution of India. The Current system of Governance is unique in the sense it is a combination of a federal and unitary system of government. India also hasa Parliamentary form of Government whereas in the USA a presidential form of government is followed within the country. Since both countries have different forms of governance, the electoral process also varies between the two countries. The Constitutional head of the State is the president who has limited power and authority, the Prime Minister is the actual head of the state. The Lok Sabha is a legislative body that is elected by the people of India. The President extends an invitation to the political party with the majority to establish the nation’s government. In the United States, the President is chosen by the electoral college, wherein the members of the electoral college are elected by the members of the country. The supreme legislative body in India is the Parliament. There is a link between the President, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha as part of its bicameral legislature. The Congress which is the main legislative body in the US is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The President holds much power in governing the country. The powers of the president can be seen with a clear division of powers between the Executive, legislative and Judiciary. The power of the president to make laws is to the extent to issue executive orders. But a 2/3rd majority in both houses is required to overturn these orders.The history of both nations shows the huge differences in governance between two. The USA was the first country trying to establish democracy as a suitable solution to monarchy. Due to its success, most nations in the modern world now use this type of government. The United States initially outlined the values of liberty and equality in the Articles of Confederation.

When we discuss amendments, we should talk about who in the United States and India has ultimate control over changes to the federal constitution. In order to determine a federal structure of a state, one should look down to Amendment which is the most reliable standard. When we look at the USA, Congress can change the United States Constitution in accordance with Article 5 by requesting the introduction of amendments from two-thirds of both houses. It can also be supported by the implementation of the legislature in two-thirds of the states. To be ratified, a certain number of states must agree—at least 3/4 must. The first and fourth clauses of Section 9 of the first article cannot be changed, and no State may lose its equal right to vote in the Senate, according to a specific clause. According to Article 368 in the Indian Context, Schedule VI of Article 4 contains the authority and process for modifications. In every situation, the union has the power to make amendments. All amendments are exempt from requiring state ratification. But according to Article 368(2), several Amendments effectively require the ratification of at least half of the states. According to Article 368 (2) (a) to (c), the Amendments must be ratified by at least half of the states in order to become effective.It follows that if Amendments are likely to have an impact on the federal structure, ratification by at least half of the States is necessary. The US has an advanced judicial system due to it being a developed nation.But the legal system in India is quickly changing. A judge in the US serves for however long it takes to do his duties. Contrarily, a District judge can continue to serve until age 58, a High Court judge can continue to serve until age 62, and a Supreme Court judge can retire at age 65.


The Indian Constitution reflects the fundamental viewpoints. The structure was designed to be either federal or quasi-federal, as evidenced by all of them. The Government of India Act, 1935 is the focus of the Indian Constitution’s first commitment.  The second commitment is to the American Constitution, which gives it broad judicial review authority over legislation and executive branch decisions as well as the fundamental liberties it upholds. Third-party commitment is owed to the British Constitution. The British system is the model for both the parliament and state legislatures in India.

Despite its many complexities, the core principles of federalism are the devolution of power and the sharing of decision-making authority. With a strong unitary emphasis and provincial units acting as “confederations” within a weak union, the Indian structure can be classified as a “top down” model, in contrast to the “bottom up” model used to describe the structure of the United States, where sovereign pre-existing units voluntarily give up authority to form a union. Federalism is a management technique for plurality, multiplicity, and diversity.

As a result, there cannot be any truly federal states. The current situation and different national contexts determine everything. Furthermore, it is difficult to analyse a nation’s culture using specific federalism criteria because each one is so unique. In his 1967 book “The Critical Problems of the Indian Constitution,” Justice P. B. Mukherjee clearly explained it this way. The future of India and her Constitution will depend on how the nation gears the principles of federalism and practises that are appropriate for India, a nation whose vital requirement must be unity in diversity, integrity with variety, and marked by the wisdom and experience of achieving harmony.

Despite significantly different histories and challenges, the federalism frameworks in India and the United States have both successfully preserved national independence. Federalism is like a rainbow; although each colour is distinct, when they are united, they create a beautiful pattern. A careful balance between the federal government and the States must always be maintained, which calls for federalism.

A community and a set of values, such as honesty, compassion, and a spirit of cooperation, must eventually be developed by the people and democratic process. Furthermore, some federalist characteristics of both India and the United States can be inferred. However, there are several areas where India and the USA’s federal systems diverge from one another. The concept of democracy can be understood in many different ways, and different regions have different meanings of it. Significant differences exist between the two nations’ constitutions and systems of government. But the core values and true relevance of democracy are shared by both countries. Both are committed to ensuring that their respective populations lead happy lives and benefit greatly from one another in the process. A quasi-federal strategy was seen to be the most effective in the years following India’s independence movement. Administrative control over such a huge territory was made simple and efficient by a strong centre. The Constitution also safeguarded the power and rights of state governments at the same time.


[2] Dhoot Raghav, Comparative Analysis of Indian and American Federalism, (Volume 4, Issue 1), International Journal of Advance Research, Ideas and Innovations in Technology

[3]Law times Journal, Comparing the model of Federalism in India and U.S.A,January 31, 2019

[4] blog.ipleaders.in, The difference between the US and Indian federalism,October 4, 2020