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Union Vs Centre Debate in Tamil Nadu

Union Vs Centre Debate


The Tamil Nadu government has made a significant decision to replace the term ‘Central government‘ with ‘Union government‘ in its official communications. This move is aimed at reinforcing our adherence to the principles outlined in Article 1 of the Constitution, which declares India as a Union of States. Interestingly, the Constitution itself does not mention the terms ‘Centre’ or ‘Central Government’ in its 395 articles and 12 schedules. However, despite this, the courts, media, and even various states often use ‘Centre‘ when referring to the Union government.

What is Central Government technically?

While the Constitution does not explicitly mention the ‘Central government,’ the General Clauses Act of 1897 provides a definition for it. Essentially, after the Constitution came into effect, the ‘Central government‘ is effectively represented by the President for all practical purposes.

What was the intent of our constitutional makers?

In the beginning, the goal of the Constituent Assembly was to shape India into a union of territories that were willing to unite as an “Independent Sovereign Republic.” Some members favored adopting the principles outlined in the British Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946, which envisioned a central government with limited authority while giving significant autonomy to the provinces.

However, the traumatic events of the Partition in 1947 and the violence in Kashmir pushed the Constituent Assembly to change its approach. They decided in favor of a more robust central government. The fear of states breaking away from the Union was a significant concern for the constitution drafters, leading them to emphasize that the Indian Union was “indestructible.” That’s why they settled on the term “Union of States.”

The members wanted to make it crystal clear that India, while being a federation, was not the result of an agreement, and, as a result, no state had the right to secede from it. This safeguarded the unity of the nation.

Why was the term ‘Centre’ or Central Government’ avoided?

  • Term union instead of the federation got some criticism from members like Hasrat Mohani on the following grounds:
    • The usage of the words ‘Union of States’ would obscure the word ‘Republic
    • It might create India into a despotic union like Germany at the time of Adolf Hitler
    • It would undermine federalism and bring all the units, the provinces and the groups of States under the thumb of the Centre.
  • The members of the Constituent Assembly intended to keep away the tendency of centralising of powers in one unit. 
  • The term ‘Union government’ or the ‘Government of India’ has a unifying effect as the message sought to be given is that the government is of all.
  • Both the Union and the States are created by the Constitution, both derive their respective authority from the Constitution. None is subordinate to the other in its own field.
  • For instance, the judiciary is designed in the Constitution to ensure that the Supreme Court has no superintendence over the High Courts.
  • Though the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over High Courts and other lower courts, they are not declared to be subordinate to it.

Read Also: Protesting is a Fundamental Right: United Nations

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