DISTRIBUTION OF LEGISLATIVE POWER UNDER THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION

The Indian Constitution, based on the principle of federalism, has a scheme of two fold distribution of legislative powers-with respect to territory; and with respect to subject matter. The constitutional provisions are spread out over Articles 245–254. Article 245 talks about distribution of legislative power between Union and State with respect to territory. In terms of Article 246, The VIIth Schedule of the constitution contains 3 lists, The Union List, State List and Concurrent list. However, In case of conflict between a central law and a state law on a subject in concurrent list; the union law should prevail. Also, In India residuary powers belong to the union government under article 248 and Entry 97 of Union list.

This reflects the leaning of the constitution makers towards a strong centre. Though in normal times the distribution of powers must be strictly maintained and neither the State nor the Centre can encroach upon the sphere allotted to the other by the Constitution, yet in certain exceptional circumstances the powers of the Union Parliament are extended over the subjects mentioned in the Slate List. For example, in the national interests, during a Proclamation of Emergency, with the consent of the State, in case of failure of constitutional machinery in a State etc.

Thus from the scheme of distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States it is quite evident that the framers have given more powers to the Union Parliament as against the States. Yet, the states are not made subordinate units of the centre. In normal times, they have been granted enough autonomy to act as independent centers of authority.


The present Constitution, based on the principle of federalism with a strong and indestructible union, adopts the method followed by the Government of India Act, 1935 and has a scheme of two fold distribution of legislative powers- with respect to territory; and with respect to subject matter. With respect to subject matter, The Constitution adopts a three-fold distribution of legislative powers by placing them in any of the three lists, namely, Union List, State List and Concurrent List.
Distribution of Legislative Powers With Respect To Subject Matter

In terms of Article 246 of the Indian constitution, there is a threefold distribution of legislative powers between Union and the State Governments. The VIIth Schedule of the constitution contains 3 lists.

  1. The Union List gives exclusive legislative powers to union to legislate on 97 items of all India character 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 organization 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, terminal taxes.
  2. The State list similarly gives exclusive legislative powers to the states on 66 items, now expanded to 65 items. Such subjects are essentially subjects of local interest such as maintaining law and order, police forces, healthcare, transport, land policies, electricity in state, village administration, etc. The state legislature has exclusive power to make laws on these subjects.
  3. The concurrent list empowers both the union and the states to legislate on 47 items. The subjects in this list are such that both national government and the governments of the states are interested in them. 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, labor welfare, electricity, newspapers, books and printing press, stamp duties etc.
    Both the union and the state governments are competent to legislate on subjects in the concurrent list. In case of conflict between a central law and a state law on a subject in this list; normally, the union law should prevail. If however a state law reserved for the Presidents assent receives, his assent, it will prevail over the union law. The power to legislate on a matter not enumerated in any of the 3 lists is vested in the union Parliament by Art. 248.
  4. Thus in India residuary powers belong to the union government.

  5. Residuary Power:Article 248 vests the residuary powers in the Parliament. It says that Parliament has exclusive power to make any law with respect to any matter not enumerated in the Concurrent list or the state list. Entry 97 in the Union list also lays down that the Parliament has exclusive power to make laws with respect to any matter not mentioned in the state list or the concurrent list including any tax not mentioned in either of these lists. This reflects the leaning of the constitution makers towards a strong centre.
    In Union of India v H.S. Dhillon14, the question involved was whether parliament had legislative competence to pass Wealth-tax Act imposing wealth tax on the assets of a person in agricultural land. The Court held that in case of a central Legislation the proper test was to inquire the matter fell in List II (State List) or List III (Concurrent List). Once it is found that matter does not fall under List II, Parliament will be competent to legislate on it under its residuary power in Entry 97 of List I. in such a case it becomes immaterial whether it falls under Entries I-96 of List or not. Thus the distribution of legislative powers by the constitution is heavily tilted towards the centre.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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