Judicial Federalism in India

    Federalism is a common concept in governance wherein it provides for the transfer of powers from the federal level of government to provinces level, granting them autonomy, in order to best realise the developmental agenda by harnessing the power of decentralisation.

    As per the concept of judicial federalism, the courts, at federal and component-unit level, majorly have their defined original jurisdiction and exercise autonomy in this context. America has adopted fifty-one courts system where fifty courts each for a state and one at the federal level is set up. On the other hand, countries such as Australia, Canada and India, the concept of completely independent set of courts at two levels has not been adopted. Rather a centralised judicial system with its arms in each federal unit has been opted for. 

Judicial federalism in India
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The Federal Court in India

    Article 124 of the Indian constitution provides for a Supreme Court of India with original jurisdiction in any disputes between Government of India and one or more states or between the states. However, the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in subsequent articles make it an umbrella body over the High Courts of various states.


Case for True Judicial Federalism

    It has been broadly accepted by the constitution that the matters which can be handled at local level must be dealt with at that level only. In accordance with this philosophy of decentralisation of governance, a large number of subjects are transferred to states in the seventh schedule under state list and other kept open under concurrent list. Added to it is the fact that the power conferred to high courts to issue writs under article 226 is broader than that to the Supreme Court under article 32. 

    The comparative autonomy to high courts is necessary for ensuring the efficient administration of justice in the wake of large sub-national diversity in the country. The basic tenets of the jurisprudence are widely accepted and the top court should intervene to ensure a uniform judicial order across India only when it is necessary and unavoidable - such as in case of an apparent conflict of laws or judgments on legal interpretation. 

    Addressing the problems in wake of diversity must be the principle and not the spread of uniformity.