Constitution of India

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament of India

Independence: 15 August 1947

India is a federal republic with 29 states (including the Delhi National Capital Territory), and six union territories. It has a parliamentary democracy which operates under the constitution of 1950. There is a bicameral federal parliament: the Rajya Sabha or council of states (upper house) and the Lok Sabha or house of the people (lower house).

The Lok Sabha has 545 members, 543 representing the states and union territories – 79 seats are reserved for scheduled castes and 40 for scheduled tribes – and two additional seats reserved for the Anglo-Indian community. Members are elected, on a first-past-the-post system in single-member constituencies, every five years or less, based on universal suffrage.

The Rajya Sabha has 245 members, 12 of which are presidential appointments and 233 are elected indirectly by the assemblies of the states and union territories for a six-year term, with one-third retiring every two years. Legislation may be introduced in either house, but the Lok Sabha has final say in financial matters.

The prime minister is elected by the members of the Lok Sabha and appoints and heads the Council of Ministers. The president is elected for five years by an electoral college consisting of members of the federal parliament and state assemblies.

Responsibility for enacting laws is set out in three lists: the Union List (for legislation by national parliament), the State List and the Concurrent List (either national or state legislatures). State legislatures make their own laws on such matters as education, health, taxation, public order, lands and forests. Constitutional amendments must be passed by both houses and ratified by at least half the state legislatures.

On proclamation of a state of emergency by the president, the federal government may assume temporary executive and financial control of a state and the president may rule it in place of the governor. The president appoints an administrator to govern the union territories. The 1950 constitution set out a number of individual freedoms and abolished discrimination on the basis of caste.