Articles 256 to 263 in Part XI of the Constitution deal with the administrative relations between the Centre and the states. In addition, there are various other articles pertaining to the same matter.
Distribution of Executive Powers
The executive power has been divided between the Centre and the states on the lines of the distribution of legislative powers, except in few cases. Thus, the executive power of the Centre extends to the whole of India: (i) to the matters on which the Parliament has exclusive power of legislation (i.e., the subjects enumerated in the Union List); and (ii) to the exercise of rights, authority and jurisdiction conferred on it by any treaty or agreement. Similarly, the executive power of a state extends to its territory in respect of matters on which the state legislature has exclusive power of legislation (i.e., the subjects enumerated in the State List).
In respect of matters on which both the Parliament and the state legislatures have power of legislation (i.e., the subjects enumerated in the Concurrent List), the executive power rests with the states except when a Constitutional provision or a parliamentary law specifically confers it on the Centre. Therefore, a law on a concurrent subject, though enacted by the Parliament, is to be executed by the states except when the Constitution or the Parliament has directed otherwise.5
Obligation of States and the Centre
The Constitution has placed two restrictions on the executive power of the states in order to give ample scope to the Centre for exercising its executive power in an unrestricted manner. Thus, the executive power of every state is to be exercised in such a way (a) as to ensure compliance with the laws made by the Parliament and any existing law which apply in the state; and (b) as not to impede or prejudice the exercise of executive power of the Centre in the state. While the former lays down a general obligation upon the state, the latter imposes a specific obligation on the state not to hamper the executive power of the Centre.
In both the cases, the executive power of the Centre extends to giving of such directions to the state as are necessary for the purpose. The sanction behind these directions of the Centre is coercive in nature. Thus, Article 365 says that where any state has failed to comply with (or to give effect to) any directions given by the Centre, it will be lawful for the President to hold that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. It means that, in such a situation, the President’s rule can be imposed in the state under Article 356.
Centre’s Directions to the States
In addition to the above two cases, the Centre is empowered to give directions to the states with regard to the exercise of their executive power in the following matters:
(i) the construction and maintenance of means of communication (declared to be of national or military importance) by the state;
(ii) the measures to be taken for the protection of the railways within the state;
(iii) the provision of adequate facilities for instruction in the mother-tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups in the state; and
(iv) the drawing up and execution of the specified schemes for the welfare of the Scheduled Tribes in the state.
The coercive sanction behind the Central directions under Article 365 (mentioned above) is also applicable in these cases.
Mutual Delegation of Functions
The distribution of legislative powers between the Centre and the states is rigid. Consequently, the Centre cannot delegate its legislative powers to the states and a single state cannot request the Parliament to make a law on a state subject. The distribution of executive power in general follows the distribution of legislative powers. But, such a rigid division in the executive sphere may lead to occasional conflicts between the two. Hence, the Constitution provides for inter-government delegation of executive functions in order to mitigate rigidity and avoid a situation of deadlock.
Accordingly, the President may, with the consent of the state government, entrust to that government any of the executive functions of the Centre. Conversely, the governor of a state may, with the consent of the Central government, entrust to that government any of the executive functions of the state.6 This mutual delegation of administrative functions may be conditional or unconditional.
The Constitution also makes a provision for the entrustment of the executive functions of the Centre to a state without the consent of that state. But, in this case, the delegation is by the Parliament and not by the president. Thus, a law made by the Parliament on a subject of the Union List can confer powers and impose duties on a state, or authorise the conferring of powers and imposition of duties by the Centre upon a state (irrespective of the consent of the state concerned). Notably, the same thing cannot be done by the state legislature.
From the above, it is clear that the mutual delegation of functions between the Centre and the state can take place either under an agreement or by a legislation. While the Centre can use both the methods, a state can use only the first method.
Cooperation Between the Centre and States
The Constitution contains the following provisions to secure cooperation and coordination between the Centre and the states:
(i) The Parliament can provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution and control of waters of any inter-state river and river valley.
(ii) The President can establish (under Article 263) an Inter-State Council to investigate and discuss subject of common interest between the Centre and the states. Such a council was set up in 1990.7
(iii) Full faith and credit is to be given throughout the territory of India to public acts, records and judicial proceedings of the Centre and every state.
(iv) The Parliament can appoint an appropriate authority to carry out the purposes of the constitutional provisions relating to the interstate freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse. But, no such authority has been appointed so far.
Like in any other federation, the Centre and the states also have their separate public services called as the Central Services and the State Services respectively. In addition, there are all-India services—IAS, IPS and IFS. The members of these services occupy top positions (or key posts) under both the Centre and the states and serve them by turns. But, they are recruited and trained by the Centre.
These services are controlled jointly by the Centre and the states. The ultimate control lies with the Central government while the immediate control vests with the state governments.
In 1947, Indian Civil Service (ICS) was replaced by IAS and the Indian Police (IP) was replaced by IPS and were recognised by the Constitution as All-India Services. In 1966, the Indian Forest Service (IFS) was created as the third All-India Service. Article 312 of the Constitution authorises the Parliament to create new All-India Services on the basis of a Rajya Sabha resolution to that effect.
Each of these three all-India services, irrespective of their division among different states, form a single service with common rights and status and uniform scales of pay throughout the country.
Though the all-India services violate the principle of federalism under the Constitution by restricting the autonomy and patronage of the states, they are supported on the ground that (i) they help in maintaining high standard of administration in the Centre as well as in the states; (ii) they help to ensure uniformity of the administrative system throughout the country; and (iii) they facilitate liaison, cooperation, coordination and joint action on the issues of common interest between the Centre and the states.
While justifying the institution of all-India services in the Constituent Assembly, Dr B R Ambedkar observed that: “The dual polity which is inherent in a federal system is followed in all federations by a dual service. In all federations, there is a Federal Civil Service and a State Civil Service. The Indian federation, though a dual polity, will have a dual service, but with one exception. It is recognised that in every country there are certain posts in its administrative set up which might be called strategic from the point of view of maintaining the standard of administration. There can be no doubt that the standard of administration depends upon the calibre of the civil servants who are appointed to the strategic posts. The Constitution provides that without depriving the states of their rights to form their own civil services, there shall be an all-India service, recruited on an all-India basis with common qualifications, with uniform scale of pay and members of which alone could be appointed to those strategic posts throughout the Union”.
Public Service Commissions
In the field of public service commissions, the Centre-state relations are as follows:
(i) The Chairman and members of a state public service commission, though appointed by the governor of the state, can be removed only by the President.
(ii) The Parliament can establish a Joint State Public Service Commission (JSPSC) for two or more states on the request of the state legislatures concerned. The chairman and members of the JSPSC are appointed by the president.
(iii) The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) can serve the needs of a state on the request of the state governor and with the approval of the President.
(iv) The UPSC assists the states (when requested by two or more states) in framing and operating schemes of joint recruitment for any services for which candidates possessing special qualifications are required.
Integrated Judicial System
Though India has a dual polity, there is no dual system of administration of justice. The Constitution, on the other hand, established an integrated judicial system with the Supreme Court at the top and the state high courts below it. This single system of courts enforces both the Central laws as well as the state laws. This is done to eliminate diversities in the remedial procedure.
The judges of a state high court are appointed by the president in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the governor of the state. They can also be transferred and removed by the president.
The Parliament can establish a common high court for two or more states. For example, Maharashtra and goa or Punjab and Haryana have a common high court.
Relations During Emergencies
(i) During the operation of a national emergency (under Article 352), the Centre becomes entitled to give executive directions to a state on ‘any’ matter. Thus, the state governments are brought under the complete control of the Centre, though they are not suspended.
(ii) When the President’s Rule is imposed in a state (under Article 356), the President can assume to himself the functions of the state government and powers vested in the Governor or any other executive authority in the state.
(iii) During the operation of a financial emergency (under Article 360), the Centre can direct the states to observe canons of financial propriety and the President can give other necessary directions including the reduction of salaries of persons serving in the state and the high court judges.
The Constitution contains the following other provisions which enable the Centre to exercise control over the state administration:
(i) Article 355 imposes two duties on the Centre: (a) to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance; and (b) to ensure that the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
(ii) The governor of a state is appointed by the president. He holds office during the pleasure of the President. In addition to the Constitutional head of the state, the governor acts as an agent of the Centre in the state. He submits periodical reports to the Centre about the administrative affairs of the state.
(iii) The state election commissioner, though appointed by the governor of the state, can be removed only by the President.
In addition to the above-mentioned constitutional devices, there are extraconstitutional devices to promote cooperation and coordination between the Centre and the states. These include a number of advisory bodies and conferences held at the Central level.
The non-constitutional advisory bodies include the Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog),9 the National Development Council, the National Integration Council,10 the Central Council of Health, the Central Council of Local Government and Urban Development, the Zonal Councils,11 the NorthEastern Council, the Central Council of Indian Medicine, Central Council of Homoeopathy, the Central Family Welfare Council, the Transport Development Council, the University Grants Commission and so on.
The important conferences held either annually or otherwise to facilitate Centre-state consultation on a wide range of matters are as follows: (i) The governors’ conference (presided over by the President). (ii) The chief ministers’ conference (presided over by the prime minister). (iii) The chief secretaries’ conference (presided over by the cabinet secretary). (iv) The conference of inspector-general of police. (v) The chief justices’ conference (presided over by the chief justice of India). (vi) The conference of vice- cancellors. (vii) The home ministers’ conference (presided over by the Central home minister). (viii) The law ministers’ conference (presided over by the Central law minister).