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Co-operative Vs Competitive federalism in India | UPSC Law Optional Mains 2018 Question solved

Updated: Oct 10, 2022


What is federalism ? Federalism = the mixed or compound mode of government.

What happens ? Combining a general government (the central or 'federal' government) with regional governments (provincial, state governments) in a single political system.

Based on the relationship between the regional governments and general government –the concept of federalism saw two branches they are :

1. Co-operative federalism

2. Competitive federalism

Why are we reading this ? Federalism is always a popular concept in Paper I UPSC LAW OPTIONAL MAINS . In 2018 ( recent mains ) following question was asked. QUESTION 1 A | COMPULSORY QUESTION

"What do you understand by the terms “cooperative federalism‟ and “competitive federalism‟? Do you agree with the view that the Indian Constitution is based on the concept of "competitive federalism" and not on the concept of " cooperative federalism‟?"

What is co-operative federalism ? “cooperative federalism, also known as marble-cake federalism”

CONCEPT : It is a concept of federalism in which national, state, and local governments interact cooperatively and collectively to solve common problems, rather than making policies separately but more or less equally.

What is competitive federalism ?

Competitive federalism means that regional or local governments compete with other regional or local governments.

Why ? Reason for competition : People choose which regional or local government to live under. The governments compete for citizens. Investors choose which regional or local government to invest in.

What is India then ?

Article 1 of the constitution says that India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of states and the territory of India is composed of territories of states, the union territories.

Thus India is federal Country as promised in preamble of our constitution.

What type of federalism is India : The constitution’s vision for India is co-operative federalism


1. Under Article 246 read with Schedule 7 – legislative and administrative powers of state and union are divided under 3 heads – State list , Union List and Concurrent list. – by providing so constitution wants every state and center to cooperate and support one another in the business of governance.

2. Imposing emergency situation – during proclamation of emergency under Art 352 to 360 ( National , state / economic emergency ) the states are expected to co-operate with union.

3. NITI ayog is created with the objective of making states a party to the developmental plan and policies of the government.

BUT ! NITI ayog calls for co-operation and healthy competition to improve the progress of states.


WHAT’S IN THE NEWS? Since at least 1974, when the Supreme Court commented on the Constitution envisaging a cooperative federal structure, federalism has come a long way in India.

· In relation to the imposition of President’s rule under Article 356 of the Constitution, federalism is far more mature.

· Between 1947 and 1977, there were 44 instances when the power to impose President’s rule was exercised.

It is yet to be tested on issues related to the Goods and Services Tax


· Between 1977 and 1996, the power was exercised almost 59 times.

· From 1991 till 2016, there have been 32 instances.

In S.R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994) : The limitation laid down by the Supreme Court might have placed gentle breaks on exercise of this power, but the Centre continues to wield superior legislative powers, including residuary powers and legislative precedence.

IMBALANCE OF POWERS : These are powers the Central government enjoys under the Constitution and States’ legislative powers have routinely yielded to the Centre.

REAL ISSUE : Given this constitutional framework, what is the cooperative federalism that one can hope for?

FOR INSTANCE : Govt. of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India: The Supreme Court gently tilted the balance of executive power in favour of the Government of the National Capital Territory vis-à-vis the Lieutenant Governor (and by extension, the Centre).

ON TAXATION POWERS : Taxation powers are another contentious issue and the Central government has won most of the disputes purely due to express provisions in the Constitution.

· Articles 270(1A) and 270(2) provide that taxes levied under the GST laws will be shared in the manner ‘prescribed’ in Article 270(2) — which takes us to the Finance Commission (FC), and not the GST Council.

· Recommendations of the FC are placed before Parliament and States have no role in the debate.

CONCLUSION : If the Centre refuses to make allocations as per the GST Council, or if a State is aggrieved by the recommendations itself, an aggrieved State would have to litigate in the Supreme Court.

In 68 years of the Constitution, there is limited precedent for such extreme actions. In an era of coalition politics, this would be a true test of cooperative federalism.

VERGE OF COMPETITIVE FEDERALISM : The above being so now there are talks that present government aims for competitive federalism – State make favorable laws and governance to attract citizens and investments eg: relaxing economic laws – tax rebate , labour laws and providing subsidies to attract investors.

But let’s wait and see how India reacts to its inbuilt co-operative federalism and expected competitive federalism.

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Bindu Soni
Bindu Soni
Jun 11, 2021

is it right that Indian Constitution is based on cooperative federalism


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