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3/23/2015

WhitherConstitutionalbodies?

WhitherConstitutionalbodies?
YogeshPratapSingh
Postedat:Jan15201511:41PM

TheConstitutionofIndiadesistsfromlayingdownanyrigidformulatodeterminethe
specificamountspayabletostatesbytheCentreundereachheadoftaxesthatthe
Centremaysharewiththestates.TheConstitutionframersrealizedthatapermanent
orunassailableformulawouldhardlymeetthesituationforalltimestocomeasthe
socioeconomicconditioninthecountrywoulddemandaconstantadjustmentinthe
basisoftransferofrevenuefromtheCentretotheStates.Soaflexibleschemewas
devisedfortransferofCentralrevenuetotheStatesadjustableinthelightof
experience,contemporaryeconomicsituation,andthefinancialpositionoftheCentre
andtheStatesreviewableperiodicallyandwhichwouldworkautomaticallywithout
causinganyintergovernmentalfriction.
TheframersoftheConstitutiondidalotofspadeworktoprovideforanindependent
constitutionalbodyandintendedittobeacompetent,impartialsemijudicialentity.
AnexpertdelegationvisitedAustraliatostudytheworkingoftheCommonwealth
GrantsCommissionandfinallysculptedanonpoliticalconstitutionalbodyunder
Article280toreviewperiodicallythefinancialneedsofthestategovernmentsandto
recommendtherequiredfinancialtransfersfromthecentralgovernment.
TheFinanceCommissioninIndiahencewasauniqueconstitutionalbody,andwe
dontfindsimilarinstitutionseveninolderfederationsliketheUnitedStates,Canada
andAustralia.InAustralia,theCommonwealthGrantsCommission(CGC)hasbeen
createdbylawoftheCommonwealthParliamentforperformingthetaskof
distributingequalizationgrantstothestates.TheFinancecommissionofIndiahas
beenmodeledonitbuthasbroaderfunctionslikeincometaxdistributionandfiscal
needgrantstotheState.
TheGenesisofPlanning
Commission:ThePlanningCommissionwascreatedin1950throughamere
executiveorderandthenitjustcontinuedtogrow.IthadnoConstitutionalsanctity.
Thecabinetresolutionsketchedattentiontothefundamentalrightsguaranteedto
citizensintheConstitutionandthedirectiveprinciplesofStatePolicywhichlaydown
thebroadlinesofthenewsocialorderwhichtheStateshouldseektosecure.The
resolutionhighlightedtheneedforcomprehensiveplanningbasedonacareful
appraisalofresources.
Thesepurposescouldbestbeachievedthroughanorganizationfreefromtheburden
ofthedaytodayadministration,butinconstanttouchwiththegovernmentatthe
highestpolicylevel.Theresponsibilityfortakingandimplementingthedecisionsof
thecommissionwaswiththeCentralandStateGovernments.
However,theexperienceoflastsixdecadesshowsthateffectiveimplementationhas
beentheweakestlinkinthehistoryofworkingofthePlanningCommission.Thefirst
PrimeMinister,JawaharlalNehru,whowasthearchitectandmentorofthe
Commission,allowedandhelpedittofunctionwithalotoffervourbutwithhis
successors,weexperienceddeclineoftheinstitutionofplanningwhichultimately
resultedinlargescaleborrowingfromforeignactors.Thisunpleasantlyaffectedthe
countryseconomyandfinallyreachedastagewhenthegovernmentledbyChandra
Shekherhadtopledgethecountrysgoldreservestoensureameaslyloanof400
crores.
Inthisbackgroundthesucceedinggovernmentwasleftwithnooptionotherthanto
openthemarketforoutsidersunderaneweconomicpolicyarisingoutofcompulsions
dictatedbytheWorldBank,theInternationalMonetaryFundandothercreditors.The

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followingreasons:
PMOcentricinstitution:TheroleandstatusofthePlanningCommission
eventuallybecamereliantupontheapproachofthePrimeMinister.IfthePrime
MinisterwantstousethePlanningCommissionasthepivotofeconomicplanningand
development,itwillacquirealotofimportanceandifhedoesnot,itbecomes
impractical.TakingintoaccountthisfacttheAdministrativeReformsCommission,
recommendedforceasingthepracticeofformalandmandatoryassociationofPrime
MinisterwiththePlanningCommission.However,itsuggestedthathemustbe
perpetuallykeptcognizantoftheimportantdecisionstakenbytheCommissionand
whenhebelievesitappropriatemayalsoattendthemeetingsoftheCommissionand
chairit.Butthisdidnotmaterialise.
UrgeforPowerandPoliticization:TheoverfillingofthePlanningCommission
withUnionCabinetMinistershasalsoaffectedtheexpertnatureandfunctional
autonomyoftheCommission.PlanningCommissionwasoriginallyenvisionedasa
thinktankconsistingofprofessionalsoutsidethenormalhierarchyofthe
Governmenttotangiblyassessandaugmenttheresourcesofthecountryinorderto
formulateafeasibleplanwithinthebroadpolicyguidelinesoftheGovernment.Over
theyears,theCommissionappearstohavebecomenolessthanagovernment
departmentwithatypicalbureaucraticstructureandfunctionsengagedinroutine
mattersinsteadofactingasastaffagencytosuggestinitiativeandfeasiblepolicy
alternativestotheGovernment.Nehruhadhimselfpointedoutterselythatthe
Commission,whichwasasmallbodyofthoughtfulintellectuals,hadturnedintoa
governmentdepartmenthavingalargenumberofSecretaries,directorsandofcourse,
abigbuilding.Inanutshell,theconcentrationofpowerofallocatingplangrantsin
thehandsofthePlanningCommissionwithoutanycorrespondingresponsibilityto
Parliamentorotherelectedbodieshascloudedthevisionofthefoundingfathersofthe
ConstitutionsomuchthattheCommissionhasemergedasoneofthemostformidable
irritantsinCentreStateRelationsinIndia.
DefilementofFederalEdifice:ItwascomprehendedthatStateswerenotvery
happythewaysomeschemesweredesignedcentrallyandliterallypusheddown.The
stateswantedsomesupplenessandhencewantedtousetheseresourcesaspertheir
ownpriorities.Furthermore,initseagernesstoplanfortheentirecountry,the
Commissionrevealedsheerwitlessnessofthevastdiversitiespredominantandwent
aheadwiththeconceptofnationalpracticaluniformity.Unsurprisinglytherefore,the
planningfordevelopmentofthecountrypracticallysupersededthefederal
Constitutionwiththeresultthatitwasfunctioningalmostlikeaunitarysystemin
manyrespects.
CorrosionofFinanceCommission:ThePlanningCommissionstarted
performingthetaskwhichshouldhavebeendonebytheFinanceCommission.For
example,allocationoffundstotheStateswasthejoboftheFinanceCommission,
sanctifiedbytheConstitution,butthePlanningCommissionappropriatedthistaskto
itself.Becauseofadifferenthistoricalcontext,itevengotintomicromanagementof
federalizationoffunds,howschemesshouldberunandeventotheextentofhow
Statesshouldspendthosefunds.Probablythiswastheintentionbehindthecreationof
thisinstitutionbecausemanipulationofaconstitutionalbodyi.e.theFinance
Commissionwouldnothavebeenpossiblebeyondacertainextent.Therewasno
doubtthatdrasticreformintheexistingsystemwasrequiredwhichwasevenrealized
byformerPrimeMinisterManmohanSingh.
NationalDevelopmentCouncil(NDC):Anotheranalogousbreed,whichwas
createdin1952againbyaCabinetresolution,wastheNDC.Itscreationwasendorsed
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thestatesareequallysovereignandautonomouswithintheirownsphereofduties,itis
essentialtohaveaforumi.e.NationalDevelopmentCouncil,wherethePrime
MinisterandtheChiefMinistersofStatescanreviewtheworkingoftheplaninits
variousaspects.TheNDCwascomposedofthePrimeMinister,theChiefMinistersof
allStatesandmembersofthePlanningCommission.Later,ontherecommendation
ofAdministrativeReformsCommission,itwasdecidedthattheNationalDevelopment
CouncilheadedbythePrimeMinister,wouldalsoincludeallUnionCabinetministers
andChiefExecutivesoftheUnionTerritories.
TheworkingofNDCsinceitsfoundationin1952divulgesitsnumerousanddiverse
captivations.Aglanceatitsoriginaltermsofreferencei.e.toreviewtheworkingof
NationalPlanfromtimetotimefailstoprovideatotalpictureofitsactual
functioning.Itsefficiencywaserraticandmanifesteditselfinisolatedcasesonly.
DuringthetenureofNehruthisinstitutionmadesometangiblecontributionbutwith
thedeclineoftheNehruvianphaseitalsowaned.Evenmeetingsofthecouncilwere
notheldregularly.TheinitiativeofcallingameetingoftheNDClieswiththePlanning
CommissionofwhichthePrimeMinisteristheChairman.Thereisnowaythatthe
membersoftheNDCcancompelthePlanningCommissiontocallameetingofthe
Council.
TheSarkariaCommissionobservedinitsreportthatNDChasnotbeenabletoactas
aneffectiveinstrumentfordevelopingunanimityandcommitmenttothenational
policies.Yet,ithasbeenobservedthatNDChasactedasaforumforinformal
consultationbetweentheCentralandStateGovernmentsonanumberofcritical
economicissues.Mr.AshokChandaalsoobservedthatthecoincidingofthePlanning
Commission,NationalDevelopmentCouncilandtheCabinethadskewedthe
constitutionalposition.
TheNITIAYOG:BreakingfromthePast
AnewinstitutionNITI(NationalInstitutionforTransformingIndia)Aayogwillbe
setupintheplaceofPlanningCommissiontoprovideacriticaldirectionaland
strategicinputintothedevelopmentprocess.Itwillactasathinktankandadvice
theCentreandStatesonpolicymatters.TheAayogseekstoendslowandtardy
implementationofpolicy,byfosteringbetterInterMinistrycoordinationandbetter
CentreStatecoordination,thepressreleasementions.Itwillalsomonitorand
evaluatetheimplementationofprogrammes.Thenewinstitutionthatreplacesthe
PlanningCommissionwillhaveitstaskcutout.Willitbeabletoremovethe
undesirablepracticeofapprovingtheAnnualPlansofthestatesbythePlanning
Commission?Woulditbepossibletoeliminatesocalledregulatoryroleofvetoing
ExpenditureFinanceCommittee(EFC)noteswhichwillproveitisdifferentfromits
predecessor?Butthesefunctionscannotbeperformedbyjustanyothertoothless
thinktank.Theireffectiveperformancedemandsthattheinstitutionbeempowered
inawaythatenablesittomakeadifferenceatthecuttingedgeof
implementation.
Whetheritisabeginningofthecooperativefederalismasitisclaimedtobeormerelya
symbolicchangetochangethevestigeoftheNehruviansocialisteraandmarkthe
beginningofModiscronycapitalismwillbetestedontheyardstickoffuture
challengesandabilitytolearnfromhistory,otherwisethenewfangledNITIor
whateveritmaybechristened,willbecondensedtoagumshoeofitspreviousself.
AtthemomentitisdifficulttobelievethatNITIwillbringaboutamajordifferenceon
thegroundinplanningandimplementationofdevelopmentalpolicies.Theword
socialistisstillnotremovedfromtheConstitutionandinsteadofempowering
constitutionalbodiesliketheFinanceCommissionandInterStateCouncil,the
creationofaseparateinstitutionbyanexecutiveorderraisesanxieties.However,it
alsoappearstobeafraudontheConstitutiontoallow(morethan136)government
decreedbodieslikethePlanningCommissiontotakecustodyofthevitalsubjectsof
governanceintheCountry,moreso,bysubordinatingtheConstitutionalbodies.
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Thewriterishead,SchoolofLawGlocalUniversity,Saharanpur,Uttar
Pradesh

Copyright2014TheStatesmanLimited.AllRightsReserved.
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