-By ShrutiShrivastava (Assistant Professor – Law)

In India Cooperative federalism can be attributed to Constitutional as well as non-constitutional mechanisms. Cooperative federalism is thus, constitutionally recognised in our country. Even the apex court has recognised the same in State of Rajasthan v. U.O.I.[1],wherein it opined that constitution recognizes cooperative federalism in India.

Roots of Cooperative federalism and its development

This can be traced to various features of Indian Constitution including the scheme of distribution of powers as given under Schedule VII of Constitution i.e. based on principle of subsidiarity. Further Parliament can legislate in state list with state’s consent for such legislation. The devolution of executive power also shows interdependence of Union and States as Article 73 read with Article 162 establishes that central laws in concurrent list are made to be implemented by states. Further, parliament can provide for amicable adjudication of inter-state water disputes under Article 262 Thus, inter-state water-dispute tribunal has been established. Similarly Article 263 provides for creation of Inter-state councils for inquiring and advising on inter-state disputes and on subjects of common interests. In order to ensure fair devolution of funds, Article 280 mandates appointment of an independent finance commission after every five years to prescribe the principles for devolution of revenue receipts between centre and state.

A notable addition to original constitution is institutionalization of local self-governance in the country via 72nd and 73rd Constitutional Amendment Actswhich led to greater decentralization of powers via establishment of Panchayati Raj in villages and ignites the spirit of co-operative federalism at local level. Besides constitutional framework, Zonal councils (North, South, East, West, Central and North Eastern under North Eastern Council Act, 1971) were also established under the State Reorganization Act, 1956 and consist of members from geographically proximate states and UTs which facilitates discussion on areas like common economic interests, interstate-transport, border issues, etc. Thus, these are advisory bodies that aim at ensuring cooperation between the states by proposing joint actions. Other councils like in areas of Health, Local and urban development has also been established on similar lines.[2]



Recent government initiatives to foster cooperative federalism

Recently, the Modi led governmenti.e. in regime has taken drastic steps to ignite cooperative federalism in the country and strengthen states. These are as followed[3]:-

  • NitiAayog:NitiAayog that replaced the erstwhile unitary Planning Commission was established in 2014 with the aim to ensure greater state participation in framing of developmental policies. Its governing council consists of CMs of all states and Lt. Governors of union territories. It also provides for creation of what can be called as sub-councils between CMs of states to address regional problems or common issues. NitiAayog is thus, an all inclusive body and based on bottoms up approach.
  • Goods and Service Taxes: The introduction of GST via 101st Constitutional Amendment Act, 2016 was aimed at making centre and state equal partners in sharing indirect taxes. The membership of GST council established under Article 279A is inclusive as it comprises of union ministers of finance and taxation along with state ministers. This council takes decisions on matters like percentage of taxes to be levied, categorization of goods into various tax-slabs, etc. It is pertinent to note that in the first meetings of GST, all decisions were taken on the basis of consensus, this shows spirit of cooperation. Institutionally speaking, GST is a good example of cooperative federalism.[4]
  • Centre-state joint ventures:Such partnerships have gained popularity in areas like development and monitoring projects like construction of railways, roads, etc. For instance, Ministry of Railway enters forms joint venture companies with state government with the later having majority shareholding, thereby pointing towards coordination in developmental activities.[5]

Therefore , it can be rightly said that the spirit of cooperative federalism has been entrenched in our Constitutional framework by the members of Constituent Assembly. This spirit has been rekindled time and again by Constitutional Amendments and other extra Constitutional mechanisms.

[1]1977 AIR 1361.

[2] M.P. Jain, I Indian Constitutional Law, (Lexis Nexis, New Delhi, 2018).

[3]Astha Saxena & Saloni Modi, “Cooperative and Competitive Fedralism: Relevance in India’s current scenario”, 3 South Asian Law Review Journal (2017).

[4] Benny Joseph, “The efficacy of competitive and cooperative federalism in India and its implications”, 6 International Journal of Creative Research Thoughts (2018).

[5] (last accessed November 22, 2021).

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