Characteristics Of Federation

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Jun 1, 2022, 7:27

A Federation (or a federal state) refers to a political entity that involves two sets of governments. One of these governments exists at the national level and the other at the regional level. These sets of governments are both independent at their levels. Each of them has some distinct responsibilities and powers.

One thing to note is that in a federal state, matters related to foreign affairs, national security, international diplomacy, and various kinds of international dealings are solely handled by the central government (aka the federal government). The regional or state governments have no right to address such matters.

Let us take a look at the Characteristics Of Federation.

What are the Characteristics Of Federation?

A Federation features the following characteristics -

Power Division

The division of power is one of the most prominent Characteristics Of Federation. The powers of administration in a federal government are distributed between the centre and the state governments. This division of power can be done in different ways.

For instance, the US Constitution defines the powers that are to remain with the central government and confers the remaining powers on the state governments.

On the other hand, the Constitution of India specifically defines the powers to be vested upon the federal government (central government), the state governments, and the parallel powers that are common to the federal government and the state governments.

Further, the residuary powers are conferred on the federal government. So, the mode of power division may be different, but this feature has to be present in every Federation.

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Written Constitution

Since the division of powers is among the indispensable characteristics of a Federation, it is important to put down everything in writing. This is done to make the power division definite and binding upon the centre and the states. That is why a written Constitution is an absolute necessity for a Federation.

Only when the Constitution is written and enacted can the power division be carried out clearly and efficiently.

Rigid Constitution

A rigid constitution is another significant characteristic of a Federation. Rigidity does not indicate that the Constitution remains constant and can’t be subjected to any change. Rather, it prevents the central government or the state governments from amending the Constitution unilaterally.

Any amendment that needs to be introduced in the Constitution must involve both the central government and the state governments.

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Supremacy of the Constitution

The Constitution serves as the ultimate law in a Federation. The Central Government, as well as the state governments, have to honour and obey the Constitution.

In a Federation, no one has the authority to disregard or supersede the Constitution. Rather, both the central government and the state governments function within the periphery marked by the Constitution.

Authority of the Judiciary

In a Federation, the possibility of the central government trespassing on the rights of the states can exist. There is also the possibility of one state government intruding upon the field of another. An independent judicial body is necessary to handle such circumstances.

The Courts have the power to interpret the Constitution. The Constitution of India vests such power on our Supreme Court.

The features mentioned above are among the major Characteristics Of Federation. If a state has all these characteristics, it can be defined as a Federation.

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FAQs on Characteristics Of Federation

Q1. What are the examples of countries where the Characteristics Of Federation can be seen?

Some countries where the Characteristics Of Federation can be seen are India, the United States, Canada, Pakistan, Switzerland, Belgium, Brazil, and Australia.

Q2. Do the Characteristics Of Federation remain the same in all Federal countries?

There may be some variations in the Characteristics Of Federation among different federal countries, but the broad fundamental features remain more or less the same.

Q3. Is it necessary for the Central Government and the State Governments to obey all the Characteristics Of Federation?

Yes, the central government and the state governments in a federal state must obey all the Characteristics Of Federation.

Q4. As per the Characteristics Of Federation, upon whom should the residuary powers be vested?

According to the Characteristics Of Federation, the residuary powers may be vested upon the centre or the states. This can vary from one country to another.