Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine
Justice R. S. Sarkaria presented the report of the commission
on Centre-state relations, headed by him, to the Prime Minister, Mr Rajiv
Gandhi, in New Delhi on October 27, 1987. The sizeable document, the product of
four years of labour, contains recommendations of changes in the existing
arrangements between the Centre and the states necessary, in its view, to remedy
the problems arising from the present relationship.
The commission was appointed on June 9, 1983, by the late
Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, in the wake of the Telugu Desam movement
which reduced the Congress in the state to a shambles.
Later, however, the Anandpur Sahib resolution of the Akali
Dal demanding more powers for Punjab came to acquire importance in the
commission’s investigations. The Centre agreed to refer the document to this
commission in terms of the Punjab accord between Mr Rajiv Gandhi and Sant
Harchand Singh Longowal, though, during the 1984 election campaign, the Prime
Minister had dubbed it a secessionist document.
The terms of reference of the commission had come under
severe criticism of Opposition parties because of the limits that were sought to
be imposed on the commission’s framework of investigation. The terms laid down
that in making its recommendation, the commission “will keep in view the social
and economic developments that have taken place over the years and have due
regard to the scheme and framework of the Constitution which the founding
fathers have so sedulously designed to protect the independence and ensure the
unity and integrity of the country which is of paramount importance for
promoting the welfare of the people.” The commission, whose appointment
initially appeared to be an act of expediency under pressure of regional demands
from the states, gradually gained importance as one doing work of permanent
value. Its activities depth with the appointment of two more members, Mr B.
Sivaraman and Dr S. R. Sen. In view of the wide dimensions of its
investigations, the commission’s term had to be extended five times.
In its unanimous report, the Sarkaria Commission said that
there was no need to amend the Constitution to give more powers to the states
because it already had provisions to allow them freedom in their spheres. The
commission, however, pointed out that the Centre had been usurping the states’
prerogatives, poaching on their sphere, and violating the letter and spirit of
the Constitution by expanding the concurrent list at the expense of the state
list of subjects.
The commission cited central notifications, for example, on
industry, to prove how the Centre had slowly taken over more than 85 per cent of
the industry, while the states were fairly autonomous in the initial years of
the Constitution’s operation.
The commission came down heavily on the way the Central
government had operated Article 356, assuming power in the states on the ground
that the constitutional machinery had failed. This arbitrary and haphazard way
of action created suspicion of political considerations: the commission,
therefore, suggested the codification of rules that should guide the state
Governors. The commission asked for the codified rules to be incorporated in the
Constitution so that any violation could be challenged in a court of law. (At
present the Centre is not answerable for having imposed its rule on a state nor
is the state Governor for any action that he may claim to have taken in “the
exercise and performance of the powers” he has.) One specific recommendation of
the commission was to constitute an inter-state council, as provided under
Article 263 in the Constitution. The commission expressed its disappointment
that the government had not done so even after 38 years of ‘the Constitution
coming into operation. A permanent secretariat and series of sanding committees
were proposed to help the inter-state council to maintain constant touch with
the Centre and the states.
(The inter-state council, under the Constitution, is charged
with the duty of (a) inquiring into and advising upon disputes which may have
arisen between states, (b) investigating and discussing subjects in which some
or all of the states, or the union and one or more of the states have a common
interest: or (c) Making recommendations upon any such subject and, in
particular, recommendations for the better co-ordination of policy and action
with respect to that subject.)
The commission at many places in its report commended the
resilience of the Indian Constitution as compared to the US Constitution. But it
regretted that too many constitutional amendments had been affected and they had
at times defeated the original purpose.
The four- volume report did not contain any summary. The
commission apparently believed that any summary would unwittingly lay emphasis
on some points; it wanted the whole report to be read to appreciate the
conclusions in their proper perspective.
— Asian Recorder, 1987
(Source – The Telegraph)
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