Current Public Administration Magazine (March - 2016) - Rajamannar Committee

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The Rajamannar Committee on Centre-State Relations, set up by the Tamil Nadu Government on May 27, 1971 recommended the constitution of a high-power commission to redistribute powers between the Centre and the states. The committee also suggested immediate formation of an inter-state council as provided for under Article 263 of the Constitution; abolition of the Planning Commission as at present constituted and its replacement by a wholly new one to be created with a statutory basis under a Parliamentary enactment and free from control by the Central executive; widening of the states to include the corporation capital value of assets in the divisible pool; repeal of the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act of 1951, with a new Act providing for control by the Centre of only industries of national or all-India character, and conferment of industrial licensing powers on the states.

The committee, headed by a former Chief Justice of Madras, Dr P.V. Rajamannar, was set up by the state government in September, 1969, to examine the entire question regarding the relationship that should subsist between the Centre and the states in a federal set-up and to suggest amendments to the Constitution to secure to the states the utmost autonomy. The three-member committee consisted of, besides Dr Rajamannar, the former Vice-Chancellor of Madras University, Dr A Lakshmanaswamy Mundoar, and a former Chief Justice of Andhra, Dr P. Chandra Reddy.The Committee submitted its report in 1971. The report comprises of 21 Chapters, as follows:1. Introduction11. Territory of the State2. Federal Set Up12. Representation of States in Parliament3. Administrative relations13. Language4. Legislative Field14. Trade and Commerce5. Financial Relations15. Public Order6. Central Planning and Planning Commission16. Machinery for Conducting Elections to State Legislatures7. Judiciary17. Inter-State Water Disputes8. Governor18. Sea-bed under Territorial Waters9. Emergency Provisions19. Union Executives10. Jammu and Kashmir20. Amendment of the Constitution21. Summary of RecommendationsThe committee’s recommendations, most of which were obviously drastic and far-reaching, stemmed from its conviction that though the Constitution set up a federal system, there were admittedly several provisions that were clearly inconsistent with the principles of federation. There were unitary trends and in the allocation of powers there was a strong bias in favour of the Centre. In an ideal federation the national and state governments existed on a basis of equality and neither had the power to make inroads on the definite authority and functions of the other unilaterally — whereas in India the national government was vested with powers on certain occasions to invade the legislative and executive domains of the states.

The committee summed up that “there is a theme of subordination of the State running right through the Constitution.”Quite apart from some provisions of the Constitution conferring special powers on the Centre, factors like one-party rule, both at the Centre and in the states, inadequacy of the states’ own fiscal resources and consequent dependence on the Centre for financial assistance and the institution of Central planning and the role of the Planning Commission had, in the committee’s view, contributed to the “perpetuation and growth” of unitary trends.Inter-state council proposed: Following this line of argument, the committee asked for the “omission” of Articles 256, 257 and 339 (2), which empower the Central executive to issue directions to the state governments — or, alternatively, to ensure that no direction under any of these Articles is issued except in consultation with “and with the approval of” the inter-state council.The committee said that the inter-state council should be composed of the Chief Ministers of states or their nominees, “all States having equal representation,” with the Prime Minister as the chairman; and no other Minister of the Central Cabinet should be a member of the council. Every Bill of national importance and likely to affect the interests of one or more states should be placed before Parliament at the time of introduction of the Bill. Also it “should be definitely provided” that before the Central government takes any decision of national importance or affecting one or more states, the council would be consulted. Exceptions may be made “probably” in regard to subjects like defence and foreign relations, but even in such matters the Central government’s decision should be placed before the council without delay.

Financial relations: The committee’s recommendations on financial relations between the Centre and the states — “and these are the most important part of our report,’ according to Dr Rajamannar — were designed “to secure for the States a larger devolution of taxes than at present so that in actual practice the need for grants-in-aid under Article 275 either disappears or is minimised.”The committee sought to widen the base of devolution of resources to the states by adding corporation tax, customs and export duties and the tax on the capital value of assets in the divisible pool. Even in regard to the grants by the Centre to the states, the committee wanted an independent and impartial body such as the Finance Commission to be in charge of the distribution.To ensure real autonomy for the states and what the committee’s chairman described as ideal federalism, the committee also suggested the transfer of a number of items not only from the Concurrent to the State List in the Seventh Schedule but also from the Central to the State List.

Asian Recorder, 1971.

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