India is a federal state with a parliamentary form of government. It is governed under the 1949 constitution (effective since Jan., 1950). The president of India, who is head of state, is elected for a five-year term by the elected members of the federal and state parliaments; there are no term limits. Theoretically the president possesses full executive power, but that power actually is exercised by the prime minister (head of the majority party in the federal parliament) and council of ministers (which includes the cabinet), who are appointed by the president. The ministers are responsible to the lower house of Parliament and must be members of Parliament.
The federal parliament is bicameral. The upper house, the Council of States (Rajya Sabha), consists of a maximum of 250 members; the great majority are apportioned by state—each state's delegates are chosen by its elected assembly—and 12 members are appointed by the president. In addition, one member represents the union territory of Puducherry. Members serve for six years, with one third retiring every other year. The lower house, the People's Assembly (Lok Sabha), is elected every five years, although it may be dissolved earlier by the president. It is composed of 545 members, 543 apportioned among the states and two chosen by the president. There is a supreme court consisting of a chief justice and 25 associate justices, all appointed by the president.
Administratively, India is divided into 28 states and seven union territories. State governors are appointed by the president for five-year terms. States have either unicameral or bicameral parliaments and have jurisdiction over police and public order, agriculture, education, public health, and local government. The federal government has jurisdiction over any matter not specifically reserved for the states. In addition the president may intervene in state affairs during emergencies and may even suspend a state's government.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.