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Day 8 – Q 2.Has the division of subjects into centre, state and concurrent lists served its objective? Are there any challenges pertaining to the division of subjects? Critically examine.

2. Has the division of subjects into centre, state and concurrent lists served its objective? Are there any challenges pertaining to the division of subjects? Critically examine. 

क्या केंद्र, राज्य और समवर्ती सूचियों में विषयों का विभाजन अपने उद्देश्य की पूर्ति करता है? क्या विषयों के विभाजन से संबंधित कोई चुनौतियां हैं? समालोचनात्मक जांच करें।


The 7th schedule of the Indian Constitution having 3 lists is formulated to ensure the federal character of Indian polity. The division has been helpful in demarcation of subjects and fixing responsibility for lapses in administration.


Serving its purpose: 

  • Accountability: the lists have demarcated the functions and thus help in holding the state/Centre government answerable. E.g. imposition of president rule in UP after Babri masjid incident. 
  • International relations and communications: UNO, foreign affairs etc., are subjects in Centre list and hence decisions are taken with uniformity and certainty. E.g. Ex-UN secretary Kofi annan noted Indian foreign policy as stable and credible.
  • External security: central government being responsible has been fairly successful in taking timely decisions with necessary force whenever required. E.g. any delays during war time causes set back. Quick decision taken during Kargil was possible only because the defence was entirely with the Centre.
  • Uniformity in Administration: subjects like trade and commerce, Banking, regulation of mines, labor etc., ensure uniformity. E.g. uniform interest rate in banks, labour costs etc., ensure that every state is competent in the sphere of economic attraction.
  • Principle of subsidiarity: subjects like public order, police are best administered at states and are present in state list. 
  • Contextual relevance: subjects in concurrent list like Agriculture, criminal law, forests, wildlife protection etc., needs uniformity but with contextual flexibility and hence being in concurrent list, states can decide on features based on ground reality.

However, there are various instances where it has not served its purpose and faces several challenges.

Challenges to division of subjects:

  • States complain that Centre has more and important subjects and there is asymmetry in division. Thus, it results in unitary bias. E.g. Raising loans from international market, Banking regulations etc., 
  • Centre uses certain subjects and responsibility as excuse and encroach upon state jurisdiction at times. E.g. imposition of president rule, deployment of Central armed forces etc., giving the reason of function of maintaining internal security.
  • Special provisions available to Centre to legislate on state subjects:
    • Article 249 – if the Rajyasabha passes resolution to give Centre power to legislate on state subjects. Centre can confer itself power if it has majority in Rajyasabha. E.g. passing of POTA, TADA etc., in spite of several state’s opposition.
    • Article 253 allowing the Centre to legislate on subjects affecting international relations. E.g. Centre passing environmental laws.
  • Composition variation: States allege that the union and concurrent list has grown over the years at the cost of state list. A majority government at the Centre helps in this. E.g. 42nd constitutional amendment transferring 5 subjects from state to concurrent list. 
  • Emergency provisions and president rule under article 356: results in dilution of the separation of subjects and gives the Centre over-riding powers.
  • Colorable legislation: allegations on Centre to encroach upon the state jurisdiction finding the loopholes. E.g. the recent Jammu Kashmir reorganization bill was passed under president rule.
  • Lack of Centre’s consultation on legislating on the concurrent list subjects. Punchhi commission recommended that the Centre to consult states on the same.
  • Residuary power of parliament: under article 248 gives the Centre to legislate on subjects not mentioned in the list. The difficulty in bringing constitutional amendment to update the 7th schedule (as it requires constitutional amendment – special majority with 50% state approval), the new dynamics are not reflected. E.g. digital laws are made unilaterally by the Centre.
  • Dual responsibility: especially in subjects of concurrent list or subjects of overlapping jurisdiction results in dereliction/conflict of duty by both Centre and state. E.g. inter-state river flow, environment protection (declaration of economic sensitive zone in western ghats) etc., 
  • Reservation of state bills to president who enjoy absolute veto. E.g. the returning of 3 bills passed by Manipur state legislative assembly by president.


Alleging the bias in subject distribution, recently Telangana chief minister called for abolition of concurrent list which was even recommended by Rajammanar committee. Though, the list served has fairly served its purpose, some of the grievances of states are genuine. The centre has to implement recommendations of Puncchi commission om centre-state relations like flexibility on concurrent subjects, updating the list periodically etc., to address the issue.

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