Nature Of Various Constitutions In The World: Constitutional Law Notes

Nature Of Various Constitutions In The World- Prolawctor

Nature Of Various Constitutions In The World: Nature of Constitution necessarily depends upon the types of Constitution
Written or unwritten Constitution: Most of the countries over the world have a written Constitution.
Best example of an unwritten Constitution is British Constitution (UK)

  • Rigid or Flexible Constitution
    • A Constitution is rigid if for the amendment or review of its provisions, a special provision is required to be followed. Example – Constitution of USA.
    • A Constitution is flexible if its provisions can be amended or revised by the ordinary legislative process. Example – Constitution of UK
    • A rigid Constitution possesses the quality of stability. And the drawback of being a rigid Constitution is that such a Constitution cannot be tuned in accordance with the needs of the society as and when required. It places obstacles in the required social changes.
    • Flexible Constitution, on the other hand, can be easily amended according to the needs of the society but the drawback is that such a Constitution lacks stability.
  • Typically, democratic Constitutions are classified into two categories-

Constitution which provides for a federal system of government is called a Federal Constitution, while a Constitution which provides for a unitary form of government is called a Unitary Constitution.

In a Unitary Constitution, all the powers of the government are given to the Centre and the local govt. enjoy the powers delegated to them by the Centre. The federal Constitution establishes a federal system of government. It establishes a system of double government – Central government, and the State government.

Merits of Unitary Constitution

  1.  Unitary Constitution establishes a strong Central Government which is found more useful
    in times of war and emergencies.
  2. The Central govt. has all the powers of the govt. and the local or the State govt. just enjoys
    the powers delegated to them.
  3. No conflict of authority and no overlapping of jurisdiction.
  4. Unitary Constitution is more flexible.

Demerits of Unitary Constitution

  1. Unitary Constitution develops centralized bureaucracy.
  2. The laws are often made in ignorance of the local conditions and needs.
  3. They are administered by the persons who do not have sufficient knowledge of the local
  4. Unitary Constitution is more flexible and therefore it does lack stability.


  1. System of double government: India has two sets of government – the Central or Union
    government and the State government. The Central government works for the whole country
    and the State governments look after the States. The areas of activity of both the governments
    are different.
  2. Distribution of Powers: The Constitution of India has divided powers between the Central
    government and the state governments. The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution contains
    three lists of subjects which show how division of power is made between the two sets of
    government. Both the governments have their separate powers and responsibilities.
  3. Written and rigid Constitution: The Constitution of India is written. Every provision of the
    Constitution is clearly written down and has been discussed in detail. It is regarded as one of
    the longest constitutions of the world which has 395 Articles 22 Parts and 12 Schedules.
  4. Supremacy of the Constitution: The Constitution is regarded as the supreme law of the land. No law can be made which will go against the authority of the Constitution. The Constitution is above all and all citizens and organizations within the territory of India must be loyal to the Constitution.
  5. Independent judiciary and Supremacy of judiciary: The Supreme Court of India is the highest court of justice in India. It has been given the responsibility of interpreting the provisions of the Constitution. It is regarded as the guardian of the Constitution.
  6. Bi-cameral legislation: In India, the legislature is bi-cameral. The Indian Parliament, i.e., the legislature has two houses – the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The Rajya is the upper house of the Parliament representing the States while the Lok Sabha is the lower house representing the people in general.

All the above characteristics are present in the Indian Constitution. However, there are certain provisions that affect its federal character.

  1. Appointment of the Governor of a State – Art.155 and Art.156 provide that the Governor, who is the Constitutional head of a State, is to be appointed by the President and stays only until the pleasure of the President. Further, that the Governor can send the laws made by the state for assent from the President, who can veto the law. It should be noted that Governor is only a ceremonial held and he works on the advice of council of ministers. In past 50 yrs, there has been only one case (Re Kerala Education Bill), where amendments to a state law were asked by the centre and that too after the opinion of the Supreme Court. Thus, it does not tarnish the federal character and states are quite free from outside control.

  2. Power of the Parliament to make laws on subjects in the State list – Under Art. 249, centre is empowered to make laws on subjects in the State list. On the face of it, it looks a direct assault on the power of the states. However, this power is not unlimited. It is exercised only on the matters of national importance and that too if the Rajya Sabha agrees with 2/3rd majority. It should be noted that Rajya Sabha is nothing but the representative of the States. So an approval by Rajya Sabha means that States themselves are giving the power to the centre to make law on that subject.
  3. Power to form new states and to change existing boundaries – Under Art. 3, centre can change the boundaries of existing states and can carve out new states. This should be seen in the perspective of the historical situation at the time of independence. At that time there were no independent states. There were only provinces that were formed by the British based on administrative convenience. At that time States were artificially created and a provision to alter the boundaries and to create new states was kept so that appropriate changes could be made as per requirement. It should be noted that British India did not have states similar to the States in the USA.

  4. Emergency Provisions – Centre has the power to take complete control of the State in the following 3 situations:
    • An act of foreign aggression or internal armed rebellion (Art. 352)
    • Failure of constitutional machinery in a state (Art. 356)
    • Financial Emergency (Art. 360)

In all the above cases, an elected State government can lose control of the State and a central rule can be established. In the first case, it is very clear that such a provision is not only justified but necessary to protect the existence of a state. A state cannot be left alone to defend itself from outside aggression. In the third case also, it is justified because a financial emergency could cause severe stress among the population, plunge the country into chaos and jeopardize the existence of the whole country. Such provisions exist even in USA. The second provision is most controversial. It gives the Centre the power to take over the control of a State. However, such an action can be taken only upon the advice of the governor and such an advice is not beyond the purview of the Supreme Court. Thus, it can be safely said that Indian Constitution is primarily federal in nature even though it has unique features that enable it to assume unitary features upon the time of need.

To know more Features of Indian Constitution visit here

Merits of Federal Constitution

  1. Federal Constitution better protects the Regional and Local interest.
  2. Subjects of local interest are entrusted to the regional govt. and that of the national importance are entrusted to the Central govt. Therefore, the local Legislatures gets an opportunity to make laws according to the local needs.
  3. A federal Constitution tends to develop decentralization.
  4. A federal Constitution is therefore more democratic in nature.

Demerits of Federal Constitution

  1. A Federal Constitution leads to the establishment of a weak government. The Central govt. has no direct control over the matters allotted to the regional governments.
  2. Such weaknesses are evident on the times of emergencies.
  3. Possibility of development of regionalism.
  4. Citizens may show a greater loyalty towards their region rather than the Union. This may be a serious threat to the national unity.
  5. A Federal Constitution, a conflict of authority and overlapping of jurisdiction may always arise and in such a govt., there is a possibility of confusion regarding the responsibility for work to be done and duplication of work.
  6. Duplication of work may always lead to more administrative expenses.
  7. A Federal Constitution is rigid in nature and therefore it cannot be amended according to theneeds.
  8. Such double system of govt. is also a cause of the delayed execution and implementation of plans and projects.


  • No doubt, Indian Constitution is a blend of features of both Federal as well as Unitary Constitution. But, after observing all the features of Indian Constitution, it is conclusive that it is federal with a unitary bias.
  • Austin rightly says about Indian Constitution, it is a co-operative federalism.

Nature of Indian Constitution

A controversy has always been there as to the actual nature of the Indian Constitution that, whether the Indian Constitution is federal or unitary in nature. It is mandatory here to examine the basic features of Indian Constitution and critically analyze the same in order to conclude upon its nature.

Dr. Ambedkar has categorically said in Constituent Assembly discussions that “notwithstanding certain provisions that centralize the powers, Indian Constitution is essentially federal.” Prof. Wheare and some other academicians, however, are hesitant in calling it a federal constitution and prefer to term it as “quasi-federal” or “federal with strong centralizing tendency”. Though, it should be noted that even Prof. Wheare accepts the existence of certain provisions in the American Constitution, such as dependence of Senate on States that are contrary to federal character. However, he says that while the principles of federalism should be rigid, the terminology of “federal Constitution” should be wide. A Constitution should be called federal if it displays federal character predominantly.


  • State of West Bengal v. UoI {AIR 1963 SC 1241} – Supreme Court held that Indian Constitution is not truly federal because the States are not coordinate with the Union.
  • Kuldeep Nayyar v. UoI {AIR 2006 SC 3127} – Supreme Court held that federal principle is the basic feature of the Constitution however federation leans in favour of strong Centre.


  • K.C. Wheare has characterized Indian Constitution as quasi-federal.
  • Jennings opined that Indian Constitution should be described as federation with a strong centralizing tendency.
  • Austin suggested that Indian Constitution can be called federal, “ a Co-operative federalism


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