Separation of legislative powers in India


Separation of legislative powers in India

Legislative powers of the government, that is the power to make laws upon a specific subject, are separated in India by means of the three lists - union list, state list and concurrent list. These powers are divided between the central government : the Parliament and the state government, that is the state legislature.

Union list

The union list consists of 100 subjects on which the central government or the Parliament can make laws. The subjects in this list include subjects of nation importance like defence, foreign affairs, atomic energy, banking, post and telegraph. The central government makes laws on these at all times, including in times of emergencies.

State list

The state list contains 66 subjects of local or state importance on which the state governments can make laws. These subjects include police, local governments, trade, commerce and agriculture. In times of national and state emergency, the power to make laws on these subjects is transferred to the Parliament.

Concurrent list

The concurrent list contains 47 subjects on which both the Parliament and the state legislatures can make laws. It includes criminal and civil procedure, marriage and divorce, education, economic planning and trade unions. However, in case of conflict between a law made by the central government and a law made by the state legislatures, the law made by the central government will prevail.

India has borrowed the idea of the concurrent list from the Constitution of Australia (see separation of powers in Australia).

Education was shifted from the state list to the concurrent list by the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976.

Residuary subjects

The constitution makers wanted to be so precise about the distribution of powers between the governments, that after providing for the three lists, they provided for residuary subjects. Matters which are not included in any of the three lists are known as residuary subjects and the right to make laws on these subjects is called residuary power. The central government (the Parliament) has been given rights to legislate on these subjects.


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