"The Indian Constitution is a federal Constitution in as much as it
established what may be called a dual polity which will consist of the Union at
the Centre and the States at the periphery each endowed with sovereign powers to
be exercised in the field assigned to them respectively by the Constitution.".-
The term "federalism" is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, but a
conclusion can be formed regarding a governance structure that is largely
K.C. Wheare, father of contemporary federal theories, defined federalism as "the
method of dividing power so that general and regional governments are each
within a sphere co-ordinate and independent." He called the Indian Constitution
as quasi-federal in nature i.e., 'federation sui generis' or federation of its
In a federal country, Centre-State Relations are an important component of
politics because they teach us about the dual character of having power divided
between the Centre and the states. In their respective domains, the Centre and
the State are regarded as superior. The Indian Constitution refers to the
country as a "Union of States."
A separate section is devoted to 'Union-State Relations,' in which powers are
divided between Centre-State Relations in the form of the executive,
legislative, and financial powers. Because the Centre and the State are superior
in their respective areas, they are supposed to maintain harmony and balance on
a greater scale. As a result, numerous clauses in India's constitution help to
govern Centre-State Relations on various levels.
Types Of Centre State Relations:
Part XI of the Indian Constitution is dedicated to center-state relations. It is
divided into legislative and administrative connections. Part XII also contains
laws governing financial relations. Following is a detailed discussion of all
Articles 245�255 deals with legislative relations between the Union and the
states, specifically the Parliament and state legislatures. It analyses the
scope of the Union's and states' legislative powers. Analyzing the provisions
reveals that the Parliament evidently has superseding powers over state
The different provisions define the subjects on which they can legislate, the
consequence of inconsistency between state and national law, the Parliament's
residuary powers, and many other provisions. Schedule VII, addresses the Union
List, State List, and Concurrent List.
Articles 256 to 263 deal with administrative relations, including those between
the Central Government and several state governments. Though India is federal,
it has unitary characteristics, and so Article 256 states that state governments
must ensure that they follow the laws passed by Parliament and do not conduct
any executive or administrative functions in violation of the same.
To establish improved relations between the Centre and the states, the Sarkaria
Commission advocated for cooperative federalism in administrative relations
between the two. The same was crucial since multiple parties working at the
federal and state levels frequently create turmoil and distrust, leading to
Part XII of the Constitution, Articles 264 to 293, deal with financial relation
between the Centre and the state. Because India is a federal country, it adheres
to the division of powers when it comes to taxation, and it is the
responsibility of the Centre to allocate funds to the states.
All such connected provisions have been addressed in this document. Schedule VII
describes the ability of the Centre and states to levy taxes. Furthermore, it
contains numerous regulations concerning the levy and allocation of taxes by the
center and states, grants to states, surcharges, and so on. The Goods and
Services Tax, a dual structure tax, is a recent example of a financial
Centre State Relations In India
The Indian Constitution is federal with unitary bias. Strengthening the federal
system is critical for meeting the demands of people governed by state
governments while also preserving India's unity. As a result, Centre-State
relations, or agreements between the Union Government and the States regarding
their respective powers, functions, and responsibilities, have always been
The underlying structure continues to be one in which legislative,
administrative, and financial authorities are excessively concentrated in the
Union Government, leaving the States burdened with a slew of obligations but
lacking sufficient autonomy.
The major issues in the legislative sphere related to intrusions by the Centre
into State-list subjects and delays in obtaining assents for important Bills
passed by the State Assemblies. In the financial sphere, the major issues
related to increasing centralization of powers in the Union Government in
matters like resource mobilization and allocation and other key areas of
economic decision-making like Planning.
With the demand for restructuring Centre-State relations gathering momentum, the
Union Government had also set up the Sarkaria Commission in 1983. While this
Commission took about five years to submit its report, its recommendations
failed to resolve most of the basic issues mentioned above, except for some
minor improvements in the financial sphere.
Such as giving powers to the municipalities to issue tax-free bonds, endorsing
the Chief Ministers' decisions on consignment tax, extending slightly the time
frame for over draft loans etc. It is unfortunate that even these
recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission have not been implemented by the
Union Government after nearly two decades.1
The Government of India constituted a Commission on Centre-State Relations under
the chairmanship of Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi, former Chief Justice of India
on 27th April 2007 to look into the new issues of Centre-State relations keeping
in view the changes that have taken place in the polity and economy of India
since the Sarkaria Commission had last looked at the issue of Centre-State
relations over two decades ago.
The Commission examined and reviewed the working of the existing arrangements
between the Union and States, various pronouncements of the Courts in regard to
powers, functions and responsibilities in all spheres including legislative
relations, administrative relations, role of governors, emergency provisions,
financial relations, economic and social planning, Panchayati Raj institutions,
sharing of resources including inter-state river water etc. The Commission made
273 recommendations in its seventh volume report presented to Government on 30
Administrative Relations Between Centre And State
Administrative Relations are a critical component in controlling Centre-State
relations. Articles 256 and 257, as well as Articles 356 and 365, deal with the
components of Centre-State interactions. The Centre has been given authority to
issue guidelines and directions to the State under Articles 256 and 257. The
entire purpose of Article 356 is to provide for the governance of a state when
no political party can establish a stable government by itself or by forming a
coalition with another party.
Taste of President' s Rule in different states on more than 126 occasions. The
Article 365, on the other hand, authorises the President to hold that a
situation has arisen in which the Government of a state cannot be carried on in
accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, that is , if the state fails
to comply with or give effect to any directions given in exercise of the
executive power of the Union.3 The meaning of expression "any direction" must be
understood to mean that any direction issued under any of the provisions of this
Constitution in the exercise of the executive powers of the Union.4
Article 365 may serve as a deterrent to any quick resort to severe measures
under Article 356 in the event of a State Government's refusal to comply with or
give effect to any Constitutional direction provided in the exercise of the
As a result, the extraordinary powers granted by Article 365 are not only
necessary, but should be used with utmost discretion and only in severe
instances. In this way, the Sarkaria Commission has proven the express use of
Where a direction issued by the Union in the exercise of its executive power
under any of the provisions of the Constitution, such as Article 256, 257, and
339(2) or, during an emergency under Article 353, is not complied with by the
State Government inspite of adequate warning and opportunity, and the President
there upon holds under Article 365 that a situation, such that contemplated in
Article 356 has arisen.
If public disorder of any magnitude endangering the security of the state takes
place, it is the duty of the State Government to keep the Union Government
informed of such disorder, and if the state fails to do so, then such failure
may amount to impeding the exercise of the executive power of the Union
Government and justify latter giving appropriate directions under Article
If such a direction given to the State by the Union executive under Article
257(1) is not complied with, inspite of the adequate warning, the President
thereupon may hold that the situation as that contemplated under Article 356 has
Division of Administrative powers between the center and the states as per
Centre-State Administrative constitutional provisions:
- Directives from the union to state governments:
Under Article 256, the union's executive power extends to issuing direction
to the states in order for them to comply. The Union's power goes to the
limit of controlling a state in a way that feels necessary for the purpose.
For example, the union can provide directions to the state for the building
and maintenance of means of communication designated as being of national or
military importance, as well as the protection of railways within the state.
This is critical to ensuring that legislative laws are implemented
throughout the country. Non-compliance with the directions may result in a
situation in which the Union can invoke Article 356, imposing President's
control in the state and taking over the administration of state.
- Delegation of union functions to the states:
According to Article 254, the President may delegate to the state
government, either conditionally or unconditionally, functions relating to
any matter falling within the purview of union executive power. Under clause
(2), Parliament is also entitled to use the state machinery for the
enforcement of the union laws, and confer powers and entrust duties to the
state. A state can also, with the consent of union government confer
administrative functions on the union.
- All India Services:
In addition to central and state services, Article 312 of the Constitution
provides for the establishment of "All-India services" common to both i.e.
the union and the states. The state has the right to suspend officers of All
India Services. Only the President of India has the authority to appoint
them and take disciplinary action against them.
- Deployment of Military and Para-military Forces:
Military and paramilitary forces can be deployed in a state by the union if
the circumstances demand, even against the intentions of the state
- Constitution of Joint Public Service Commission for Two or more
In addition to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and the State
Public Service Commission, the Constitution provides for a Joint Public
Service Commission. When two or more states agree to form a joint commission
by passing a resolution in their respective legislatures, the Parliament may
create one by law. The Commission's structure encourages inter-governmental
There is also a clause in the Constitution that states can request that the
UPSC assist them in developing and implementing joint recruitment plans for
any service that requires candidates with particular qualifications.
- Judicial System:
A distinctive feature of our federal system is the presence of integrated
judicial system. Though we have federal form of government with two sets of
government and dual powers, there is no dual system of administration of
justice. This is clear by the presence of single integrated chain of courts
to administer both union and state laws with the Supreme Court at the apex
of hierarchy of courts.
- Inter-State Council:
India is a union of states in which the centre plays a key role but at the
same time is dependent on the states for policy implementation. The
Constitution includes mechanisms to promote inter-governmental cooperation
and effective consultations between the centre and states, ensuring that all
major national policies are developed through dialogue, discussion, and
The establishment of the Inter-State Council is one such method. Article 263
of the Constitution empowers the President to specify the nature of the
Council's functions. The Council is responsible for investigating and
advising on any conflicts that may have occurred between the states.
Furthermore, it may explore and discuss topics of mutual interest.
- Inter-State Water Disputes:
In India there are many inter-state rivers and their regulation and
development has been a source of inter-state function. These relate to the
use, control and distribution of waters of inter-state rivers for irrigation
and power generation. In the Indian Constitution, water-related matters
within a state are included in the state list, while the matters related to
inter-state river waters are in the union list.
Keeping in view this problem of unending river water disputes, the
Constitution framers vested the power to deal with it, exclusively in
Parliament. The Parliament hence, may by law provide for the adjudication of
any dispute or complaint, with regard to use, distribution or control of the
waters. The Inter-State Water Disputes Act was enacted by the Parliament in
1956 according to which tribunals are set up for adjudication of water
disputes referred to them.
Centre State Conflicts In India
Federalism, an important component of our democratic framework, derives its
power from Articles 245�263 of the Indian Constitution. According to the
aforementioned provisions, power is clearly divided between the Centre and the
State into legislative, administrative, and financial tasks.
Furthermore, the 7th Schedule of the Constitution is separated into three lists:
the Union List, the State List, and the Concurrent List, which provide detailed
information on the legislative power of the Parliament and the State Assemblies.
The study of Centre- State relations is of perennial interest since the
governments at the two levels cannot and do not function in watertight
compartments and hence there is bound to be interaction between them.6
Therefore, despite such evident distinctions, the subject of Centre-State
disagreements has persisted.
Typically, such disagreements emerge when the Centre infringes on the State's
power by passing laws on issues that fall under the State list, or when the
Centre makes any other laws that impact the State's legal or constitutional
The most contemporary example of the center-state dispute is the Disaster
Management Act, 2005, which was invoked in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The
Act causes discontent among states as the Central guidelines are binding on
them, even though public health is a state matter on which the Parliament cannot
Another example is of the recent suit filed under Article 131 by Kerala
Government against the Union challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 ('CAA')
that infringes the fundamental rights and principle of secularism.
This was followed by a suit filed by the Chhattisgarh Government under the same
Article challenging the National Investigating Act, 2008 ('NIA'), passed by the
Centre in spite of "police" being a state subject.
The impetus behind the passage of Central laws that encroach State's right
arises due to the ambiguity of Article 131, which gives Parliament a leeway to
amend or pass laws without worrying about repercussions. 7
Article 131 of the Constitution upholds the spirit of cooperative federalism.
According to the Article, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to resolve
a dispute between the states or between the Union and a state.8
The pre-requisite for filing a suit under Article 131 is the existence of a
dispute between the parties. Also, the dispute must involve a question of law or
a question of fact that transcends a legal or a constitutional right, and should
not include political conflict, unless legal rights are at stake. Prima facie,
Article 131 seems unambiguous, but the legal quandary arises when we analyse
cases related to it.
Over the years, the Supreme Court has issued contradictory rulings on whether a
state can appeal a Central Act under Article 131. In the case of State of
Madhya Pradesh v Union of India
9, the Court held that Central enactments
could be only challenged as writ petitions under Article 32 and 262 of the
Constitution and not under the original jurisdiction of the Court under Article
However, in another instance a few years later, it disagreed with the previously
mentioned verdict, arguing that Article 131 operates as an addition to Article
32 to deal with Centre-State Dispute. Furthermore, the Court stated
unequivocally that it could not agree that the constitutional legitimacy of a
Central Law could be questioned under Article 131. Because the Court lacked the
necessary bench strength to overturn the prevision ruling, it deferred the
decision to a bigger bench.
However, because the case is still unclear, both judgments can be utilised as a
precedent for future references. This exacerbates the conflict between the
Centre and the States, as Parliament can make laws that infringe on the latter's
The State of West Bengal v. Union of India
10 does not expressly deal with
the subject of State power to contest central laws under Article 131, but its
proceedings provide an answer to the controversy at hand. In this case the Court
did not address the constitutional legality of the enactment under Article 131,
but its decision to hear the State's claim against the Centre under the same
Article demonstrates that the Constitution does allow the State to challenge
Despite having a decision that could help interpret Article 131, the State of
Jharkhand v State of Bihar
11 decided to ignore it totally since the Calcutta
High Court did not investigate the constitutional legality of the Act under
Article 131. A conceivable way out of this legal bind is for the Supreme Court
to convene a larger bench and rule on the legal difficulties raised by Article
Major Areas of Tension between Centre and State:
The Constitution endows the Central government with increased authority, and
their meddling in the administration of the States has produced serious
difficulties in the Centre-State relationship.
The following are crucial:
- Imposition of President's Rule:
The President's Rule was imposed under Article 356 to cope with extreme
crises and as a last resort. However, it has been misused numerous times by:
A clear illustration of the misuse of this provision is seen in 1980 when the
Janata Government at the Centre dismissed the Congress Governments in nine
- Dismissing a state government having majority in the Assembly
- Suspending and dissolving the Assembly in a partisan consideration.
- Not giving a chance to the opposition to form government when electoral
verdict is indecisive.
- Denying opportunity to the opposition to form a government when a
ministry resigned in anticipation of a defeat on the floor of the House.
- Not allowing the opposition to form government even after the defeat of
a ministry on the floor of the House.
- Deployment of Central Forces:
Many times, the Centre deploys paramilitary forces into the States to
preserve peace and order without consulting the State's Government, and
occasionally even against the preferences of the relevant State.
- Reservation of Bill:
The right of a Governor to reserve a Bill enacted by a
State Legislature for the President's assent is another source of contention, as
a Governor usually reserved a Bill against the advice of a State's Ministry, but
on the advice of the Central Government. A Governor frequently uses this
authority to serve the interests of the Central Government.
- Fiscal Matters:
Tensions arise with regards to fiscal matters because of:
- Comparative powers of taxation.
- Statutory versus discretionary grants.
- Economic planning.
The Central control vast resources granted through deficit financing, loans from
organized money market in the country as well as in the form of foreign aid. In
addition, the Central can collect surcharge on taxes and raise additional funds
in times of emergency. On the other hand, the States do not have enough
resources to discharge their responsibilities and sometimes failed to mobilize
their own resources. Thus, the States remain dependent on the Centre.
Statutory versus discretionary grants:
There are four methods of devolution of funds from the Centre to the States, viz,
Obligatory sharing of Union taxes on income, assignment of certain Union duties
taxes and wholly to the States, permissive sharing of Union excise duties,
provision for giving financial assistance to the States in the form of grants
Even though the Finance Commission was set up to regulate, coordinate and
integrate the finance of the Central and State Government, the Planning
Commission has undermined the power of the Finance Commission. As the Planning
Commission is a Central institution and the provisions for grants-in-aid are
used for political purpose, there is a general feeling that the Centre
discriminates on the basis of political party consideration.
Planning has been intended to push the Indian political system towards greater
centralization. The provision relating to industries which was initially in the
State List was transferred to the Union List without an amendment to the
Constitution in the name of its being expedient for the public interest. It is
also alleged that in the name of national planning, the funds for important
State's projects are being delayed by the Central for political considerations.
To sum up, the administrative relationship between the center and the states in
India has evolved during the course of colonial rule. After Independence the
Constitution of India provided for a system of inter-governmental relationship
both for normal times and emergencies. In normal times, the federal polity was
expected to function on the principle of dual government.
The history of highly
centralized government in the past, the influence of the Government of India Act
1935 and the concern of our founding fathers about national stability, peace and
harmony led to the acceptance of a constitutional arrangement of distribution of
powers that deliberately tilted the scale in favor of the union.
Later, in course of actual governance, the political forces started reshaping
the Indian polity and central dominance through President's rule and other
provisions harmed the effective working of the federal system. As different
political parties came to power at the union and the state level, the phenomenon
of central dominance had steadily come under attack by the constituent states.
The politics of center-state relations revolved round such issues as 'more
powers to the states', 'more financial resources to the states' and even a
clamor for redrafting of the Indian Constitution. In response to the states'
demands, the Sarkaria Commission which was set up to review the working of the
federal system suggested appropriate constitutional changes but nothing
substantial came out of it. But it seems that in the years to come 'consensus'
rather than 'control' is going to be the dominant paradigm of center-state
administrative relationship in the years to come.
The distribution of powers between the center and states in the legislative and
executive fields, as stipulated in the Constitution is clearly delimited in
their scope. At the same time, the Constitution includes mechanisms for
facilitating cooperation between the center and the states. These include the
establishment of All India Services, the formation of a Joint Public Service
Commission for two or more states, and the presence of an integrated judicial
The Constitution has enough mechanisms for guaranteeing harmonious financial
ties between the center and the states, such as grants-in-aid and the
establishment of a Finance Commission. The formation of the Inter-State Council
by the National Front government is regarded as a significant move toward
establishing amicable relationships between the union and states in bringing
about peace and development in the country.
The center has emerged strong over the years due to centralization of certain
powers in its hands. Through giving of directions to the states backed by a
coercive sanction for their enforcement, exercising supervisory control over the
states in the maintenance of order, and proclamation of emergencies, the union
exerts its control over the states.
The Sarkaria Commission on center-state relations suggested certain
constitutional changes, which would smoothen the relationship between the center
and states. Efforts need to be made to make our federal system decentralized on
both political and administrative fronts.
- Vinti Rani, Centre State Relations in India, WORLD WIDE JOURNALS (Nov.
29, 2022, 9:34),
- Punchhi Commission, INTER-STATE COUNCIL SECRETARIAT, Ministry of Home
Affairs, Government of India (Nov. 29, 2022, 9:50), http://interstatecouncil.nic.in/punchhi-commission/#main-content
- State of West Bengal v Union of India, 1963 AIR 1241, 1964 SCR (1) 371
- Krishna P. Shetty, "President's Power under Article 356 of the
Constitution - Theory and Practice" in Alice Jacob (Ed.): Constitutional
Developments since Independence (Bombay: Tripathi: 1975), p. 342
- Karan Audichya & Devina Das, The Centre � State Administrative Relations
in Contemporary India: A Detailed Analysis of the Constitutional
Stipulations and Recommendations for a Progressive Execution, (Dec. 1, 2022,
- H.A. Gani, Centre-State Relations in India: A Review Article, JSTOR
(last visited Nov. 29, 2022, 10:11), https://www.jstor.org/stable/45072422#metadata_info_tab_contents
- Simran Upadhyaya, Centre-State Disputes: Article 131 the Need to
Introspect, BAR AND BENCH (Oct. 18, 2020, 9:00), https://www.barandbench.com/apprentice-lawyer/centre-state-disputes-and-discontent-the-need-to-introspect-on-article-131
- INDIA CONST. art. 131
- State of Madhya Pradesh v Union of India, 1966 AIR 671, 1966 SCR (1) 466
- State of West Bengal v. Union of India, 1963 AIR 1241, 1964 SCR (1) 371
- State of Jharkhand v. State of Bihar, 2004 (2) JCR 183 Jhr