It is widely recognised that the system envisaged by Indias founding fathers in the Constitution which came into force on January 26, 1950 was an unusually centralised one for the Indian Unions size.
At the time, it was justified by citing the fact that India had just become independent after two centuries of colonialism while undergoing a bloody Partition that had killed millions. The country needed the stability of a centralised administration.
Belying this narrative, however, in the decades to follow, India has become even more centralised not less. The most recent example: states now not being allowed to even appoint their own heads of police.
As of now, Maharashtras police force is headed by an interim acting Director General of Police. The reason: it is waiting for the Union Public Services Commission to shortlist the names of three officers. It is only after this, that Maharashtra will be able to pick its own DGP.
This isnt all. Currently, the state of Jharkhand is facing a case of contempt in the Supreme Court for appointing an acting DGP on its own, which the state argued was an outcome of the UPSC not appointing a selection panel.
On September 3, when West Bengal approached the Supreme Court, questioning the authority of the UPSC in being a part of the DGP selection process, the case was summarily dismissed by the Supreme Court.
So why are states not being able to choose who heads their own police forces? And why does the UPSC best known for conducting the civil services exam have a role in selecting police officials at all?
The answer goes back to a far-reaching Supreme Court order from 2006 called the Prakash Singh judgment based on a public interest litigation filed by Prakash Singh, a former Indian Police Services official who served as the DGP of both the Uttar Pradesh Police and the Assam Police. The main thrust of the reforms ordered as a result of the case was to combat the politicisation of the police force under the state government.
Rather than elected ministers having the full power to take decisions such as transfers, postings and dismissals, the court ordered the creation of boards and commissions composed of bureaucrats which would wield that power. Further it curtailed the powers of the government to fire senior officials. The DGP, for example, would now have a fixed tenure of two years.
The most significant change that the judgment brought about, though, was that from now on the UPSC would have a role in the critical job of selecting a states top cop, the director general of police. The Director General of Police of the State shall be selected by the State Government from amongst the three senior-most officers of the Department who have been empanelled for promotion to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission, read the judgment.
However, even after this order was passed, not a lot changed in practice. As the Supreme Court itself noted in 2019, a number of states tweaked their police acts to negate the directions of this Court in Prakash Singh. Maharashtra, for example, amended its laws in 2014 to allow the state government to transfer an officer in exceptional cases, in public interest and on account of administrative exigencies. This was a verbose way to overrule the courts order that the state government should not have the power to transfer police officers.
Even as these earlier issues are to be addressed by the Supreme Court, there are now allegations that the Prakash Singh recommendations have themselves led to further politicisation.
A person familiar with the West Bengal petition to overrule the UPSC shortlisting told Scroll.in that the state feared that the UPSC was taking a very politicised approach to selecting a panel. Bengal has sent three lists to the UPSC in July and August with the body refusing to accept any of them, in turn ordering the state to include specific officers.
Like scores of other political battles, the selection of Bengals DGP is now also being seen through the lens of bitter BJP-Trinamool rivalry.
And Bengal isnt the only opposition state where the UPSC is delaying the process of DGP appointment. It holds for Maharashtra and Jharkhand too. A writ petition filed in March, in fact, argues that the UPSC is in contempt for refusing to do its job of creating a panel from which Jharkhand is to select its DGP. While hearing the case, the Supreme Court pulled up the UPSC for refusing to form Jharkhands panel. UPSC needs an overhaul. I cant say anything more than this, Chief Justice Ramana said.
To make matters worse, awarding a role to the UPSC also ends up contravening Indias federal character, given both public order and the police are part of the state list which means the Indian constitution awards these powers exclusively to the state government.
Following this constitutional scheme, for example, the Indian Police Service cadre rules are quite clear that postings are to be decided only by the state government. The UPSC, on the other hand, is a body whose bureaucrats are appointed by the Union government. There is no constitutional backing for it to have any role in the process.
Similarly, while the duties of the UPSC are delineated in the Constitution, there is little about it taking over the core executive functions of a state government such as deciding the postings of police officers.
Since independence, the powers of the state government have seen a steady erosion with the Union taking over administrative as well as financial powers. If the police force also sees a similar movement, it would deal a significant blow to the practice of federalism.
Many of the concerns that drove the Prakash Singh judgment are real, with the police force in every state being driven by concerns quite extraneous to law and order. However, the fact that things now seem to be worse, derives from the shallow understanding of politicisation that the court adopted, where it seemed to think that transferring power from elected politicians to bureaucrats would depoliticise matters.
If anything, as the functioning of various boards, commissions and now even the UPSC shows, bureaucrats are as amenable to extraneous concerns as elected politicians. The courts assumptions that politics is limited to popular elections seems to be a restricted understanding that does not tally well with how the Indian state works in practice. In fact, the practice of trusting unelected bureaucrats over elected politicians actually works against transparency. The aim should be to give voters more not less control.
Subverting core principles such as federalism for an endeavour that has not led anywhere has ironically meant that the Prakash Singh judgment might have meant well but ended up doing more harm than good.
- What does the federal government do? | ShareAmerica - November 25th, 2021
- Federalism is the answer, after all - Part 57 | The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News Opinion The Guardian Nigeria News Nigeria and... - November 25th, 2021
- Formation of New Regional States Debunks Myth that the Current Gov't is anti-federalism - Mustafa Mohammed - - Walta Information Center - November 25th, 2021
- Nigeria is a federation in name only, and Buhari is unable to change this - The Africa Report - November 25th, 2021
- SZC: Better ties mooted in spirit of federalism - Devdiscourse - November 15th, 2021
- Punjab Assembly passes resolution against Centres BSF order, calls it insult, violation of the spirit of fe - The Statesman - November 15th, 2021
- Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai to other states: Give us our share of water - The New Indian Express - November 15th, 2021
- Federalism is the answer, after all - Part 54 Opinion The Guardian Nigeria News Nigeria and World News - Guardian Nigeria - November 9th, 2021
- SCOTUS Skepticism and the Texas Abortion Law - JURIST - Commentary - Legal News & Commentary - JURIST - November 9th, 2021
- National interest demands a strong, impartial CBI. The loss of trust in the agency among opposition ruled stat - The Times of India Blog - November 9th, 2021
- Leave advocates of true federalism, self-determination alone; face banditry, terrorism, Afenifere tells Buhari - Vanguard - October 3rd, 2021
- Federalism is the answer, after all - part 49 - Guardian - October 3rd, 2021
- The Smart Cities Mission is an assault on cooperative federalism - The News Minute - October 3rd, 2021
- I dont believe in 2023 elections -Afenifere leader Adebanjo - Punch Newspapers - October 3rd, 2021
- Federalism is the answer, after all - Part 48 Opinion The Guardian Nigeria News Nigeria and World News - Guardian - September 24th, 2021
- States rights and the Constitution: What rights do states have? | Opinion - Deseret News - September 24th, 2021
- COVID-19 and Federalism in India: Capturing the Effects of State and Central Responses on Mobility - DocWire News - September 24th, 2021
- Opinion/Conley: RI's noble reasons for resisting the Constitution - The Providence Journal - September 24th, 2021
- Federalism and the Single National Curriculum - Geo News - September 10th, 2021
- Federalism is the answer, after all - Part 46 - Guardian - September 10th, 2021
- What is radical federalism, what would it look like and should Labour back it? - LabourList - September 10th, 2021
- Is the filibuster unconstitutional? | Opinion | murrayledger.com - Murray Ledger and Times - September 10th, 2021
- Federalism is the answer, after all - Part 44 - Guardian - August 28th, 2021
- Some governors are mismanaging COVID and misunderstanding Federalism | TheHill - The Hill - August 28th, 2021
- Formulation of NEP live example of cooperative federalism: Pradhan - Business Standard - August 28th, 2021
- Modis authoritarianism has obliterated precept of federalism as envisaged by founding fathers of Constitution - National Herald - August 28th, 2021
- Just How Long Is the Long Arm of U.S. Jurisdiction? - Bloomberg Law - August 4th, 2021
- The Trump Administration Feuded With State and Local Leaders over Pandemic Response Now the Biden Administr - Governing - August 4th, 2021
- EPA, Army announce next steps for crafting definition of waters of the united states - Water Technology Online - August 4th, 2021
- EPA outlines plan to expand wetland protections - E&E News - August 4th, 2021
- Federalism is the answer, after all - Part 40 Opinion The Guardian Nigeria News Nigeria and World News - Guardian - August 2nd, 2021
- Lawyer Asks N'Assembly to Amend Constitution to Reflect True Federalism - THISDAY Newspapers - August 2nd, 2021
- Puntland turns 23 as it demonstrates a shining example of Somalia's federalism - Garowe Online - August 2nd, 2021
- Gyrgy Schpflin: 'EU Stumbled Up On Its Own Belief System, That More Europe Is The Answer To Everything' Interview - Eurasia Review - August 2nd, 2021
- Gov. Little signs on to pro-life, states' rights amicus brief seeking SCOTUS overrule of Roe v. Wade - Office of the Governor - Governor Brad Little - August 2nd, 2021
- Andrew RT Davies accuses media in Wales of having a 'nationalist agenda' - Nation.Cymru - August 2nd, 2021
- Home - Forum of Federations - July 23rd, 2021
- Federalism upheld, and cooperation - Economic Times - July 23rd, 2021
- Federalism is the answer, after all - Part 39 Opinion The Guardian Nigeria News Nigeria and World News - Guardian - July 23rd, 2021
- Spirit of cooperative federalism is essential for GST to succeed - The Hindu - July 23rd, 2021
- Opinion | Canada's troubles with federalism are hindering progress on vaccine passport - StCatharinesStandard.ca - July 23rd, 2021
- FPJ Edit: It's up to the Centre to live up to its slogan of cooperative federalism and make the new ministry of cooperation a successful agent of... - July 23rd, 2021
- Federalism System - June 30th, 2021
- Federalism in Germany - Wikipedia - June 30th, 2021
- Democracy, Oppn and federalism - Daily Pioneer - June 30th, 2021
- Concepts of Federalism - CliffsNotes - June 30th, 2021
- NYC Ranked Choice Voting Reminds Us Why Federalism Is a Blessing - National Review - June 30th, 2021
- Time for Centre to embrace cooperative federalism for bullet train project? - Economic Times - June 30th, 2021
- Economist Richard Bird was a reservoir of knowledge on public finance - The Indian Express - June 30th, 2021
- Tamil Nadu Governor's speech stresses on state autonomy and federalism - Deccan Herald - June 27th, 2021
- What does the West Bengal chief secretary episode say about India federalism? - The Indian Express - June 24th, 2021
- For civil servants, Alapan Bandyopadhyay case highlights the perils of uncooperative federalism - Scroll.in - June 24th, 2021
- Breakdown of spirit of cooperative federalism at GST Council meetings: Bengal Minister - The Hindu - June 24th, 2021
- One nation, many governments: Why India must embrace federalism - The News Minute - June 24th, 2021
- Federalism is an issue for the whole of the UK - Morning Star Online - June 23rd, 2021
- Tamil Nadu governors address emphasises on state autonomy and federalism - THE WEEK - June 23rd, 2021
- Covid-19 Nepal: Federalism fared badly as politics and pandemic collided. What next? - Online Khabar (English) - June 23rd, 2021
- BJP cites PM Modis Punjab outreach to laud spirit of cooperative federalism - Hindustan Times - June 23rd, 2021
- 2023: True federalism needed to avoid post-election violence - The Nation Newspaper - June 23rd, 2021
- BBC defends failure to include pro-indy voice on EVEL discussion - The National - June 23rd, 2021
- The ABC of 1963 Constitution - NIGERIAN TRIBUNE - June 23rd, 2021
- With BJP in Delhi, states must find ways to regain autonomy - The Indian Express - June 18th, 2021
- Federalism is the answer, after all - Part 34 | The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News Opinion - Guardian - June 18th, 2021
- Only NAssembly can Deal with Issues of Restructuring, Federalism, Says Buhari - THISDAY Newspapers - June 18th, 2021
- An authoritarian regime is assaulting federal principle of Constitution and trampling rights of states - National Herald - June 18th, 2021
- UPU harps on restructuring, true federalism as solution to insecurity - The Nation Newspaper - June 18th, 2021
- Lloyd Omdahl: The United States has outgrown federalism - Grand Forks Herald - June 9th, 2021
- By Upsetting Balance of Federalism, the Centre Is Playing a Dangerous Game - The Wire - June 9th, 2021
- United States has outgrown federalism | Columnists | willistonherald.com - Williston Daily Herald - June 9th, 2021
- Farmers Observe Unity in Federalism - The Citizen - June 9th, 2021
- Authoritarianism and its fragile blend with federalism in the Horn of Africa - Capital FM Kenya - June 9th, 2021
- Has the CPI(M) Forgotten its Strong Federal Roots? - The Wire - June 9th, 2021
- Centre's Tussle With Bengal Over Chief Secretary Reeks of Uncooperative Federalism - The Wire - June 6th, 2021
- How West Bengal CM and chief secretary have undermined federalism - The Indian Express - June 6th, 2021
- A problem called fiery federalism - The Times of India Blog - June 6th, 2021
- Federalism is the answer, after all - Part 32 Opinion The Guardian Nigeria News Nigeria and World News - Guardian - June 6th, 2021
- Cooperative federalism in Covid: Keralas Vijayan writes to non-BJP CMs - Business Standard - June 6th, 2021
- PM Modis discomfort with non-BJP CMs is hurting the very concept of cooperative federalism - National Herald - June 6th, 2021
- Federalism, LG Autonomy Top Demands at Constitution Review Hearings - THISDAY Newspapers - June 6th, 2021
- Federalism is the answer, after all - Part 30 - Guardian - May 20th, 2021