Has The Indian Federation Stood Up To The Demands For Which It Has Been Call Upon To Meet ? 

This article is written by Synthia Das , a student of Amity University, Kolkata & Kanchan Ghosh, IP Analyst


In India, federalism is described as an indestructible union of destructible states. Because it has incorporated the federal system within itself, this democracy is lavish in nature. The federal nature of the country aids in establishing a healthy relationship between the centre and the states, as well as pacing the country’s development and economic growth. Federalism is a coin in and of itself, and every coin has two sides. Cooperative federalism and competitive federalism are the two sides of federalism. They complement one another and walk hand in hand. Cooperative federalism is a concept that brings the federal government and the states together to fulfil their goals by resolving common challenges and launching new initiatives for the country’s growth.  And to stronger the bond of the center – state relation various instruments have been encapsulated in the constitution . They are – 7th Schedule , All India Services , Inter State Council , Full Faith and Credit Clause , Zonal Council . On the other hand Competitive federalism is a concept where the center competes with the states and the states compete with each other . Competitive federalism is mainly concerned about economic growth , commerce , investment and trade were the states compete with each other to attract more funds which initiates the growth of development activities . Thus federalism is a concept which creates a healthy relationship between center and the states and paces the development in the country . As cooperative federalism and competitive federalism are two sides of the same coin and thus a balance between these two is an essential factor for the growth and development of the country . The idea of “One shoe fits all”  was against cooperative federalism and thus led to the birth of new governing policy – NITI AYOG . Thus cooperative and competitive spirits play a crucial role in federalism .    


 Seeds of federalism can be traced right from The Regulating Act of 1773 , when the British Government supervised the work of East India Company but did not take any power itself . Then The Government of India Act ,1919 opted for a federal India however superficial in nature by indulging “Dyarchy ” the dual form of government . The Indian Statutary Commission of 1929 , suggested for dyarchy at the center and also to upgrade to full responsible government at provinces . The Government of India Act ,1935 also opted for this policy . The Cabinet Mission Plan , 1946 stated that Union of India should deal with foreign affairs , defence and communications . And all the other the subjects [ residuary powers ] excluding the union subjects were vested on the provinces . On 13th December , 1946 Jawaharlal Nehru while moving his Objectives of Resolution quoted that central level was to be considered in all power and authority of the sovereign Independent India, its constituents, and government organs are derived from the people


 The term “ Federalism ” though is not encrypted in the constitution but still the working of the whole government is directed on the path of federalism . The evolution which our country has faced in terms of political ideologies since post independence , the drastic change from centralist to federalist to central – federalist governments . The major shifts from left to right along with the major rise in the coalition governments , regional parties and the dynamic role of the judiciary has changed rather made the term federalism an essential ingredient for the working and development of the country .  The central-state relationship has taken on additional relevance as the prospect of external aggression persists. As a result, it is critical to do research into how the federation has responded to the demands that it has been asked to satisfy. What impact has planning and emergency preparedness had on India’s core federalism fabric? These are only a few of the many issues discussed below: 

Legislative relationship:  

The distribution of legislative jurisdiction between the centre, states, and constituent entities is a question that arises from legislative relationships. Many people wonder how the union list, state list, or concurrent list should be interpreted. One of the most frequently discussed rules is “Pith and Substance,” which has been the subject of numerous judicial pronouncements in which the scope of the rule has been narrowed and its application dependent on specific circumstances. The important supreme court decision regarding this being : Hingir-Rampur Coal co. vs State of Orissa, Calcutta Gas Co. vs State of West Bengal, Gujarat University vs  Shri Krishna.

Another key consideration is whether the balance of legislative authority between the federal government and the states has to be adjusted in light of the current issues, particularly those relating to planning. The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the link between entry 11, List II, titled “Education,” and entry 66, list I, named “Coordination and setting of standards in institutions of higher education” is one example. According to the court, the central power under the former provision must triumph over the state power under the latter clause. Following this, the government established the sapru committee. In its 1964 report, the committee recommended that “education” be moved from the state list to the concurrent list. When the issue of providing social services to the people occurred in other federations of the world, a similar dilemma developed. When a consciousness for controlling economic activity evolved after the Great Depression of the 1930s, the challenge arose since power was not centralised but rather dispersed between the centre and the states. In the United States, the original challenges were gradually addressed, not so much through constitutional amendments as by inventive legislative methods and court tolerance of them. In Canada and Australia, judicial processes and constitutional amendments were used to address these issues. 

In Australia, for example, the central plan to give free medicines benefits to citizens was declared unconstitutional in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case. This prompted a constitutional amendment that gave parliament the authority to provide a variety of social services. Similar issues were addressed in Canada by a constitutional change in 1940 that allowed the federal government the right to provide unemployment insurance, and old age pensions were added to the list in 1950. Considerably, this is an issue that is equally essential in India. As a rough conclusion, it can be claimed that when the constitution was being drafted, the issue of planning was too much up in the air, therefore the powers were divided into three lists.

Now the question is whether they have stood the test of time, and whether the powers between the centre and the states need to be reshuffled further in light of the present pandemic situation. The current situation appears to be that large-scale nation-building efforts, either exclusively or concurrently, are under the jurisdiction of states. The constitution is written in such a way that most administrative functions are delegated to the states, and the administration is the weakest link in the current Indian federal system. In terms of state legislative matters, it accounts for a significant portion of planning unless the parliament imposes administrative power on the centre by making laws, administrative matters in the concurrent field are handled by the state. On the other hand, the constitution does provide for some form of administrative collaboration between the central government and the states.

According to Article 256, every state’s executive power is to be used to guarantee that the legislature’s laws are followed, and the union’s executive power includes issuing such instruction to a state as the government of India deems essential for that purpose.  Again under Article 258 (1) , the union executive has been given powers, with the consent of states government , to entrust to it’s officers, functions in relation to any matter to which executive power of union extends.  Conversely, a state government may confer power on the centre by entering into an agreement with it. There are examples of both. However, one area that frequently requires attention or investigation is the administrative pattern that develops between the centre and the states when the centre distributes grants to the states for specified goals. It’s anyone’s guess whether a web of administrative relationships between the centre and the states is forming in India around the focal point of various grants. The emergence of this orderly system is becoming increasingly important for the future of Indian federalism.

A thorough examination of the intergovernmental connection is required. In light of our rising planning and economic development, it is undeniably of national importance. Studies on the central-state interaction have been undertaken in the United States, Canada, and Australia on a regular basis. In 1955, the United States of America published a report on intergovernmental relations. The Rowell Siroeis Report was produced by the Royal Commission in Canada in 1939. In India, such research is necessary to identify the challenges and frictions in Indian Federalism and to devise solutions to the difficult task.

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