The First Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) as a Commission of Inquiry was set up in January,1966, to examine the public administration of the country and make recommendation for reform and reorganization when necessary, involving the following aspects:
- The machinery of the Government of India and its procedures or work
- The machinery for planning at all levels
- Centre- State relationships
- Financial administration
- Personnel administration
- Economic administration
- Administration at the State level
- District administration
- Agricultural administration and
- Problems of redress of citizens grievances.
The Rajamannar Commission was set up by the DMK Govt in 1969 to look into the question of “Centre-State Relations” It recommended among other things, creation of an Inter-State Council, Curb on the misuse of Article 356 and abolition of the IAS & the IPS.
Under the federal structure of Indian Constitution the states are supreme in their allotted spheres. At that time there was a demand from the states for greater autonomy (especially by southern states led by TN) because of several factors:
- The “High Command” culture of the Congress Party which ruled both the states as well as at the centre. The congress party used to select CMs from Delhi and this was resented by the local state leaders.
- There was a fear of domination by the Hindi Speaking areas in the minds of southern state people. There were already rumblings of protests against imposition of Hindi.
- The states felt that their legitimate rights both financial and administrative were trampled by the centre in the name of federalism.
- Blatant misuse of Art 356 by the centre made matters worse.
So in this context, the Rajamannar Commission recommended the abolition of IAS & IPS (Both All India Services under Art 312 of Indian Constitution) because both the services were seen as interference in day to day administration of the states by the centre. But the centre rejected this recommendation because of these reasons:
- Sardar Patel’s clear understanding that India had major fissiparous tendencies which needed to be controlled and countered by building into the Constitution centripetal features which would hold the country together. A unified judicial hierarchy, the All India Services, a single independent audit organisation under the CAG, were some of these.
- Sardar Patel was firmly of the opinion that if the executive government of the States and the Union was carried out through officers of All India Services, who were protected and immunized from arbitrary action by the political class, then not only would we have a nonpartisan administration where officers work without fear or favour but a united India would also be ensured through these Civil Services whose ultimate rule making control is vested in the Central Government.
- There are some posts in any govt that can be considered “Pivotal” in the administration of the country and are required from the point of view of maintaining the integrity of the nation. The All India Services serve that purpose.
- Through these services a better cohesiveness is maintained between the Centre and State Bureaucracies using the cadre system and deputation system.
Anandpur Sahib Resolution
The Anandpur Sahib Resolution document was largely forgotten for a some time after its adoption, but came into the limelight in the 1980s.
The Akali Dal and Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale joined hands to launch the Dharam Yudh Morcha in 1982 in order to implement the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Thousands of people joined the movement, feeling that it represented a real solution to demands such as a larger share of water for irrigation and the return of Chandigarh to Punjab.
Indira Gandhi, the leader of the Akali Dal’s rival Congress, viewed the Anandpur Resolution as a secessionist document.
The West Bengal Memorandum
The West Bengal Memorandum of 1977 demanded that the preamble to the Constitution be amended to include the word ‘Federal’ in the description of the Republic of India.
It also demanded that “residual powers of the federation should lie with the units and not with the Center”. Article 249, giving powers to the Parliament to legislate on a subject in the state list, should be deleted. The role of the Center should be one of coordination in areas of planning, fixing wages, prices, etc. And finally, nothing beyond foreign relations, defence, communications, currency and related matters should be the exclusive domain of the Center.
With a view to reviewing the working of the existing arrangements between the Union and the States in the changed socio-economic scenario, the Government constituted a Commission under the Chairmanship of Justice R.S. Sarkaria with Shri B. Sivaraman and Dr. S.R. Sen as its members.
The Commission would examine and review the working of the existing arrangements between the Union and States in regard to powers, functions and responsibilities in all spheres and recommend such changes or other measures as may be appropriate. In examining and reviewing the working of the existing arrangements between the Union and the States and making recommendations as to the changes and measures needed, the commission would keep in view the social and economic developments that have taken place over the years and have due regard to the scheme and framework of the Constitution which the founding fathers have so sedulously designed to protect the independence and ensure the unity and integrity of the country which is of paramount importance for promoting the welfare of the people.
The Commission after conducting several studies, eliciting information, holding discussions and after detailed deliberations submitted its 1600-page report in January 1988. The report contains 247 recommendations spreading over 19 Chapters.
The main recommendations of the Commission with regard to Inter-State Council and its Secretariat were:
- It made the strong suggestion that Article 370 was not a transitory provision. This appears to have been made specifically in response to “one all-India political party” that demanded the deletion of Article 370 “in the interests of national integration.”
- It recommended that the residuary powers of legislation in regard to taxation matters should remain exclusively in the competence of Parliament while the residuary field other than that of taxation should be placed on the concurrent list.
- That the enforcement of Union laws, particularly those relating to the concurrent sphere, is secured through the machinery of the states.
- To ensure uniformity on the basic issues of national policy, with respect to the subject of a proposed legislation, consultations may be carried out with the state governments individually and collectively at the forum of the proposed Inter-Governmental Council. It was not recommended that the consultation be a constitutional obligation.
- Ordinarily, the Union should occupy only that much field of a concurrent subject on which uniformity of policy and action is essential in the larger interest of the nation, leaving the rest and details for state action.
- On administrative relations, Sarkaria made the following observation: “Federalism is more a functional arrangement for cooperative action, than a static institutional concept. Article 258 (power of the Union to confer powers etc on states in certain cases) provides a tool by the liberal use of which cooperative federalism can be substantially realised in the working of the system. A more generous use of this tool should be made than has hitherto been done, for progressive decentralisation of powers to the governments of the states.”
- On Article 356, it was recommended that it be used “very sparingly, in extreme cases, as a measure of last resort, when all other alternatives fail to prevent or rectify a breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state.
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 seven volume report presented to Government on 30 March 2010.
In India, the Centre-States relations constitute the core elements of the federalism. The Central Government and State Government cooperate for the well-being and safety of the citizens of India. They work together in the field of environmental protection, terror control, family control and socio-economic planning.
The Indian constitution aims at reconciling the national unity while giving the power to maintain state to the State governments. It is true that the union has been assigned larger powers than the state governments, but this is a question of degree and not quality, since all the essential features of a federation are present in the Indian constitution. It is often defined to be quasi-federal in nature.
Thus, it can be safely said that Indian Constitution is primarily federal in nature even though it has unique features that enable it to assume unitary features upon the time of need. Federal but its spirit is unitary.