As we all know, the Indian Constitution is ‘Federal in form and Unitary in spirit,’ as it distributes the legislative, executive and financial powers between the Centre and States. The Indian Constitution provides substantial legislative powers and authority to the States, by the virtue of the 7th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, and these provisions are detrimental to the legislative relations between Centre and State. In this article, we’d be elaborating the provisions laid down by the Constitution governing the legislative relations between Centre and State.
Legislative Relations between Centre and State
Distribution of Legislative Subjects
The Constitution of Indian provides for a three-fold distribution of legislative powers between the Centre and States, through the three lists (Union, State and Concurrent list) mentioned in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
Initially, the three-fold legislative distribution of powers between the Centre and States was introduced by the Government of India Act of 1935. Under the Act, the three lists were Federal List, Provincial List, and the Concurrent List. However, the Constitution of India renamed the three lists as Union, State, and Concurrent List. There was also one more change, as under the Government of India Act, 1935, the powers to legislate on residuary subjects were vested in the hands of the Governor-General of India. Whereas the Constitution of India vests the residuary legislative powers in the hands of the Parliament.
The Parliament of India has exclusive powers to legislate on subjects mentioned in the Union List. The Union List includes subjects that are of national importance and requires a uniform policy throughout the territory of the nation. They include subjects like defence, international relations, banking, insurance, communication, currency, atomic energy, census, audit, inter-state trade and commerce, etc. There are 98 subjects mentioned in the Union List at present.
The State Legislature “in normal circumstances” has the exclusive powers to legislate on subjects mentioned in the State List. The subjects included in the State List are of local and regional importance such as local governments, police, prisons, agriculture, public health and sanitation, theatres, fisheries, etc. There are 59 subjects included in the State List at present.
The Central and State Legislature has collective authority to make laws on subjects enumerated in the Concurrent List, i.e. both the State and Central Legislature can legislate on such subjects. The Concurrent List includes subjects for which uniform laws around the country are desirable but not necessary. The subjects enumerated in the Concurrent List include marriage, divorce, criminal law and procedure, civil procedure, economic and social planning, labour welfare, drugs, electricity, books and printing press, etc. There are 52 subjects in the Concurrent List.
By the virtue of the 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976, five subjects were transferred from the State List to the Concurrent List. The five subjects are-
- weights and measures
- protection of wild animals and birds
- administration of justice; constitution and organization of all courts except the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
The powers to legislate on subjects that are not mentioned in either of the three lists called the residuary subjects are vested in the hands of the Parliament. This also includes the residuary powers to levy residuary taxes.
Supremacy of the Union
The Constitution of India created the system which led to the doctrine of federal supremacy. Under this, the Parliament has predominant powers of legislation, and the legislative relations between Centre and State is not perfectly balanced. This is because-
- In case of overlapping legislations between the State List and the Union List, the law made by the Parliament would prevail.
- In case of overlapping legislation between the Union List and the Concurrent List, the law made by the Parliament would prevail.
- In case of overlapping legislation between the State List and the Concurrent List, the law made by the Parliament would prevail.
- If there is a conflict between the laws made by the Centre and State Legislature on the subject mentioned in the Concurrent List, the law made by the Central Legislature would prevail. However, there’s an exception in this regard. If the law made by the State has been reserved for the assent of the President and has received the assent, then the law made by the State would prevail. However, the Parliament would still have the power to override such a law by subsequently making a law on the same matter.
Territorial limits on the Legislative Powers of the Centre and States
Parliament of India (Central Legislature)
The Parliament has the power to make laws for the whole of India or any part of the territory of India. The territory of India includes States, Union Territories, and any other area for the time being included in the territory of India.
The Parliament also has the power to make extra-territorial legislations. It means that the laws made by the Parliament are also applicable to the citizens of India and their property in any part of the world.
The State Legislature has the power to make laws for the whole or any part of the State. The laws made by the State Legislature are not applicable outside the State, except when there is a sufficient nexus between the State and the object.
Restrictions on the jurisdiction of the Parliament
The Constitution of India has placed certain restrictions on the territorial jurisdiction of the Parliament of India. So, the laws made by the Parliament are not applicable in certain areas, these are-
- The President has the power to make regulations for the peace, progress and good governance of the five Union Territories- Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep and Laddakh. And any such regulation made by the President would carry the same force and effect as an act of the Parliament. Moreover, it may also repeal or amend any act of Parliament in relation to these Union Territories.
- The Governor of the State has the power to direct that an act of Parliament does not apply to a scheduled area in a State or applied with specific modifications or exemptions.
- Similarly, the Governor of Assam would also have the power to direct that an act of Parliament does not apply to a tribal area in the State. Or applied with specific modifications or exemptions.
- The President also has the above-mentioned powers with respect to tribal areas in Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
Powers of the Parliament to Legislate in State Field
Even though the Constitution provides for a three-fold and clear cut distribution of legislative powers between the Centre and States, it also provides for some exemptions. This is also a major determinant of the legislative relations between Centre and State. The above-mentioned distribution of powers can be followed in normal circumstances, but however, they are modified or suspended in abnormal times. In such circumstances, the Constitution empowers the Parliament to make laws on any matters mentioned in the State List. These circumstances are-
When the National Emergency is imposed, the Parliament acquires the power to legislate on matters mentioned in the State List. However, such legislation, made by the Parliament with respect to state(s), remains operative only till 6 months after the National Emergency has ceased to operate, i.e. such a law would cease to be effective 6 months after the Emergency period has expired.
However, the State Legislature still retains the powers to make laws on subjects mentioned in the State List, but if the law made by the State comes in conflict with the law made by the Parliament (on subjects mentioned in the State List), the law made by the Parliament would prevail.
The Parliament gets empowered to make laws with respect to any matter mentioned in the State List for the State if President’s Rule is imposed on that State. And such a law made by the Parliament continues to be effective even after the President’s rule has ceased. However, the State Legislature would have the powers to alter, repeal or re-enact such legislation.
Resolution by Rajya Sabha
If the Rajya Sabha passes a resolution declaring that it is necessary for the national interest that the Parliament should make law with respect to the subjects mentioned in the State List or goods and services tax, then the Parliament becomes empowered under the Constitution to legislate on such matters. The resolution must be passed by two-thirds of the members present and voting.
Such a resolution remains effective for a period of one year. However, the resolution can be renewed any number of times, but it should not exceed the one-year time limit. Any such laws made by the Parliament for the State should cease to be effective 6 months after such a resolution made by the Rajya Sabha expires.
Even after such a resolution has been passed by the Rajya Sabha, the State Legislature retains the power to legislate on the same matters. But again, if there’s a conflict between the law made by the Parliament and the State Legislature, the law made by the Parliament would prevail.
Request by the State
When the Legislative Assembly of two or more States passes a resolution requesting the Parliament legislate on matters included in the State List with respect to those States, then the Parliament becomes empowered to do so. Any such law made by the Parliament applies only to those States who have passed such a resolution. However, any other State can also adopt such legislation after passing a similar resolution in its Legislatures. And the powers to amend or repeal such a law would only lie in the hands of the Parliament. The State Legislature cannot amend or repeal such a law.
And once the Parliament makes a law in any matter with respect to the States which passed the resolution requesting the Parliament to do so, the State Legislature ceases to have the power to make a law with respect to that matter. So, by passing such a resolution, the State Legislature surrenders the power of the State Legislature with respect to that matter and places that power entirely in the hands of the Parliament.
Implementation of International Agreements
The Parliament has the power to legislate on any matter mentioned in the State List in order to implement the international treaties, conventions or agreements.
The Parliament has used this power to implement certain laws, some of them are-
- United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1947
- Geneva Convention Act 1960
- Anti Hijacking Act 1982
Centre’s control over the State Legislature
The Governor of the State can reserve certain types of Bills passed by the State Legislature for consideration of the President. And the President has veto powers over such legislations.
Sanction of President
The bills on certain subjects enumerated in the State List can only be introduced in the State Legislature with the prior sanction of the President. For example, bills imposing restrictions on the freedom of trade and commerce.
During Financial Emergency
The Centre has the power to direct the States to reserve money bills and other financial bills for President’s consideration during a Financial Emergency.
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