Union’States Relations in India

Chapter I of Part XI (From Articles 245 to 255) of the Constitution relates to the legislative relation between the Union and the States while Chapter II of Part XI (from Articles 256 to 263) of the Constitution deals with the administrative relation between the Union and the States, and Chapter I of Part XIII (from Article 268 to 276) of the Constitution refers to the financial relation between the Union and the States. India, being a Union of States, is still in the making. While the, commissions on center-state relations admit, the States Reorganisation Commission report says that the States are but links of the body (Union). Both the links and the body are needed.

Legislative Relations between the Centre and the States .

The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution gives three lists :

Union List (97 items in the original 1950 Constitution), State List (66 items) and Concurrent List with 47 subjects. Over the years, owing to certain amendments (in 2007), Union List has 99 items, State List 61 and concurrent lists 52. The Union List has subjects which include for example, defence, foreign affairs, citizenship, railways, highways, airways, navy, currency, interstate trade and commerce, banking, central universities, UPSC, taxes on income, etc. (item 33 has been deleted and items 2A, 92A, and 92B have been added). The Union legislature has the exclusive power to make laws on subjects enumerated in the Union List.

The State List has subjects such as public order, police, prisons, local government public health and sanitation, agriculture, gas and gas-work, trade and commerce within the state, markets and fairs, betting and gambling, election to the state legislature, income, land revenue, toll taxes, etc. Items 11, 19, 20, 29 and 36 have been deleted and this reduces the State List to 61 from 66. The State legislatures have the power to make laws over the subjects enumerated in the State List, but the Parliament can make laws over these subjects in certain circumstances.

The Concurrent List has subjects such as criminal law and procedure, matters relating to marriages and divorces, bankruptcy and insolvency, prevention of cruelty to animals, forests, trade unions, social security, social insurance, weight and measures, price control, electricity, etc. Items 11A, 17A, 17B, 20A and 33A have been added to make it 52 while earlier, there were 47 subjects. Both the Parliament and the State legislatures have the power to make laws on the subjects enumerated in the Concurrent List. In case of inconsistency between the laws made by the Parliament and the State legislatures, the Union law prevails and the State law becomes void to the extent it is repugnant to the Union law (Article 254). The residuary powers (following the scheme as in the Canadian Constitution) have been placed under the jurisdiction of the Parliament, e.g. power to levy residuary taxes (Article 248).

Under the Government of India Act, 1935 the residuary powers were placed in the hands of the Governor-General. “ere is, thus, a clear distribution of work between the Union and the States, and yet, under special circumstances the Parliament can make laws on the subject enumerated in the State List:

(i) Under Article 249, following the resolution passed by the Council of States (2/3rd majority of the members present and voting), the Parliament can make laws on any item of the State List in the national interest. Such laws have one year validity and cease to operate on the expiry of 6 months after the period for which the resolution was passed’;

(ii) Under Article 250, when the state of emergency is in operation, the Parliament can make laws on the state subjects, which become inoperative after 6 months of the expiry of the emergency;

(iii) Under Article 252, when the legislatures of two or more states make a request that the Parliament may make laws on certain state subjects, for example: Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972; Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; Urban (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976; Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994);

(iv) Under Article 253, when the implementation of any international treaty, agreement or convention, may require so, then the Parliament can legislate on any state subject. For example: United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, 1947; Geneva Convention Act; 1960; Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982; and legislation with respect to environment];

(v) Under Article 356, when there is President’s rule in any state, the Parliament legislates for that state on state subjects;

(vi) The Governor can reserve any state bill for the consideration and reconsideration of the President (Articles 200 and 201);

(vii) Bills on certain matters (i.e. restriction on the freedom of the trade and commerce) can be introduced in the state legislature only with the prior permission of the President (Article 304); and (viii) The President may direct the states to reserve money bills for his/her consideration during the period of financial emergency (Article 360).

Administrative Relations between the Centre and the States

The executive or the administrative spheres between the Union and the States are divided on the same lines as the legislative. And, the Union has an edge over the States.

(i) Under Article 256, the executive power of the State has to be exercised within the framework of laws made by the Parliament. The Union Government is empowered to give necessary directions to the states;

(ii) Under Article 257, the States are directed not to pursue their executive powers in a way that the exercise of those powers is against the Union Government. The non-compliance of (i) and (ii) may lead to the application of Article 365 when the President may take over the administration of the concerned States;

(iii) Under Article 258, the President may entrust the States’ officials functions relating to the Union Government;

(iv) Under Article 155, the appointment of State Governor is made by the President and the Governor remains in office during the pleasure of the President. During emergency under Article 356, the Governor rules the State as the agent of the President, i.e. the Union Government;

(v) Under Article 312, the Parliament can create an All-India Service (Indian Forest Service in 1966) following the resolution by the Council of States;

(vi) Under Article 352, 356 and 360, the legislative, administrative and financial powers of the Union Government get enhanced;

(vii) Article 355 entrusts two duties on the Union Government: (i) to protect the States from any external attack and internal disturbances, and (ii) to see that the government of the State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

(viii) Article 262 provides for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to distribution and control of waters of any inter-state river or river-valley, empowering the President to establish an Inter-State Council also to investigate and discuss subjects of common interest between the Centre and the States (example, such a council was set up in 1990).

(ix) The President is empowered to establish a inter-state council, if the public interest demands so (Article 263). The Parliament has established zonal councils to promote Inter-State cooperation and coordination between the zones (Northern, Central, Western, Eastern and Southern).

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