Centre-state relations in India
What is Federalism
Federalism is a political system that provides the distribution of powers between the central and state government.
It is constitutionally created and protected.
Federalism is usually present in countries where there is a diversity of people.
In a country where there are different races, languages, religions, etc, the ideal form of government is the federal government.
By Federalism, the constituent state shall retain and safeguard their distinct language, religion, and cultural identity.
By this, there will be no compromise on the unity of the nation.
In the federal government, the state enjoys quasi sovereignty and the centre enjoys ultimate sovereignty.
The federal system is based on the distribution of powers between centre and state governments.
The distribution of powers is determined by the constitution, in clear written terms.
Thereby the constitution is the supreme authority in any federal system.
Examples of Federalism
The thirteen British colonies in America revolted and liberated themselves from British rule.
Then they formed a federal state, by which the USA became the first federal state.
Canada and Australia were also granted Self government and adopted a federal form of government.
Trilingual Switzerland also formed as a federal nation.
The European Union is also an example of federal formation on a voluntary basis.
How did federalism became a success in India?
Federalism in modern India is traced back to the Regulating Act of 1773.
By Regulating Act of 1773, the East India Company brought Madras, Calcutta, and Bombay under the supervisory control of the governor-general at Calcutta.
The Indian National movement was inspired by the already existing federal democracies in the USA, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada.
Where Australia and Canada are British colonies.
The USA is a colony of a number of European countries.
Partial autonomy (Dyarchy), was introduced by the Government of India Act1919 in the presidencies.
While the Government of India Act 1935 granted provincial autonomy at the presidencies and proposed a Dyarchy form of government at the centre.
The Nehru committee report in 1928 and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s first proposal of the constitution of India favored a federal structure with more powers for the constituent states.
But the creation of Pakistan and the death of innocent people on both sides changed the views of the constituent Assembly.
That resulted in the formation of a weak state government and an over-centralized, Powerful Union Government.
But the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir became a district state within the Indian Union.
The constitution of Independent India establishes federalism by Part VI provision.
The seventh schedule of the constitution contains the three lists regarding the distribution of powers between the centre and states.
The Indian Constitutional expert Granville Austin described, Indian Federal system as Co-operative Federalism designed to promote cooperation between the centre and states.
The concepts of cooperative federalism apply to those federal governments like the USA where the states have more or adequate powers and the formation of the union is based on “the indestructive union composed of indestructible states”.
In a quasi-federal state like India, the Union Government can very pull down any constituent state for non-co-operation or non-compliance or defiance of the Union Government’s will through constitutional provisions,
especially through the emergency powers assigned to the President.
The constitution does not permit states’ defiance to centre.
There are many provisions, institutions, and bodies created in the Indian Political system to promote the co-ordinative functioning of the central and state governments in India.
They can be classified into constitutional, statutory, and Political bodies and provisions.
Constitutional provisions in India
The constitution itself created a number of instruments to promote cooperation and coordination.
As per Article 263 of the constitution, the President of India can establish the Inter-State Council to serve public interests.
There are three functions and duties assigned to the Inner-State Council.
To enquire into and advise upon disputes among the states.
To investigate and discuss the subjects which are common to both the Union and State government.
To make recommendations to the President for better coordination on any particular subjects among the state governments.
A number of councils have been created to promote cooperation on specific subjects in the past like the Central Council of Health, Transport Development Council, and Central Council of Local Self-Government.
The holistic Inter-State Council was established in the early nineties to deal with general cooperation among the units of the Indian Federal System on the recommendation of the Sarkaria Commission.
The Prime Minister functions as the Chairperson of the Council.
The Chief Ministers of all the states and Union Territories with Legislative Assemblies, six cabinet ministers of the union government, administrators of the Union Territories without Legislative Assemblies, and Governors of states under President’s Rule are its members.
A standing committee consisting of the Union Home Minister, five other cabinet ministers, and nine Chief Ministers also works as part of the Inter-State Council to promote cooperation among the members of the federal system.
There are certain bodies created through the statute of the parliament but not mentioned in the constitution that function to promote cooperative federalism.
The Zonal Councils were established by the States Reorganization Act in 1956 to achieve cooperation and coordination among states.
They were created during the linguistic reorganization of India and the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru described their objective as to “Develop the Habit of co-operative working“.
Originally five zonal councils were created.
Later in 1971 one more Zonal Council was established for the North Eastern States. They are:
Northern Zonal Council, Southern Zonal Council, Eastern Zonal Council, Western Zonal Council, Central Zonal Council, North-Eastern Zonal Council.
The Union Home Minister will be the common Chairperson of all the Zonal Councils.
Additionally, each Zonal Council will consist of the Chief Minister and two other Ministers of each state and the administrator of the Union Territory in the zone.
The Zonal Councils will discuss and suggest measures to promote cooperation among the members in areas like economic and social planning, border disputes, inter-state transport, etc.
The Rivers Boards Act, 1956 establishes River Boards to provide advice to the concerned governments for the regulation of an interstate river of river valley.
Water Disputes Tribunal
Inter-state water disputes Act, 1956 was enacted in accordance with Article 262 of the constitution that mandated that all interstate river disputes should be resolved through negotiations.
The act provides for the formation of ad-hoc tribunals for resolving the interstate water disputes if the repeated negotiations prove to be futile in resolving the problem.
Political or Resolution Bodies
The Union Government created the National Commission for Transforming India after dissolving the Planning Commission.
The Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman and the permanent members of the governing council are all the Chief Minister of all the states, Chief Ministers of the Union Territories of Delhi and Puducherry, and the Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The primary objectives of the commission are to “foster cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanism with the states on a continuous basis“.
It recognizes that strong states will make a strong nation.
But without constitutionally empowering more the constituent states and adequate devolution of revenue resources, the states continue to remain dependent on the Union Government, even in matters relating to tackling natural calamities.
Inter State River Water Dispute
Inter-state river water disputes play a crucial role in the evolution of federalism in Indian Politics.
There are a large number of disputes in the country.
The Cauvery dispute involving Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry,
Vamsadara river dispute involving Andra Pradesh and Odisha,
Sutlej dispute involving Punjab, Haryana,
Mahadayi river dispute involving Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka are some major disputes between the states.
In India, we have following a dispute settlement mechanism in Indian Federalism to solve them.
Constitution and Inter-State River Water Disputes
Article 262 of the constitution empowers the parliament to enact a law providing for the adjudication of any dispute, complaint relating to the use,
distribution and control of any inter-state river or river valley.
It also provides that parliament can exclude the Supreme Court or any other court from exercising any jurisdiction over inter-state river water disputes.
For this purpose, parliament is empowered to enact a law overriding any provision of the constitution.
The logic of this provision is that inter-state river water disputes contain emotional and economic implications affecting the lives and livelihood of millions of people.
Judicial adjudication of the disputes may create social and economic problems.
Therefore the national legislature must have the competence to evolve a mechanism for resolution of these disputes through negotiations and direct dialogue.
Inter-state river water disputes Act, 1956 Empowered by Article 262 of the constitution the parliament enacted inter-state river water dispute act, 1956.
This act enables the Union Government to establish a tribunal for the adjudication of an inter-state river water dispute.
The Indian Constitutional and legal consensus is that all inter-state river water disputes must be resolved through peaceful negotiations.
If no decision can be reached through negotiation the state concerned can approach the Union for the constitution of a tribunal on ad hoc basis for resolving that issue.
When the Union government decides to constitute a tribunal the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India will nominate a person to heat it.
Earlier, the tribunal always used to consists of one person only but later on this provision was amended to include more members.
The chief justice will choose a person (nominee) from the sitting or retired Judge of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
The decision of the Tribunal shall be published in the Official Gazette and thereafter that decision shall be final and binding on the parties to the dispute.
Neither the Supreme court nor any other court shall have jurisdiction over any inter-state water dispute referred to a tribunal under the Act.
No tribunal can be constituted for any dispute that has been placed for arbitration under the River Water Board Act 1955.
The conclusion is that our constitutional, legal and political strategy advocates a dual strategy to resolve interstate river water disputes.
It advocates negotiated settlement as the first choice and as and when sincere negotiations fail to resolve the issues, an ad hoc tribunal-based adjudication should be established.
Emerging trends in Indian Federalism
There are many issues in Indian Federalism that create disturbances in the center-state relations.
We will focus on the major problems in this section Appointment and Role of Governor.
The very office of the governor as an agent of the central government to monitor the state government imperils the sovereignty of the constituent states.
The Rajamannar Committee report was highly critical of the office and the role of the governor.
It is often pointed out that the Union Government arm-twist the state executive.
The Dravidian parties, since the days of C.N.Annadurai, have been demanding ‘genuine autonomy for the states, by divesting the Governor’s power of interfering with the state executive and interfering with the state executive and state legislature.
The regional parties have deprecated the practice of appointing politically active and partisan persons as governors.
They have frequently demanded that the governor should be appointed in consultation with the state government.
Many political commentators and commissions have argued for the appointment of eminent persons who have contributed to India’s development in diverse fields as governors.
The attitude of the Governor towards the state governments of those ruled by parties opposed to the ruling party at the centre is another major tension area in center-state relations.
Whenever there is a split in a ruling state party or hung assembly, the role of the governor becomes very crucial and in many instances, the regional and opposition parties have agitated against the decisions of the incumbents in gubernatorial office.
Role of government in education
There is a popular demand that the subject of education must be restored to List-II or State List in which originally it was located.
The Parliament in 1976 enacted the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act that transferred the subject of education to List III or Concurrent List.
The state government exclusively had authority over education when it was in the State List and Union Government came to acquire joint jurisdiction over education after this transfer.
As we learned earlier when a contradiction arises between the states and the central government in the Concurrent List the authority of the central government or Parliament will prevail.
Many political parties in states like Tamil Nadu are demanding the transfer of education back to the State List.
Presidential assent to State bills
The Governor of a state has discretionary power to reserve a bill of the state legislature for the consideration of the President.
Whenever the Governor reserves a money bill of the state legislature, the President may either declare or withhold his assent.
President can also direct the Governor to send the bill for reconsideration to the legislature concerned.
Even if the state legislature again passes a bill it is not obligatory for President to declare his assent.
This provision was incorporated into the constitution to protect the unity and integrity of India.
But many state governments have criticized the governors for reserving the duly passed state bills for the consideration of the President as there were alleged to have been motivated by political considerations to suppress the state government and to further the interest of the ruling party or coalition at the centre.
All India services violations against federalism
All India Services are created under Article 312 of the constitution.
The officers to these services are recruited by the Union government and posted in the states.
The state governments have powers of posting, transfer while the central government alone has the power to dismiss them.
As the ultimate control over the All India Services is with the central government the state governments have sought changes in the system and the Rajamannar Commission of Tamil Nadu government suggested a complete revamping in the structure and position of All India Services.
Commissions on Centre-State Relations
Rajamannar Commission, Punchhi Commission, Venkatachaliah Commission