Combative Federalism in India – UPSC GS2

What is Cooperative Federalism?
  • Cooperative Federalism in India reflects an ideology of a stable relationship between the centre and other units.
  • Cooperative federalism means cooperation and interdependence between the Centre and the States to ensure smooth governance of the country.
  • It guides all the governing bodies to come forward and cooperate to resolve common social, political, economic and civic problems.
Shift from Cooperative to Combative federalism
  • The term ‘combative federalism’ was used by a former Uttarakhand Chief Minister after his government was dismissed under Article 356.
  • The shift of Indian federalism from cooperative to combative has been one of the major changes in Indian polity recently.
Instances of control by the Centre over states (Combative federalism):
  • Misuse of office of Governor:
    • In 2016, the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh decided to advance the Assembly elections, leading to political turmoil in the State and then President’s Rule was sanctioned. The Supreme Court intervened and held that the Governor’s discretion did not extend to the powers conferred under Article 174.
    • In Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra, the Governor acted beyond his constitutional directions by inviting parties that did not have the adequate majority to form the governments.
    • In Rajasthan, the Governor refused to summon a session as desired by the Council of Ministers.
    • Dispute between the centre and the Delhi government over who should have control of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
  • Tussle over All-India Services:
    • The conflict was seen in West Bengal when the Chief Secretary was summoned to Delhi immediately after the Prime Minister’s visit to West Bengal following Cyclone Yaas. West Bengal Chief Minister was reluctant to accede to the Centre’s demand.
    • The proposed amendments to the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules of 1954 are being opposed by states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.
  • Deployment of central investigative agencies
    • The investigations by the Customs, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in issues arising from a gold-smuggling case in Kerala saw a major tussle between State and the Centre
    • Registration of an FIR by the CBI for alleged infractions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act that said that the Kerala government had received foreign contributions from the United Arab Emirates for a housing project also resulted in a face-off between Centre and State.
    • Recent events in West Bengal and Maharashtra also have impacted the federal structure.
    • Various States have withdrawn the general consent for the functioning of the CBI in their respective jurisdictions.
Court’s View:
  • The Supreme Court in Government of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India (2018) held that the idea behind the concept of collaborative federalism is negotiation and coordination so that differences that may arise between the Centre and the State can be resolved.
  • The Supreme Court in Ajit Mohan v. Legislative Assembly, National Capital Territory of Delhi & Ors (2021) suggested that “for the system to work well, the Central Government and the State Government have to walk hand in hand or at least walk side by side for better governance.”
The framers of the Constitution incorporated federal principles to establish a sense of cooperation between the Central and the State governments. Encroachment by either of the units is strictly against the Constitution. Hence both the Centre and the States have to strive to work in coordination in the best interests of the people.
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