Distribution of Legislative Powers

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The distribution of legislative powers between the Centre and the States is a key feature of India’s federal system of governance.  Legislative power refers to the authority to create, amend and enforce laws by government officials. 

The process of legislation is crucial to address any unusual issues or chaos in a region and maintain order for the protection of people. In India, the Constitution divides legislative power between the Union and the States to facilitate the governance process.

Relationship Between the Union and the States

The relationship between the Union and the States is based on the division of power between these governing bodies. 

This division is categorised into three types: legislative relations, administrative relations and financial relations. 

The Constitution of India outlines these relationships in Articles 245 to 255 for legislative relations, Articles 256 to 263 for administrative relations and Articles 268 to 293 for financial relations.

Distribution of Legislative Powers

The distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States is based on the Government of India Act, 1935, which was also followed in the Constitution of India. The legislative relations distribute the power of lawmaking and governance between the Union and the States. The Constitution of India makes a two-fold distribution of legislative powers:

  • With respect to the territory
  • With respect to the subject matter of legislation, which is divided into three lists.

Thus, the Constitution of India outlines the distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States for effective governance.

Territorial Legislative Jurisdiction [Art. 245]

Article 245 of the Indian Constitution defines the territorial limits of legislative powers. It states that Parliament may make laws for the entire or any part of the territory of India and a State Legislature may make laws for the territory of that State. 

The article also mentions that no law made by Parliament is invalid on the ground that it would have an extra-territorial operation or takes effect outside the territory of India. This is one of the manners of distribution of legislative powers in India.

Theory of Territorial Nexus

The doctrine of territorial nexus is deeply rooted in Indian laws, even before the commencement of the Constitution in 1950. The Government of India Act, 1935, recognised that the laws of the Union and the States are enforceable in the territory of India and the State, respectively. However, this generalisation is subject to the exception of the doctrine of territorial nexus.

In the post-Constitution era, Article 245 has made the doctrine of territorial nexus a part of the scheme of distribution of legislative powers under the Constitution. The article provides that a State legislature may make laws for the territory of that State, but cannot make extra-territorial laws unless there is a sufficient connection or nexus between the State and the subject matter of legislation.

Examples of Territorial Nexus

The case laws dealing with territorial nexus as the basis for the distribution of legislative powers are:

The case of A.H. Wadia v. CIT AIR 1947 FC 18 established that the State legislature cannot make extra-territorial laws unless there is a sufficient connection or nexus between the State and the object or subject matter of legislation.

In the case of Wallace Bros v. CIT, Bombay (AIR 1948 PC 118), the Court held that a company registered in England, which was a partner in a firm in India, had a sufficient territorial connection to justify it being treated as at home in India for all purposes of the tax on its income since the major part of its income was derived from British India for a year.

In the case of State of Bombay v. R.M.D.C. (AIR 1957 SC 699), the Bombay State levied a tax on lotteries and prize competitions in the State and extended the tax to a newspaper printed and published in Bangalore but widely circulated in Bombay. The Court held that a sufficient territorial nexus existed for the State of Bombay to tax the newspaper as all activities which the competitor was to undertake took place mostly in Bombay.

Extra-territorial Operation of Parliamentary Law

Extra-territorial legislation refers to legislation that attaches significance for courts within the jurisdiction to facts and events occurring outside the jurisdiction, according to Prof. Wheare. Art. 245(2) states that the Parliament can make laws that have an extra-territorial operation, which means they take effect outside the territory of India. 

This implies that Parliamentary law will cover persons and their property anywhere in the world and may not be recognised by foreign courts or may offend international law. 

The Supreme Court held in A.H. Wadia v. I.T. Commr., Bombay (AIR 1949 FC 18) that the issue of the extraterritoriality of any enactment cannot be raised in the municipal court as a ground for challenging its validity, since it is a question of policy with which domestic tribunals are concerned.

However, in Electronics Corpn., India v. C.I.T. (AIR 1989 SC 1707), the Supreme Court observed that a law with extra-territorial operation can be enacted by Parliament, but it must have a nexus with something in India. The Court stated that it is inconceivable that a law made by Parliament in India has no relationship with anything in India. Parliament’s sovereign power to make laws with extra-territorial operation must respect the sovereignty of other states and therefore, provocation for the law must be found within India itself.

Distribution Of Legislative Subjects [Art. 246]

Article 246 of the Indian Constitution specifies the distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States. 

According to this provision, Parliament has exclusive power to make laws with respect to any of the matters enumerated in the Union List, while both Parliament and the State legislatures have the power to make laws with respect to matters enumerated in the Concurrent List. 

The State legislature has exclusive power to make laws for the State with respect to any of the matters enumerated in the State List. However, there is a predominance of the Union Parliament in matters of legislative law-making.

Autonomy to Centre and States (Legislative Powers)

In Javed v. State of Haryana, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, which disqualified a person from holding the office of Sarpanch or a Panch of a Gram Panchayat, etc. if he had more than two living children, although a similar provision was not found to have been enacted by the Parliament or other State Legislatures.

The court ruled that the Constitution gives autonomy to the Centre and the States within their respective fields of legislation. A piece of legislation enacted by one State cannot be considered discriminatory against its citizens simply because the Parliament or the Legislatures of other States have not chosen to enact similar laws. It is not permissible to compare a piece of legislation enacted by a State with the provisions of another law, even if it is similar, but enacted by Parliament or by another State Legislature.

The Supreme Court, in State of M.P. v. G.C. Mandawar, held that two laws enacted by two different governments and by two different Legislatures could not be read in conjunction or by comparison for the purpose of finding out if they were discriminatory.

Conclusion

The Constitution provides for a two-fold distribution of legislative powers among the Parliament and State legislatures based on the territorial aspects and subject matters, with exclusive powers given to each in certain areas and concurrent powers in others. 

While the Constitution grants autonomy to the Centre and the States in their respective fields, it also ensures that there is no discrimination against citizens of any State based on the absence of similar laws in other States or by the Parliament. This distribution of legislative powers ensures a balance between the needs of a unified nation and the autonomy of its constituent states.


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