M.M. Punchhi Commission Recommendations

In April 2007, a three member commission headed by the former chief justice of India M.M. Punchhi was set up by the UPA Government to take a fresh look at relative roles and responsibilities of various levels of government and their inter-relations. This commission had submitted its report in 2010 to then Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

Main Terms of Reference

  • To examine what could be the role, responsibility and jurisdiction of the Centre during major and prolonged outbreaks of communal violence, caste violence or any other social conflicts.
  • To review other aspects of Centre-States relations including taxes and linking of rivers.
  • To examine whether there is a need to set up a Central law enforcement agency to take up suo motu investigation of crimes having inter-State or international ramifications with serious implications on national security.
  • To study the feasibility of supporting legislation under Article 355 for the purpose of suo motu deployment of Central forces in the States if and when the situation demanded.
  • To study the role, responsibility and jurisdiction of the Centre vis-à-vis States in promoting effective devolution of powers and autonomy to Panchayati Raj institutions and local bodies.
  • To promote the concept and concept of independent planning and budgeting at the district level and linking Central assistance of various kinds with the performance of the States.
  • To study the need and relevance of separate taxes for freeing inter-state trade to establish unified domestic market.
  • To examine the role of Governors, emergency provisions, financial relations, economic and social planning, Panchayati Raj institutions and sharing of resources, including inter-State river waters.

In summary, the key study point of this commission was to examine possibility of giving sweeping powers to the union  government  to deploy  central forces in the states and the investigation  of crimes affecting  national  security.

Major Recommendations

The Punchhi commission provided 312 recommendations in a seven volume report comprising:

  1. Evolution of Centre-state relations
  2. Constitutional scheme of relations, covering recommendations regarding Article 19, Article 355 and 356 and Article 263.
  3. Economic and financial relations and recommendations include upgrading of the planning model to remove regional imbalances.
  4. Recommendations regarding 73rd and 74th amendments and the Sixth Schedule.
  5. Internal security, covering issues like terror, Naxalism, insurgency and communal violence.
  6. Environment issues and resource-sharing, particularly of rivers and minerals
  7. Social development and good governance.

This commission dealt at length with Emergency provisions under Article 355 and Article 356 and proposed safeguards to prevent their abuse to dismiss state governments. The commission has also studied set-ups like the National Investigation Agency, and recommended procedures to ensure smooth co-operation of the states in terror investigations entrusted to NIA. The committee report was in 7 Volumes as follows:

Here are some major and notable recommendations of the MM Puncchi Commission Report.

Concurrent List subjects

There should be a mechanism whereby the centre consults states before introducing a bill on concurrent list items. This consultation mechanism should be through inter-state council.

Centre should occupy only that much of subjects in concurrent list or any other overlapping jurisdiction which is absolutely needed to achieve uniformity of policy in national interest.

On President’s Pocket Veto

Once a bill is passed in legislative assembly and then reserved by the governor for president’s consideration, President applies pocket veto in several cases. No communication is given to the state which is baffling for states. Thus, there should be mechanism so that president communicates his decision in reasonable time {6 months).

Treaty Making Power of Union

There is a need of some kind of legislation to regulate the treaty making power of union executive with respect to treaties which have anything to do with the matters listed in state list. There should be greater involvement of states in such treaties.

Appointment of Chief Ministers

There should be clear guidelines for the appointment of chief ministers, so that there is sort of regulation on discretionary power of Governor. A pre-poll alliance should be treated as one political party, because that lays down the order of precedence that ought to be followed by the governor in case of a hung house as follows:

  • The group with the largest pre-poll alliance commanding the largest number;
  • The single largest party with support of others;
  • The post-electoral coalition with all parties joining the government
  • The post electoral alliance with some parties joining the government and remaining including Independents supporting from outside.
Appointment of Governor

The Punchhi commission recommended that the person who is slated to be a Governor should not have participated in active politics at even local level for at least a couple of years before his appointment. We note that Sarkaria Commission had also recommended that governor be an eminent person and not belong to the state where he is to be posted. State chief minister should have a say in the appointment of governor. Appointment of governor should be entrusted to a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and chief minister of the concerned state. The Vice- President can also be involved in the process.

Removal of Governor

For office of Governor, the doctrine of pleasure should end and should be deleted from the constitution. Governor should not be removed at whim of central government. Instead, a resolution by state legislature should be there to remove Governor. The report supported the right of the Governor to give sanction for the prosecution of ministers against the advice of the state government.  There should be provisions for impeachment of the Governor by the state legislature along the same lines as that of President by President. (Goes against doctrine of pleasure)

Governor as Chancellor of Universities

The convention of making the Governors as chancellors of universities should be done away with.

Article 355 and 356

Article 355 and 356 should be amended. Via these amendments, the Centre should be enabled to bring specific troubled areas under its rule for a limited period. This means that the commission recommended for “localising emergency provisions” under Articles 355 and 356, contending that localised areas — either a district or parts of a district — be brought under Governor’s rule instead of the whole state. The duration of such an emergency provision should however not be of duration of more than three months.

National Integration Council

For internal security, commission recommended creation of an overriding structure on the lines of the US Home­land Security department, giving more teeth to the National Integration Council. This council should meet at least once a year. In case of any communal incident, a delegation of five members of the Council, who would be eminent persons, should visit the affected area within two days. However, it rejected constitutional status to NIC.

Communal Violence Bill

The commission recommended that the Communal Violence Bill should be amended to allow deployment of Central forces without the state’s consent for a short period. The state consent should not become a hurdle in deployment of central forces in a communal conflagration. However, such deployment should only be for a week and post-facto consent should be taken from the state.

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