Territorial Extent of Central and State Legislation


An important component of India’s legal system, encompassing both the federal government and individual state governments, is the territorial scope of law. It establishes the geographic reach and applicability of the laws that these bodies pass. The Indian Constitution, which establishes a distinct division of legislative authority between the national government and the state governments, governs this idea. We’ll talk about how far-reaching national and state laws are in India in this debate.

Constitutional Foundation

The 1950 Indian Constitution provides a federal system with a separation of authority between the Union government and the state governments. The Union List, the State List, and the Concurrent List are the three lists that make up the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, which contains these authorities.

  • Union List (List I): This list comprises topics that can only be regulated by the federal government. These include interstate trade and business, atomic energy, foreign policy, and the military.
  • State List (List II): This list contains topics that can only be regulated by state governments. Police, public health, agriculture, and municipal government are a few examples.
  • 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.

The Territorial Reach of Central Law

Unless otherwise stated, central law adopted by the Indian Parliament is applicable uniformly throughout the entire nation. On matters on the Union List, which apply to all the states and union territories, the Parliament has the power to enact laws. All states are required to follow these laws, and no state may choose to do otherwise.

Concurrent List topics may also be covered by central legislation. When a central law and a state law on the same subject dispute, the central law takes precedence.

However, if it thinks it necessary, the Parliament may pass legislation pertaining to particular states or union territories. Common names for these include “special laws” and “territorial legislation.” Before the repeal of Article 370 in August 2019, for instance, legislation governing the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir sometimes differed from those that applied to other states and union territories.

It’s crucial to remember that the Constitution of India gives the President the authority to occasionally issue decrees to ensure the effective government of specific regions known as “Scheduled Areas” and “Tribal Areas.” particular orders have the power to alter how federal and state laws are applied in particular circumstances.

The Territorial Scope of State Law

State laws passed by state legislatures are only valid inside their respective states’ borders. Except in situations when there is a disagreement with a central legislation, the State List and Concurrent List are the sole legislative domains of the state governments.

Different states may have different state laws, which might result in different rules and regulations. Each state, for instance, has its own police force and criminal statutes, which may vary in various ways.

On the other hand, when it comes to laws on related issues, if a state law conflicts with a federal statute on the same issue, the federal law takes precedence and the state law is nullified to the degree of the conflict.

Territorial Extent of Laws in Union Territories:

Union territories in India can have different types of legislatures:

  • Some union territories have independent legislatures and governments that resemble those found in states. State law and federal law both apply in certain circumstances, as they do to states.
  • Other union territories, particularly the smaller ones, are run by the federal government directly. In these circumstances, laws passed by the Parliament are directly applicable without a state legislature’s involvement.

Special laws’ territorial reach

  • In some circumstances, a state or union territory may implement special laws that are only applicable to specified regions or territories. These laws deal with particular problems or situations in those places.
  • For instance, several Indian states have district- or region-specific rules governing property ownership and tenancy. It’s possible that these laws don’t apply equally throughout the state.

Territorial Extent in Scheduled and Tribal Areas:

  • According to the Constitution, Scheduled Areas are particular tribal areas that are subject to certain constitutional protections. The President may amend applicable laws in certain regions, including federal and state laws, through Scheduled Area Orders.
  • Similar to this, Tribal Areas have unique rules for government and regulations, as stated in the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule. Laws in these regions may also be subject to local adjustments based on tribal customs and traditions.


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