- “The states in India seem reluctant to empower urban local bodies both functionally as well as financially.” Comment. (10)
- Compare and contrast the British and Indian approaches to Parliamentary sovereignty. (10)
Q1. “The states in India seem reluctant to empower urban local bodies both functionally as well as financially.” Comment. (10)
- The 74th Amendment Act of 1992 was a landmark in India's constitutional history, aiming to strengthen urban local bodies (ULBs) by devolving powers and responsibilities related to urban governance. However, the realisation of this devolution has been uneven across states, leading to the perception that states are hesitant to empower ULBs fully.
- Reluctance of States to empower ULBs:
- Functional Autonomy:
- Despite the 74th Amendment listing 18 functions for ULBs, many states still need to fully devolve powers, especially in urban planning and public health areas.
- Town planning remains a state subject in many states, limiting ULBs' influence over city development.
- Financial Independence:
- ULBs' revenue sources, like property tax, often need to be more utilised. State grants meant to aid ULBs can be sporadic and insufficient.
- According to a 2018-19 report by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, ULBs generate only about 37% of their total revenue, with the rest as grants and contributions.
- Bureaucratic Overreach:
- State governments often control key municipal officer appointments, reducing ULBs' administrative autonomy.
- In cities like Bengaluru, the Bangalore Development Authority (a state agency) often overshadows the municipal corporation in key urban development projects.
- Political Reluctance:
- States might perceive strong ULBs as potential political challengers.
- Frequent delays in conducting local body elections in states like Tamil Nadu from 2011 to 2019 highlight this reluctance.
- Capacity Constraints:
- Some ULBs might need more expertise to handle transferred functions, especially in smaller towns.
- A 2017 study noted that over 50% of municipalities in Maharashtra lacked town planning officers, affecting their urban planning capabilities.
- Functional Autonomy:
- Steps to Empower Urban Local Bodies (ULBs):
- Deepen Devolution:
- As per the High Powered Expert Committee (HPEC)(2011) on Urban Infrastructure and Services, states should fully transfer the 18 functions listed in the 12th Schedule to ULBs, particularly urban planning and land use regulation.
- Financial Autonomy:
- Following the 14th Finance Commission, states should ensure timely grants to ULBs and motivate them to enhance property tax collections and explore Public-Private Partnerships.
- Capacity Building:
- Drawing from Dr. Isher Judge Ahluwalia's insights, states should collaborate with academia to train ULB officials in urban management and governance.
- Democratic Governance:
- The Second Administrative Reforms Commission recommends regular ULB elections and prompt devolution of resources and powers.
- Public Participation:
- Urban planners, citing figures like Charles Correa, advocate for ULBs to include citizens more in decision-making, using platforms like 'Ward Committees'.
- Accountability Mechanisms:
- Based on HPEC's advice, states should introduce city ombudsman mechanisms to address grievances and enhance ULB accountability.
- Deepen Devolution:
- While the intent of the 74th Amendment was decentralisation, the actual empowerment of ULBs needs to be more consistent. For holistic urban development, states must genuinely devolve power, ensuring ULBs are both functionally and financially robust.
Q.2 Compare and contrast the British and Indian approaches to Parliamentary sovereignty. 10
- Explain Parliamentary Sovereignty:
- Parliamentary sovereignty is a principle of the UK constitution. It makes Parliament the supreme legal authority in the UK, which can create or end any law.
- “The absolute and perpetual power of commonwealth”: Jean Bodin
- Historic references of British and Indian Parliamentary sovereignty
- The Palace of Westminster has been a centre of power for over 900 years
- Sabha & Samitis in Ancient India
- Constitutional Article- Articles 74 and 75 at the Centre and Articles 163 and 164 in the states provide for the parliamentary system of government.
- Generic- India adopted a parliamentary system based on the British model/ Westminster system.
- Democratic system: Member of Parliaments elected by People
- Close relationship between Executive and Legislative
- Majority Party rule
- Nature of constitution
- In India, the written constitution imposes limits on the authority of Parliament. For example- Fundamental Rights.
- On the other hand, Britain follows an unwritten constitution where parliamentary functioning relies on conventions and precedents
- Supremacy of Parliament:
- Indian Constitution’s founders favoured a correct synthesis of the British concept of parliamentary sovereignty and the American principle of judicial supremacy
- In Britain, the ultimate legislative authority resides in the Parliament, and the laws it enacts are beyond scrutiny or challenge
- Mode of government:
- India follows federal structure and power is shared between Central and state government
- In contrast, Britain follows Unitary structure. It's the British Parliament that has the supreme authority to make laws for the entire country
- Monarch vs Republic
- In India, the main importance is given to the constitution and the people of India.
- The Preamble to the Indian Constitution states the position, wherein the people of India have resolved to constitute the Indian Republic into a sovereign country
- Though the British Monarch is head of state, the real powers to make legislation lies with Parliament
- Judicial scrutiny/ review
- In India, parliamentary supremacy is controlled by the Indian Constitution, which is subject to judicial scrutiny. There is specific and extensive provisions of judicial review in the Constitution of India such as Article 13,32
- In the UK there is no scope to check the validity of Legislative acts of Parliament, secondary legislations are subject to judicial review.
- Basic structure doctrine:
- While the Parliament can amend the Constitution, the modifications must be legal and should not violate the basic structure doctrine (Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala)
- No such provisions in Britain. The British Parliament has the legal authority to change well-established constitutional principles through the legislative process, without any legal restrictions.
- The Indian Parliament is supreme under its constitution, while the British Parliament can pass laws without judicial review. Therefore Indian parliamentary system is more responsible towards ideal principle of constitutional supremacy with power of judicial review
- Quote - “British Parliament can do everything but make a woman a man and a man a woman” -Jean-Louis de Lolme