In this article we will discuss about the legislative relations between the centre and state.
For smooth working of the country as a whole, it is essential that legislative relations between the centre and states should be smooth. Nation as a whole should get a uniform civil and criminal code of law and in the legislative field nation should feel strong and unified.
But in a federal set up there are several problems which are not faced by a unitary form of government. In the legislative field states in India are autonomous and have full powers to legislate on the subjects mentioned in the state and concurrent lists.
In the U.S.A. certain specified subjects have been left to the care of the centre. Thus, the constitution father wanted that centre should be weak and the states powerful. It was, however, due to subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court that centre has become more powerful than the states in that country.
On the other hand, in Canada residuary powers were left with the centre and thus from the start, Centre was desired to be powerful. India has closely followed Canadian federal system. In India Centre is more powerful than the States.
All subjects for legislative purposes have been divided into three lists namely.
Union list which contains as many as 97 subjects such as:
(b) Central Bureau of Intelligence and Investigation
(c) Diplomatic, Relations
(e) Concluding of War and Peace,
(i) Light Houses,
(k) Currency and Coinage,
(l) Reserve Bank and
(m) Post Offices, etc.
It is the responsibility of the centre to legislate on the subjects mentioned in this list and get decisions executed as well. The list is quite exhaustive.
Then there are subjects which have been specified in the State list. It is the responsibility of the states to enact and legislate on these subjects. The centre shall ordinarily not enact on these subjects.
There are as many as 66 subjects in this list and include among others:
(a) Public Order,
(c) Administration of Justice,
(e) Local Governments,
(f) Public Health,
(h) Control of liquor,
(l) Fisheries, etc.
In the list are included 66 subjects.
There are as many as 47 subjects enumerated in concurrent list.
(a) Criminal law,
(b) Preventive Detention,
(c) Marriage and Divorce,
(d) Bankruptcy and Insolvency,
(e) Trust and Trusteeships,
(g) Economic and Social Planning,
(h) Vocational and Technical Training, etc.
On the subjects mentioned in this list both the centre and the states are competent to legislate but in case of a conflict on any provision of law passed on the same subject both by the centre and the state, law of the centre will prevail and that of the state government to the extent to which it contradicts the central law(s) will be repugnant.
Just like Canada in India also residuary powers, i.e., legislation on the subjects not mentioned in either of the three lists, are left with the centre.
From the analysis of, powers it is evident that in the legislative field centre is much more powerful than the states. The number of subjects mentioned in the Union List are many more than those listed in the state list.
Moreover, the centre has almost full control over the concurrent list It is provided, in the constitution that both the centre and states shall have a right to legislate on the subjects mentioned in the concurrent list but when a law passed by the state government is not in keeping with the one passed by the central government on a subject mentioned in the concurrent list, it is central law which will get precedence over the state law. Residuary powers have also been left with the centre. Thus, centre can legislate on the subjects mentioned in the state list.
But the states have not even full control over the subjects mentioned in the state list. By a declaration of state of emergency centre can forbid the states and direct these not to legislate on the subject mentioned in the state list. The Parliament, with the approval of two-thirds members present and voting in the Rajya Sabha, can legislate on the subjects mentioned in the state list.
When constitutional machinery in the state has failed the President is empowered to direct the Parliament of India to legislate on behalf of the state government concerned and the state legislative assembly is then dissolved.
If two or more states request the central government to legislate on a particular subject mentioned in the state list, in-so-far as their state is concerned, the centre shall legislate on these subjects as well. The Constitution also provides that in order to enable the centre to discharge its international obligations, the central government can enact on a subject mentioned in the state-list.
Any law passed by the Parliament for the purpose cannot be invalidated on the ground that it related to a subject mentioned in the state list. The Parliament can legislate on the subjects mentioned in the state list when emergency has been proclaimed and thus it can enact on all the subjects mentioned in the state list.
When there is failure of constitutional machinery in a state, Parliament enacts on all the subjects in-so-far as that state is concerned. It can also enact on a state subject to implement any international treaty or agreement or decision of any international body which has been accepted by the Government of India.
The President can authorise the Parliament to exercise the powers of state legislature during proclamation of emergency due to break down of constitutional machinery in a state but such laws will cease to operate after 6 months of end of such emergency.
In the legislative field certain Bills passed by the state legislature must seek President’s approval before these can become Acts e.g., Bills dealing with compulsory acquisition of private property or derogating the powers of the High Court, etc. When such a Bill is sent to the President he may either straight away give his consent or take the other extreme step of rejecting that.
He may also return that to the state government for its re-consideration or may like to seek the views of the Supreme Court of India on its constitutional validity. Thus, the President can use his veto power on the Bill passed by the state legislature. In actual practice the centre has not hesitated to use its powers to strengthen its position.
In 1954, Rajya Sabha passed a special resolution where by food stuffs, including edible oils, oil seeds, cattle fodder were brought on the concurrent list, thereby enabling the central government to legislate on these subjects. When Acharya Vinoba Bhave went on fast in support of his demand for ban on cow slaughter, there was a strong move that the subject may be brought on the concurrent list.
The way in which centre can act on a controversial legislative measure passed by the state government is evident from what happened in Kerala Education Bill passed in 1958 by the state government It was sent to the President for his approval who kept it pending for years together.
Jain and Jacob are of the view that while giving its assent to the bills passed by the State Legislatures, the centre has quite often tended to dictate its policies to the states, though in very few cases assent has been refused.
There is every danger that the very purpose of enumerating subjects in the state list will be defeated and federal structure of the constitution will receive a serious set back, if the President begins to take more active interest in the consideration of the Bills passed by the state legislatures.
States have already very few and limited powers and in case any effort is made to either directly or indirectly make further in roads by the central government, there might be effects of far-reaching consequences. There can also be situation of confrontation on every such issue.