India, a union of states, is a Sovereign, Secular, Democratic Republic with a Parliamentary system of Government. The Indian Polity is governed in terms of the Constitution, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and came into force on 26 November 1950.
The President is the constitutional head of Executive of the Union. Real executive power vests in a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as head. Article 74(1) of the Constitution provides that there shall be a Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister to aid and advise the President who shall, in exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice. The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha, the House of the People.
In the states, the Governor, as the representative of the President, is the head of Executive, but real executive power rests with the Chief Minister who heads the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers of a state is collectively responsible to the elected legislative assembly of the state.
The Constitution governs the sharing of legislative power between Parliament and the State Legislatures, and provides for the vesting of residual powers in Parliament. The power to amend the Constitution also vests in Parliament.
The Union Executive consists of the President, the Vice President and Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President.
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. His term of office is five years.
Among other powers, the President can proclaim an emergency in the country if he is satisfied that the security of the country or of any part of its territory is threatened whether by war or external agression or armed rebellion. When there is a failure of the constitutional machinery in a state, he can assume to himself all or any of the functions of the government of that state.
The Vice-President is elected in the same way as the President, and holds office for five years. The Vice-President is Ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
The Council of Ministers comprises Cabinet Ministers, Minister of States (independent charge or otherwise) and Deputy Ministers. Prime Minister communicates all decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to administration of affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation to the President. Generally, each department has an officer designated as secretary to the Government of India to advise Ministers on policy matters and general administration. The Cabinet Secretariat has an important coordinating role in decision making at highest level and operates under direction of Prime Minister.
The Legislative Arm of the Union, called Parliament, consists of the President, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. All legislation requires consent of both houses of parliament. However, in case of money bills, the will of the Lok Sabha prevails.
The Rajya Sabha consists of 245 members. Of these, 233 represent states and union territories and 12 members are nominated by the President. Elections to the Rajya Sabha are indirect; members are elected by the elected members of Legislative Assemblies of the concerned states. The Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution, one third of its members retire every second year.
The Lok Sabha is composed of representatives of the people chosen by direct election on the basis of universal adult suffrage. As of today, the Lok Sabha consists of 545 members with 2 members nominated by the President to represent the Anglo-Indian Community. Unless dissolved under unusual circumstances, the term of the Lok Sabha is five years.
The system of government in states closely resembles that of the Union. There are 25 states and seven Union territories in the country.
Union Territories are administered by the President through an Administrator appointed by him. Till 1 February 1992, the Union Territory of Delhi was governed by the Central government through an Administrator appointed by the President of India. Through a Constitutional amendment in Parliament, the Union Territory of Delhi is now called the National Capital Territory of Delhi from 1 February 1992. General elections to the Legislative assembly of the National Capital Territory were held in November 1993.
A recognised political party has been classified as a National Party or a State Party. If a political party is recognised in four or more states, it is considered as a National Party.
Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Janata Dal, Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist) are the prominant National Parties in the Country. Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh, Asom Gana Parishad in Assam, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in Bihar, Maharashtrwad Gomantak Party in Goa, National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir, Muslim League in Kerala, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, Akali Dal in Punjab, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and All India Forward Block in West Bengal are the prominent state parties.
Eleven Lok Sabhas have been constituted so far. Except for the short-lived Sixth and Ninth Lok Sabha, the Congress Party ruled the country. The Sixth Lok Sabha functioned for about two years and four months and the Ninth Lok Sabha functioned for one year and two months.
Even in the states, the regional parties or the non-congress parties have gained in importance over the years. The ruling parties in the states are listed below.
_________________________________________________ State Ruling Party ------------------------------------------------- NORTH Jammu and Kashmir National Conference Himachal Pradesh Congress Punjab Akali Dal - BJP Haryana Haryana Vikas Party - BJP Uttar Pradesh BSP - BJP Rajasthan BJP Delhi BJP EAST Bihar Janata Dal Orissa Congress West Bengal Left Front Assam Asom Gana Parishad Manipur Congress (Keisingh) Meghalaya Congress Mizoram Congress Nagaland Congress Tripura CPM Arunachal Pradesh Arunachal Pradesh Congress Sikkim Sikkim Democratic Front WEST Gujarat MJP Maharashtra BJP-Shiv Sena Goa Congress Madhya Pradesh Congress SOUTH Andhra Pradesh Telugu Desam (Naidu) Karnataka Janata Dal Kerala LDF Tamil Nadu DMK Pondicherry Congress -------------------------------------------------
The Supreme Court is the apex court in the country. The High Court stands at the head of the state's judicial administration. Each state is divided into judicial districts presided over by a district and sessions judge, who is the highest judicicial authority in a district. Below him, there are courts of civil jurisdiction, known in different states as munsifs, sub-judges, civil judges and the like. Similarly, criminal judiciary comprises chief judicial magistrate and judicial magistrates of first and second class.
The Supreme Court has original, appellate and advisory jurisdiction. Its exclusive original jurisdiction extends to all disputes between the Union and one or more states or between two or more states. The Constitution gives an extensive original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to enforce Fundamental Rights. Appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can be invoked by a certificate of the High Court concerned or by special leave granted by the Supreme Court in respect of any judgement, decree or final order of a High Court in cases both civil and criminal, involving substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the constitution. The President may consult the Supreme Court on any question of fact or law of public importance.
The Supreme Court of India comprises of the Chief Justice and not more than 25 other Judges appointed by the President. Judges hold office till 65 years of age.
There are 18 High Courts in the country, three having jurisdiction over more than one state. Bombay High Court has the jurisdiction over Maharashtra, Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu. Guwahati High Court, which was earlier known as Assam High Court, has the jurisdiction over Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Punjab and Haryana High Court has the jurisdiction over Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
Among the Union Territories, Delhi alone has had a High Court of its own. The other six Union Territories come under jurisdiction of different state High Courts.
The Chief Justice of a High Court is appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the Governor of the state. Each High Court has powers of superintendence over all courts within its jurisdiction. High Court judges retire at the age of 62.
The jurisdiction as well as the laws administered by a High Court can be altered both by the Union and State Legislatures. Certain High Courts, like those at Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, have original and appellate jurisdictions. Under the original jurisdiction suits, where the subject matter is valued at Rs.25,000 or more, can be filed directly in the High Court. Most High Courts have only appellate jurisdiction.
Lok Adalats are voluntary agencies for resolution of disputes through conciliatory method.
Under the Constitution, Parliament has the power to make laws for the whole of or any part of the territory of India. The State Legislatures have the power to make laws for the States. The subjects on which legislation can be enacted are specified in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
Parliament has the exclusive right to legislate in respect of items appearing in List I, called the ``Union List''. This list includes area such as defence, foreign affairs, currency, income tax, excise duty, railways, shipping, posts and telegraphs, etc.
State Legislatures have the exclusive power to make laws in relation to items appearing in List II called the ``State List''. This includes items like public order, police, public health, communications, agriculture, lotteries, taxes on entertainment and wealth, sales tax and octroi, etc.
Both Parliament and the State Legislatures have the power to legislate in items appearing in List III of the Constitution which is known as ``Concurrent List''. This list includes items like electricity, newspapers, criminal law, marriage and divorce, stamp duties, trade unions, price controls, etc.