The Constitution of India states India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. India is a federal republic, with a bicameral parliament operating under a Westminster-style parliamentary system. It has a three branch system of governance consisting of the legislature, executive and judiciary.
The President, who is the head of state, has a largely ceremonial role. His roles include interpreting the constitution, signing laws into action, and issuing pardons. He is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The President and Vice-President are elected indirectly by an electoral college for five-year terms. The Prime Minister is the head of government and has most of the executive powers. He (or she) is designated by legislators of the political party or coalition commanding a parliamentary majority. The constitution does not provide for a post of Deputy Prime Minister, but this option has been exercised from time to time.
The legislature of India is the bicameral Parliament which consists of the upper house known as the Rajya Sabha, or Council of States, the lower house known as the Lok Sabha, or House of the People, and the President. The 245-member Rajya Sabha is chosen indirectly through an electoral college and has a staggered six year term. The 552-member Lok Sabha is elected directly for a five year term, and is the determinative constituent of political power and government formation. Any Indian citizen above the age of eighteen is allowed to vote.
The executive arm consists of the President, Vice-President and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet) headed by the Prime Minister. Any minister holding a portfolio must be a member of either house of parliament. In India's parliamentary system, the executive is subordinate to the legislature.
India's independent judiciary, consists of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India. The Supreme Court has both, original jurisdiction over disputes between states and the Centre, and appellate jurisdiction over the High Courts of India. There are eighteen appellate High Courts, having jurisdiction over a large state or a group of states. Each of these states has a tiered system of lower courts. A conflict between the legislature and the judiciary is referred to by the President. The Constitution also provides for independent organisations such as the Election Commission of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Attorney General of India.