VIIthSchedule of the Indian Constitution
Recently enacted the farm legislations gave rise to serious issues. The Delhi Legislative Assembly passed a resolution, rejecting the three farm laws, which said that the laws should be “repealed” by the Central government.
• The constitutional provisions on the subject of distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States are defined under several articles; the most important in this regard being specifically under Articles 245 & 246.
• Article 245 holds about the distribution of legislative power between the Union and State with respect to the territory.
• While Article 246 read with the VIIth Schedule defines and specifies the allocation of powers and functions between Union and states.
• Union List (List I) contains 97 items and comprises of the subjects which are of national importance and demands uniform laws for the nation.
• State List (List II) contains 66 items and have provisions with respect to the matters relating to local or state interest hence it directly falls within the legislative competence of state legislature.
• Concurrent List (List III) have provisions of the common interests between the centre and the state. Among the 47 items enumerated in the list, all can be legislated by parliament and the state legislature.
• It is mostly reckoned as the twilight zone of the constitution as it allows legislative power to vary from state legislature to parliament based on the importance of the matters.
• Also, in terms of amplification of laws passed by parliament and state legislatures do have the rights to introduce supplementary laws for the same.
• Usually, when a state wants to amend a central law made under one of the items in the concurrent list, it needs the consent of the centre.
• When a state law contradicts a central law on the same subject, the law passed by Parliament prevails.
• Agriculture with all its associated, ancillary and subsidiary enterprises – including education and research, livestock, fisheries, irrigation etc. – is a state subject. ‘Markets and fairs’ are also a state subject (Entry 28 of the state list). Even trade and commerce within a state is also a state subject (Entry 27). However, it is subject to Entry 33 of the concurrent list.It is this Entry 33 of the concurrent list which has been put to use by the centre to bring these farm Bills.
According to experts, recently enacted agriculture laws are a clear infringement on the states’ right to legislate. The main subjects of the three acts are agriculture and market that are essentially state subjects as per the VIIth schedule of the Constitution.
However, the central government finagled its way into the legislation by misconstruing its authority on food items, a subject in the concurrent list, as authority over the subject of agriculture.
However, food items and agricultural products are distinct categories as many agricultural products in their raw forms are not food items and vice versa.
What are the options available with the states?
Article 131 of the Constitution provides exclusive jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to adjudicate matters between the states and the centre.
The competence of the union government to legislate on matters which are fundamentally state subjects is examined by the Supreme Court in the light of known principles of interpretation, judicial precedents and historical background of Entry 33.
In the past, we had witnessed various kinds of responses against central legislations; partaking in the protest demonstrations, passing of resolutions, moving to the Supreme Court, etc. However, none of these responses mark state governments’ constitutional authority. It is in this background that the Congress party’s advice to its state governments to pass state legislations to annul the agriculture acts passed by the centre is significant.
States are planning to take recourse to Article 254 (2) which empowers state governments to pass legislations which negate the central acts in the matters enumerated under the concurrent list.
Can states challenge central laws in Supreme Court under Article 131?
Earlier, Kerala has filed a suit in the Supreme Court seeking to declare the CAA as unconstitutional. Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh has also filed a similar suit, challenging the constitutional validity of the National Investigation Agency Act.
Both have invoked Article 131, which confers exclusive jurisdiction on the top court to adjudicate disputes between two or more States, or between States and the Centre.
There are two conflicting opinions of the Supreme Court on this point. In 2011, State of Madhya Pradesh v. Union of India and Another, the court said: “...when the Central laws can be challenged in the State High Courts as well and also before this Court under Article 32, normally, no recourse can be permitted to challenge the validity of a Central law under the exclusive original jurisdiction of this Court provided under Article 131.”
However, in State of Jharkhand vs. State of Bihar and Another (2014), another Bench said it was unable to accept the view that the constitutionality of a law cannot be raised in a suit under Article 131.
The Rajamannar Committee spurred other states
o to voice their opposition to the Centre’s
o encroachment on subjects that were historically
o under the state’s purview.
According to the Finance Commission, there is a need to fundamentally revisit the VIIth Schedule and have a holistic view. Second, the misuse of Article 282, read with the VIIth Schedule, which says that the central government or the states may make any grant for any scheme or project in public interest.
Punchhi Commission recommended in 2010 that there should be a consultation process between the union and the states via an Interstate Council for legislation on concurrent subjects.
Constitution of a high-powered committee of domain experts who will recognise the contemporary context of technology, global interdependence and changes in our national priorities and recommend amendments to the VIIth schedule.
PEPPER IT WITH
Subordinate legislation, Delegated legislation, Article 256, Article 282