Centre’s Control Over State Legislation


The constitutional framework and the division of powers between the central government and the state governments in India define the control of the central government (commonly referred to as the Union government) over state laws. The balance between the central government‘s authority and the state governments’ autonomy is ensured by this power split. In India, the central government has the following general authority over state laws:

Constitutional Framework

The 1950 Indian Constitution clearly delineates the legislative authority of the Union government and the state governments. The Constitution‘s Seventh Schedule lays out this divide by classifying issues into the Union List, the State List, and the Concurrent List.

  1. Union List (List I): This list comprises topics that can only be regulated by the federal government. Defense, international relations, atomic energy, and interstate trade and commerce are a few examples. Legislation on these topics cannot be passed by state legislatures.
  2. State List (List II): This list contains topics that fall under the exclusive purview of state legislatures. Police, public health, agriculture, and municipal government are a few examples. On these issues, the central government cannot pass legislation.
  3. Concurrent List (List III): Both the federal government and the state governments may enact laws on the topics in this list. Criminal law, marriage and divorce, education, and forests are a few of these topics. When a central law and a state law on the same subject dispute, the central law takes precedence.

Residuary Powers

The Constitution gives the federal government residuary powers. These are things that none of the three lists directly address. The federal government has authority over any issue that hasn’t been specifically delegated to the states or the concurrent list. This guarantees that there is never a legislative gap.

Approval and Assent

The federal government occasionally uses the approval and assent processes to exert control over state laws. For instance:

  • Bills enacted by state legislatures must first gain the President of India’s assent in order to become law in all states having legislative assembly (apart from union territories without legislatures). If a bill is believed to be unconstitutional or not in line with the policies of the federal government, the President may withdraw his or her approval.
  • Bills passed by legislative councils in states with legislative councils must obtain the governor’s assent in order to become law. The Governor has similar authority as the President to withhold assent in specific situations.

Emergency Provisions

The President has the authority to seize control of state legislative authority in the case of a constitutional emergency. According to Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, the President may declare a state of emergency if a state violates constitutional requirements or behaves in a way that impairs state government. The state government is subject to removal during this time, and the federal government exerts great control over the state’s legislative authority.

Concurrent Subjects and Central Law

While states may enact laws relating to concurrent issues, federal law on these issues takes precedence in the event of a disagreement. This guarantees consistency in some important areas while enabling states to establish laws that are appropriate for their own circumstances.

Administrative Control

The federal government uses administrative controls to influence state legislation. For instance, it offers financial support to states for various programs and initiatives, and receiving this support may be contingent upon states complying with particular statutory requirements.

If a state law is contested in court and found to be unconstitutional or in contradiction with federal law, the courts have the authority to declare the state law invalid. The judiciary is essential to preserving the constitutional separation of powers between federal and state legislatures.

Cooperative Federalism:

India also employs cooperative federalism, even though the Constitution specifies the division of powers between the federal governments and state governments. This implies that both governmental levels cooperate, delegate authority, and cooperate to address problems at the federal and state levels. To identify common ground and create policies and legislation, the federal and state governments frequently engage in conversations and negotiations.


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