ICSE Class 10 Political Science Union Legislature Short Summary on the Union Legislature Part 1

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Meaning of the Federal Setup in India

Federalism in India refers to relations between the Centre and states of Union of India. The Constitution of India establishes structure of the Indian government. Part XI of the Indian constitution specifies the distribution of legislative, administrative and executive powers between the union government and the States of India. The legislative powers are categorized under a Union List, a State List and a Concurrent List, representing, respectively, the powers conferred upon the Union government, those conferred upon the State governments and powers shared among them.


  • There are two or more levels (tiers) of government.
  • Each level of government has its own jurisdiction in matters of legislation, taxation and administration even though they govern the same citizens.
  • Powers and functions of each tier of government is specified and guaranteed by Constitution.
  • The Supreme Court has been given power to settle disputes between state governments

The division of powers are defined by the constitution and the legislative powers are divided into three lists:

Union List (On Which Parliament Has Exclusive Power to Make Law)

Union List consists of 100 items on which the parliament has exclusive power to legislate including:

defense, armed forces, arms and ammunition, atomic energy, foreign affairs, war and peace, citizenship, extradition, railways, shipping and navigation, airways, posts and telegraphs, telephones, wireless and broadcasting, currency, foreign trade, inter-state trade and commerce, banking, insurance, control of industries, regulation and development of mines, mineral and oil resources, elections, audit of Government accounts, constitution and organisation of the Supreme Court, High courts and union public service commission, income tax, custom duties and export duties, duties of excise, corporation tax, taxes on capital value of assets, estate duty and terminal taxes.

State List (On Which State Legislature Has Exclusive Power to Make Law)

State List consists of 61 items. Uniformity is desirable but not essential on items in this list:

  • maintaining law and order, police forces, healthcare, transport, land policies, electricity in the state, village administration, etc. The state legislature has exclusive power to make laws on these subjects. In certain circumstances, the parliament can make laws on subjects mentioned in the State List, but to do so the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) must pass a resolution with a two-thirds majority that it is expedient to legislate in the national interest.
  • Though states have exclusive powers to legislate with regards to items on the State List, articles 249,250, 252, and 253 mention situations in which the Union government can legislate.

Concurrent List

Concurrent List consists of 52 items. Uniformity is desirable but not essential on items in this list. The list mentions: marriage and divorce, transfer of property other than agricultural land, education, contracts, bankruptcy and insolvency, trustees and trusts, civil procedure, contempt of court, adulteration of foodstuffs, drugs and poisons, economic and social planning, trade unions, labour welfare, electricity, newspapers, books and printing press NS stamp duties.

Other (Residuary) Subjects

  • Subjects not mentioned in any of the three lists are known as residuary subjects. However, many provisions in the constitution outside these lists permit parliament or state Legislative assembly to legislate. Excluding the provisions of the constitution outside these lists per Article 245, the power to legislate on such subjects, rests with the parliament exclusively per Article 248. Parliament shall legislate on residuary subjects following the Article 368 procedure as constitutional amendments.
  • In case the above lists are to be expanded or amended, the legislation should be done by the Parliament under its constituent power per Article 368 with ratification by the majority of the states. Federalism is part of the basic structure of the Indian constitution which cannot be altered or destroyed through constitutional amendments under the constituent powers of the Parliament without undergoing judicial review by the Supreme Court.