Current Public Administration Magazine (November-2017) Concept of Federation and Centre-State Relations

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Centre State Relations

Concept of Federation and Centre-State Relations

Historical Background of Federation

  • In the context of Centre-State relations, an assessment of the federal structure of government in the Constitution is essential. In fact a federal structure is a design of government in which there is division of power on territorial basis between the Centre and States. This limits the concentration of power and authority in the hands of only one government as the country’s powers get divided between the Centre and States. Thus both are limited governments.
  • Many theoreticians and scholars have contributed their ideas which led to the emergence of such limited governments to ensure people’s rights. John Locke’s (1690) theory of limited government and the function of the government to protect the rights of life, liberty and property were adopted by the Constitution-makers of the United States of America. Another theory given by Baron de Montesquieu (1748) greatly influenced the American Constitution- makers as it emphasised separation of powers of the Legislative and Executive branches of government. First and foremost in the late 18th century, the USA adopted a written Constitution on the lines of Locke’s and Montesquieu’s theories emphasising limited government, protection of citizens’ rights, separation of powers among the legislature, executive and judiciary.
  • The founding fathers of the American Constitution, most notably James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, were highly influenced by John Locke’s theory of limited government, and advocated rights and liberties in the American Constitution.Side by side they adopted Monstesquieu’s theory of power separation in defining limits among the legislature, executive and judiciary. The USA’s Constitution-makers have adopted the presidential system in America where the real executive is the President whereas the legislature is independent. On the other hand the federal structure divides the powers between the Centre and States. Locke and Monstesquieu’s theories were practically shaped in a presidential and federal system in America by Thomas Jefferson who idealised the virtues, distrusted cities and financiers and favoured the State’s rights and limited federal government. The American President also has the power to deal with crises during emergencies. These inherent powers have been used both at home and overseas. The most common use of power is to declare a state of emergency which allows the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management) to ignore normal administration and jurisdiction.
  • Junius P. Rodriquez (2007) conceived through-out his life as a theoretician and Jefferson was always against imposition of President’s Rule in the States in normal circumstances. It was pointed out by Frankin D. Roosevelt that there was constraint on the presidential system in normal times but he considered that Presidency is the most important institution/organ by which to raise issues nationally and enjoys support from the people in all domain. Constitutionally the President’s power and influence may be limited but politically the President becomes powerful in the USA and he can rally the whole nation behind him. The American Constitution and its feature of democracy, limited government, checks and balance, federal system and protection of rights of the people became inspiring models for emerging democracies including India, which later tried to adopt many of these features in one form or another.
  • After independence, the Indian Constitution- makers also adopted the federal structure for the governance as India had got freedom after a long struggle for independence of the country and liberty of the people. The Constitution- makers, who drafted it, ensured limited government by adopting the federal structure of governance without referring to the term federation. The Constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950. But the Constitution-makers of India differed from the USA’s federal system and combined it with the parliamentary form of government. In the USA’s federal system there is no provision for national emergency in peacetime which can only be declared in times of war. During peacetime the USA’s government cannot be dissolved in a fashion similar to India. In the Indian federal system there is the provision of imposition of national emergency that could also be imposed in case of internal disturbance in the States. Along with the national emergency, there is a provision of President’s Rule in the States, if the constitutional machinery fails in States. The Emergency power has been used 126 times and also been misused for the political purpose to have a favourable government in the States or to dislodge unfavourable governments led by Opposition parties.

Concept of Indian Federation and Centre-State Relations

  • The Indian Constitution provides for a federal system of government but the term ‘federation’ has nowhere been used in the Constitution. On the other hand, Article 1 of the Indian Constitution describes ‘India, that is Bharat’ as a ‘Union of States’, an expression which implies two things. Firstly, unlike the USA the Indian federation is not the result of an agreement between the units. Secondly, the units have no right to secede from the federation. In fact the States of the Indian federation have no independent existence of their own. Parliament can alter their names and territories without their consent.
  • The Constituent Assembly members were convinced that a vast country like India could not be efficiently governed from a single Centre and thought it desirable to adopt a federal system of government. The diversity of race, religion, and language also impelled them to go for a federal policy, because it could ensure unity of the country while assuring autonomy in matters of local importance. It may be observed that the Indian Constitution does not possess all the features of a typical federation and makes many deviations. In view of these deviations the critics have challenged the federal character of the Constitution, and described it as ‘quasi-federal’. For example, K.C. Wheare says: “The Indian Union is a unitary State with subsidiary federal features rather than a federal State with subsidiary unitary features.”Granville Austin agrees with this view when he describes the Indian federation as a new kind of federalism to meet Indian’s peculiar needs.

This federal character was given by the framers of the Constitution primarily for two reasons:

  1. federal state is more effective than a unitary one when the size of its territory is as large as India.
  2. A federal state is more effective than a unitary one when diverse groups of its popu-lation live in a discrete territorial concentration as in India.
  • For resolving the controversy regarding the true nature of the Indian federal system, it is desirable to understand as to what is implied by a federal system and what are its special features. State governments are not agents of the Central Government nor do they draw their authority from them. On the other hand both the Central and State governments draw their authority from the Constitution.

Development of Federation till Independence

  • In the early days of British expansion, the East India Company followed the policy of centralisation. It was from 1861 that the policy of centralisation was changed. In 1870, Lord Lytton transferred the subject of Law, Justice and Land Revenue to the Provinces. In 1909, the Committee on Decentralisation recommended that there should be devolution of powers. The Government of India Act, 1919 brought about Financial Devolution and under Section 2 of the Act, the provinces were empowered to raise debts. Fifty subjects were put in the Provincial List.
  • India had a thoroughly centralised unitary Constitution until the Government of India Act, 1935. The provincial governments were virtually the agents of the Central Government, deriving powers by delegation from the latter. The Government of India Act, 1935 for the first time introduced the Federal concept and used the expression ‘Federation of India’ in a Constitution Act relating to India. The Constitution of India empowers the Union to entrust its executive functions to a State by its consent (Article 258) and a State to entrust its executive functions to the Union (Article 258A). While the federal system is prescribed for normal times, the Indian Constitution enables the federal government to acquire the strength of a unitary system during emergencies. While in normal times the Union Executive is entitled to give directions to the State Government in respect of specific matters, when a proclamation of Emergency is made, the power to give directions extends to all matters and the legislative power of the Union extends to State subjects (Articles 353, 354, 357).
  • The critiques of the Indian federal system relate to the fact that the word “federation” does not occur anywhere in the Indian Constitution. It does not occur even in the Constitution of the USA. The word used is “Union”. The Americans understood it as a Federal Union. It is only in the later days that in Constitutions like the one of the Federal Republic of Germany, the term “Federal” or “federation” appears. It is, therefore, only in the nature of the Union that the essence of federalism rests and not in the form. The fact is that the origin of the Indian federal system has to be traced not in the US model but in the Canadian model of British Dominion Government, with the difference that the Canadian federation was the result of Union of two ethno-cultural groups—the British and the French—while the Indian federation comprises several ethno-cultural groups. The principal objective was to territorially accommodate the two major religious communities—the Hindu and the Muslim—who held respective majorities in the provinces. The plan was to grant maximum autonomy to the provinces within the framework of British colonial authority as a counterweight to the nationalist movement. The Cabinet Mission Plan wanted to remove that counterweight and therefore proposed further provincial power. Its proposal for “grouping” of the provinces, cutting into the powers of the federal Centre, however, was rejected by the Congress party forcing partition. After partition the trend was reversed towards a centralised Union. Yet a federal structure was retained even claiming that the 1935 structure of Union-Unit power division was not at all affected.

Development of Federation after Independence

  • After the attainment of independence, the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution realised that the cultural configuration of India—unity in the midst of diversity—lent itself to a federal structure of political organisation. The Indian Constitution was, therefore, based on the federal principle. A federal Constitution is considered appropriate where among the constituent units there is a desire for “Union though not for Unit”. The diverse people of India fitted into this picture. And, therefore, the federal structure of the Constitution was quite appropriate.
  • The constituent units of the Indian federation (Union) are the Centre and the States. The erstwhile provinces of British India became the States of the Indian Union. Well before independence, the Motilal Nehru Committee’s report had recommended the organisation of the Indian state on the linguistic basis, the same basis on which the Congress Committees were formed. After independence, it was rightly felt that the States must be demarcated on the basis of cultural and linguistic identities. On the recommendations of the State Reorganisation Commission, new States were formed largely on the basis of cultural and linguistic identities.
  • But apart from the constitution of States, there is the problem of division of functions between the Centre and the States. The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution gave a Constitution which was federal but with a strong Centre because of the prevailing centrifugal tendencies in the country. However, the balance tilted increasingly towards centralised administration for several years after independence for a variety of reasons. The Indian federation started working as a Unitary state—thanks to growing encroachment of the Centre on the States’ functions, the fiscal imbalance between the Centre and States, a centralised planning process and, above all, frequent imposition of Central Rule on the State under Article 356 of the Constitution. All this created misgivings in some States and led to a rise of regionalism and students’ demand for State autonomy and radical changes in the Indian Constitution. One reason for such a demand was the disparities in the social and economic development. According to P.R. Dubhashi: “Federalism is an attribute of the political organisation of a State and not a category of nation. These who describe India as a Federal nation have in mind the vast and diverse nature of our population and the variety of our language, culture and regional traditions. While these features may be on a much larger scale in India than in any other state in the world, the fact remains that even small nations like Belgium and Switzerland have linguistic and cultural diversity but these are not called Federal nations.”
  • From the point of view of maintaining the integrity of India, it has, therefore, become necessary to have a second look at some of the basic issues relating to the constitutional system of India including its federal system in the new context. The excessively centralised system of governance and decision-making can no longer continue. Even though there is a distribution of powers between the Union and States as under a federal system, the distribution has a strong Central bias and the powers of the States are hedged in with various restrictions which impede their sovereignty even within the sphere limited to them by the distribution of powers basically provided by the Constitution. In view of this principle of the federal structure, K.C. Wheare observed that the Indian Constitution provides a system of government which is quasi-federal. D.D. Basu observed: “The Constitution of India is neither purely Federal nor purely Unitary but is a combination of both. It is a Union or composite State of novel type. It enshrines the principles that inspite of federation the national interest ought to be paramount.” Lipson has observed:“Centralisation of powers in the hands of the Central Government is a universal phenomenon and virtually all the great driving forces in modern society combine in a centralist direction.”

Post-1967 Developments in Federation

  • After Nehru, particularly after the 1967 general elections when the Congress party lost in as many as nine States to other parties, the ruling party at the Centre, the Congress, tried to bypass, ignore or underestimate the gravity of the problem of Centre-State relations. The only thing that the government had set up was the National Development Council. D. Jha observed: “The division of functions and resources in the Indian Federal structure should be considered from the point of view of the best devolution of functions and most effective utilisation of the scarce resources of the country. The issue of State rights versus Central rights should not be raised as there were no State rights prior to the creation of the Federal structure.”
  • The Chief Ministers of various States, including the Congress-ruled ones, gave their different views on the various aspects of Centre-State relations. In the year 1969, the Chief Ministers of three States, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Kerala, were dissatisfied over the issue of Centre-State relations. The three leaders gave differing analyses of the political trend. All three were critical of the Centre on one score or another. The Orissa Chief Minister said that the federal system had worked fairly well, but there was need for some changes to ensure more harmonious relations between the Centre and States. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh said that the present set-up was more Unitary than Federal and there should be modifications to ensure real federalism. The Kerala Chief Minister called for a fresh approach to the federal system enshrined in the Consti-tution. Several other Chief Ministers also assailed the manner and method in which the Centre and Planning Commission had made the Plan outlays. They also criticised the Centre for giving special assistance to certain States for meeting their non-Plan commitments. In the year 1970, the Maharashtra Chief Minister had challenged the very competence of the Planning Commission to set the norms for giving such special assistance. Other Chief Ministers had questioned the propriety of giving this assistance to only a few selected States.
  • A survey of the actual working of our Constitution for nearly 60 years would hardly justify the conclusion that, even though the unitary bonds have in some respects been further tightened, the federal features have altogether withered away. Some scholars in India have urged that the unitary bias of our Constitution has been accentuated in its actual working by two factors—(a) the overwhelming financial power of the Union and the utter dependence of the States upon Union grants for discharging their functions, and (b) the comprehensive sweep of the Union Planning Commission, set up under the concurrent power over planning. Santhanam observes: “India has practically functioned as a Unitary State though the Union and the States have tried to function formally and legally as a Federation.”

Role of Some Authorities in the Context of Centre-State Relations

  • The role of the President, Governors, Chief Ministers, Inter-State Council, National Development Council etc. are crucial in the Centre-State relations. It is, therefore, imperative to examine the roles of these authorities in the context of Centre-State relations.

Role of the President and Central Government

  • Article 354 empowers the President to order suspension of the provisions of Articles 268 to 279 relating to distribution of revenues between the Union and States, while a Proclamation of Emergency is in operation. In other words, the Union can, in an emergency, actual or apprehended, withdraw all powers from the States and also the financial support it gives and functions as a Unitary State. In the US and Australian Constitutions, even the declaration of war does not impinge on the distribution of power between the Federation and the States, nor does it empower the Federal Legislature to legislate on any subject exclusively in the State List.
  • There are certain other provisions relating to the authority of the President in the matter of State Legislation and administration which could be used to interfere with and even suppress the State’s autonomy. The Governor may reserve a Bill passed by the State Legislature for the consideration of the President (Article 200). It is nowhere enjoined that the Governor, in making such reference, should act on the advice of the Council of Ministers. Though constitutional experts are of the opinion that the Governor has no authority to act on his own, this interpretation is not implicit in the express provisions of the Constitution. Nor is any remedy provided if the Governor was to act on his own responsibility in making such a reference.
  • The use of Presidential vote for political purposes is not merely a theoretical possibility. In fact, when Kerala came to be controlled by the Communist Party led by E.M.S. Namboodripad, a certain legislation undertaken by the State interfered with the control and management of educational institutions administered by the influential Roman Catholic Church. The Bill was reserved for the President’s conside-ration. Meanwhile political unrest had been whipped up in the State and the administration of law and order became increasingly difficult. The President then issued a Proclamation on the report of the Governor that there was a failure of the constitutional machinery in the State.
  • Nobody knows what will happen if there is a serious conflict between the ruling party at the Centre and an Opposition party with a majority in a State Legislature and if the dominant party in Parliament is bent upon frustrating the State’s effort to pass genuinely progressive laws. According to H.N. Pandit, “The Union Cabinet in that event might advise the President not to give his assent to the Bill passed by the State Legislature.” Now a question arises: can the President exercise his independent judgment to safeguard the autonomy of the State and refuse to withhold his assent to the Bill? If the Presidency had been an independent organ of the State in these matters, the federating States could have looked up to it to defend their autonomy. It has been stated earlier that when the then President of India, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, strongly favoured for greater autonomy for the States, his authority was questioned. Even the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, expressed his view that the power really vested in the Ministry and in the Legislature and not in the President as such. This view about the position of the President vis-a-vis the Council of Ministers was also shared by the Supreme Court.

Imposition of President’s Rule in States

  • The unitary character of our Constitution is exemplified in Article 365 which says: “Where any State has failed to comply with, or to give effect to any direction given in the exercise of the executive power of the Union under any of the provision of the Constitution, it shall be lawful for the President to hold that a situation has arisen in which the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provision of the Constitution.” This Article gives a sweeping and draconian power to the Centre. The Rajmannar Committee observed: “Article 365 highlights the subordinate position of the States. ... Even at the time of framing the Constitution, Article 365 was denounced by several members of the Constituent Assembly.”
  • The purpose of Article 356 is, however, to provide for the administration of a State when no political party can command a majority in the House to form a stable government either by it or by forming a coalition with another party. For a variety of reasons, the effect of this exercise is also not uniform. In some cases the Assembly has been dissolved, but in some other cases it has been kept in suspended animation. From 1950 to 2005, that is, within a period of 55 years, the country has had the taste of President’s Rule in different States on more than 126 occasions.

Chief Ministers’ Role in Election of the President of India

  • Chief Ministers play a significant role in Centre-State relations. The Chief Ministers have come to play a decisive role in the election of the Indian President. This role is inherent in their position as leaders of the Legislatures of their respective States. After the expiry of the term of Rajendra Prasad as the first President of India, Nehru had spared no efforts to get Radhakrishnan as the second President. He had private meetings with the Chief Ministers of the four southern States and told them informally that he would prefer a South Indian as the President because a North Indian had held the post for a whole term. The Chief Ministers told Nehru that they were not concerned with regional considerations and were of the view that Rajendra Prasad would be re-elected if he was available.
  • A fresh effort was made by some Chief Ministers to bridge the widening gulf in the Congress before the 1969 split in the party. When Nijalingappa’s Congress Working Committee met on November 12, 1969, a new compromise formula, evolved by C.B. Gupta, Hitendra Desai and other Chief Ministers, was placed before it. The new formula was repeatedly agreed to by both the groups. It may be interesting to recall that the BKD in Uttar Pradesh and its leader, Charan Singh, were said to have played a decisive role leading to the victory of V.V. Giri, the candidate supported by Indira Gandhi.
  • A conflict generally crops up in regard to the election of the President when the Centre and States are run by different parties. This was the situation after the 1977 election. The Centre and the States were run by different parties. The landslide victory of the Janata Party and its allies in the Lok Sabha poll in March 1977 resulted in a critical atmosphere in the States. Most of the States were run by the Congress party. This created a problem for the Centre to elect a favourite President. The election was delayed until the dissolution of the Assemblies dominated by Congress party and fresh elections in 10 States in June 1977. After the election in these States and coming into power of the Janata Party in seven States, election for the Presidentship was held and the Janata Party Chief Ministers played a decisive role in electing N. Sanjiva Reddy as the President of India.

Chief Ministers and National Politics

  • The influence of the Chief Ministers on national politics has been demonstrated so many times. Chief Ministers are sometimes invited to the meetings of the Union Cabinet when questions relating to their States are discussed and their presence is considered helpful. For example, P.C. Sen, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, and Biju Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Orissa, attended the Union Cabinet meeting on June 6, 1963 when the food problem in the eastern region was causing concern. Biju Patnaik was also consulted on defence problems. In fact, Biju Patnaik was given a room in the Ministry of External Affairs, while he continued to be the Chief Minister of Orissa until his resignation in August 1963 under the Kamaraj Plan. After 1962, defence problems were looked after by two Cabinet Ministers and a State Chief Minister. There is no doubt that the association of Patnaik with the work of defence was clearly unconstitutional and politically improper. Patnaik was a young and daring politician, he was only 48 when he became the Chief Minister of Orissa in 1962 and he had shown remarkable powers of organisation in achieving the victory of the Congress party in the elections of 1962. He took a keen interest in aviation and created a sensation when he flew the Indonesian Premier, Sultan Shahariar, during the Indonesian freedom fight against the Dutch. He was the first Indian pilot to land in Srinagar after Pakistan’s invasion of Kashmir in 1947.These achievements seemed to have impressed Nehru who described Patnaik as a man with ‘unusual experience’.
  • In March 1963, the Prime Minister sent him to the USA, with the approval of the Emergency Committee of the Cabinet to have exploratory talks with the American Government on certain aspects of defence. Ordinarily, either Y.B. Chavan, the Defence Minister, or Krishnamachari, the Minister for Economic and Defence Coordination, should have been assigned this job. But, to the surprise of many, Patnaik was chosen. In his talks with US newsmen, Patnaik gave several details of India’s military preparations and her requirements of radar, communication facilities, planes and other essential equipments, though his disclosure caused resentment among Members of the Lok Sabha.
  • Kamaraj’s involvement in national poliitcs is also worth mentioning. Nehru regarded Kamaraj as not merely the Chief Minister of Madras but also a beloved national leader. The Congress in Madras had suffered some reverses in the bye-elections and Kamraj felt that he should give up office and devote more time to party work. The idea somehow caught on and it was thought that the Congress, which had become complacent as a result of being in power continuously for too long a period, should show some dramatic gesture to convince the country that its leaders were not eager to stick to the office for all time and that they were still inspired by the Gandhian ideals of sacrifice and service to the people. Accordingly, the All India Congress Committee adopted, in July 1963, the so-called Kamaraj Plan by which all the Central and State Congress Ministers should submit their resignations to Nehru. Nehru accepted the resignations of six Chief Ministers, namely, Kamaraj Nadar (Madras), Biju Patnaik (Orissa), Binodanand Jha (Bihar), Bhagwat Rai Mandal (Madhya Pradesh), C.B. Gupta (Uttar Pradesh) and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad (Jammu and Kashmir). The facade of constitutional propriety was preserved by the Chief Ministers tendering their resignations to the Governor at the appropriate time. The Ministers continued to enjoy the confidence of their respective legislators and except in two cases of disputed leadership, all the Chief Ministers enjoyed unqualified confidence of the Congress Legislature Party. As stated by Ashok Chandra, “This being the position, the resignations of the Chief Ministers and the manner in which they were accepted have no constitutional parallel.”

Chief Ministers’ Conference

  • The Union and the States are inter-dependent in numerous ways. The unity thus brought about has to have the force of consent, not of law. This calls for cooperation and co-ordination on the basis of policies arrived at after due consultations in which the nation as a whole, through the Central and State governments, participates. Co-ordination can be effective only if it is based on commonly acceptable policies for which consultation with the States is necessary. The Rajya Sabha, although consisting of persons elected by the State Legislatures, is not an appropriate forum for furnishing the point of view of the State governments and Centre-State consultation really means consultation between the Centre and State governments. Besides, it cannot be one of the functions of a legislative body to hammer out administrative policies lying within the domain of the Executive. With this end in view, the Administrative Reforms Committee had suggested the establishment of an Inter-State Council consisting of all the Chief Ministers. The Study Team on Centre-State Relationship had recommended that if it was decided not to establish such a Council, the forum of the Chief Ministers’ Conference could be used.The second alternative, that is, the Chief Ministers’ Conference, has been thought to be more advisable and effective. The Chief Ministers’ Conference is called by the Prime Minister from time to time to discuss the problem.
  • After the 1967 elections, the political complexion of India changed. Different State governments run by parties with different ideologies came into being. The result of these new developments was that the relations between the States and the Centre became tricky. E.M.S. Nambroodripad, the then Chief Minister of Kerala, stated in March 1967 that in the prevailing situation in India, it was essential that the Congress Government at the Centre and the non-Congress governments in the States should function in ‘a spirit of co-existance’. Indira Gandhi called a Chief Ministers’ Conference and said at the Conference: “The Centre and the States were partners and no new problem had arisen merely because of the existence of Governments of different political persuation at the Centre and in the States.”
  • The first confrontation between the two power structures was at the Chief Ministers’ Conference called by Morarji Desai, the then Finance Minister, in April 1967. The Chief Ministers were critical of New Delhi’s decision to curtail the over-drafts given by the Reserve Bank of India to the States and of the reluctance of the Centre to provide more assistance to the States for development plans and payment of Dearness Allowance to their employees. C.N. Annadurai, the Chief Minister of Madras, wanted the residuary powers left by the Constitution of India with the Centre to be given to the States.

Inter-State Council

  • The Sarkaria Commission had recommended the constitution of a permanent Inter-State Council, which should be charged with the duties set out in (b) and (c) of Article 263 of the Indian Constitution. Such a Council, comprising six Union Cabinet Ministers and the Chief Ministers of all the States, was created in April 1990. Though the President is given the power to define the nature of the duties to be performed by the Council, the Constitution outlines the three-fold duties that may be assigned to this body. One of these is “the duty of enquiring into and advising upon disputes, which may have arisen between States”.
  • The power of the President to set up the Inter-State Council may be exercised not only for advising upon disputes, but also for the purpose of investigating and discussing subjects in which some or all of the States or the Union and one and more of the States have a common interest. In exercise of this power the President has already constituted the Central Council of Health, the Central Council of Local Self-Government, Transport Development Council, the Central Council of Indian Medicine and the Central Council of Homoeopathy.

National Development Council

  • The Planning Commission, which is an extra-constitutional and non-statutory body, was set up to formulate an integrated Five-Year Plan for economic and social development and to act as an advisory body to the Union Government. But a critic has described it as “the Economic Cabinet of the country as a whole” consisting of the Prime Minister and encroaching upon the functions of a constitutional body, the Finance Commission, and yet not being accountable to Parliament. According to some critics, the Planning Commission is one of the agencies of encroachment upon the autonomy of the States under the federal system.
  • The working of the Planning Commission led to the setting up of another extra-constitutional and extra-legal body, namely, the National Development Council. The Council was formed in 1952, as an adjunct to the Planning Commission, to associate the States in the formulation of the Plans. The functions of the Council are “to strengthen and mobilise the efforts and resources of the nation in support of the Plans, to promote common economic policies in all vital spheres and to ensure the balanced and rapid development of all parts of the country”, and in particular to review the working of the National Plan from time to time and to recommend the measures for the achievement of the aims and targets set out in the National Plan.
  • The Chief Ministers exercise their influence through this forum. The National Development Council had appointed a Standing Committee in 1954 consisting of members of the Planning Commission and the Chief Ministers of nine States. It had been also decided that the Chief Ministers of one or more of the remaining States could be invited to attend meetings of the Committee. The Chief Ministers have been especially effective in making claims on the Central Government for their States—for larger grant-in-aid and, above all, for the establishment of public sector enterprises and in providing licences for expansion of the private sector.
  • On November 4 and 5, 1962, the National Development Council met in New Delhi to consider the gravity of the situation created by the Chinese War and resignation of Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon. The Chief Ministers of almost all the States attended the meeting. Nehru called a few of the Chief Ministers to discuss the border conflict with China. K. Kamaraj of Madras, N. Sanjiva Reddy of Andhra Pradesh, Pratap Singh Kairon of Punjab, Biju Patnaik of Orissa and Chavan of Maharsahtra met Nehru on the evening of November 4 in the Prime Minister’s Office. The high level discussion went on till late into the night. The general consensus that emerged at the meeting was that whatever decision the Prime Minister took, the Chief Ministers remained with him. Since the middle of 1967, all members of the Union Cabinet, Chief Ministers of the States, the administrators of the Union Territories and members of the Planning Commission have been made members of this Council.

National Integration Council

  • Another extra-constitutional body, the National Integration Council, was created in 1968, to deal with welfare measures for the minorities on an all-India basis. The National Front Government revived it in 1990, with a broad-based composi-tion, including not only Union Ministers and Chief Ministers of States, but also representatives of national and regional political parties, labour, women, public figures as well as media represen-tatives. The issues before the first meeting of the reviwed NIC were communal harmony, increased violence by secessionists, the problems in respect of Punjab, Kashmir and the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.

Centre’s Power to appoint Commission of Inquiry

  • The Centre has the power to appoint a Commission under the Commission of Inquiries Act, 1952 to enquire into any offence committed or misuse of power or position by the Chief Minister. This power has been utilised by the Centre on some occasions. In September 1963, the Supreme Court had passed strictures on an appeal heard by it on the conduct of the Chief Minister of Punjab, Pratap Singh Kairon. The Opposition demanded the dismissal of the Chief Minister and the imposition of President’s Rule in the State. It was argued—“If a Chief Minister ignores the rule of law, he is violating the Constitution and in terms of Article 355, it is the duty of the Union to intervene to ensure that the administration of the State is being carried on in accordance with the Constitution.” Ashok Chandra argued thus: “The lapse of the Chief Minister of a State can hardly be held to constitute a failure of the constitutional machienary in the State justifying President’s intervention. Other remedies are available to deal with such a situation.”
  • All speculation was set at rest when on October 28, 1963 the Prime Minister recommended to the President that a private inquiry by a high authority should be instituted under the Commission of Inquiries Act, 1952 into the charges made against the Chief Minister in the memorandum submitted to the President in July 1963. The President accepted the Prime Minister’s recommendation and the Home Ministry appointed on November 1, S.R. Das, a former Chief Justice of India, as a one-man Commission to enquire into the complaints made as it was a matter of definite public importance. Later similar charges were levelled against the Chief Minister of Karnataka, D. Devraj Urs, and his dismissal was demanded. The Government of India appointed the Grover Commission to enquire into the charges of corruption, nepotism, favouritism and misuse of the government’s powers against Urs amd some former Ministers. Subsequently, he was dismissed.
  • The Centre had also appointed a Commission to enquire into the allegations against the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. This Commission looked into the allegations against the former Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab as well. In 1974, a number of complaints were received against the Chief Ministers of Haryana and Tamil Nadu. The petitioners had sent their representations in the faith that the President has the power to intervene in the work of the administration for the sake of good government. The petitioners refused to believe that he is powerless. A notable example in this regard was an appeal from P.C. Sen, the former Chief Minister of West Bengal, demanding the President’s personal intervention to stop the widespread rigging of elections to the State Assembly perpetrated by the ruling party.
  • To conclude, the Centre and States are not to be treated as two parties opposed to each other. Issues have to be examined in order to ensure more financial powers for the States. As Chavan thinks, “The States are the crucial arena where great dangers and opportunities exist, where ultimately all the policies and programmes of the Government would have to take shape and get translated into the lives of the people. The stability of the State Government is as important as that of the Union Government. The future of India will depend not only on the vision of the leaders in Delhi but also of those States.” States should have freedom in negotiating loan, aid, etc. for development activities. Sufficient administrative powers for stimulating growth and development in the States would certainly be welcome. To achieve this objective, some important amendments to the Constitution would have to be thought of. The former Prime Minister, Morarji Desai, had rightly said that the States must be strong. Then alone, the Centre will be strong.

SOURCE: Mohammad Anzar Alam Published in Mainstream Weekly

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