Out of My Mind: Power of Centre against
that of states (The Indian Express)
Mains Paper 5: Indian Polity
Prelims level: Govt. of India Act 1935
Mains level: Issues and Challenges pertaining to the Federal Structure, Dispute
Redressal Mechanisms, and the Centre-State Relations
- The issue is the power of the Centre against that of the states,
or the nature of federalism.
- Few people remember that as late as July 1946, the proposed
Constitution of India (undivided) was going to be a Confederate one with
powerful Provinces whose elected heads were called Prime Ministers and a
weak Centre with Defence, Foreign Affairs and Currency among its subjects.
- The Government of India Act 1935 was the basis for the 1946
elections which created the Legislative Assembly which became the
Features of the Government of India Act of 1935 (Highly important)
- The Act intended to bring completely responsible government in
- It provided for the establishment of an All-India Federation
consisting of provinces and princely states as units. (However, the
federation never came into being as the princely states did not join it.)
- Act divided powers – Central list, Provincial list and Concurrent
list; Residue powers to Governor.
- Abolished ‘dyarchy’ in the provinces and introduced ‘provincial
autonomy’ in its place.
- Act introduced responsible governments in provinces (i.e. governor
was required to act with the advice of ministers responsible to the
provincial legislature) – was in operation only from 1937-1939 18
- It provided for the adoption of dyarchy at the Centre i.e. Federal
subjects be divided into ‘transferred’ and ‘reserved’ – But this also never
came into operation.
- It introduced bicameralism in six out of eleven provinces.
- Extended separate electorates for depressed classes (scheduled
castes), women and labour (workers.
- Abolished the Council of India (which was estd in GOI, 1958 to
assist SOS). SOS was provided with team of advisors.
- Establishment of a Reserve Bank of India to control the currency
and credit of the country.
- Federal PSC + Provincial PSC (on lines of UPSC + SPSC).
- Establishment of a Federal Court (in 1937).
- Partition changed everything. Instead of a Union of powerful
Provinces and weak Centre, the Constituent Assembly chose a strong Centre
with states whose boundaries could be altered by the Centre.
- There was an implicit assumption that the Congress will rule at
the Centre and all the states forever, which would allow Centre-state
disputes to be settled at party level.
- That lasted till 1967, though the arbitrary dismissal of the first
Communist government of Kerala showed that even Jawaharlal Nehru’s
commitment to democracy had limits.
- It got worse and the Centre misused the President’s Rule powers
shamelessly, not to mention the Emergency.
- States’ demand for revenue sharing was accommodated by successive
Finance Commissions, but on political matters the power equation between the
Centre and states alters with personalities.
- There is no redress except via the Supreme Court. When the Centre
was weak during 1988-1998, the Supreme Court gathered lot of power to itself
and became autonomous, as its system of Collegium shows.
- It has not given up that power despite a Constitutional amendment
to establish a National Judicial Appointments Commission.
- Here the disproportionate weakness of the principal opposition
party has helped the court. Lately, the fissures within the topmost judges
and the cavalier attempts to impeach the Chief Justice of India have done no
one any good. The system may not be broke but it is not working as expected.
- The most recent fracas, between the West Bengal CM and CBI, has
shown once again that it is not rules of established practice that govern
- The Centre showed restraint and did not slam President’s Rule as
in the old Congress days, but the fact remains that the balance between the
Centre and states is not as was assumed in 1949.
- States are developing tariff barriers when it comes to jobs and
reservations wanting to favour their ‘native sons of the soil’, as the most
recent example of Madhya Pradesh shows.
- This will only grow as the NRC issue in Assam demonstrates.
Q.1) Which of the following organisations are collaborating with World
Health Organisation (WHO) in the first Global Climate conference on Air
Pollution and Health?
3. Climate and Clean air coalition
5. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
Select the correct answer using the code(s) given below:
(a) 1, 2 and 3
(b) 2, 3 and 4
(c) 2, 3, 4 and 5
(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Q.1) Is the Government of India Act 1935 relevant in modern times? Give
your argument in this regard.
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