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India Main Page

 

India's Politics

A federal republic, the Republic of India integrates the United Kingdom's (as well as other democratic countries, such as the United States) constitutional system and has a constitution which governs it.  

The government's power can be divided into three branches: executive, judiciary and parliament.  As with the United States, India is comprised of individual states.  India's central government has authority over these states and even has the authority to change the boundaries of the states.



Learn more of India's political system and how it works on
political news and events

 


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of India
conventional short form: India
local long form: Republic of India/Bharatiya Ganarajya
local short form: India/Bharat
Government type:
federal republic
Capital:
name: New Delhi
geographic coordinates: 28 36 N, 77 12 E
time difference: UTC+5.5 (10.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
28 states and 7 union territories*; Andaman and Nicobar Islands*, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh*, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli*, Daman and Diu*, Delhi*, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep*, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Puducherry*, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal
Independence:
15 August 1947 (from the UK)
National holiday:
Republic Day, 26 January (1950)
Constitution:
26 January 1950; amended many times
Legal system:
based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; separate personal law codes apply to Christians, Hindus, and Muslims
Suffrage:
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Pratibha Devisingh PATIL (since 25 July 2007); Vice President Mohammad Hamid ANSARI (since 11 August 2007)
head of government: Prime Minister Manmohan SINGH (since 22 May 2004)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister
elections: president elected by an electoral college consisting of elected members of both houses of Parliament and the legislatures of the states for a five-year term (no term limits); election last held in July 2007 (next to be held in July 2012); vice president elected by both houses of Parliament for a five-year term; election last held in August 2007 (next to be held August 2012); prime minister chosen by parliamentary members of the majority party following legislative elections; election last held April - May 2009 (next to be held no later than May 2014)
election results: Pratibha PATIL elected president; percent of vote - Pratibha PATIL 65.8%, Bhairon Singh SHEKHAWAT - 34.2%
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament or Sansad consists of the Council of States or Rajya Sabha (a body consisting of not more than 250 members up to 12 of whom are appointed by the president, the remainder are chosen by the elected members of the state and territorial assemblies; members serve six-year terms) and the People's Assembly or Lok Sabha (545 seats; 543 members elected by popular vote, 2 appointed by the president; members serve five-year terms)
elections: People's Assembly - last held in five phases on 16, 22-23, 30 April and 7, 13 May 2009 (next must be held by May 2014)
election results: People's Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - INC 206, BJP 116, SP 23, BSP 21, JD (U) 20, AITC 19, DMK 18, CPI-M 16, BJD 14, SS 11, AIADMK 9, NCP 9, other 61, vacant 2; note - seats by party as November 2009 - INC 207, BJP 116, SP 22, BSP 21, JD (U) 20, AITC 19, DMK 18, CPI-M 16, BJD 14, SS 11, AIADMK 9, NCP 9, other 61, vacant 2
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (one chief justice and 25 associate justices are appointed by the president and remain in office until they reach the age of 65 or are removed for "proved misbehavior")
Political parties and leaders:
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or AIADMK [J. JAYALALITHAA]; All India Trinamool Congress or AITC [Mamata BANERJEE]; Bahujan Samaj Party or BSP [MAYAWATI]; Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP [Nitin GADKARI]; Biju Janata Dal or BJD [Naveen PATNAIK]; Communist Party of India or CPI [B. BARDHAN]; Communist Party of India-Marxist or CPI-M [Prakash KARAT]; Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or DMK [Kalaignar M.KARUNANIDHI]; Indian National Congress or INC [Sonia GANDHI]; Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) [Sharad YADAV]; Left Front (an alliance of Indian leftist parties); Nationalist Congress Party or NCP [Sharad PAWAR]; Rashtriya Lok Dal or RLD [Ajit SINGH]; Samajwadi Party or SP [Mulayam Singh YADAV]; Shiromani Akali Dal or SAD [Parkash Singh BADAL]; Shiv Sena or SS [Bal THACKERAY]; Telugu Desam Party or TDP [Chandrababu NAIDU]; note - India has dozens of national and regional political parties; only parties or coalitions with four or more seats in the People's Assembly are listed
Political pressure groups and leaders:
All Parties Hurriyat Conference in the Kashmir Valley (separatist group); Bajrang Dal (religious organization); National Socialist Council of Nagaland in the northeast (separatist group); Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [Mohan BHAGWAT] (religious organization); Vishwa Hindu Parishad [Ashok SINGHAL] (religious organization)
other: numerous religious or militant/chauvinistic organizations; various separatist groups seeking greater communal and/or regional autonomy
International organization participation:
ADB, AfDB (nonregional member), ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), BIMSTEC, BIS, C, CD, CERN (observer), CICA, CP, EAS, FAO, G-15, G-20, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAS (observer), MIGA, MONUC, NAM, OAS (observer), OPCW, PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC, SACEP, SCO (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNDOF, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNITAR, UNMIS, UNMIT, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Meera SHANKAR
chancery: 2107 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008; note - Consular Wing located at 2536 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 939-7000
FAX: [1] (202) 265-4351
consulate(s) general: Chicago, Houston, New York, San Francisco
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Timothy J. ROEMER
embassy: Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110021
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [91] (011) 2419-8000
FAX: [91] (11) 2419-0017
consulate(s) general: Chennai (Madras), Hyderabad; Kolkata (Calcutta), Mumbai (Bombay)
Flag description:
three equal horizontal bands of saffron (subdued orange) (top), white, and green, with a blue chakra (24-spoked wheel) centered in the white band; saffron represents courage, sacrifice, and the spirit of renunciation; white signifies purity and truth; green stands for faith and fertility; the blue chakra symbolizes the wheel of life in movement and death in stagnation
note: similar to the flag of Niger, which has a small orange disk centered in the white band
National anthem:
name: "Jana-Gana-Mana" (Thou Art the Ruler of the Minds of All People)
lyrics/music: Rabindranath TAGORE
note: adopted 1950; Rabindranath TAGORE, a Nobel laureate, also wrote Bangladesh's national anthem

 

Federal System

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. 


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.


Vice-President

The Vice-President is elected by the members of an electoral college consisting of members of both Houses of Parliament in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote. He holds office for five years. The Vice-President is Ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. 

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Council of Ministers

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 always prevails.

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Rajya Sabha

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.

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Lok Sabha

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 two 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. 

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State Governments

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. 

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Political System

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.

The Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Janata Dal, Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist) are the prominent 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. 

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Judicial System

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 judicial 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. 

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Supreme Court

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. 

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High Courts

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. 

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Lok Adalat

Lok Adalats are voluntary agencies for resolution of disputes through conciliatory method. 


Legislative Relations Between the Union and States

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 defense, 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.

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