Gist of Important National Administrative Committees Report (First) Administrative Reforms Commission on Centre – State Relations(1966-72)

Gist of Important National Administrative Committees Report

On Centre - State Relations (First) Administrative Reforms Commission on Centre – State Relations(1966-72)

Relations between the centre and the states range over Wide area. They cover, but are not confined to, the entire field of administration and in fact overstep it into that of politics. Politics and administration are inseparable in the sense that administration is meant to give effect to politically determined programmes and policies. But politics concerns itself also with the pursuit of power, an activity that stretches beyond the legitimate confines of administration. Of late the term “centre-state relationships” has often been used to connote the attitudes, actions and interaction of the parties in power at the centre and in the states. There is, however, a well-defined distinction between party and government and strictly speaking the term denominates relationships between governments and not between parties.

Centre-state relationships even in this sense can have a political nexus the nuances of which are not derived from the Constitution. This is an aspect that has assumed an acute form since the last general elections, with the eclipse in several states of the party that rules at the centre. And yet, although the dimensions have changed, the problem, basically one of the relationship of the political leadership at the centre with the political leadership in the states and of its influence on centre-state administrative relations in their widest sense, is not new. It is well to recognise that the political facts of the Indian scene have played a major role in the development of attitudes. Where a single party has control over affairs at the centre as well as in the states an alternative and extra-constitutional channel becomes available for the operation of centre-state relationships. In practice this channel has been very active during Congress Party rule and has governed the tenure of centre-state relationships.

The political network connecting central and state leadership was used amply to resolve conflict and ease tension or even to postpone consideration of inconvenient issues. In the process the Constitution was not violated, at least not deliberately or demonstrably, but was often by-passed. Besides. political rather than administrative considerations determined decisions and the centre’s relationship with a particular state depended very much on the personality of its political leaders and their equation with the central leadership. Constitutional provisions went into disuse and disputes were settled in the party rather than aired through open constitutional machinery. Party prestige and party discipline worked out party rather than governmental or constitutional solutions. A strong central leadership made such discipline possible. ‘This discipline was. to air extent. offset by the creation of linguistic states and the gradual dependence of the central ministers on local leaders for political support, thereby shifting the actual centre of power somewhat. Whether dominated by the centre or by the states, or by some of the states, all these factors combined to weave a pattern of centre-state relationships in which the political process came to play a major part.

From the constitutional angle the situation was abnormal. As a result of by-passing normal constitutional processes a habit of settling issues through extra-constitutional means grew and sufficient experience and proper climate for settling them through the regular process were not developed. The emergence of non-Congress governments in the states has accordingly forced the problem to the forefront for the earlier political devices are no longer available. The problem has acquired an edge because of this peculiar background and it can be expected to wear out with time when the polity becomes accustomed to different parties ruling in the centre and the states. The Constitution is clearly meant to be worked even in a multiparty situation which should be seen not as a problem of centre-state relations but as a normal background for their interplay. We are, therefore, not concerned in this report with the immediate political impact created by the return to power of different ruling parties at the centre and in the states. In a few years, as this experience is assimilated, the difficulties presented by its sheer unprecedentedness should be gradually solved by proper adjustments in responses from the body politic. The federal machinery could then be expected to adapt itself to a changing configuration of parties in power in the different seats of government and to demonstrate that stability which the Constitution was designed to provide and which uniparty rule has provided till lately. Our report has in view a stable situation of this nature in which centre-state relationships will operate more on constitutional than on party lines. Our interest, therefore, is in seeing whether the overall administrative arrangements devised are such as to promote efficiency and national integration. What the political responses actually governing decisions should be is not our concern in this report.

The starting point for any examination of centre state relations, even if its focus is only on administrative reform, must be the character of the constitutional structure within which the interplay of administration and politics takes place. This character is not easy to define. No label describes it perfectly and when for the sake of convenience, one is applied there is a risk of ascribing to the Constitution characteristics associated with that label which the Constitutionmay not possess. Thus lawyers and constitutional pundits have debated at length whether India is a “unitary state” or a “federation” or a “quasi-federation”. Whatever label one accepts it is important not to endow our polity with false attributes as a result or to infer from it powers for the centre, or for the states. they are not meant to possess.

The Indian polity is federal in form but lacks much of the substance of a classical federation. The ingredients of a federation classically are : -

(i) a compact between independent and sovereign units to surrender partially their authority in their common interest and vest it in a Union;
(ii) the retention of residual authority with the constituent units;
(iii) a separate constitution for each constituent unit to govern all matters not surrendered to the Union
(iv) the supremacy of the Constitution and its consequent immutability except with the concurrence of the component units:
(v) the distribution of powers of the Union and the units each in its sphere, co-ordinate and independent of the other, the basis being the entrustment of matters of national importance to the Union and of local importance to the units;
(vi) the supreme authority of the courts to interpret the Constitution and to invalidate action violative of the Constitution, and to resolve conflicts, as provided for in the Constitution. between one unit and another and between a unit and the Union.

In our Constitution only the last named attribute is present in full measure. The first three are completely absent, and of these the absence of the first is of more than mere historical interest for it must dispel all notions of the autonomous sovereignty of the states. The term “sovereignty” presents some difficulties of interpretation and tends to be used with different shades of meaning. .Scholars have tried to distinguish between “political sovereignty” and “legal sovereignty”. The first is said to vest neither in the centre nor in the states but in the people of the country. What is significant here is that it vests in the people of the country as a whole and not, in any measure, in the people of the individual units. The units had no sovereignty to part with and it would be incorrect to import any such concept now as an appendage to the term “federation”.

“Legal sovereignty”. in the sense of law making power unrestricted by any legal limit, can, in theory, vest only in the Constitution. In practice it can be said to vest in the legislatures created by the Constitution provided there is equality between these legislatures (of the Union and the states) and the powers of each are co-ordinate and independent of the other. But those of the state legislatures are not co-ordinate and independent of Parliament in every respect.

The division of powers, which is at the heart of the matter, does indeed make the polity partake of the federal character but the substance of this division dilutes this character in many significant ways. The fact that the Seventh Schedule itself is heavily weighted in favour of the centre need not detract from the idea of the supremacy of the states in the limited sphere left to them. But when restrictions operate even in this limited sphere a rigid concept of autonomy becomes difficult to sustain. Article 249, for instance, empowers Parliament to legislate on any matter in the State List provided the Council of States by a two-thirds majority authorises it to do so. The Council of States does, in a way, represent the opinion of the states. but the important point to note is that the autonomy of individual states is subject, even in the state field, to the collective wishes of the other states. The character of this provision is thus utterly distinguishable from that of Article 252 under which Parliament may legislate for any two or more states with their agreement.

There are next the emergency powers of the centre to be assumed when the security of the country is threatened, when there is a failure of the Constitution in a state or when there is a threat to the financial stability of any state. The Union in such events can function as a unitary state. National peril creates centralisation of authority in all federations but the emergency powers of the Union extend beyond security situations and give an overseeing role to the centre that is incompatible with traditional ideas of federalism. There are, further, Articles 200 and 201 under which the Governor—a Presidential appointee-may reserve a bill passed by the state legislature for the consideration of the President who may veto it without assigning any reason. There is finally the extraordinary position that there is nothing permanent or sacrosanct about the identity of the states. Their boundaries can be altered and, indeed, the existence of individual states can be brought to an end by Parliament at will. Units whose political identity can be obliterated by Parliament can hardly be considered sovereign in any sense of the term. It is true that the powers of a state cannot be altered by this means, but this only stresses the functional role of a unit, not its inherent autonomy.

The autonomy implicit in the division of powers, on which basically the federal character of the Union rests, can thus be seen as a functional devolution rather than as a conferment of sovereign rights. This functional arrangement represents the will of the people and was found necessary as an administrative convenience. A country as large in size and as diverse in population as India could not be governed effectively from a central point and could experience stability only in a governmental system in which local initiative was blended with strong central control. The arrangement had to be built into the Constitution to give it legal force.

It is clear that the framers of the Constitution have deliberately given the country a strong centre. In any federation the main task is to reconcile the conflicting claims of national-”sovereignty” and state “sovereignty”, and to harmonize these is the function of a federal constitution. Where exactly the balance is struck varies from federation to federation. In India, the Constitution-makers declared their intention at the very outset that “the Constitution would be federal with a strong Centre” and in their epoch-making work followed this principle with firm consistency. The chief sources of strength for the centre are the wide range of subjects allotted to it for legislative and executive functioning (including residuary matters) and a financial division which gives it sources far more diverse and with a higher potential than those given to the states.

The centre has accordingly the duty cast upon it to determine and devolve resources to the states to enable them to meet their obligations. It also has a lending relationship which has consistently added to its dimensions. Since the states are heavily dependent on the centre for finances the latter can and does take a lively and indeed decisive interest in development activities which constitutionally fall within the states’ sphere. In fact it is through the purse strings and not by resort to any legislation on “economic and social planning”, a subject in the Concurrent List, that the centre has chosen to influence development policy in the states.

But it is well to remember that. however strong a centre the Constitution may have provided for, the polity is federal and not unitary in structure. It was open to the makers of the Constitution to give India a unitary arrangement. They did not and, subject to certain provisions regarding central intervention-unusual no doubt and therefore to be employed in unusual circumstances-left the states normally with full powers to act in the legislative or executive fields falling within their jurisdiction. It will thus be seen that the makers of the Constitution were not influenced by any doctrinaire ideas about federalism. The Constitution became what it is on pragmatic considerations.

Two conclusions follow

First, a functional arrangement of this kind cannot subserve the purposes underlying it unless it becomes an operational reality.

Secondly, where the arrangement is a reality but is found to be deficient, it should be possible to consider alterations without being inhibited by any doctrinaire ideas. It is therefore, important to see how far practice has conformed to constitutional provision and purpose, what major deviations have occurred and with what justification, and which of the existing provisions and procedures have proved inadequate.

Centre-state relationships cover almost all aspects of administration. They come into play even in areas falling in List I and squarely entrusted to the centre. The problem, of the setting up and location of public enterprises, dramatized by the steel plant agitation and the affairs of the Paradeep port, furnishes an instance. So large and complex is the field of administrative action entrusted by the Constitution to the centre and so interdependent are the functioning of the Union and the units that almost any activity will involve a centre state relationship or an inter-state relationship in which the centre may be required to act as umpire or broker. ;as the situation requires. All situation, are not provided for by the law or the Constitution and a relationship has to grow, therefore, on the basis of healthy attitudes and a willingness to co-operate.

For delimiting the area of study the different facets of centre-slate relationships could be classified as follows : -

(a) legislative relationships
(b) financial relationships
(c) administrative relationships which in turn could be categorised as :

(i) relationships in the sphere of planning and development; and
(ii) relationships in spheres other than planning and development.

As our enquiry concerned itself with administrative reform and not with basic constitutional and political reform we did not consider it appropriate to include legislative relationships within the scope of this study. One approach to our task could have been to subject the three lists in the Seventh Schedule to a review. That we have not done so is not only because we consider those lists to have been drawn up admirably well but also because this was not our view of our task. We do not consider the time ripe or in any other wily appropriate for a general review of this nature. Our interest has been in the other two items, both of which are within our ambit, the second one by specific entrustment under the terms of the reference of the Commission and the first—financial relationships - -because it cannot be separated from the second.

Is it possible to discern an overall approach, in the centre and the states. covering the gamut of centre-state relationships? The answer must be that there is no clear and consciously thought out approach. During the last many years the lines of decision-making have often been political or party, and not governmental or constitutional except in form. Considerations holding sway. therefore, have also been mixed, in which the personal and political was not scrupulously separated from the official and constitutional. Therefore, no well-understood or well-articulated strategy on centre-state relationship is observable. To the extent, however, that practice gives an indication such an approach has consisted of two main elements:-

(i) the maximum possible control over the states in the plan .world of administration, using the financially stronger position of the centre to impose central thinking (considered synonymous with national thinking); and
(ii) the minimum possible involvement in the affairs of the states on the non-plan side.

It has been our endeavour to subject this approach to a fresh scrutiny. The relationship between the centre and the states must subserve vital national objectives and interests and the first task must be to identify these. To our mind, and we do not think there can be any serious difference of opinion here, the two objectives requiring stress are to keep the country united and to forge, ahead in the field of economic and social development. To what extent has the approach adopted so far helped in attaining these objectives? The country has remained united and has also gone ahead with development with considerable success but it appears to us that the polarization of the two attitudes in this strategy has prevented the right balance from being maintained. A perusal of the report will reveal the weaknesses in the existing strategy. We have been impressed by the need to enable the states to become full, efficient and responsible partners in the task of development. Conversely, the objective of national integration and uniformity of standards of administrative efficiency needs to be secured through measures enabling more purposeful central involvement in selected sectors of administration and we have not hesitated to recommend the establishment of links between the states and the centre where they should exist but do not, or their fortification where they exist but anemically .

Our effort thus has been to suggest measures to correct the existing imbalance in centre state relations. We have not in this study taken up questions of substantive policy in individual spheres even though these may involve centre-state relations in an intimate way. Thus issues concerning language or the procurement and distribution of fowl have been considered inappropriate for study by us. These undoubtedly have a decisive impact on the life of the people and on the tenor of centre-state relationships but it is not for a body enquiring into the need for administrative reforms to go into such substantive questions. To do so would be appropriating the functions of Government.

We have proceeded within the basic constitutional framework the rationale of which has not been questioned. To the extent. however. that our study of administrative relationships made the examination of constitutional provisions inevitable we have not hesitated to examine them and to recommend marginal changes. but in the main we have proceeded on the assumption that the basic constitutional fabric must remain intact. We may add that nothing in our enquiry shows the basic fabric to be inadequate for administrative purposes. So perceptively does the Constitution avoid rigidities that it can work successfully irrespective of who holds power, provided those working it m:an it to work.

This is Sample Material of Our Public Administration Online Coaching for Full Mater Join Online

Click Here to Buy Gist of Important National Administrative Committees Report

Study Kit for Public Administration for IAS Mains Exams