Context: Recently, the 14th Finance Commission report is being cited and it observed that there is a huge gap between what the 14th Finance Commission promised to States and what they have received.
Meaning of Cooperative Federalism under the Constitution
- The drafters of the Constitution were more anxious to give the Union Government the power to bring errant States in line with the Constitution.
- Article 355 enjoins the Union to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
- Acting under its fiduciary duty towards the Constitution and the people of the State, the Union may also temporarily, and for restoring constitutional governance in a State, declare President’s rule in the State under Article 356.
- The Constitution bars States from “impeding” the Union’s work and rightly requires them to comply with central laws.
Problems in implementation of Cooperative Federalism
- There is no equivalent power rests in the hands of States to hold the Union Government to the Constitution.
- The Union insisted that States are under a constitutional duty to implement laws passed by Parliament.
- A duty to obey all laws passed by Parliament is premised on an unbridled deference to the Union Government to correctly understand and implement the Constitution while passing laws.
- The regionalisation of India’s party system between 1989-2014 contributed to the appearance that deeper federalism and growing regional autonomy as compared to the Central government was an almost inexorable process.
Reaffirming cooperative federalism
- The oath of constitutional functionaries of States is to be understood in light of Article 1 of the Constitution, which locates India’s identity as a “Union of States”.
- The Supreme Court of India had recognised in the landmark S.R. Bommai judgment that states are not mere “appendages” of the Centre.
- State and Union Territories cannot be reduced to mere administrative agencies entrusted with enforcing Parliament’s laws without any application of mind.
- The constitutional functionaries in States cannot be compelled to defy their oaths and enforce laws that are contrary to their good faith interpretation of the Constitution.
- In abiding by their oaths, States may require the Union to find a constitutional way to fulfil its purported objective, by withholding cooperation in a federal scheme.
Source: The Hindu