Fresh stirrings on federalism as a new politics (GS-2, Polity, The Hindu)

Context:- Issues between the centre and state related to vaccine wars, heated debates over the Goods and Services Tax (GST), personnel battles like the fracas over West Bengal’s Chief Secretary, and the pushback against controversial regulations in Lakshadweep. We have seen the recent cases in which Issue of alapan bandyopadhyay who was the chief secy of bengal government attended the meeting with P.M. bit late and then abruptly ended it and went away with the C.M. he was served a notice under the section of 51b in disaster management act-2005.

Federal Features of the India Union:-

  • Two governments i.e. Union Government and State governments.
  • Division of powers between the union and its constituents.
  • The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution contains three lists such as the Union List, State List, and Concurrent List. here they have exclusive power in their sphere in the normal times. State government and central government have their own sphere to work on. 
  • State governments have a primary responsibility to govern such as health, education and agriculture
  • one nation­ one e tax, one market and one ration’ are signs of a strong nation state. 
  • Supremacy of the Constitution.
  • An Independent Judiciary.
  • Bicameralism or 2 houses of legislature.

Center’s encroachment or issues related to federalism:-

    • The refusal of the Central government of its legal commitment regarding Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation shortfall on account of lower revenue.
    • The Centre argued that the lower revenues are the result of an “act of God” for which it cannot be held responsible.
      • As per the GST Act, states are guaranteed to have compensation for any revenue shortfall below 14% growth (having base year 2015-16) for the first five years ending 2022.
    • Centre used its powers to dismiss or use the Governor to intimidate democratically elected governments in state. 
    • During the Emergency, education was moved to the Concurrent list which was earlier a State subject i.e. state sphere is shrinking.
    • Increasing centralization in resource allocations and welfare interventions in the context of centrally sponsored scheme C.S.S schemes.
    • The shortfall of GST and response of Centre which shows lackadaisical approach for compensation by State governments.
  • Issues in the recent Farm Acts:-

      • That allows farmers to sell their produce outside the APMC
      • Its aim is to promote inter-state trade but the Acts are an encroach upon the State list.
    • Recent amendment in banking regulations by the central government  by bringing cooperative banks under the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) supervision.
  • Regionalism:-

    • Example of recent bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into AP and Telangana. 
    • Demand for separate Gorkhaland by people of Darjeeling and demand of separate state by north Bengal.
  • Recently we have seen the central government, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) State was converted into two Union Territories – J&K and Ladakh.
  • The concurrence of States is not needed for the formation and abolition of States and Union Territories.
  • For a country like India which is divided on the linguistic and communal basis any future perusal for pure federal structure could lead to disruption and division of states. 
  • Southern and western States are perceiving that their progress is being penalized: 
    • Southern States contribute more to the nation economically on one hand and on the other they don’t occupy a central space politically and are further marginalized culturally.  
  • Disputes between states over sharing of river water, for example between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over Cauvery water. 

Institutional transgression:-

  • Central institutions are increasingly weakening the police levers of State institutions.
  • Institutions such as the Income Tax Department, the Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency are being used to intimidate political rivals.
  • Centre creating a disadvantage for State governments in vaccine usage.
  • The Centre has been meddling with the appointments of vice­ chancellors in universities funded by the state.

Socio-cultural foundation:-

  • Besides the legal constitutional aspects of federalism, it is diversity in the cultural foundation of regions that sustains Indian federalism. 
  • Oneness among differences is the core of Indian cultural sustenance.

Supreme court intervention:- 

  • State of West Bengal vs Union of India (1962):-

      • The Supreme Court held that the Indian Constitution is not federal.
  • S R Bommai vs Union of India (1994):-

    • The Supreme Court held federalism a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

Mechanism to Solve Dispute the central state issues:-

    • The Supreme Court has used two mechanisms to solve the dispute between Centre and states over Seventh Schedule.
      • Doctrine of Pith and Substance.
      • Doctrine of Colorable Legislation.
  • The Doctrine of Pith and Substance:- 

      • Constitutionality of legislation is upheld if it is largely covered by one list and touches upon the other list only incidentally.
      • finding out the true nature of a statute.
    • Pith denotes the ‘essence of something’ or the ‘true nature’, while substance states the most significant or essential part of something.
  • The Doctrine of Colorable Legislation:- 

    • This is all about the competence of the legislature against an enacted law. This doctrine states the fact that what cannot be done directly, cannot also be done indirectly.

Way Forward:-

  • A proper balance between the pillars of federalism, i.e. autonomy of states, national integration, centralisation, decentralization, nationalization, and regionalization.
    • Extreme political centralization or chaotic political decentralization can both lead to the weakening of Indian federalism which ultimately hurts the interest of the common man.
  • An effort at collective political action for federalism based on identity concerns will have to overcome risk of regionalism.
  • The Inter- ­State platform that brings States together in a routine dialogue on matters of fiscal federalism which will help in building trust and a common agenda.
  • Central and state must renew the politics of federalism which is now an electoral necessity.
  • Reforms at the institutional and political level can deepen the roots of federalism in India. E.g.
    • The contentious role of the Governor in suppressing the states needs a review in the light of new challenges and opportunities
    • Proper utilization of the institutional mechanism of the Inter-state Council under article 262 must be ensured to develop political goodwill between the Centre and the states on contentious policy issues.
    • The gradual widening of the fiscal capacity of the states has to be legally guaranteed without reducing the Centre’s share.
  • There is a need for a federal coalition which can look beyond the legal­ constitutional aspects of federalism to preserve the idea of a plural India in terms of both culture and politics. This idea will sustain the true federal meaning of India.

    Download Plutus IAS Daily Current Affairs of 7th July 2021