Federalism is a balance between unitarianism, in which the states are subordinate, and confederalism, in which the states are superior and coordinated by a limited central authority.
A powerful federal judicial system that interprets the constitution and thus adjudicates on the rights of the federal units and the central unit, as well as between the citizen and these units, is an essential requirement of a federal state.
According to A.V. Dicey, the key feature of federalism is the allocation of limited administrative, legislative, and judicial authority among separate organisations. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the federalist essence of the Constitution is inherent in its core structure.
Where SC overpowers HC
- Successive administrations have enacted legislation to establish parallel legal systems of courts and tribunals, with direct appeals to the Supreme Court bypassing the High Courts. These regulations result in the establishment of rival hierarchies of courts and tribunals, whether it’s the Competition Commission, corporation law tribunals, or consumer courts. The High Courts are circumvented in all of these instances. The laws have been written in such a way that the High Court has no function to play and the Supreme Court works immediately as an appellate court.
- The collegium system, made up of Supreme Court judges, has the authority to nominate and remove judges and chief justices from the High Courts and the Supreme Court.
- Many people see an actively interventionist Supreme Court as a solution for all of the nation’s woes. In 2018, several Delhi residents petitioned the Supreme Court to have Deepavali celebrations halted. This caused a commotion because Deepavali is celebrated in the morning in South India. We see the Supreme Court meddling in things that are obviously of local interest but have no constitutional implications.
What the constitution says
- In the Constituent Assembly, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar argued that the Indian Federation had a dual polity but no parallel judiciary. The High Courts and the Supreme Court function as a unified judiciary, providing remedies in all issues originating under constitutional law, civil law, or criminal law.
- The Indian Constitution provided for the equality of authority between High Court and Supreme Court justices. For example, Justice P.V. Rajamannar, Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, turned down a seat on the newly constituted Supreme Court in order to serve as Chief Justice of the famous Madras High Court.
- The Supreme Court has often said that in an appellate capacity that it is superior to the High Court. The equilibrium existed from the Independence until the 1990s. However, it has shifted in favour of the central court since then.
Need for federalism
- When it comes to striking down state legislation, courts face far less restraints, especially when it comes to state legislation that is opposed by national political majorities.
- The importance of this balance was highlighted during the Emergency, when the High Courts served as beacons of liberty.
- A strong federal court system is a fundamental prerequisite for a federal state that interprets the constitution. It decides on the rights of the federal units and the central unit, as well as the rights of the citizen and these units.
- Studies conducted in the United States demonstrates that judicial review by a centralised judiciary trends toward unitarism. According to research, the Supreme Court of Nigeria has chosen interpretations that promote the interests of the centre over the states.
A strong federal judicial system that interprets the constitution is an essential element of a federal state. In the sense that only these two courts may arbitrate the aforementioned rights, the federal legal system consists of the Supreme Court and the High Court. The weakening of state units leads to the weakness of the entire state. As a result, the Supreme Court should recognise this and re-empower the High Courts to restore federal balance.
How to structure
- Give an intro about the Indian judiciary
- Explain the challenges faced by the Indian judiciary in maintaining the integrity of its federal structure
- Mention the challenges faced
- Suggest way forward and Conclude