Sarkaria and Punchhi Commission on Center-State relations

Sarkaria and Punchhi Commission on Center-State relations

This article deals with ‘Sarkaria and Punchhi Commission on Center-State relations .’ This is part of our series on ‘Polity’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

1 . Sarkaria Commission

  • Three member commission setup in 1983 & submitted report in 1987
  • To look into Center-State relationship.

Main recommendations were

  1. Didn’t favour structural changes  arguing existing Constitutional Arrangements & principles are sound but emphasized on operational aspect
  2. Rejected demand of curtailing powers of Center arguing that strong center is essential to safeguard national unity & integrity , however over centralisation should be avoided
  3. Permanent Inter-State Council called the Inter-Governmental Council should be set up under Article 263.
  4. Article 356 (President’s rule) should be used very sparingly, in extreme cases as a last resort 
  5. Institution of All-India Services should be further strengthened and some more such services should be created. 
  6. When the President withholds his assent to the state bills, the reason should be communicated to state government
  7. Center should have powers to deploy its armed forces, even without  consent of states. However,desirable that the states should be consulted.
  8. Center should consult the States before making a law on a subject of the Concurrent List.
  9. Procedure of consulting the Chief Minister in the appointment of State Governor should be prescribed in the Constitution itself.
  10. Governor’s term of five years in a state should not be disrupted except for extremely compelling reasons.
  11. Steps should be taken to uniformly implement the three language formula in its true spirit.

Till Dec 2007, The Central Government has implemented 179 (out of 247) recommendations of the Sarkaria commission. The most Important was the establishment of Inter-State Council in 1990.

2 . Punchhi Commission

Issues between Center – State are dealt by Punchhi Commission (Detail important for mains because latest such report )

  • April 2007  – Commission on Center-State Relations formed
  • under the chairmanship of Madan Mohan Punchhi, former Chief Justice of India.
  • In 2010, Commission submitted 7 volume report

Issue 1:  Consultation with States while legislating on matters in Concurrent List

  • For effective implementation of laws in List III , broad consensus must be reached between states & center
  • Inter State Council can be used for this

Issue 2: On Transfer of Entries in the Lists, from List II to List III & List I

  • Article 368(2) empowers Parliament to amend any provision of the Constitution . Should Parliament deplete or limit the legislative powers of the States through this process ?
  • There should be mechanism to  examine  whether the administration of the relevant subject under the Central law (on the transferred subject) has achieved the objects  . If the findings are not positive it may be worthwhile to  restore the item to its original position in State List 

Issue 3: On Bills reserved for consideration of the President

  • Article 201 –  President to assent or withhold assent to a Bill reserved by a Governor for the President’s consideration.
  • State’s concern –  Bills so submitted sometimes are indefinitely retained at the Central level even beyond the life of the State Legislature 
  • President should decide consenting or withholding assent in reasonable time  (6 months)

Issue 4: On Treaty making powers of the Union Executive and Center-State Relations

There is need for a legislation to regulate the Treaty Making powers of the Union Executive since they are vast & unregulated

  • Treaties which affect the rights  of citizens as well as those which  impinge on subjects in State List should be negotiated with greater involvement of States and representatives in Parliament
  • There may be treaties or agreements which, when implemented, put obligations on particular States affecting its financial and administrative capacitiesPunchhi Commission recommended that financial obligations arising out of treaties  should be a permanent Terms of Reference to the Finance Commission

Issue 5: On Appointment and Removal of Governors

  • Given status & importance of office of Governor , it is important to lay down explicitly qualification & eligibility for being considered for appointment
  • Present Status – Only qualification needed is Person should be citizen of India & completed age of 35 years

Recommendations on Appointment

Sarkaria Commission approvingly quoted the eligibility criteria that Jawaharlal Nehru advocated and recommended its adoption in selecting Governors . These criteria were:

  • He should be eminent in some walk of life.
  • He should be a person from outside the State.
  • He should be a person who has not taken too great a part in politics generally and particularly in the recent past.

Punchi Commission  proposed to implement them

Recommendations on Removal

  • Phrase “during the pleasure of the President” in Article 156(i) should be substituted 
  • It is necessary to provide for impeachment of Governor on the same lines as provided for impeachment of President . Dignity and independence of the office warrants such a procedure.

Issue 6: On Governors’ discretionary powers

  • Article 163 – Governor has a wide, undefined area of discretionary powers even outside situations where the Constitution has expressly provided for it. The scope of discretionary powers under Article 163  has to be narrowly construed
  • On the question of dismissal of a Chief Minister, Governor should invariably insist on the Chief Minister proving his majority on the floor of the House for which he should prescribe a time limit.

Issue 7: On “Local  emergency”  under  Article  355  and  356

  • Given  the  strict  parameters  now  set  for  invoking  the  emergency  provisions  under  Articles  352 and  356  to  be  used  only  as  a  measure  of  “last  resort” ,  it  is  necessary  to  provide  a  Constitutional  or  legal  framework  to  deal with  situations short of National Emergency or President’s Rule
  • Providing  the  framework  for  “localized  emergency  would ensure  that  the  State  Government  can  continue  to  function  and  the  Assembly  would  not  have to  be  dissolved  while  providing  a  mechanism  to  let  the  Central  Government  respond  to  the issue  specifically  and  locally. 

Issue 8: On All  India  Services  and  Center-State  Co-operation  for  better  Administration

  • All  India  Services  are  unique  feature  of  the  Indian  Constitution. 
  • The  broad  objectives  in  setting up  All  India  Services  relate  to 
    1. facilitating  liaison  between  the  Union  and  States
    2. promote uniform  standards  of  administration
    3. helping  State  administrative  machinery to obtain best available talent with  wider outlook &  broader perspectives
    4. reduce  political  influence  in recruitment 
    5. promote  discipline  and  control  in  administration.
  • Considering  the  importance of  these  objectives,  the  Commission  strongly  recommends  the  constitution  of  few  other  All India  Services  in  sectors  like  Health,  Education,  Engineering  and  Judiciary.  
  • However,  the  Commission   recommended  proper  integration  of  All  India Services  in  the  context  of  the  introduction  of  the  third  tier  of  governance.

Issue 9 : On Equal  representation  of  States  in  Rajya  Sabha

  • There  are   federations  (like  USA)  which  give  equal  number  of  seats to  the  federating  units  in  the  Council  of  States (Senate) irrespective  of  the  size  of  their  territory  and population.  
  • If  the  Council  of  States  has  failed  to  function  as  representative  of  States  as  originally  envisaged, it  is  because  of  the unequal distribution of seats
  • There  should  be  amendment  of  the  relevant  provisions  to  give  equality  of  seats  to States  in  the  Rajya  Sabha,  irrespective  of  their  population  size.
  • The territorial  link  with  that  state  from  which  a  person  is  contesting  for  Rajya  Sabha  membership, which  was  prescribed  by  the  Representation  of  People  Act  (until  it  was  dispensed  in  2003)  is necessary  and  desirable

Issue 10: On Relationship  of  Article  246(3)  and  162  with  Articles  243G  and  243W

  • Articles  243G (power,  authority  and  responsibility  of  panchayats)  and  243W  (power,  authority and  responsibility  of  municipalities,  etc.)  are  sometimes  read  to  mean  that  they  leave  it  to  the discretion  of  States  whether  or  not  to  devolve  any  powers  and  functions  to  the  local  bodies.
  • Although  States  have  the  discretion  to  decide  and  vary  the  subject matters  in  respect  of  which  it  wants  to  devolve  powers  and  responsibilities,  States  are  not  free to  decide  not  to  devolve  anything  at  all.  

Issue 11 :  Governments’  obligation  to  support  court  expenditure  when  laws  are  made

  • Financial  Memorandum attached  to  Bills  usually  do  not  provide  for  adjudication  costs .  This  puts  the  Subordinate  Courts  with  little  or  no resources  to  cope  up  with  additional  workloads  
  • Judicial Impact  Assessment  should  be  made  whenever  legislations  are  proposed

Issue 12 : On Judicial  Councils  to  advise  Center-State  share  in  judicial  budgets

  • Administrative  expenses  of  the  Supreme Court  & High Court  are  charged  upon  the  Consolidated  Funds  of  Center &  States  respectively, there  is  no  such  financial  arrangement  guaranteed  by  Constitution  for  subordinate  judiciary.
  • Judicial  Councils” should be setup to decide
    • Judicial Budget for approval by legislatures
    • Proportion of share between Union and States  based on  workload  of  courts  under  Lists  I,  II  and  III.

Issue 13: On Need for continuing  emphasis  on  federal  balance  of  power

  • Framers  of  the  Constitution,  taking  note  of  the  pluralistic identities  of  the  people adopted  federal  system  
  • Commission,  however,  is  convinced  that  tilt  in  favour of Union  has increasingly  accentuated  over  the  years  even  outside  the  security  needs  of  the  country.  This  has  to  be corrected  in  the  interest  of better  Center-State  relations and  also  to  sustain  the  unity  and  integrity  

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