After independence India adopted the federal structure for, perhaps, administrative convenience. The state did not impose compulsions. That is why limited autonomy has been given to the states. There is dual policy, with the Union government at the centre and the state governments at the periphery—each enjoying powers assigned to them. The autonomy of the states is so adjusted with the centre that the latter can perform its function of ensuring unity of the country. Pt. Nehru wanted a happy and harmonious compromise between the strong centre and autonomous states.
Weak centre, he thought, would be able to ensure peace, coordinating matters of common concern and of speaking effectively for the whole country. But if units do not enjoy autonomy, it would be a retrograde step politically and administratively. With the coming of the different political parties in power in some states and the centre, a qualitative change in the relations is demanded. Last year the West Bengal government refused to take account of the guidelines sent by the Planning Commission for the Sixth Five-Year Plan. The Karnataka also resented some of the measures taken by the centre. The Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir Chief Ministers wanted a revision of the Constitutional position of centre-state relations.
The legislative relations between the centre and the states determined in accordance with the provisions of the Article 246 of the Constitution. The legislative powers are categorized in three lists—Union Lists with 97 subjects, States List with 66 and Concurrent
List with 47 subjects. Residuary legislative powers rest with the Parliament. Moreover when there is state of emergency, Parliament can make laws on the subjects given under Union List. In the case of a conflict between the laws made by the state and the laws passed by the centre the central law will prevail. Clearly the centre is decidedly stronger as far as legislative powers are concerned.
The executive power of every state must comply with the laws made by the Parliament. The executive power of the state should be exercised in a manner that it does not impede of prejudice the executive power of the Union. The centre can direct the states if matters of national importance are concerned. During emergency, Union government can assume vast administrative powers.
The financial relations between the centre and state are the main subject of controversy now-a-days. While deciding these relations the fathers of the Constitution followed the India Act of 1935. Some taxes are levied and collected exclusively by the central government while others are levied and collected only by the states. These are taxes levied by the centre which are collected by the states and others which are levied and collected by the centre and given to the states.
The centre gives grants-in-aid to the states from the consolidated fund. The Construction makes it clear that state legislature can make laws relating to taxes for the benefit of the state. Such a system cannot last longer. According to Dr Jenning ” … arrangement of this character always proves to be unsatisfactory after ten years or so”. But there is a provision for setting up a Finance Commission after five years.
The Planning Commission is criticized on the ground that it has no statutory basis though it exercises enormous powers. States are left with no initiative because clearance for every scheme is given by the Planning Commission. The allocation of funds, it is alleged is not proper. Punjab wants the allocation to be made on the basis of population : Himachal Pradesh wants it on area basis, whereas West Bengal insists on the basis of the economic conditions of the state.
In fact serious thought should be given to centre-state relations. Power-wresting strategies have deprived the issue of its sanctity. As all the central leaders belong to the states and all the people of the states belong to India, the centre should not be reluctant to review the centre state relations. At least the irritants should be removed.