Sarkaria report languishes as Oppn state govts spar with governors

A rudimentary lesson in Indian polity is that ‘India is a federal system with a unitary bias’. Serving as a guideline for governance, this essentially refers to the arrangement of sharing powers between the Union and the states.

Since the system of sharing power is Constitutionally ordained, the state functions as a federal entity; and as the Union retains residuary authority over its own, it is said to have a ‘unitary bias’.

With respect to the balance of powers between the Centre and the states, in the years that followed the Emergency, the Sarkaria Commission was appointed in 1983 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

This three-member commission headed by Justice R.S. Sarkaria reviewed the Centre-state relations, and submitted its report to the serving Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on October 27, 1987.

The relevance of the recommendations of Sarkaria Commission comes to highlight in the wake of the frequent tussles between the state governments and the Centre’s representative there – the Governor.

The Commission’s charter suggested certain changes that lay within the framework of the Constitution. The report came forth with about 247 specific recommendations that spread over 19 chapters.

However, the Commission was with the status-quo in Centre-state relations, especially with respect to legislative matters, role of Governors, and President’s Rule under Article 356. However, it is also widely held that the recommendations were not implemented by the government.

Its recommendations pertaining to the role of the Governor were made in Chapter IV of the report.

It contained suggestions beginning with the qualifications and appointment of the Governor, specifying particularly, that the Governor must be a person from outside the state; he/she must not have participated in active politics for a considerable period of time before the appointment; and they must be detached from local politics of the assigned state.

The Commission held that the Governor’s appointment should be the state’s prerogative, in consultation with the Chief Minister.

In order for smooth functioning of the parliamentary system, there needs to be a rapport and coordination between the Governor and the Chief Minister.

However, as has been the general practice, and as observed by the Commission, the Centre merely informs the concerned Chief Minister of the appointment of its state’s Governor – and sometimes even without even such prior intimation.

The Supreme Court has recurrently emphasised the need to implement the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission for gubernatorial selection and appointment.

(Kavya Dubey can be reached at kavya.d@ians.in)

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