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Definition, Merits, Demerits, Features - Unitary Form of Government | 11th Political Science : Chapter 6 : Forms of Government

Chapter: 11th Political Science : Chapter 6 : Forms of Government

Unitary Form of Government

A unitary system of government, or unitary state, is a sovereign state governed as a single entity.

Unitary Form of Government

A unitary system of government, or unitary state, is a sovereign state governed as a single entity. The central government is supreme, and the administrative divisions exercise only powers that the central government has delegated to them.

England, France, Japan, Sri Lanka are examples of Unitary Form of governments.

In a Unitary form of government all authorityandpowervestedinasinglecentre whereas in a federal form of government authority and power distributed between centre and the constituent units. Even in a Unitary form of Government there might be a lot of decentralization of authority but we cannot claim it as a federal system.


Some leading political thinkers defined unitary form of government as follows:

A.V.DICEY: “Habitual exercise of supreme legislative authority is by one central power”


GARNER: “Where the whole power of government is conferred by the constitution upon a single central organ”


C.F.STRONG: Two important qualities of the Unitary Government”.


They are:-

i.          The supremacy of the central government;

ii.          The absence of the subsidiary sovereign bodies.


The distinction between subsidiary law-making bodies and subsidiary sovereign bodies is the distinction between the local authorities in a unitary state and constituent units in a federal state.


K.C.Wheare : A constitution, Unitary and highly centralised on paper , may be almost federal in practice;


A federal constitution may be, in practice, Unitary, as indeed are the so-called federal constitutions of Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina”.


Merits Of Unitary Form Of Government


a.   Suitable for small countries.


b.  There is no conflict of authority and responsibility.


c.   A unitary government will make prompt decisions and take speedy action.


d.  A unitary government is less expensive.


e.   Amendments to the constitution are easy.


f.    There is unity, uniformity of law, policy and administration.



De-Merits of Unitary Form Government


a.   It is not suitable for big countries.


b.  The central government will have to tackle so many complex problems that lead to administrative delay.


c.   The central government will not concentrate on local problems, local interest and initiative.


The concentration of powers may pave way for the despotism of the central government.


Unitary Features Of Indian Constitution


i.Strong Centre

The division of powers is in favour of the Centre and highly inequitable from the federal angle. Firstly, the Union List contains more subjects than the State List. Secondly, the more important subjects have been included in the Union List. Thirdly, the Centre has overriding authority over the Concurrent List. Finally, the residuary powers have also been left with the Centre, while in the US, they are vested in the states. Thus, the Constitution has made the Centre very strong.


ii. Central Government’s control over state territory

Unlike in other federations, the states in India have no right to territorial integrity. The Parliament can by unilateral action change the area, boundaries or name of any state.


iii. Single Constitution

Usually, in a federation, the states have the right to frame their own Constitution separate from that of the Centre. In India, on the contrary, no such power is given to the states. The Constitution of India embodies not only the Constitution of the Centre but also those of the states. Both the Centre and the states must operate within this single-frame. The only exception in this regard is the case of Jammu and Kashmir which has its own (state) Constitution.


iv. Flexibility of the Constitution

The bulk of the Constitution can be amended by the unilateral action of the Parliament, either by simple majority or by special majority. Further, the power to initiate an amendment to the Constitution lies only with the Centre. In India states don’t have the right to propose amendment unlike in U.S.A


v. Unequal representation of states

In a federation states are given with equal representation with regard to upper house, but in India states are not given with equal representation with regard to Rajya Sabha.


vi. Emergency Provisions

During an emergency, the Central government becomes all powerful and the states go into the total control of the Centre. It converts the federal structure into a unitary one without a formal amendment of the Constitution. This kind of transformation is not found in any other federation.


vii. Single Citizenship

India adopted the system of single citizenship. There is only Indian Citizenship and no separate state citizenship. All citizens irrespective of the state in which they are born or reside enjoy the same rights all over the country. The other federal states like US, Switzerland and Australia have dual citizenship, that is, national citizenship as well as state citizenship.


viii. Single Integrated Judiciary

It means that all the courts of India are in a hierarchical order from the lower courts to the Supreme Court of India. Courts in India have Original and Appellate Jurisdiction.


ix. All India Services

It has the features of All India Services or Central Services, and the State Civil Services. The Central and All India services promotes uniform administrative system and process throughout India.


x. Appointment of Governor

The governor of a state is not elected but appointed by the president and holds office at the pleasure of the president. He is the head of the executive in the state. He has powers like Legislature, Executive Judicial and emergency powers.


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