13/5/2020 : The Hindu Editorials : Mains Sure Shot 


Q- Under what circumstances centre government impose emergency. Discuss in the context of Disaster Management Act, 2005?


  • The central government’s guidelines to the state governments over the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Federal structure:

  • Federalism signifies the independence of the Union and State governments of a country, in their own spheres.
  • Under the Indian scheme of federalism, there is division of powers between the central and state governments.

The 7th schedule:

  • The 7th Schedule of the Indian Constitution contains three lists these are Union list, State list and Concurrent list.
  • Parliament can legislate on matters under the Union List, State legislatures can legislate on matters under the State List and both Parliament and State legislatures can legislate on matters under the Concurrent List.
  • All the matters that are not listed in any of the above list that are comes under Parliament’s residuary power to legislate.
  • As per Articles 73 and 162, the executive power of the Centre and the States is co-extensive with their respective legislative powers, which means that the Central and State governments can only take executive actions in matters where Parliament and State legislatures, respectively, have powers to legislate.

The concept of Harmonious Construction:

  • It was laid down by the Supreme Court in a number of judgments, including in Godfrey Phillips v. State of U.P. & Ors (2005).
  • The judgment notes that the entries in the legislative lists must be interpreted harmoniously, and in the event of any overlap between two or more entries, the specific subject matter contained in a particular entry must be deemed to have been excluded from another entry which may deal with a more general subject matter.


  • The Central government has been issuing guidelines to the state governments. The guidelines contain varying restrictions on public activity and commerce which the States are expected to enforce.
  • Under the Disaster Management Act of 2005, the Centre has been issuing guidelines.
    • The Act allows the Centre to issue guidelines, directions or orders to the States for mitigating the effects of any disaster.
  • The Centre has directed the State governments to strictly enforce the set of guidelines, with the States only being allowed to increase and not dilute the restrictions.


Major Concerns:

  • The current approach seems to be counterproductive, putting the federal structure of India under strain, and seems to be an overreach of powers by the Central government.

Top down approach of the centre government:

  • The Central government has so far followed a mostly top-down approach in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. There seems to be very limited consultation with the states with respect to policy formulation.


  • Though a national level coordination and collaborative effort is necessary, the one size fits all approach seems to be having counterproductive results.
    • The Central government, in its latest guidelines, has classified all districts in the country as red, orange or green zones in a bid to lift lockdown restrictions in an area-specific manner.
    • Some States/Union Territories objected to this classification, because of low economic activities in all districts where cases are in small portion. They have called for micro zonation of hotspots beyond the district levels.
    • Kerala has performed well in the pandemic and is in a position to relax the existing guidelines but the Central government has asked Kerala to refrain from relaxing restrictions in the State. This move seems to be questioning the wisdom and judgment of the State government which has a better understanding of the ground conditions.

Division of powers:

  • The Supreme Court has held time and again that federalism is a basic feature of the Constitution and stated that although the Union enjoys many more powers than States, the States are still sovereign.
  • Reasonable and effective division of powers is the bedrock of a federal structure. This aspect seems to be under threat due to the government’s recent moves.

Disaster Management Act:

  • Disaster management does not find mention in either State list or Concurrent list, nor does any particular entry in Union list specifically deal with this.
  • Thus, the Disaster Management Act could only have been enacted by Parliament in exercise of its residuary powers of legislation.
  • ‘Public health and sanitation’ is a specific field of legislation under the State list that imply States exclusive right to legislate and act on matters concerning public health.

Criticism about the act:

  • Thus the act cannot be applied to pandemics to give power to legislate on public health because it is vested specifically and exclusively with the States.
  • The Centre’s guidelines and directions to the States for dealing with the pandemic entrench upon the state’s power to legislate and take executive action in the field of public health and hence terms it unconstitutional.
  • It is unconstitutional because states are more powerful in public health to take executive decisions.

Steps need to be take:

Prevention of inter-State spread of contagious and infectious diseases:

  • The a view Disaster Management Act is concerned with disasters in general and not pandemics in particular.
  • Prevention of inter-State spread of contagious and infectious diseases’ falls under the Concurrent list, wherein both Parliament and State legislatures are competent to legislate on related matters.
  • ‘Prevention of inter-State spread of contagious and infectious diseases’ being a specific legislative head provided in the Concurrent list, the same must be deemed to have been excluded from Parliament’s residuary legislative powers.
  • Therefore, the Disaster Management Act, which has been enacted under Parliament’s residuary legislative powers, cannot be applied to the prevention of inter-State spread of contagious and infectious diseases based on the principle of harmonious construction.


Negligence of existing laws:

  • The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, has the specific objective of preventing the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.
    • Under this Act, the State governments have the prerogative to take appropriate measures for arresting the outbreak or spread of a contagious or infectious disease in their respective States.
    •  The Central government’s powers are limited to taking measures for inspecting and detaining persons travelling out of or into the country.
    • Under this Act, the Central Government is not empowered to issue directions to the States to contain the pandemic within the State, but it can only deal with inter-State spread of the disease.
  • The Central Government’s resorting to the Disaster Management Act instead of the Epidemic Diseases Act has enabled the central government to ride roughshod over State governments.


Fodder points:

  • While taking any decisions centre and states approach should be harmonious and cooperative
  • Due to pandemic both centre and states’s economic condition is not good, centre can generate the resources but states are depended on the centre’s financial help and state’s own economic activities.
  • All states conditions are not just the same it should be considered.
  • After proper assessment by states, centre have to make goidelines.
  • Public health and security is collective responsibility of both centre n state thus both are responsible authorities so collaborative and cooperative harmonious work is need of the time.


  1. Due to the Pandemic COVID-19 the relations of centre and states are matter of concern. Justify?


  • The strain on the principle of federalism due to the current circumstances in India.


Cooperative federalism:

    • In a traditional sense, federalism signifies the independence of the Union and State governments of a country, in their own spheres.
    • Cooperative federalism essentially is defined as the administrative cooperation between the Centre and the States, and a partial dependence of the States upon payments from the Centre.

Indian cooperative federalism:

  • While framing the Indian Constitution, the Constituent Assembly carefully studied the constitutions of other federations like the U.S., Canada, Australia and Switzerland and adopted a ‘pick and choose’ policy to formulate a system suited uniquely to India’s need.
  • As a result, India’s Constituent Assembly became the first-ever constituent body in the world to embrace what has been referred to as ‘cooperative federalism’.
    • Cooperative federalism essentially is defined as the administrative cooperation between the Centre and the States, and a partial dependence of the States upon payments from the Centre.
    • Despite a strong Centre, cooperative federalism doesn’t necessarily result in weaker States.

Major Concerns:

  • The current circumstances under the pandemic crisis have severely strained the principle of federalism in India.
  • States demanded more autonomy in making zones classifications.
  • Lack of consultation:
  • Despite State consultation being a legislative mandate cast upon the Centre under the Disaster Management Act of 2005, there has been minimal consultation with the states and the guidelines issued so far have been mostly based on a top down approach.
    • The Disaster Management Act of 2005 envisages the creation of a ‘National Plan’ as well as issuance of binding guidelines by the Centre to States in furtherance of the ‘National Plan’. The Act mandates State consultations before formulating a ‘National Plan’, so that the binding guidelines issued under it, also represent the views of the States.
  • The Centre has not formulated a ‘National Plan’, and has chosen instead to respond to COVID-19 through ad hoc binding guidelines issued to States, thereby circumventing the legislative mandate of State consultations


  • Top-bottom approach/Centralized decision making:
    • The Centre has directed the State governments to strictly enforce the set of guidelines, prohibiting the States from lowering the Centre’s classifications. The selective application of the Act serves to concentrate all decision-making powers with the Centre.
  • Lack of funds:
    • The states are facing a huge financial burden:
    • Corporations donating to PM-CARES can avail CSR exemptions, whereas such provisions are not available for the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. This disincentivizes donations to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and diverts crores in potential State revenues to PM-CARES and thus, makes the States largely dependent upon the Centre.
    • The revenue streams of several States have dried up because of the liquor sale ban, negligible sale of petrol/diesel, temporary halt of land dealings and registration of agreements.
    • States’ GST collections have been severely affected with their dues still not disbursed by the Centre.
  • This is a major concern given the fact that States act as the first responders to the pandemic, and supplying them with adequate funds is essential for effectively tackling the crisis.


  • Centre did not formulated any national plan to take over situation,
  • States condition is varies according to the situations,
  • Constitutional values are always at peak,
  • Harmony with proper assessment should be done.



  • The progress of the Indian Republic rests upon active cooperation between the states and the centre. Similarly, India’s success in defeating COVID-19 actively rests upon Centre-State collaboration.
  • The Centre needs to view the States as equals, and strengthen their capabilities, instead of increasing their dependence upon itself.










Perilous state


  1. In what ways Centre- State relation’s affect the national interest of India? What are the responsibilities of the centre to look over states as guardian?


  • State government’s precarious financial condition. The slowdown economy of states is a matter of concern.

Primary Causes:

  • The COVID-19-induced lockdown has severely affected State finances in the following ways.
    • The state’s revenue sources from liquor sales, stamp duty from property transactions and sales tax on petroleum products, which account for almost half the total revenues, have collapsed.
    • The state’s expenditure on interest payments, social sector schemes and staff salaries remain unchanged.
    • The states are having to spend more on strengthening their health infrastructure and on COVID-19 measures, including testing, treatment and quarantining.

Worrying developments:

  • Given the state of finances, some States have gone ahead and cut salaries of their employees and pension benefits to rein in expenses.
  • Even the traditionally well performing states such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, are now requesting for funding support from the Centre and relaxation in borrowing rules by the RBI.
  • Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, looking for revenue sources commenced liquor sales with outlets flouting all physical distancing norms. The fear is that this could seed fresh infections.

Way Ahead:

The Central government’s role:

  • The burden is on the Centre to find the resources to immediately release the dues of the States and also reimburse them for their COVID-19-related expenses.
  • Though the Centre itself is not in a comfortable financial condition, the centre at least has the means to replenish its finances through conventional and unconventional means.
    • The centre has been able to appropriate the benefits of falling oil prices through increase in duties.
    • The centre has also recently announced an increase in its borrowing by half for the current fiscal.

More leeway for states:

  • There is a need to relax the fiscal deficit levels of the States from the current 3% level to at least 4.5%. The States should be allowed to borrow more.
  • The Centre should give States the freedom to restart economic activity based on their own assessment. Greater leeway in restarting economic activity will relieve some of the financial stress, not just on the States but also on the Centre.










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