UPSC Mains General Studies Paper – 2 Mains 2020Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions, and basic structure
Structure of the Question
- In the Introduction,
- Try to mention the centralizing tendencies of the Constitution.
- In Body,
- Discuss the centralizing tendencies with respect to the:
- Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
- The Disaster Management Act, 2005
- Farm Acts
- Discuss the centralizing tendencies with respect to the:
- In Conclusion,
- Try to discuss the Importance of a Strong Union.
The most salient aspect of a federal form of government is that the governments at both the national and the state level function in their respective jurisdictions with considerable independence from one another. During the Constituent Assembly debates, the prominent members of the assembly asserted a stronger Union government necessary for India’s survival and political stability, given its vast diversity. The Indian Constitution has an inherent bias for the Union government as the central government is the superior authority to the states in various ways.
Centralizing Tendencies of the Constitution
Sir Ivor Jennings believed India to be a “federation with strong centralizing tendencies”. The Indian Constitution exhibits centralizing tendencies for maintaining unity and integrity of the nation:
Union of States
Article 1 in the Constitution states that India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States; an indestructible Union of destructible States.
More Subjects in Union List
The Union list contains more subjects than the State list and in case of a deadlock between the Union and States over subjects in the concurrent list, the Union law prevails. Further, the residual powers rest with the Union.
Provisions of Constitution
Centralization is also evident by the provisions like All India Public Services, single citizenship, etc.
Speaker not being an Apolitical entity
Speaker is appointed from the party/coalition enjoying the majority in the lower house. Thus, one continues to hold the party affiliation even after appointment to the post. This often leads to subjective interpretation of issues rather than objectivity needed in a parliamentary democracy.
Recently, the centralizing nature of union has been evident in dealing with Covid-19 pandemic and also in reforming the agricultural sector:
Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
- The Epidemic Diseases Bill was tabled on January 28, 1897, during an outbreak of bubonic plague in Mumbai (then Bombay).
- The Epidemic Diseases Act aims to provide for the better prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.
- Under the act, temporary provisions or regulations can be made to be observed by the public to tackle or prevent the outbreak of a disease.
- Health is a State subject, but by invoking Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, advisories and directions of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare will be enforceable.
- Powers to Central Government: Section 2A of the Act empowers the central government to take steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic. It allows the government to inspect any ship arriving or leaving any post and the power to detain any person intending to sail or arriving in the country.
- The Central government has so far followed a mostly top-down approach in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic with directing the State governments to diligently enforce every new set of guidelines which included taking steps for inspecting and detaining persons traveling out of or into the country during the epidemic.
- Recent Changes in the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897: Recently, the Cabinet amended the Act through an ordinance stating that commission or abetment of acts of violence against healthcare service personnel shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh. In case of causing grievous hurt, imprisonment shall be for a term of six months to seven years and a fine of Rs1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.
The Disaster Management Act, 2005
- It was enacted by the Union under the residual powers. The Act proved to be instrumental in combat against the COVID-19 though ‘Public health and sanitation’ is a subject under Entry 6 of State list.
- Under the Act, irrespective of any law in force, the Center can issue any directions to any authority anywhere in India to facilitate or assist in disaster management.
- Major agricultural market reforms have been introduced by central government through three acts:
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020
- The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
- The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020
- These have been enacted under Entry 33 of Concurrent List which deals with trade and commerce, and production and supply of foodstuffs – an issue that holds enormous importance for enhancement of farm income.
- But these farm laws are important as they are the biggest agricultural reforms ensuring market choice, encouraging entrepreneurship, access to technology and resulting in structural transformation of agriculture.
According to K.C. Wheare, in practice, the Constitution of India is quasi-federal in nature and not strictly federal. It is a union or a composite of a novel type. Indian Federalism is unique in nature i.e., ‘federation with a centralizing tendency’ which is tailored according to the specific needs of the country. Thus, a strong Union seems essential for coordinating vital matters of common concern and ensuring peace. Moreover, though there are some centralising tendencies, there also exists some highly federal features like dual polity and bicameral structure of the parliament.
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