The Union State relations in the legislative sphere have been dealt by Articles 245 to 254. The Constitution clearly provides that the Parliament shall have exclusive jurisdiction to make law for the whole or any part of the territory of India with regard to subjects mentioned in the Union List. This list contains subjects like defence, foreign affairs, currency, union duties, communication, etc. On the other hand, the State enjoys exclusive power over the 66 items enumerated in the State List. This List contains subjects like public order, health, sanitation, agriculture etc. In addition, there is a Concurrent list containing 47 subjects like criminal law and procedure, marriage, contracts, trust, social insurance etc. over which both the Union and the State Governments can legislate.
If the law of the Union Government and the State Government come into clash with each other the former prevails. However, State law on the Concurrent List shall prevail over the Central law if the same had been reserved for the consideration of the President and his consent had been received before the enactment of the Central law on the same subject. This clearly gives some leeway to the States. The constitution also vests the residuary powers (viz., the enumerated in any of the three Lists) with the Central Government. It may be noted that in this distribution of powers the Union Government has certainly been given favoured treatment. It has not only been granted more extensive powers than the States, even the residuary powers have been granted to it contrary to the convention in other federations of the world, where the residuary powers are given to the States.
Though under ordinary circumstances the Central Government does not possess the power to legislation on subjects enumerated in the State List, under certain special conditions the Union parliament can make laws even on these subjects, in the following cases, Union Parliament can legislate on the subject listed in the State List-
- If the Rajya Sabha declares by a resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting that it is necessary or expedient in the national interest that the Parliament should make laws with respect to any matter, enumerated in the State List, specified in the resolution. After such a resolution is passed it is lawful for the Parliament to make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India with respect to that matter while the resolution remains in force. Such a resolution remains in force for a period of one year and can be further extended by one year by means of a subsequent resolution. It may be observed that this provision has been used only in very few cases and has not added to the powers of the parliament.
- The parliament can legislate on the subjects mentioned in the State List when the
Proclamation of Emergency has been made by the President on grounds of internal
disturbances or external aggression. However, the laws thus made by the Parliament
shall cease to have an effect on the expiration of a period of six months after the
Proclamation has ceased to operate, except as respects things done or omitted to be
done before the expiry of the said period. Thus during an emergency, the Parliament can
legislate on subjects in all the three lists and the Federal Constitution gets converted
into unitary one.
- The President can also authorise the Parliament to exercise the powers of the State
legislature during the Proclamation of Emergency due to breakdown of constitutional
machinery in a state. But all such laws passed by the Parliament cease to operate six
months after the Proclamation of Emergency comes to an end.
- The Parliament can also be authorised to legislate on a state subject if the legislatures
of two or more states feel it desirable that any of the matters with respect to which the
Parliament has no power to make laws for the states should be regulated in such
states by Parliament by law and if resolutions to that effect are passed by legislatures
of those states. Thereafter any act passed by the Parliament shall apply to such
states and to any other state by which it is adopted afterwards by a resolution passed
in that behalf by the house, or, where there are two houses, by each house of the
the legislature of that state. The Parliament also reserves the right to amend or repeal
any such act.
- The Parliament can make law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for
implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries
or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body. Any
law passed by the Parliament for this purpose cannot be invalidated on the ground
that it relates to the subject mentioned in the state list.
- Certain bills passed by the state legislature have to be reserved by the Governor of
the state for the consideration of the President. These bills become law only after the
President gives his assent. The bills which the Governor must reserve for the
consideration of the President relate to compulsory acquisition of property or those
which adversely affected the powers of the high court.
It is quite evident from the above discussion that the Union enjoys a position of superiority in the legislative sphere and at times the states are completely at its mercy.