What was the purpose of the constitution of the Sarkaria Commission and what were the important recommendations made by the commission?
In 1983, the Central government appointed a three-member Commission on Centre-state relations to review the working of the existing arrangements between the Union and the States in the changed socio-economic scenario.
The Ministry of Home Affairs Notification dated June 9, 1983, constituted a Commission under the chairmanship of R.S. Sarkaria, a retired judge of the Supreme Court. Other members of the commission are Shri B. Sivaraman and Dr S.R. Sen.
It was initially given one year to complete its work, but its term was extended four times, and finally submitted its report in 1988.
Purpose of the Commission
The Sarkaria Commission has given the work to investigate and analyze how the current agreements between the Union and States are operating in terms of powers, functions, and responsibilities in all domains and recommend any necessary changes or additional measures.
The commission will keep in mind the social and economic developments that have occurred over the years and give appropriate consideration to the scheme and framework of the Constitution that the founding fathers so carefully established to protect the independence and ensure the unity and integrity of the country, which will be examined and reviewed in order to determine the modifications and measures that are needed.
Recommendations made by Sarkaria Commission
The Commission made 247 recommendations to improve Centre-state relations out of which the Central government has implemented 180 recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission. The most important is the establishment of the Inter-State Council in 1990.
The important recommendations made by Sarkaria Commission regarding Centre-State Relations are mentioned below:
- In accordance with Article 263, a permanent Inter-State Council known as the Inter-Governmental Council should be established.
- Article 356 (President’s Rule) should only be invoked under the most extreme circumstances and as a final resort if all other options have failed.
- The institution of All-India Services should be strengthened further, and other services of this type should be established.
- The residual legislative authority of taxation should remain with the Parliament, while the other residuary powers should be placed in the Concurrent List.
- When the president withholds his assent to the state bills, the reasons should be informed to the state government.
- The National Economic and Development Council (NEDC) should be renamed and reinstituted in its place as the National Development Council (NDC).
- To foster the spirit of federalism, the zonal councils should be reconstituted and revitalized.
- Even without the consent of states, the Centre should have the authority to send its armed forces into action. However, it would be preferable if the states were consulted.
- Before passing a law addressing one of the topics on the Concurrent List, the Centre must consult the states.
- The Constitution itself should lay down the process for consulting the chief minister when appointing a state governor.
- The net proceeds of the corporation tax may be made permissibly shareable with the states.
- As long as the council of ministers has a majority in the assembly, the governor cannot dismiss it.
- Unless there are some exceptionally compelling circumstances, a governor’s five-year governorship should not be disrupted.
- A state minister shall not be the subject of an inquiry unless the Parliament specifically demands it.
- The surcharge on income tax should not be levied by the Centre except for a specific purpose and for a strictly restricted time.
- The Finance Commission and Planning Commission’s current functional division is appropriate and needs to be maintained.
- Measures should be adopted to uniformly implement the three-language formula in line with its original intent.
- No autonomy for radio and television but decentralization in their operations.
- No change in the role of the Rajya Sabha and the Centre’s power to reorganize the states.
- It is important to activate the commissioner for linguistic minorities.
Recommendations of the Commission Regarding the Inter-State Council
- The Council should be given extensive responsibilities covering all of Article 263’s sections (b) and (c). The Council should not be vested with powers of enquiring into and advising upon disputes between the States;
- Without an independent permanent secretariat, the Council won’t be able to build its credibility. The Council’s secretariat should be adequately staffed and should be modeled after the Union Cabinet Secretariat given the type of meetings and the level of participants.
Other Important Recommendations
Other relevant recommendations made by the Sarkaria commission are:
- It strongly implied that Article 370 was not a transitory provision. This appears to have been said in response to “one all-India political organization’ to remove Article 370 “in the interests of national integration.”
- That the enforcement of Union laws, particularly those relating to the concurrent sphere, is secured through the machinery of the states.
- Normally, the Union should only take up that part of a concurrent topic where uniformity of policy and action is essential for the greater good of the country, leaving the rest and the specifics up to state action.
Observations on Administrative Relations
Sarkaria made the following observation:
- Federalism is more a functional arrangement for cooperative action, than a static institutional concept. Article 258 (power of the Union to confer powers etc on states in certain cases) provides a tool by the liberal use of which cooperative federalism can be substantially realized in the working of the system. This mechanism should be used more generously than it has in the past in order to gradually decentralize power to the governments of the states.
- It was advised that Article 356 be used “extremely sparingly, in exceptional circumstances, as a measure of last resort, when all other possibilities fail to prevent or rectify a breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state.
The Commission opposed structural changes and believed that the institutions’ current constitutional provisions and guiding principles were basically sound. However, it focused on the necessity for adjustments to the operational or functional aspects. It noted that federalism is more of a functional arrangement for cooperative action than a static institutional concept.
It is noted that a strong Center is necessary to protect the nation’s unity and integrity, which are being threatened by the body politic’s fissiparous tendencies. It explicitly rejected the call for the powers of the Centre to be reduced. It did not, however, associate a strong center with a concentration of power.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the Indian Constitution combines both federal and unitary principles. It is a Union or composite State of a novel type. It supports the idea that “the national interest should take precedence despite federalism.
Article Written By: Priti Raj