India being a Federal State all the powers are distributed between the Centre and the  States. The distribution of powers is an essential feature of federalism. The object for  which a federal state is formed involves a division of authority between the National  Government and the seprate States. Due to the distribution of powers various relations  are witnessed among them. Such relations are: 

Legislative Relations;- 

The Legislative Relations of the Centre and the State have been mentioned under  Article 245-255 of the Constitution. There is a two-fold distribution of legislative  power

Territorial Jurisdiction;- 

Article 245(1) empowers the Parliament to make laws for the whole or any part of the  territory of India, subject to the provisions of the Constitution. Article 245(2) says that  a law made by the Parliament shall not be considered invalid on the ground that it has  extra-territorial operation. The legislative powers of the Parliament and the State  Legislature are dependent on the scheme of distribution of powers, Fundamental Rights  and other provisions of the Constitution 

Subject Matter;- 

Article 246 deals with the subject matter of law making power of the Parliament and  the State Legislature. 

The first clause says that the Parliament has exclusive power to make laws regarding  matters mentioned in List I in the Seventh Schedule (Union list), notwithstanding  anything mentioned in the second and third clause. The second clause says that the State  Legislatures have power to make laws regarding the matters mentioned in List III in the  Seventh Schedule (Concurrent List), notwithstanding anything in the third and first  clause. 

The Legislature of any State has exclusive power to make laws in respect of such State  or any part of the State regarding matters present in List II in the Seventh Schedule  (State List). The Parliament has been empowered to make laws regarding any matter  for any part of the Indian Territory even if such matter is enumerated in the State List. 

The Union List:

This List has 97 subjects which are of national importance. Such subjects are defence,  foreign affairs, banking currency and coinage, union duties and taxes. The Parliament  has the power to make laws on these subjects. 

The State List;- 

This List has 66 subjects which are of local importance. Such subjects are public order  and police, local Government, public health and sanitation, agriculture, forest, fisheries,  education, State taxes and duties. The States have power to make laws on these subjects. 

The Concurrent List;- 

This List consists of 47 subjects; both the States and the Centre can make laws on the  subjects mentioned in this list. However, when there is a conflict between the Centre  and the State, the law made by the Centre shall prevail. 

Residuary Powers;- 

The residuary powers are vested in the Parliament[ii].It has power to make laws  regarding any matter not mentioned in the State List or Concurrent List. 

Parliament’s Power to legislate on State Subjects;- 

During the following circumstances, the power of the Union extends and it gets the  power to make laws on the subjects mentioned in the State List: 

Power of Parliament to legislate in the national interest;- 

If the Rajya Sabha passes a resolution by 2/3rd majority of the members present and  voting that it is necessary in the national interest that the Parliament should makes laws  regarding a subject mentioned in the State List, the Parliament is empowered to make  laws with respect to such matter for whole or any part of the territory of India[iii]. Such  laws do not have effect after the expiration of 6 months after the resolution has ceased  to operate. 

Proclamation of Emergency;- 

During proclamation of an emergency, the Parliament has the power to make laws on  the subjects mentioned in the State List for the whole or any part of the territory of  India[iv]. Such laws do not have effect after the expiration of 6 months after the  emergency has ceased to operate.

Power to legislate with the consent of the States;- 

If a resolution is passed by 2 or more States that it is desirable to have a law that is  passed by the Parliament on any matter mentioned in the State List, the Parliament has  the power to make laws[v]. 

Power of Parliament to make laws for giving effect to treaties and  international agreements;- 

The Constitution has empowered the Parliament to create laws for the entire or any  part of territory of India for the implementation of treaties, international agreements  and conventions[vi]

Failure of Constitutional Machinery in a State;- 

The Parliament can make laws for the matters in the State List when it is declared by  the Parliament that the administration of a State is being done according to the  provisions of the Constitution[vii]

Administrative Relations;- 

One of the complicated problems under a federal system is the adjustment of  administrative relations between the Union and the States. Administration is the direct  consequence of legislation and without administrative machineries for implementing  laws; the laws are of no importance. So our Constitution provides detailed provisions  to avoid clashes between the Union and States in the administrative field. Article 256  to Article 263 deal with the Union control over States in normal times: 

Direction by the Centre to the States;- 

According to Article 256 the executive power of the State shall be exercised ensuring  compliance with the laws made by the Parliament and the executive power of the Union  shall extend to the giving of such directions to the State as it may be essential for the  purpose. Article 257 says that the States have to exercise their executive power in a way  by which they do not impede the executive power of the Union in the State. The powers  of the Central Government extend to giving directions to the State regarding the  construction and maintenance of means of communication which are declared to be of  national or military importance and measures to be taken for the protection of railway  within the States. 

Delegation of Union’s function to the States;-

Article 258 says that the Parliament may entrust either conditionally or unconditionally  to the Government or to its offices functions relating to any matter falling within the  executive powers of the Union, with the consent of the State Government, with the  consent of the State Government. The Parliament under the second clause is empowered  to use the State machinery for the enforcement of Union laws and for this purpose may  confer power or impose duties upon the State or its officers or authorities in respect of  these matters to see that the laws are made applicable to the State. 

All-India Services;- 

All-India Services are common to the Union and States. Under Article 312 the Rajya  Sabha passes a resolution supported by not less than 2/3rd of the members present and  voting that it is essential in the nation’s interest to do so, the Parliament may by law  provide for the creation of one or more All-India Services. 

Grants in-aid;- 

The Central Government provides Grant in-aid to the States. It is provided  because it is a process by which the Central Government exercises strict control  over the States and it facilitates Centre-State coordination. 

Full faith and Credit;- 

According to Article 261 full faith and credit shall be given throughout the territory of  India to public acts, records and judicial proceedings of the Union and every State. 

Disputes relating to water;- 

Article 262 deals with disputes relating to water. It empowers the Parliament to provide  by law adjudication of any dispute regarding the uses, distribution or control of waters  of any inter-State rivers and river valleys. Under the second clause of this Article, the  Parliament may by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other Court  shall have any jurisdiction regarding the disputes relating to inter-State rivers and river  valleys. 

Inter-State Council;- 

Under Article 263 Inter-State Councils are established to facilitate coordination between  States. The President of India in exercise of the powers under Article 263 has constituted  the Inter-State Council on May28, 1990[viii]. The following are the duties of the body; 

  • Investigation and discussion of the subjects which are of common interest Make suggestions for better co-ordination of policy and actions on such subjects
  • Deliberate on matters of general interest to the States referred by the Chairman to  the Council. 

Exemption of Union Property from State Taxation;- 

According to Article 285(1) the Union property shall be exempt from all taxes imposed by  a State or any authority within a State unless otherwise provided by the Parliament. Article  285(2) saves the power of the State to tax the property of the Union which were taxable by  a State under a law passed before the commencement of the Constitution, until it is  otherwise provided by the Parliament. 

Exemption of State property or income from Union Taxation;- 

Under Article 289 the property and the income of a State is exempted from Union Taxation  but the Parliament can impose tax relating to trade or business of any kind which is carried  by or on behalf of the Government of a State. Under Clause 3 of Article 289 the Parliament  may by law exempt any class of business incidental to ordinary functions of Government  from Union taxation. According to Article 285 the Centre’s property is exempted from all  State taxes whether it is used for commercial purposes or governmental purpose. However,  such exemption is not available to the State property. 

Borrowing Power;- 

Under Article 292 the Union has unlimited power to borrow money on the security of the  Consolidated Fund of India either within or outside. Under Article 293 a State can borrow  money within the territory of India on the security of the Consolidated Fund of the State.  However, a State cannot borrow from outside India. 


The following cases explained the relationship between the Centre and the State better and  had an impact on both of them. 

State of West Bengal vs. Union of India [xi] 

In this case, it was held that the Indian Constitution is not truly federal. The States are  given the matters of local importance and the other powers specially which deal with  the economic, industrial and commercial unity is with the Union. 

State of Karnataka vs. Union of India [xii] 

The Court held that the Constitution of India is not federal but is quasi-federal in nature.  The executive and legislative powers are more in the hands of the Centre.

S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India [xiii] 

In this case, Justice Ahmadi held that the Indian Constitution is quasi-federal as the  word ‘federal’ is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. Justice Sawant and Kuldip  Singh held that federalism is an essential feature of the Constitution. According to Justice  Ramaswamy the Indian Constitution is an ‘Organic Federation’. According to Justice  Jeevan Reddy and Justice Agarwal federalism in the Constitution has a different meaning  in accordance with the context. 

Proper distribution of powers between the Centre and the States is an important feature of  a Federal Constitution. The makers of the Constitution have divided the powers well in  order to avoid clashes between the Centre and the States. However, it appears that the  framers of the Constitution have allocated more powers to the Centre and made it stronger.  

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