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Day 6 – Q 1.The seeds of India’s federal polity were sown during the British rule itself. Do you agree? Comment in the light of India’s contemporary constitutional history.

1. The seeds of India’s federal polity were sown during the British rule itself. Do you agree? Comment in the light of India’s contemporary constitutional history.

ब्रिटिश शासन के दौरान ही भारत की संघीय राजनीति का बीज बोया गया था। क्या आप सहमत हैं? भारत के समकालीन संवैधानिक इतिहास के प्रकाश में टिप्पणी करें।


Indian federalism is the product of an evolutionary process during the colonial rule. The centralization which began in regulatory act of 1773 continued till 1861 after which decentralization of power to provinces started and continued till GOI act 1935 from which the feature of federal scheme is borrowed into our constitution. 



Regulatory act of 1773 sowed the seeds of centralization by stablishing the office of Governor general of Bengal who concentrated the power in the subsequent acts as the Governor general of India. As the British empire expanded, over-centralization proved counter-productive. After the Company rule ended under 1858 GOI act, decentralization started and seeds of Indian federalism were sowed. 

Evolution of Federalism during British:

  • Indian council act 1861 restored the legislative power of the Bombay and Madras provinces. It also created new legislative councils for Bengal, North-West Frontier province and Punjab – thus empowering provinces in legislative sphere.
  • Through the subsequent Indian council acts, provinces were provided more powers like assured assistance by Centre to provinces, increased taxation powers etc.,
  • Indian council act of 1909 – 
    • Allowed provincial councils to have non-official majority and thus for the first time allowed the provincial democracy to prevail with provincial leaders.
    • It enlarged the independent deliberative functioning (like asking supplementary questions, moving resolutions) of provincial legislative council, thus increasing its power.
  • GOI 1919 act – 
    • Relaxed central control over provinces by separating central and provincial subjects.
    • Bicameralism was introduced with state representation in Centre. The majority of members were elected directly and thus were provincially elected popular leaders.
    • It separated, for the first time, provincial budgets from the Central budget and authorized the provincial government to enact their budgets. 
  • Simon commission recommended the responsible provincial government with clearly demarcated powers and functioning.
  • GOI 1935 act – 
    • It envisaged to establish an All India federation consisting of provinces and princely states.
    • It divided the powers between Centre and provinces in terms of 3 lists – Federal, Provincial and Concurrent.
    • It introduced ‘provincial autonomy’ with responsible government acting as autonomous units of administration.
    • Bicameralism is introduced in several provinces in lines of contemporary state legislative councils.
    • A federal court was established with powers to adjudicate federal cases.
    • Federal and provincial public service commissions were established in line of contemporary UPSC, SPSC’s.

Additional information which can be incorporated in the answer also:

However, in spite of the fact that Indian federal polity evolved during colonial rule, Indian federalism is more an upgradation over the federal feature existed during British for the reasons:

  • There was permanent written constitution during the British period. Thus, the federal feature was itself contingent on the Centre’s wish unlike now, where Federalism is a basic feature.
  • Indian Federation today is not formed by agreement as provided by GOI act 1935 and thus is indestructible union.
  • A powerful independent judiciary was absent during the colonial rule. Though federal court was established, the Central legislature was supreme and had over-riding powers.


Thus, seeds of India’s federal polity were sown during the British rule itself. Though an All India federation did not come into existence as envisaged under GOI 1935 act, it became the blueprint in establishing the Indian federation with state representation in Rajyasabha. 

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