Essay on the divisions of powers between the Union and the States

Because of its enormous size and economic, social, religious, cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversities our leaders thought unfit to give India a federal constitution. Our constitution provides for decentralization of political author­ity. The powers of the Centre and the States have been divided carefully in our constitution. In addition, Part XI of the Constitution (Art. 245 to 255) deals exclusively with the relations between the Union and States. The effort of the Constitution makers has been to grant autonomy to the States on one hand and to maintain unity and integrity of the vast country on the other hand by keeping co-coordinating authority with the Union, ‘Unity in Diversity’ is a unique feature, which has been kept in view by Constitution makers.

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The Constitution clearly enumerates the areas of control under the centre and the states in three lists. List I consists of subject under the Control of Union, while List II contains areas of Control of the States. Yet there is a third list known as concurrent list. The Union and States have concurrent powers on the subjects contained in this list. These lists are contained in seventh schedule of our Constitution. By and large, defense of the country, foreign affairs, currency, railways, shipping and navigation etc. are the subjects of the Union List, while maintenance of law and order, prisons, police force, local govern­ments, public health etc. are subjects of State List. The subjects like criminal law and procedure, marriage and divorce, lunacy, forests, economic and social planning etc. are in the concurrent list.

The Union Parliament can make laws for the whole or any part of India in regard to subjects contained in Union List while the states have exclusive power to make laws for the state as a whole or any part there of will respect to any of the matters listed in the State List. State Legislatures can also make laws on the subjects contained in the concurrent list. The residuary powers are vested in the centre. Parliament can, however, legislate with respect to a matter in State List if the subject is declared to be of national importance by a resolution of Rajya Sabha or when a proclamation of emergency is in operation.


The centre has been given some administrative powers over the states for effective co-ordination. It is the responsibility of the States to ensure compli­ance of Union laws within their territory. The centre can give directions to the states for die purpose. The Union can also give directions to a state regarding construction and maintenance of means of communication of national or military importance and for the protection of the railways within the state. The centre can deploy any grave situation of law and order in the state. The power to settle disputes between states relating to distribution of waters of inter-state rivers lies with the Union. The centre can set up inter-state councils, if it feels necessary. For this administrative co-ordination, there is a provision of All-India Services in the Constitution. These services are common to the Centre and States. The recruitment and other service matters are controlled by the centre, while they continue to service their states. The centre, by rotation, utilizes their services on deputation for a specified period.

Tax-resources have been divided between the centre and the states. There is no overlapping or ambiguity in regards to tax jurisdiction. Union list contains taxes and levies which can be imposed by the Union (Items 82 to 92 of List I) and state list enumerates items (Items 45 to 63 of List II) which could be taxed by the state. List III (Concurrent List) does not include any source of taxation. Taxes levied by the states are appropriated by them. In the case of some taxes imposed by the union and the state there is interdependence between the two. Stamp Duty and Duties of excise on medicinal and toilet preparation is levied by the centre, but collected and appropriated by the states, while duties in respect of succession to property or Estate duty in respect of property other than agricultural land, terminal taxes on goods or passengers carried by railway, sea or air, taxes on railway freights and fares etc. are levied and collected by the centre, but appropriated by the states. Taxes on incomes other than agricultural income and Excise Duty other than medicinal and toilet preparation are levied and collected by the centre, but distributed between the centre and the states. Apart from distribution of taxes, the centre gives grants-in-aid and loans to State Governments to meet their financial needs.

It would be seen from above description that the states are not autono­mous. They are dependent on centre, particularly with regard to finances. Increasing dependence of states on the centre for financial resources have made them to raise their voice for greater autonomy. So long as the party in power at the centre and in the states remained the same, scheme worked well. But in 1967, several states defeated the party in power and opposition came to power. Since then the demand for greater powers to the states is rising. In 1983, the Congress (I) was defeated in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It met the same fate in Kerala, West Bengal and Haryana. With different parties in power at the centre and in the states the demand for financial autonomy is growing fast. The protagonists of state autonomy feel that through (/) Finance Commission (if) Planning Commission and (Hi) industrial licensing, the centre has made considerable inroads even in the legitimate areas earmarked for states. They demand readjustment of centre-state relations as a whole to ensure greater opportunity to states to function effectively and develop their own culture.

In the end, we find that there is some justification in giving more powers to the states, but complete autonomy to states is ruled out for the sake of unity and integrity of the nation. We have to think dispassionately and with caution. The separatist tendencies are mounting. Regional, linguistic and religious feelings are being exploited to create chaos in the country. Under the circumstances we cannot take chances. Our strength lies in unity and, therefore, nothing should be done to weaken the country.

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