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Introduction

The Constitution of India, enacted in 1950, serves as the fundamental legal framework of the country. It establishes the political principles, procedures, powers, and responsibilities of various governmental institutions, as well as outlines the fundamental rights and duties of its citizens.
India operates under a parliamentary system of government and adheres to the doctrine of the division of powers. While the Constitution is not strictly federal or unitary, it is often described as "quasi-federal." Over time, India has transitioned from competitive federalism to cooperative federalism.
This article explores the administrative relationships between the central government and state governments in India.

Administrative Relations Between the Central and State Governments

  • The administrative interactions between the central and state governments are governed by provisions laid out in Article 256 to Article 263 of the Indian Constitution. Additionally, the Government of India established the Punchhi Commission in 2007 to examine and determine the nature of Centre-State relations.
  • Article 246 of the Constitution addresses the subjects on which laws can be enacted by the Parliament and State Legislatures. The Constitution, through the Seventh Schedule, categorizes these subjects into three lists: the Union List (List I), the State List (List II), and the Concurrent List (List III).
  • In general, the Central Government holds administrative authority over matters for which the Parliament has the power to make laws. Conversely, State Governments exercise administrative authority over subjects specified in the State List.

The Obligation of States and the Union

  • Article 256 of the Indian Constitution can be divided into two key aspects. Firstly, it states that the executive powers of a State must be exercised in a way that aligns with the laws enacted by the Parliament or any existing laws applicable within the State. Secondly, it specifies that the executive authority of the Union includes the power to issue directions to the State government when deemed necessary.
  • The provision suggests that if States adhere to the first part, the second part may not be necessary. However, the existence of the second part implies that States may, at times, either willfully defy or neglect their duties.
  • Article 256 is a successor to Section 122 of the Government of India Act, 1935. While this provision does not explicitly outline consequences for non-compliance, Article 365 of the Constitution does. In case a State fails to comply with Union directions, the President can declare a situation where the State government cannot function according to the Constitution, leading to the imposition of a state emergency. The main objective of this provision is to ensure the proper execution of central laws in all States.

Precedents

  • In the case of Rameshwar Oraon vs. State of Bihar and Ors. (1995), it was emphasized that State Governments are obligated to act in accordance with directions issued by the Central Government.
  • In the case of State of Karnataka vs. Union of India (1977), it was clarified that the Centre can issue directions to a State as a legal entity, not merely a geographical or territorial unit. Additionally, in the State of Rajasthan vs. Union of India (1977), the Supreme Court ruled that Union directions to a State government under Article 256 are justified if the Union believes that the State's exercise of executive power may contravene the enforcement of Central Laws.
  • In Swaraj Abhiyan vs. Union of India (2017), the Supreme Court highlighted Article 256, which had been rarely used since the inception of the Constitution, referring to it as a 'forgotten provision.'

Control of the Union over States in Certain Cases

  • Article 257 of the Indian Constitution addresses this matter.
  • Article 257(1) states that the State's exercise of executive powers should not impede or prejudice the exercise of executive powers by the Centre. Similar to Article 256, the Centre can issue directions to State Governments when deemed necessary.
  • Article 257(2) grants the Union executive authority to issue directions to States regarding the construction and maintenance of national or military importance means of communication. Despite communications being a State subject, the Union is empowered to issue directions.
  • The proviso clarifies that this provision does not restrict Parliament's power to declare certain highways or waterways as national highways or waterways or to construct and maintain communication means for naval, military, and air force purposes.
  • Article 257(3) extends the Union's executive power to issue directions to States concerning measures needed for the protection of railways within a State.
  • Article 257(4) stipulates that if States incur additional costs in complying with directions under clause (2) or clause (3) that would not have arisen in the absence of such directions, the Government of India must pay the agreed-upon sum. If there is a disagreement, the extra costs will be determined by an arbitrator appointed by the Chief Justice of India.

Power of the Union to Delegate Authority to States in Certain Cases

  • Article 258 of the Indian Constitution discusses this matter.
  • Article 258(1) specifies that the President, with the consent of the State's Governor, can entrust the State Government or its officers with conditional or unconditional functions related to any subject within the Union's executive power.
  • Article 258(2) allows Parliament-made laws applicable in a State to confer powers and impose duties, or authorize such conferment of powers and imposition of duties on the State or its officers, even if the State Legislature lacks jurisdiction on the matter.
  • Article 258(3) states that any additional administrative costs incurred by States in fulfilling conferred powers and duties shall be paid by the Government of India, as agreed upon. In case of disagreement, the extra costs will be determined by an arbitrator appointed by the Chief Justice of India.

Power of States to Delegate Functions to the Union

This authority is detailed under Article 258-A of the Indian Constitution. The article starts with a non-obstante clause, stating that a State's Governor, with the Union Government's consent, may entrust conditional or unconditional functions to the State government or its officers, pertaining to subjects within the State's executive authority. This provision was added to the Constitution through the Seventh Amendment in 1956.

Jurisdiction of the Union in Relation to Territories Outside India

  • Article 260 of the Indian Constitution addresses jurisdiction concerning foreign territories. It allows the Indian Government to make agreements with foreign territories' governments to execute executive, legislative, or judicial functions vested in those governments. These agreements are subject to any existing laws governing foreign jurisdiction.
  • This provision was introduced to facilitate the administration of regions that had not acceded to the Indian Union during the drafting of the Constitution.
  • In the GVK Inds. Ltd. & Anr. vs. The Income Tax Officer & Anr. (2011) case, the Supreme Court clarified that Article 260 should only be invoked when such laws have an impact on or consequences for Indian citizens or the Indian territory. The Parliament also passed the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947, aligning with this article, to address foreign jurisdiction matters.

Recognition of Public Acts, Records, and Judicial Proceedings

  • Article 261 of the Indian Constitution deals with the recognition of public acts, records, and judicial proceedings.
  • Article 261(1) mandates that full faith and credit must be given to public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of both the Union and every State throughout India.
  • Article 261(2) stipulates that the manner, conditions, and effects of proving these acts, records, and proceedings shall be determined by Parliament.
  • Article 261(3) states that final judgments or orders delivered by civil courts anywhere in India can be executed within the territory according to the law.
  • Article 262 of the Indian Constitution addresses the adjudication of disputes regarding inter-state rivers or river valleys.
  • Article 262(1) grants Parliament the authority to create laws for adjudicating disputes related to the use, distribution, or control of waters in inter-state rivers or river valleys.
  • Article 262(2) includes a non-obstante clause, allowing Parliament to declare that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court can exercise jurisdiction over such disputes mentioned in clause (1).
  • Both States and the Union have legislative powers regarding water disputes under Entries 17 and 56 of the State and Union Lists, respectively, in Schedule VII.
  • In line with Article 262, Parliament passed the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, allowing the Central Government to establish Water Disputes Tribunals if disputes cannot be resolved through negotiations. Several legal doctrines are associated with inter-state water disputes, including Riparian Rights, Prior Appropriation, Territorial Sovereignty, Community of Interest, and Equitable Apportionment.
  • In the State of Kerala through the Chief Secretary to Government vs. State of Tamil Nadu through the Chief Secretary to Government (2018) case, the Supreme Court resolved the long-standing Cauvery Water Dispute.

Provisions Regarding an Inter-State Council

Article 263 of the Indian Constitution allows the President to establish an inter-state council if it serves the public interest. The President has the authority to create this council through an official order, specifying its functions, organization, and procedures.

The inter-state council can be tasked with several responsibilities, including:

  • Resolving disputes between states.
  • Examining and discussing matters of common interest among some or all states, or between the Union and one or more states.
  • Making recommendations on various subjects, with a focus on improving policy coordination and actions related to those subjects.

The Inter-State Council was established based on recommendations from the Sarkaria Commission in 1988. It was officially formed in 1990 through a Presidential order and functions as an independent national forum for ongoing consultations. The Council was most recently reconstituted in 2019, with the Prime Minister serving as its chairperson.
During times of constitutional crises, such as the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, when there is heightened tension between the Central government and the states, it becomes crucial for the Inter-State Council to convene and work toward harmonious solutions.

Conclusion

The Indian Constitution aims to establish a system of collaborative or cooperative federalism. It does so by dividing powers between the Central government and the states, granting a degree of autonomy to the states to ensure efficient grassroots-level administration. Simultaneously, the Central government exercises its authority over the states to maintain a balanced governance structure.

The document Administrative Relations between Centre and States | Law Optional Notes for UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Law Optional Notes for UPSC.
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FAQs on Administrative Relations between Centre and States - Law Optional Notes for UPSC

1. What are administrative relations between the central and state governments?
Ans. Administrative relations between the central and state governments refer to the system of governance where both levels of government work together to ensure effective administration and implementation of policies. The central government holds authority over matters of national importance, while the state governments have jurisdiction over issues that are specific to their respective states. This relationship is governed by the principles of federalism in the Indian Constitution.
2. What is the obligation of states and the union in administrative relations?
Ans. The obligation of states and the union in administrative relations is to work in coordination and cooperation to promote the welfare of the citizens and maintain the unity and integrity of the nation. The states have an obligation to implement the policies and laws enacted by the central government. Similarly, the union has an obligation to respect the autonomy and rights of the states while providing guidance and support in matters of national importance.
3. How does the union exercise control over states in certain cases?
Ans. The union exercises control over states in certain cases through various mechanisms. It can intervene in the administration of a state if there is a failure in the constitutional machinery, such as the breakdown of law and order. The union can also give directions to states on matters related to the exercise of executive power. In extreme cases, the President of India can dismiss a state government and impose President's Rule, taking over the administration of the state.
4. Can the union delegate authority to states in certain cases?
Ans. Yes, the union can delegate authority to states in certain cases. Under the provisions of the Indian Constitution, the central government can delegate its powers to the states to facilitate efficient governance. This delegation of authority is done through legislative and executive means, allowing the states to exercise powers and functions that are necessary for effective administration within their jurisdictions.
5. How are disputes related to inter-state waters adjudicated?
Ans. Disputes related to inter-state waters are adjudicated through the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956. This act provides for the establishment of tribunals to adjudicate disputes between states over the sharing and utilization of inter-state river waters. The tribunals have the authority to hear the arguments of the concerned states, examine evidence, and provide a binding decision. The decisions of these tribunals can be appealed in the Supreme Court of India.
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