Shajeeda, Legal News Reporter

The Constitution of India, under Article 256 mentions the obligations of the Union and the State. Article 256, states that ‘Every State shall utilize its executive powers in conformity with the laws made by the Parliament and with all the pre-existing laws prevailing in the State, and it further mentions that, the Union may exercise its executive power to give directions to the State as and when the Government of India deems fit for any purpose’.

Article 256, has its own logic, because in India, the Centre lacks administrative machinery to implement the Parliamentary laws within the territory of India. Despite having its own identity this Article seems to lose its essence. Section 122, of the Government of India Act, 1935 is an antecedent to this Article. The framers of the Government of India Act, 1935, were of the view that it is default action on the parts of the States to abide by the laws made by the Centre. Article 256, only talks about the obligations of the State and Union, but it remains silent in the event of non-compliance of such obligations. The substantial authority to this Article can be found in Article 365 of the Constitution, which confers on the President of India, certain extraordinary powers in the event of emergency. Article 365, briefly states that if any State fails to obey any directions given by the Union in exercise of its executive power, then the President shall be lawfully capable of declaring that Government of the particular State cannot act in accordance with the Constitutional provisions and can temporarily or permanently suspend the respective Government’s rule in the said State. In view of this Article the Constitution presumes that the Centre can use its executive power to direct the States and it can also prevent the non-compliance of any such directions by the respective States. On the other hand, the Centre has full authority to induce the States for complying with the directions by warning them against the consequences of not doing so.

In the famous case of A.D.M Jabalpur case, the Apex Court stated that non-compliance of Article 256 will attract serious repercussions but no Court shall entertain any complaint of such non-compliance at the instance of a private party. In the State of Karnataka vs. Union of India case, the stand of Article 256 was further clarified and it was held that the Centre is allowed to issue directions to a State in the capacity of being a legal entity and not as geographical unit.

In Jay Engineering Works Ltd.& Others vs. State of West Bengal & Others, the five Judge bench of the Calcutta High Court on September 29, 1967 held that Article 256 was binding on the States and the West Bengal State Government’s decision of issuing two circulars to police officers with the directions of not enforcing certain provisions of Criminal Procedure Code(Cr.PC) in labour movements conducted by the industrial establishments, were void and violative in nature, as the Criminal Procedure Code(Cr.PC) is a Central law, and all the State are under an obligation to abide by the same.

In the recent judgment of Swaraj Abhiyan vs. Union of India & Others, Justice Madan B Lokur of the Apex Court indicted the Centre for its passivity and also the States which disobeyed the National Food Security Act, 2013, by drawing every one’s attention to Article 256. And at the same time, he refrained from referring to Article 356, as it mostly an introduction for applying the Presidential rule in a State, and the Centre can only utilise the powers granted by Article 356 after exhausting all the other remedies which are made available in the Constitution to ensure the compliance of Central Laws.

In Swaraj Abhiyan’s case the facts of the case spoke for themselves, and the question of availability of remedy for an aggrieved citizen if both the Centre and State are apathetic to Article 256, was not clearly answered and it was left to be assumed as the Apex Court in this case permitted the PIL filed by Swaraj Abhiyan (a political organisation). By allowing this PIL the Apex Court held both the Centre and State guilty of indifferent behaviour and has provided them with an opportunity to rectify their mistake i.e. to comply with the ‘Food Security Act, 2013’ so that the grave consequences of non-compliance can be evaded.

This decision of the Apex Court tries to focus on the provisions of the Constitution which are on the verge of being forgotten because of the limited use.



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