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Centre-State Relations: Legislative Relations

Now that we have a basic idea about the structure of the government and organs of the government, let’s look at the centre-state relations as provided under the Constitution. The dynamics of Centre-State relations in India are defined by the allocation of powers and responsibilities between the central government and state governments. These intergovernmental relations, guided by constitutional provisions, hold significant importance in the operation of the federal structure.

In this article, we will discuss the Centre-State Legislative relations. This is provided under Part XI of the Constitution, under Chapter 1. Articles 245 to 255 provide for legislative relations shared between the centre and the state.

Categorisation of powers of legislative bodies based on subject matter

The constitutional framework of India delineates a three-tiered distribution of legislative powers between the central and state governments through the categorisation of subjects into three distinct lists in the Seventh Schedule: the Union List, the State List, and the Concurrent List.

Within this structure, the Parliament of India exercises jurisdiction over legislative matters specified in the Union List, encompassing domains such as defense, banking, communication, trade, auditing, and foreign affairs among many others.

In contrast, state legislatures are vested with the authority to legislate on matters pertaining to the maintenance of law and order, public health and sanitation, agriculture, police, and other issues outlined in the State List.

Furthermore, both the Parliament and state legislatures retain legislative competence over subjects detailed in the Concurrent List, including criminal law, civil procedure, marriage, divorce, population control, electricity, social planning, and drug regulation to name a few.

In case there is an overlap between laws formulated by the Parliament and the state legislatures over a subject matter mentioned in the Concurrent list, the first approach would be to read the laws in a harmonious manner. This means that the laws would be read in a manner that avoids conflict and promotes their concurrent operation.

The Constitution grants primacy to the Union List over the State List and Concurrent List, with the Concurrent List holding precedence over the State List in cases of overlapping jurisdiction. Thus, in instances of conflict between the central and state governments, precedence is afforded to the former.

Categorisation of powers of legislative bodies based on territory

The legislative authority vested in the Parliament of India encompasses the power to enact laws applicable either nationwide or selectively within the territorial boundaries of India. This territorial scope encompasses all constituent states, union territories, and regions tentatively included within the domain of India. Moreover, the Parliament is empowered to enact extraterritorial legislation, enabling the imposition of laws upon Indian citizens and their assets situated anywhere in the world.

At the state level, legislative prerogatives extend to the formulation and enforcement of laws within the confines of a particular state. These laws may be applied either uniformly across the entirety of the state or selectively to specific regions within its jurisdiction.

Power of the Parliament to make laws on subjects mentioned in the State List

The Indian Constitution confers upon the Parliament the authority to legislate on subjects enumerated in the State List under specific and extraordinary circumstances:

  1. Resolution by the Rajya Sabha: In instances where the Rajya Sabha passes a resolution necessitating parliamentary legislation in areas such as GST, the Parliament is empowered to enact laws in these domains with a two-thirds majority vote.
  2. National Emergency: Legislative enactments during a National Emergency come into effect six months following the termination of the emergency.
  3. State Request: Upon receiving a joint request from two or more states regarding a common issue, Parliament may enact laws to regulate these matters, applicable to the states making the request.
  4. Implementation of International Agreements: Parliament holds the mandate to enact laws to fulfil international commitments and obligations stemming from treaties, conventions, and agreements.
  5. President’s Rule: Even during the imposition of President’s Rule in a state, Parliament retains the prerogative to legislate on state matters. Such laws remain effective beyond the duration of President’s Rule and may be modified or re-enacted by the state legislature.

Powers that Central Government reserves over State Legislatures

In addition to the legislative authority vested in Parliament, the Constitution bestows upon the central government specific powers to supervise state legislation:

  1. The Governor retains the prerogative to reserve bills passed by state legislatures for the President’s consideration, wherein the President wields absolute veto power over such bills.
  2. The central government is empowered to instruct states to reserve financial bills for the President’s consideration during a financial emergency.
  3. Bills addressing particular issues delineated in the State List can only be introduced in state legislatures with the prior sanction of the President.

Exceptions to laws of Parliament

The President of India holds the power to issue legislation focused on upholding peace, promoting good governance, and advancing progress within the five union territories, namely Daman and Diu, Ladakh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra, and Nagar Haveli. Such legislation is accorded equal significance to laws enacted by the Parliament of India, granting the President the authority to revoke or modify any statutes passed by the national Parliament pertaining to these five union territories.

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