Legislative Relations between Centre and States

Legislative Relations between Centre and States

This article deals with ‘Legislative Relations between Centre and States – Indian Polity.’ This is part of our series on ‘Polity’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus. For more articles , you can click here

Distribution of Legislative Subjects

  • India has a federal polity. Federal Polity is a system of governance in which sovereignty is constitutionally shared between the centre & states.
  • As per the Indian Constitution, legislative or law-making powers are not vested in a single tier of government; rather, they have been distributed between the Centre and the States with respect to territory and subject matter. 

Territorial Jurisdiction

  • The Constitution defines the territorial limits of legislative powers. Parliament possesses the authority to enact laws that apply to the entire country or specific regions within its territory. It has extra-territorial legislative powers as well, allowing its laws to apply beyond the borders of India, affecting Indian citizens and their assets worldwide.
  • A State can legislate only for their State, and its laws are not applicable outside the State.

Subject Matter

Legislative Relations between Centre and States

The Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution outlines this threefold distribution, specifying legislative subjects allocated to the Centre and the States.

List I (Union List)

  • Parliament has exclusive legislative authority over 100 subjects (originally 97) listed in this category.
  • These subjects pertain to matters of national importance that require uniformity nationwide.
  • Examples include Defence, Atomic Energy, Railways, etc.

List II (State List)

  • State Legislatures possess the exclusive right to legislate on 61 subjects (originally 66).
  • These subjects are of regional and local importance.
  • Examples include Police, Public Health, Agriculture etc.

List III (Concurrent List)

  • The authority to enact laws on 52 subjects (Originally 47) is vested in both the Parliament and State Legislatures 
  • Uniformity in such subjects is desirable but not essential. Hence, Union law provides a broad framework, and state laws can introduce variations.
  • Examples include Education, Marriage, Bankruptcy, and Insolvency.
  • In the conflict between central and State laws, the Rule of Federal Supremacy applies, i.e. central law prevails. But the exception is that if state law was reserved for the President’s approval & has received it, then it prevails.
  • Sarkaria recommendation – Acts on subjects in this list should be made after active consultation with the State government except in cases of extreme urgency.

Residuary Subjects

  • In the USA, Subjects on which the Federal Government can legislate are enumerated in the Constitution & on the rest of the subjects, only states can legislate.
  • Indian system is taken from Canadian system
  • The Government of India Act,1935, has the same system with one change on Residuary Subjects, the Governor

Points worth noting

  • In the USA, Subjects on which the Federal Government can legislate are enumerated in the Constitution & on the rest of the subjects, only states can legislate.
  • Indian system is taken from the Canadian system.
  • The Government of India Act of 1935 has the same system with one change on Residuary Subjects: the Governor General can legislate.

When can Parliament Legislate on State Subjects?

Under special conditions, the Parliament can legislate on subjects included in the State List under some specific circumstances, which are as follows:

When Rajya Sabha passes a resolution that is in the national interest, Parliament should legislate on State Subjects.      

  • Parliament can legislate on state subjects if the Rajya Sabha passes a resolution, supported by at least two-thirds of the members present and voting, stating that it is in the national interest to do so.
  •  At the same time, the State can also legislate upon the same subject, but in case of any inconsistency, the laws of the Centre prevail. 
  • This resolution remains in effect for one year at a time, and any laws enacted by Parliament under this provision have a maximum life of six months after the resolution has expired.

During National Emergency

  • Parliament is vested with the authority to legislate on state subjects during a National Emergency.
  • However, it’s essential to note that laws enacted during a National Emergency become inoperative within six months after the emergency ceases to be operational.

When the State makes a request

  • Parliament can legislate on a state subject if two or more states make a request for the same. The law enacted will be operational in those specific states. Other states may later choose to come under the purview of such legislation.
  • Notable examples include the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 and the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, which were initiated based on requests from multiple states.

To implement International Agreements and Treaties

  • Parliament is empowered to legislate on any matter to implement international treaties or agreements.
  • For instance, the United Nations (Privilege and Immunities) Act and the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1960 were enacted by Parliament to fulfil international obligations.

During President’s Rule

  • Laws made during the period of the President’s Rule in a state remain operational even after the President’s Rule ceases to be in effect.
  • This provision ensures continuity and stability in governance during transitions.

Centre’s Control over State Legislature

The Constitution allows this in the following ways.

  1. The governor can reserve certain types of Bills passed by the State Legislature for Presidential Approval. The President has an absolute veto in that situation.
  2. Certain types of bills can be introduced in State legislature only after the previous sanction of the President, although they are in List II of the 7th Schedule (restrictions on Trade & commerce)
  3. Money and Finance Bills require the President’s approval during a Financial Emergency.
  4. The concurrent list’s items are subject to the Doctrine of Federal Supremacy.

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