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Chapter: 

I. Background

India is the second most populous country in the world; according to the latest census (2011), it has over 1.2 billion inhabitants.1  It is the seventh largest country in terms of geographical area. The Constitution of India adopts a quasi-federal structure of governance with a strong central (federal) government and relatively weaker sub-national states, each with constitutionally designated spheres of legislative and executive authority. India follows a parliamentary system of democracy with a bicameral legislature at the central level and in some states. An indirectly-elected President2 serves as the constitutional head of state. He is advised by a Prime Minister who is the head of government and the leader of the political party which wins a majority in the lower house of Parliament. Elections to the lower house of Parliament are conducted every five years.

The Indian Constitution envisages a unitary judicial structure with the Supreme Court at the apex and high courts and subordinate courts at the state and sub-state level. Courts may exercise jurisdiction over matters covered by both federal and state laws, and the higher judiciary is empowered to adjudicate constitutional issues. In addition, there is also a range of administrative and quasi-judicial tribunals and special courts with jurisdiction limited to specified subjects - for instance the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal for Income Tax matters, or the Consumer Forums specially constituted to adjudicate consumer disputes.

India has a strong tradition of civil society, NGO and trade union participation in demanding political accountability, and NGOs have been active in pressing for change in all spheres: social, legal, economic and political.

According to the latest figures available (July 2011), India has achieved a teledensity of 74%, with over 892 million subscribers. Of these, wireless subscribers account for 858 million.3

Footnotes