Legislative relations between Union and States

Legislative relations between union and states are mentioned from Articles 245 to 255 in Part XI of the Indian Constitution. Apart from these articles, there are some other articles as well where legislative powers of center and state are discussed.

Legislative relations between Union and the States

Like any other federal constitution, the Indian Constitution also divides the legislative powers between the Center and the States in relation to territories and subjects of legislation.
In addition, the constitution provides for parliamentary legislation in the state under five extraordinary situations and also ​​control of the centre on state in some cases. Thus, the legislative relations of the centre-states have four aspects, i.e.,

  • Territorial extent of Central and state legislation;
  • Distribution of legislative subjects;
  • Parliamentary legislation in the state field; and
  • Centre’s control over state legislation.

Territorial extent of Union and State legislation

The constitution defines the territorial limits of the legislative powers vested in the center and the state in the following ways: –

  1. Parliament can make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India. The territory of India include States, Union Territories and any other regions for the time being included in the territory of India.
  2. A state legislature may make laws for the whole or any part of the state. The laws which are made by the state legislature does not apply outside the state, except when there is a sufficient Nexus between state and object.
  3. The Parliament alone can make supernatural laws’. Thus, the law of Parliament also applies to Indian citizens and their property in any part of the world.

However, the constitution imposes some restrictions on plenary territorial jurisdiction of the parliament. In other words, the laws of Parliament do not apply to certain areas: –
  • The President can make rules for peace, progress and good government of five Union Territories: – Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Ladakh. Such regulation has a similar force and effect as an act of Parliament. It can also repeal or amend any act of Parliament in relation to these union territories.
  • The Governor has the right to direct that an Act of Parliament does not apply to a scheduled areas in the state or apply with specified amendments and exceptions.
  • The Governor of Assam has power to direct that any act of President does not apply to a tribal area in the district or they can apply with specific modifications and exceptions. The President of India enjoys the same power with respect to tribal areas in Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura and Mizoram.

Distribution of legislative subjects

The constitution provides for a three-fold distribution among legislative subjects. Centre and States, i.e., List-I (Union List), List-II (State List) and List-III (Concurrent list in Seventh Schedule): –

  1. Union List: – Parliament has special powers to make laws in relation to any matter which is included in the Union list. There are currently 98 topics in this list (originally 97 topics). Some items in this list-I are as follows: –
    • Defense;
    • Central Bureau of Investigation;
    • Foreign affairs;
    • Banking;
    • Intellectual properties;
    • Census;
    • Corporation tax;
    • Nuclear power and essential mineral resources;
    • Preventive detention;
    • Diplomatic, consular and trade relations;
    • War and Peace;
    • Citizenship;
    • Highways and railways, etc.
  2. State List: The state legislature has special powers to make laws “under normal circumstances” in relation to any of the matters included in the State List. This list currently has 59 topics (originally 66 topics). Some of the topics in this List-II are as follows: –
    • Public order;
    • Local government;
    • Public Health and Hygiene;
    • Agriculture;
    • Fisheries;
    • Libraries, museums and other similar institutions;
    • Markets and fairs;
    • Gas and allied works.
  3. Concurrent List: – Both can make laws either in relation to the Parliament or the state legislature cases included in the concurrent list. There are currently 52 topics (basically 47) in this list. Some of the topics covered in this list-III are as follows: –
    • Criminal law and procedure;
    • Archaeological site;
    • Marriage and Divorce;
    • Transfer of property excluding agricultural land;
    • Contempt of Court except Supreme Court;
    • Civil law and procedure;
    • Prevention of animal cruelty;
    • Lightning;
    • Economic and social planning;
    • Legal, medical and other professions.

Parliamentary legislation in the state field

Although the Central Government does not have the power under normal circumstances to legislate on the matters mentioned in that state, the Parliament of the Union can only legislate on such matters under certain special conditions. These special conditions are: –

  1. Article 249- In the interest of the nation
    • Several articles of the Indian Constitution defined the prominence of Parliament in the legislative field. Article 249 provided, where the Rajya Sabha declared, by a resolution which should get approval from not less than two-third of the members present and voting of the members in the Rajya Sabha is necessary or appropriate to legislate with respect to any of the national laws of Parliament.
  1. Article 250- Under Proclamation of National Emergency
    • Article 250 states that in case of declaration of emergency, Parliament shall have the power to legislate on any item in the State List. This law would extend to compliance with a national emergency (Article 352) and the Presidential order in every state (Article 356) or the occurrence of a financial emergency (Article 360).
    • Under this the laws of a state or states would remain inactive to the extent that they are contrary to the law of the center (Art. 251). Thus, the Parliament as a whole have power to legislate on the subjects which are specified in the State List while the National Emergency Declaration is in effect.
  1. Article 252- By Agreement between States
    • Power of Parliament for two or more states by any other state to agree and adopt such law. For the first time, such a law will apply to those states that have made such a request, unless another state can abide by it by passing such a resolution. Third, such laws can be amended or repealed by the Parliament only. Parliament can also make laws in relation to a state if the legislature of two or more states agrees that Parliament is allowed to make laws relating to any issue mentioned in the state list.
  1. Article 253- To Implement Treaties
    • To enforce treaties or international conventions, Parliament shall have the power to make laws relating to any subject. In other words, even about the issue of a state, the general distribution of powers does not exclude Parliament from carrying out its foreign obligations or to pass through such legislation (Article 253).
    • Parliament can pass any treaty, international agreement or convention with any other country or state, or can take any decision in international conference, association or other entity, in the whole world and any part of the territory of India. Any law enacted by this Parliament, it shall not include the subject listed in the list of states, shall be invalidated.

Center’s control over state legislation

In terms of law-making powers, the Constitution has done more favors for Parliament than for states. It excluded state laws from extra-territorial operations (Article 245); It has given Parliament the residual power of law {article 249}; It has empowered Parliament to legislate on all subjects of the State List during the Emergency {Article 250}.

Other provisions for control of state legislation: –

Apart from the power of Parliament to enact laws directly on the subjects of the state under exceptional conditions, the Constitution empowers the Center to exercise control over the legislative affairs of the state in the following ways: –

  • The Governor may reserve certain types of Bills passed by the State Legislature for the consideration of the President. For such bills, the president has full veto power.
  • Bills on certain matters {such as those prohibiting the freedom of trade and commerce of the State List} can be introduced in the legislature only upon the prior approval of the President.
  • During a financial emergency, the President can direct states to reserve money and financial bills for their consideration.

The above provisions conclude that the Constitution has given the Center considerable superiority in terms of legislative functions.

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