Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure

Now let us examine the areas of issues between the Centre and the States.

1. Dominance of the Congress Party
2. The Role of the Governor (Discretionary Power and Appointment Issues)
3. Reservation of Bills for Consideration of President
4. Misuse of Article 356
5. The Maintenance of Law and Order in States
6. Encroachment by the Centre on State List
7. The Financial weakness of the State
8. Taxation Powers
9. Issue of Grants
10. Role of Planning Commission
11. Question of Autonomy Issue

A review of the above has been given below.

1. Dominance of the Congress Party

As we have already seen historically we have two phases so far as the Union-States conflicts are concerned. The 1st phase ended in 1967 and the results showed the Congress Party’s domination in the centre and the states also. So, any centre-state conflict was an internal problem for the party and was resolved at that level itself. After 1967, the political scenario in the country changed and many non-Congress governments emerged in the states and centre. At this juncture, internal party mechanism was not enough to resolve centre-state conflicts and so these conflicts not only surfaced but also intensified.

2. The Role of Governor and Discretionary Powers of Governor

The President appoints the state governors for a period of 5 years. And, he remains in office during the pleasure of the president, implying he can be recalled at any time in between. That is, the governor stays in office as long as the centre chooses. The SC has held that the office of the governor is an independent office and that it is neither subordinate nor controlled by the central government of India. However, a quick scan of the governors in the states would reveal that most of them were active politicians before they were appointed as governors and that the rest were bureaucrats. They are appointed on political basis and hence, can hardly be expected to be neutral. It is this partisan role of the governor that has been the key point in centre-state conflicts. Governors have been seen promoting in their respective states the interests of the political party that is ruling the Centre. This has been mostly seen in appointing Chief Ministers, summoning, proroguing and dissolving the State Assemblies and in recommending President’s rule. The governor also exercises some discretionary powers, apart from his regular functions as the constitutional head. A significant discretionary power is with respect to the Chief Minister’s appointment when there is no clear majority winner. Another power is regarding the dismissal of a Chief Minister on the loss of majority support in the assembly. Another matter is with respect to making a report to the President under Article 356, under which he has to say whether the state government can function or not in accordance with the constitutional provisions. Therefore, recommending the President’s Rule on a state has become a point of conflict between the centre and the states.

3. Reservation of Bills for Consideration of President

As per Article 200 of the Constitution, the governor can reserve certain types of bills passed by the State Legislature for the President’s consideration. The President can either give assent to it or ask the governor to send it back for the state legislature to reconsider it, along with his comments. The president is not bound to give his assent even after the bill has been passed for a second time by the state legislature. The chief intent of this provision is for the centre to keep a tab on the legislation in the interest of the nation. However, the central government, through the office of the governor, has used this provision to serve partisan interests. States ruled by the opposition have time and again raised an uproar against the misuse of this provision. This has been especially the case when the governor has reserved a bill against the state ministry’s advice, apparently under the influence of the central government. The BHP, in its memorandum to the Sarkaria Commission, alleged that bills were reserved for the President’s consideration only to generate difficulties for the state governments. The West Bengal Government said in its reply to the commission’s questionnaire that it felt that Articles 200 and 201 should either be deleted or there should be clarity on whether the governor would not act in his discretion but only act on the advice of the state council of ministers.

4. Misuse of Article 356

Article 356 is the most controversial article of the Constitution. It provides for State emergency or President’s rule in State if the President, on receipt of report from the Governor of a State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. The duration of such emergency is six months and it can be extended further. In the Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar had made it clear that the Article 356 would be applied as a last resort. He also hoped that” such articles will never be called into operation and that they would remain a dead letter.”

5. Emergency Provision

Article 356 should be used very sparingly, in extreme cases, as a matter of last resort; a warning should be issued to the errant State in specific terms – alternatives must not ordinarily be dispensed with. It should be provided through an appropriate amendment that notwithstanding anything in clause (2) of Article 74 of the Constitution, the material facts and grounds on which Article 356 (1) is invoked, should be made an integral part of the Proclamation issued under the Article. This will also assure control of the Parliament over exercise of this power by the Union Executive, more effective

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