Scope, Contour and challenges for Cooperative Federalism in India

India opted for quasifederal structure after independence. Although the term ”federal” has not been mentioned in the constitution but the working of Indian democracy is essentially federal in structure.

Three Phases of Indian Federalism

Working of Indian federalism is divided into three phases:

  • 1947 to 1967: This phase had single party dominance. Congress government was formed at central as well as state level except few like communist government in Kerala in 1959. There was hardly any problem between states and centre due to ruling by common party. Few instances were there like first time democratically elected communist government in the world in Kerala, was dismissed by central government.
  • 1967 to 1990: This phase is called as phase of confrontational federalism. First time congress lost election in 9 states. Though congress recovered in later elections but overall this phase saw confrontation between centre and states ruled by different parties.
  • 1990 till present: This phase is termed as co-operative federalism phase, as state parties are having share in forming government at central level e.g. DMK of Tamil Nadu, SP of UP, and Trinamool Congress of West Bengal. Thus the importance of state’s issues has increased e.g. Tamil issue even gained international importance. Centre is becoming more sensitive towards states needs.

Instruments to ensure co-operation between centre and states

Indian constitution has provided several instruments to ensure co-operation between centre and states. These are mentioned below:

  • 7thschedule: It clearly demarcates central, state and concurrent list based on the principle of subsidiarity. Residuary power has been kept with centre.
  • Integrated Judiciary, All India Services: An integrated judicial system has been established to enforce both state as well as central laws. All India services provide another uniting factor in co-operative federalism.
  • Under article 263of the constitution Inter State Council has been established to discuss and investigate the subject of common interest between the centre and the states.
  • For interstate water disputes parliament can adjudicate for the same.
  • Zonal council: These are statutory bodies established under the State reorganisation act of 1956 to ensure co-ordination. It provided for 5 zonal councils, one for each north, south, east, west, central. North eastern council has been created under separate act.
  • Other mechanisms: National Development Council, NITI (National Initiative for Transforming India) Ayog, Finance commission under article 280 of the constitution.

Problem areas between centre and states

  • As said by Sarkaria commission that most states held that there is nothing wrong with strong centre, problem is of over centralisation. Centre has practically monopolised the concurrent list. Several states have sought abolition of this list. And several states have demanded residuary powers to bring with states.
  • Article 200related to state bill reserved for President assent has been abused.
  • Anandpur Sahib Resolutionby Punjab in 1973, West Bengal Memorandum in 1978 has demanded centre to restrict itself to defence, external affairs, currency and general communication.
  • Imposition of President Rule (article 356)has been the most exploited instrument used by the centre which has caused confrontation between centre and the states. Article 365 is never used before article 356. Supreme has given direction regarding this issue in S.R. Bommai case in 1994.
  • Removal of Governor: With the change of ruling party at the centre, all the governors appointed by previous ruling party are removed on false pretext. This has almost become a habit as recently done new government also.
  • Discretionary power of Planning Commission: Planning Commission allocated funds to states. Statutory grant (by finance commission) formed meagre part as compared to discretionary grant (by Planning Commission). But this problem has been solved with change in the functions of Planning Commission. NITI ayog, recently established has more functions towards developing centre state relations.
  • All India Services: Often state governments call for abolition for all India services. But several commissions have recommended to further expand these services to other areas like medical, judicial services etc. These services in fact have strengthened the unity of the country.

Scope of co-operative federalism

As implementation of policies and programmes takes place at the state level, thus co-operation of state is essential for the development goals of the nation. Local self government, which are called schools of democracy, functions under the state governments only. To ensure development of these institution co-operations is very essential between centre and the states. Scope for this co-operation is very high but various changes are required to ensure this. Regarding these changes various recommendations of Punchi commission are mentioned below:

  • Some broad agreement needs to be reached between centre and the states before introducing bills on concurrent subjects, as recommended by Punchi Commission.
  • State billsreserved for President assent should be disposed off within 6 months by the centre.
  • International treatiesshould be negotiated with the greater involvement of the states if implementation of these treaties impacts the states.
  • There should be equal representation of states in Rajya Sabhaas in United States of America.
  • Role of interstate councilshould be strengthened. Zonal councils should meet frequently. And more consensus building bodies should be established e.g. empowered group of state finance ministers for GST (Goods and Service tax) issue.
  • All India Servicesshould be expanded to health, judiciary, education etc.
  • Greater flexibility should be shown by the centre for subjects in the state listand for transferred
  • Governor issueshould be dealt carefully. Governor’s appointment should not be politically motivated, his tenure should be fixed and there can be introduced procedure to impeach Governor like President. Specific guidelines have been issued by Punchi commission for role of governor during hung assembly. While imposing President Rule guidelines issued by Supreme Court in S.R. Bommai case should be instituted in the constitution.

The period of Finance Commission and Planning commission (now NITI ayog) should be synchronised to ensure co-ordination.

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