India, with a population of 1.3 billion & an electorate of around 900 million (2019), is the world’s largest democracy. India’s lower house, the Lok Sabha, is modelled on the British House of Commons, but its federal system of government borrows from the experience of the United States, Canada and Australia. The Constitution actually refers to India as a “Union of states” and perhaps a better term – which is also used in the mainstream media – is Quasi-Federal System.
THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
The head of state in India is the President. This is normally a ceremonial role, originally modelled on the British monarch to “advise, encourage and warn” the elected government on constitutional matters. The President can return a Parliamentary Bill once for reconsideration and, in times of crisis such as a hung Parliament, the role is pivotal. The President can declare a state of emergency which enables the Lok Sabha to extend its life beyond the normal five-year term.
THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
The lower house in the Indian political system is the Lok Sabha or House of the People. As set out in the Constitution, the maximum size of the Lok Sabha is 552 members, comprising up to 530 members representing people from the states of India, up to 20 members representing people from the Union Territories, and two members to represent the Anglo-Indian community if it does not have adequate representation in the house according to the President.
THE JUDICIAL BRANCH
The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in civil, criminal and constitutional cases. Since 2008, the size of the court has been 31.
A judge is appointed to the Supreme Court by the President of India on the recommendation of the collegium — a closed group of the Chief Justice of India, the four most senior judges of the court, and the senior-most judge hailing from the high court of a prospective appointee.
ELECTIONS IN A DEMOCRACY
Elections in a country of the size and complexity of India are huge and difficult affairs. The Indian Constitution requires that voters do not have to travel more than 2 km (1.2 miles) from their homes to vote. At the last election in May 2019, some 900 million citizens were eligible to vote and around 600 million did so.