Co-operative Federalism

  • Home
  • Co-operative Federalism

The Constitution of India envisaged a creative balance between the need for an effective Centre and empowered states. The federal system that emerged became the sound framework for the working of the Indian state. In spite of the difficulty of maintaining a balance of powers, the system has survived.

The Constitution also defines the powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government; provides a standard by which the validity of the laws enacted by the legislature is tested; and establishes the judiciary as the guardian of the Constitution.

The Constitution, reflecting concerns about centrifugal forces that might fragment India, establishes a rather centralized polity in which the Union government is vested with sufficient powers to ensure not only its dominance, but also its ability to rule in a unitary fashion if necessary and politically feasible. Equally important, the country’s diversity and socio-economic conditions, coupled with the ideological influences of socialism, drove the Constitution toward a more unitary federalism in the name of justice, equality, and rights protection.

Federalism is the division of power between center and its various constituents, like provinces, states, cantons and so on. Cooperative federalism is a concept or subset of federalism where national, state and local governments interact cooperatively and collectively to solve common problems. They make various policies separately but more or less equally or clashing over a policy in a system generally dominated by the national government, as in India or Canada.

Cooperative Federalism ”, it is a concept of federalism in which national, state, and increasingly local governments interact cooperatively and collectively to solve common problems, rather than making policies separately. Cooperative federalism requires robust institutions and mechanisms for promoting intergovernmental relations.

In brief, an essential element in cooperative federalism is clarity in assignment of functions among different levels of government and mechanisms for discussions and conflict resolution. This is achieved through Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) within federations which take many forms and may be exercised through a variety of mechanisms, formal and informal or both.

Several times It has been observed that whenever the center government is in full majority then the Federalism is little bit in endanger and when the center have coalition government then the federalism become strong.


Importance for this system with regards to Indian Polity

The spirit of co-operative federalism in India is observed by following

  • Distribution of Powers,
  • Supremacy of the Constitution,
  • A Written Constitution,
  • Rigidity and
  • Authority of Courts.


Under this arrangement in the Constitution, Center has got dominant power as evident from following:

  • States must exercise their executive power in compliance with the laws made by the Central government and must not impede on the executive power of the Union within the States.
  • Center can even usurp the legislative discretion of state with the permission of Rajyasabha.
  • Governors are appointed by the Central government to oversee the States.
  • The Center can even take over the executive of the States on the issues of national security or breakdown of constitutional machinery of the State.


Cooperative federalism in India is practiced under following norms:

  • Article 263 of the Constitution has provided for the setting up of an Inter-State Council for investigation, discussion and recommendation for better coordination of relation between the Centre and the States.
  • The Zonal Councils set up under the State Reorganization Act 1956 provide another institutional mechanism for centre- state and inter-state cooperation to resolve the differences and strengthen the framework of cooperation.
  • The National Development Council and the National Integration Council are the two other important forums that provide opportunities for discussion to resolve differences of opinion. Central councils have been set up by various ministries to strengthen cooperation.



  • The states today have acquired sufficient political weight of their own through a pluralised party system enabling individual states to embark onto bilateral negotiations with the union bypassing the institutionalised bodies of collective policy framing.
  • India is making strides in the global sphere and the local governments that promote shared partnership in development have come to be noticed today.
  • Environmental Challenges of global nature like climate change do not recognise state frontiers. Pollution and conservation issues reflect the uncomfortable tension between the decision making process of the governments at the centre-state –local levels.
  • The increasing voices of autonomy and separatism have vitiated the political and social fabric of the federal structure.
  • Globalisation has reinforced the need for concurrence between the geographical, climatic, environmental and technological diversities inter as well as intra states so that they may link with global processes for viable and sustainable development and growth.


Way Forward

  • Articles 3 & 4 in their present form are enabling provisions empowering Parliament to act in an exceptional situation. Such agreement and proposals should be done with broad consensus or negotiated settlement.
  • Appointment of governor should be done generously by taking state government in confidence.
  • More bodies like National Development Council, National Integration Council, Inter State Council be created to tackle various issues like tax devolution, constitution amendment, grants and so on.
  • There have been blemishes in the application of Article 356 earlier. It should be applied with extreme caution and vigilance adhering to the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, Punchhi Commission and other guidelines of the Supreme Court.
  • States in India exercise limited sovereignty, and the federal spirit informs the operation of the Constitution. However, off lately, federalism is deepening in India following global practices. Further prudent autonomy can be provided to states
  • Greater encouragement for the participation of states in the legislative process is also highly desirable in order to shed the apprehension of regional parties.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *