In the last article, we discussed the financial relations between the Centre and States, and we discussed various aspects and constitutional provisions of the financial relations. In this article, we’d be continuing our series on centre-state relations by discussing the Sarkaria Commission and its recommendations.
A three-member Commission was appointed by the Central Government in 1983, which was headed by Justice Ranjit Singh Sarkaria, who was a retired Supreme Court Judge. Hence, the Commission came to be known as Sarkaria Commission. The Commission was appointed in 1983 and was supposed to submit its report in 1984. However, the Commission got several extensions and it finally submitted its report in 1988.
The members of the Commission included-
- Justice R.S. Sarkaria (chairman)
- Shri B. Sivaraman (Cabinet Secretary)
- Dr S.R. Sen (former executive director of International Bank for Reconstruction and Development)
Objectives of the Sarkaria Commission
The main aim of the Sarkaria Commission was to analyze, examine and review the Centre-State relationship, mainly by reviewing the working of existing arrangements between the Centre and States in all spheres and various portfolios, and then recommend the appropriate measures to be taken.
Overview of the recommendations
The Sarkaria Commission did not recommend any major structural changes in the existing constitutional provisions and the institutions governing the Centre-State relations and stated that these provisions and institutions were functioning effectively.
However, the Commission advocated for changes in their operational aspects. The Commission also emphasised that federalism in India has become more of a functional arrangement for cooperative action, rather than being a sound and static institutional concept.
So, it could be assumed that the Commission would advocate against the extensive powers of the Centre in a federal structure and would’ve recommended curtailing powers of the Centre. However, the Commission did the opposite. Sarkaria Commission rejected the demand for curtailing the powers of the Centre and instead asserted that a strong Centre is essential for safeguarding the national unity and integrity which is being threatened by the fissiparous tendencies in the body politic.
But at the same time, the Commission did not recommend the extensive centralization of powers in the hands of the Centre. Instead, it states that ‘over-centralization leads to blood pressure at the Centre and anaemia at the periphery.
The Sarkaria Commission made 247 recommendations in order to enhance the relationship between the Centre and States. The main and important recommendations of the Commission are-
- Setting up of a permanent Inter-State Council called the Inter-Governmental Council under Article 263 of the Constitution.
- Further strengthening of the All-India Services and the creation of some more such All-India Services.
- When the President withholds his assent to the State Bills, the reasons should be stated and communicated to the State Government.
- The Provision of President’s Rule (Article 365) should be used very sparingly, only in extreme cases as a last resort when all the available alternatives fail.
- The residuary powers of taxation should remain in the hands of the Parliament. While other residuary powers should be placed in the Concurrent List.
- The Zonal Councils should be constituted afresh and reactivated to promote the spirit of federalism.
- The National Development Council (NDC) should be renamed and reconstituted as the National Economic and Development Council (NEDC).
- The Centre should consult the States before making a law on the subject mentioned in the Concurrent List.
- The procedure of consulting the Chief Minister in the appointment of the State Governor should be prescribed in the Constitution itself.
- The Centre should have the power to deploy its armed forces, even without the consent of the States. However, it is desirable that the States should be consulted.
- The Governor’s term of five years in a State should not be disturbed except for some extremely compelling reasons.
- The net proceeds of the corporation tax may be made permissibly sharable with the States.
- The Governor cannot dismiss the Council of Ministers so long as it commands a majority in the Assembly.
- No commission of inquiry should be set up against a State Minister unless demand is made by the Parliament.
- The present division of functions between the Finance Commission and the Planning Commission is reasonable and should continue.
- The surcharge on income should not be lived by the Centre except for a specific purpose and for a strictly limited period.
- No autonomy for radio and television but decentralization in their operations.
- Steps should be taken to uniformly implement the three-language formula in its true spirit.
- No change in the role of Rajya Sabha and Centre’s power to reorganize the States.
- The surcharge on income tax should not be levied by the Centre except for a specific purpose and for a strictly limited period.
The Central Government has implemented 180 out of 247 recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission till now, and the most important one was the formation of the Inter-State Council in 1990.
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