According to our Constitution, India is a “sovereign secular socialist democratic republic. ” It has 28 states and seven Union Territories. With a population of approximately 112 crore, India happens to be the largest democracy in the world. Indian polity is a multi-party democracy, based on the adult franchise system of voting. That is any Indian citizen of 18 and above, who is not debarred by law, can vote in the Indian elections, at national, state and local levels. India is a parliamentary democracy and a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic, where the Prime Minister is the head of government.
He or she should be chosen by the MPs (Member of Parliaments) of the ruling party or the coalition that comes to power, and is the focal point of political power in India. However, the Prime Minister is formally appointed by the President of India. Presently Manmohan Singh is the Prime Minister of India. Indian President: A Titular Head President is the head of the state and the first citizen of the country, and also the supreme commander of the armed forces. Though in theory he/she holds considerable power, but in reality he/she is a titular head, whose role is similar to that of the Constitutional Monarch in the UK.
The President is elected by members of an electoral college, consisting of elected members of both Houses of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies of the states, with suitable weightage given to each vote. The election uses single transferable voting method of proportional representation. The President’s term of office is five years, and the President can be re-elected to his/her office. Among his/her important powers on paper, the President can proclaim an emergency in the country if he/she is satisfied that the security of the country or of any part of its territory is threatened whether by war or external aggression or armed rebellion.
When there is a failure of the constitutional machinery in a state, he/she can assume to himself/herself all or any of the functions of the government of that state. However, in reality, the Indian polity entails that most of the political authority excluding few exceptions, and their execution, rests with the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister, which comprises Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State(Independent Charge), and Ministers of State, whose suggestions President is bound to oblige.
In the Indian polity, the Union Government (the Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister) executes its administrative powers in the name of the President, whose post is largely ceremonial. Besides the formal appointment of the Prime Minister, the President is also responsible for making many important appointments such as of the Council of Ministers in the Union Government (on the ‘advice’ of the Prime Minister, which he/she is supposed to adhere to anyway), the Chief Justice and other judges of the Supreme Court of India and High Courts, Governors and Attorney General among others.
Pratibha Patil is the twelfth President of India, and also the first woman to become the President of India. The President of India can also be removed before his/her term through impeachment. A resolution to impeach the President of India has to be passed by a two-thirds majority of the total members of the house of the Parliament, which originates such a motion. It is then sent to the other house. The other house investigates the charges that have been made. During this process, the President has the right to defend himself/herself through an authorized counsel.
If the second house also approves the charges made by two-thirds majority again, the President stands impeached and has to vacate his/her office. The President of India is assisted in his duties by the Vice President. The Vice President is elected by the members of an electoral college consisting of members of both Houses of Parliament, that is the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, in accordance with the system of proportional representation, by means of a single transferable vote. He holds the office for five years, and can be reelected.
The Vice President has to temporarily assume the role of President in the event of the death, resignation, or removal of the President, until a new President is chosen by the electoral college. The Vice President of India may also act temporarily as President, during the absence or illness of the President. The Vice President of India is also the Ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Mohammad Hamid Ansari is the present Vice President of India. Executive, Legislature and Judiciary
With the Union Government and State Governments wrest the executive power, while the legislative power is vested on the Union Government and the two houses of Indian Parliament- the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha- and also the State Government and two state legislatures-Vidhan Sabha and Vidhan Parishad. However, here it deserves a mention that only five of India’s 28 states have Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council, which is also known as the upper house of state legislatures, along with the Vidhan Sabha.
The rest of the states don’t have bicameral legislatures, and only have Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly. Each state also has a Governor, who is formally appointed by the President of India. The role of the Governor is somewhat similar to that of President in the national level; he is a titular head of the state in normal circumstances, but can exercise some powers when directed by the Union Government. The judiciary is the third arm of the governance, which is independent of the executive and legislature.
The Constitution has designated the Supreme Court, High Court and the lower courts the authority to resolve disputes among people, and also disputes between people and the government. The Constitution, through its articles relating to the judicial system, provides a way to question the laws of the government, if the common man finds the laws as unsuitable for any community in India. The Constitution of India has distributed legislative powers between Parliament and State Legislatures as per the lists of entries in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
The Constitution of India has demarcated the subjects under which each tier of the government will have executive and legislative powers. Some subjects fall under the Union List, some under the State List, while some subjects fall under the category of Concurrent List. The Union Government has the powers to enact laws on subjects under the Union List of the Constitution, while the State Governments have the powers to enact laws on subjects that fall under the purview of the State List.
Both the Central as well as the State Governments can enact laws on subjects under the Concurrent List, however, in case of conflict between the two legislations, the laws enacted by the Union Government under the Concurrent List overrides the laws enacted by the State Government. (i) Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Parliament is the legislative arm of the Union Government. India’s bicameral Parliament consists of two houses; Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Lok Sabha is the lower house of the Parliament and it comprises of the elected representatives of the people.
They come to Lok Sabha after winning their elections, in which eligible electorates(any Indian citizen of 18 years and above, who is not debarred by law is entitled to vote) cast their votes through the system of universal adult franchise. Each Lok Sabha is constituted for a five year term, after which it is automatically dissolved, unless extended by a Proclamation of Emergency. In such a case, its term may be extended with one year increments. Unless it experiences premature dissolution, a given Lok Sabha is expected to run a five year term. From independence to 2007, India has seen 14 Lok Sabha terms.
According to the Constitution of India, Lok Sabha can have 552 members, with 530 members representing states of India, and 20 members representing the Union Territories. Two members are represented by the Anglo-Indian community if the President feels the community doesn’t have adequate representation in the house. In fact, this is one of the few ‘real’ powers of the President that is ordained by the Constitution of India. The membership of Lok Sabha is distributed among the states and union territories so as to ensure proper representation of the population of the states and union territories.
The members of the Lok Sabha elects a Speaker of the house, who is responsible for the conducting of business, and maintaining the decorum of the house, and also a Deputy Speaker. The later preside over the proceedings in the absence of the Speaker. Rajya Sabha or the Council of States is the upper house of the Parliament. Its members are not directly elected by people. Members of the Rajya Sabha from each state are elected by the members of the State Legislature or the Legislative Assembly of that state by means of proportional representation, through the single transferable vote system.
The representatives of the Union Territories for the Rajya Sabha are chosen in such manner as may be decided or prescribed by the Parliament from time to time. According to the Constitution, Rajya Sabha can have maximum 250 members, that is 238 members representing the states, and 12 members nominated by the President, for their expertise in specific fields of art, literature, science, and social services. Rajya Sabha is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution. However, one third of the members retire every second year, and are replaced by newly elected members.
Each member is elected for a term of six years, however like Lok Sabha, the members can be reelected. Though both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha share the union legislative powers, and have the right to initiate, pass and amend ordinary bills of law, but Lok Sabha has an edge over the upper house of the Parliament. Under the Constitution, the Council of Ministers are only accountable to the Lok Sabha and not Rajya Sabha, and money bills can only be introduced in Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha can neither delay the money bills for more than fourteen days, nor can amend it without the consent of the Lok Sabha.
If it does so, the bill will be deemed to be passed by both houses of the Parliament, and will be send to the President for formal assent. Moreover, if there is a conflict in legislation, which cannot be resolved even by the joint committee of both houses, it is then passed to the joint session of the Parliament, where eventually Lok Sabha’s views would generally prevail as it has more than twice the numbers than that of the Rajya Sabha. (ii) Vidhan Sabha and Vidhan Parishad State Legislatures are the legislative arm of the State Governments, which comprise of Vidhan Sabha and Vidhan Parishad (in case of five states only).
Presently only Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Jammu & Kashmir have Vidhan Parishads, which is again a permanent house and can’t be dissolved. Every member of Legislative Council serves a term of six years. Like Lok Sabha, the members of Vidhan Sabha or the Legislative Assembly are also directly elected by the people of their respective states. The members of Vidhan Sabha also elect a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker, whose roles are similar to that of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker in Lok Sabha.
The Vidhan Sabha shares state legislative powers with the Vidhan Parishad(wherever it is there), however in case of money bills Vidhan Sabha has the absolute power. In case of conflicts in state legislations, Vidhan Sabha would generally prevail over Vidhan Parishad, by the sheer strength of its numbers. According to the Constitution, Vidhan Sabha can have up to 500 members, whereas the size of the Vidhan Parishad cannot exceed more than one-third of the membership of the given state’s Vidhan Sabha. Moreover, a motion of no confidence against the state government can only be introduced in the Vidhan Sabha.
If it is passed by a majority vote, then the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers must collectively resign, and regarding this Vidhan Parishad’s views doesn’t have any constitutional muscle. The Power of Amendment Though the Constitution of India lays down the framework on which Indian polity is supposed to run, the Parliament can amend the Constitution if it feels the need to do so. The amendments can be done in various ways. Firstly it can be done through a simple majority of the Parliament, which entails a simple majority of members of the houses present and voting before sending for the President’s assent.
Amendments can also be done through a special majority of the Parliament, where two conditions apply. The said bill should be passed by at least two-thirds of the members of each house of the Parliament present and voting. Furthermore, the members present and voting in each house should not be less than half the total membership in the house. Thirdly the Constitution can also be amended through a ratification of at least half of the state legislatures by special majority, after it has been passed through a special majority in the Parliament.
All amendments need an assent by the President, which normally is nothing more than a formality. All these methods of amendments pertain to specific articles of the Constitution. For amending different articles of the Constitution, different methods of amendments are employed. Till today, the Constitution has seen 94 amendments, which clearly shows the prevalence of legislature over other branches of Indian Constitution. Decentralized, Multi-party Democracy Over the last decade, the governance in India has become somewhat decentralized and has assumed a local face, with the Panchyati Raj System gaining in currency.
The 73rd Amendment of the Constitution in 1993 gave constitutional sanctity to the Panchayat Raj institutions. The Act aims to provide a three-tier system of Panchayati Raj for all states having population of over 2 million. They are to hold Panchayat elections regularly every five years, to provide reservation of seats for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women in Panchayats, to appoint State Finance Commission for making recommendations regarding the financial powers of the Panchayats, and to constitute District Planning Committee for chalking out the draft development plan for the district.
As stated before, Indian polity has a multi-party system with several national and state parties, other recognised parties represented in the Lok Sabha, and also registered unrecognised parties. In Indian politics, state level regional parties have lots of say. Only those parties which are politically recognised in four or more states can be accorded the status of national parties by the Election Commission of India. At present there are six national parties in India. They are the Indian National Congress(INC), led by Sonia Gandhi, the Nationalist Congress Party(NCP), led by Sharad Pawar, the Communist Party of India(CPI), led by A. B. Burdan, the Communist Party of India(Marxist) or CPI(M), led by Prakash Karat, the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP), led by Rajnath Singh and the Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP), led by Mayawati. Parties that have received certain amount of votes or seats in a state can be recognized as a state party by the Election Commission. Presently we are having a coalition government. The UPA or United Progressive Alliance is the name of this coalition, which is led by the Indian National Congress