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The term ‘Centre’ is absent in the Constitution as the Constituent Assembly did not want to centralise power. In this regard, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to replace the term ‘Central Government’ with ‘Union Government’ for all official communications.
- The Tamil Nadu government has decided to shun the usage of the term ‘Central government’ in its official communications and replace it with ‘Union government’.
- It is a major step towards regaining the consciousness of our Constitution as stated in Article 1. The article states that India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
- The term ‘Centre’ or ‘Central Government’ is absent from 395 articles and 12 schedules of the constitution. But still, the courts, the media and even the States refer to the Union government as the ‘Centre’.
How are courts and media able to use the term central government?
- Even though we have no reference to the ‘Central government’ in the Constitution, the General Clauses Act, 1897 gives a definition for it.
- The ‘Central government’ for all practical purposes is the President after the commencement of the Constitution.
What was the intent of our constitutional makers?
- Initially, the objective resolution wanted to create India as a Union of territories willing to join the “Independent Sovereign Republic”.
- Many members were of the opinion that the principles of the British Cabinet Mission Plan (1946) be adopted. It contemplated a Central government with very limited powers whereas the provinces had substantial autonomy.
- The Partition and the violence of 1947 in Kashmir forced the Constituent Assembly to revise its approach and resolve it in favour of a strong Centre. The possibility of the secession of states from the Union weighed on the minds of the drafters of the Constitution and ensured that the Indian Union was “indestructible”.
- Hence the term “union of states” was chosen. The members wanted to make it clear that though India was to be a federation, it was not the result of an agreement and that therefore, no State has the right to secede from it.
- Nonetheless, the term union instead of the federation also 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.
Why was the term ‘Centre’ or Central Government’ avoided?
- 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.
Source: The Hindu