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Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022

Law experts debate Centre-state relations at conference hosted by Jharkhand Assembly

From the role of the Inter-State Council to that of the governor, several topics were discussed at the national conference.

In a first-ever academic initiative, the conference held by the Vidhan Sabha along with the National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi, and PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi, saw a group of eminent law experts from across the country speaking on various topics. (Source: Jharkhand Vidhan Sabha)

Could the passing of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have been handled in a better way to minimise the conflict? Should there be certain provisions for states to have a say in the removal of the governor who does ‘not work for the people’? What is the way forward amidst the growing tension between the Centre and states? These were some of the questions that were at the centre of a national conference on ‘Centre-State Relations’ held by the Jharkhand Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday.

In a first-ever academic initiative, the conference held by the Vidhan Sabha along with the National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi, and PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi, saw a group of eminent law experts from across the country speaking on various topics.

Manoj Kumar Sinha, director of the Indian Law Institute, Delhi, spoke on the distribution of legislative powers between the states and the Centre. He said that although from time to time one hears about the issues between the Centre and the states, from 1947 to 1967, there were no such differences, either on the fiscal front or on administrative issues, because power remained with the Congress in the Centre and in the states too.

Lately, there have been many confrontations, Sinha said, emphasising the need to have more Inter-State Council meetings to encourage discussions. “A very controversial bill was CAA, and a lot of discussions happened. We could have minimised the conflict had we involved the states from the very stage (beginning) and then said that the Union is planning to bring (the bill). We need to put forward these discussions through the Inter-State Council,” Sinha said.

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He added that due to the political alignment, Union cooperative federalism is headed towards confrontation. “We see the states are not so happy with the way they are looking or aspiring for some kind of assistance from the Union. If the Union also thinks that the political alignment is the (only) angle then that is the danger for cooperative federalism,” Sinha added, pointing out the need for flexibility and cooperative federalism.

Another speaker, Niraj Kumar, associate professor at National Law University, Delhi, spoke on the working of the Inter-State Council vis-a-vis the fiscal and administrative federalism in India. Kumar said that the operationalisation of the Inter-State Council happened only in the 1990s and that the idea was “it was supposed to meet thrice a year”. “Irrespective of the governments, the last meeting took place after 10 years i.e. in 2016-17 from the year 2006,” Kumar said.

“Inter-State Council is a very important pillar as emphasised by Vijay Kelkar Committee since the Planning Commission has been done away with and the GST Council does not have a wider recommendary vision,” Kumar added.

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He emphasised that not only Centre-state fiscal issues, but fiscal issues between the state and the third-tier i.e. panchayats and corporations also need to be discussed in the Inter-State Council meetings which are extremely important. The council, he added, should also deliberate on fund allocation and micro-level implementations.

Uday Shankar, the registrar and professor of law at Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur, spoke on the role and functions of the governor. He said that there are two structures of federalism, one is “holding together”, which is seen in India, and the other is “coming together”, which is seen in the US. He added that the power is tilted towards the Centre as per the Constitution because it has to keep the states together. Shankar said that in this context, the governor plays two roles: i.e. he represents the Centre and is also part of the state legislature.

“Interestingly the oath taken by the governor is to defend the Constitution and…that they will devote themselves for the serving and well-being of the people of the state…(Therefore) the appointment and removal of the governor have been a matter of controversy as the states have no say in it,” Shankar said.

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He added that since a governor has discretionary power, like giving assent to a bill, the governor takes his own time to give assent as the Constitution also does not provide any kind of guidelines on the time frame. For accountability, there needs to be a time frame, Shankar said. He added that even the Supreme Court through its last judgments has emphasised the balance between Centre-state relations vis-a-vis the role of the governor.

“I feel that CM should have no role to appoint the governor as the impartiality of the governor may get compromised…But in the removal of the governor, the states should have a say. There should be a provision that if the governor is not working for the benefit of the state, then there should be a resolution laid down in the Assembly, if the resolution goes against the governor, then finally it may go to the President for a final nod. With this, there will be a say of the states on the removal…This is important for accountability,” Shankar said. On the stability front, there needs to be an assured five-year term for the governor, he added.

Other speakers agreed to the point that the Constitution makers framed a federalism that is tilted towards the Centre but adequately ensured the role of states in governance and administration.

“…It is required that politics should not be the prime importance. Taking care of the economically and socially vulnerable sections, weaker sections of the society shall be a focal point in fighting with each other rather than political interest,” a press statement issued by the Jharkhand Vidhan Sabha after the event said.

“Balancing the distribution of powers and developing cooperative federalism shall be the agenda, rather than destructing each other. Hoping that the Centre and state will work together in keeping up the federal arrangement, as per the ideologies of the constitutional makers, the speakers concluded the technical sessions,” it added.

First published on: 24-11-2022 at 03:20:37 pm
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