Diluting Federalism – weakening India

Shiban Khaibri
India, it is agreed, is not a Federation in the strict sense but our Constitution describes it as a Union of States, a mix of the features of a federal Government and that of a unitary Government. Hence, it would not be any misinterpretation of the constitution if India is called as a semi-federal or a quasi federal state. In order to curb secessionist tendencies, in case some lessons were to be drawn from historical goofs, devolution of powers to regional and local authorities were essentially dictated by such cardinal considerations though there are provisions for giving adequate powers to these entities. Hence, Indian constitution had to draw from the features of Unitary as well as the Federal forms of governance.
We have the supremacy of the Constitution of our country as the guiding force. All organs of the Government derive their authority from the constitution. The relations between the states and the Central Government or the ‘power’ are divided between centre and the states as per the constitution. Though there is a division of powers between the Union and the states , the constitution provides the Union with powers to exercise control over the legislation as well as the administration of the states. With this brief prelude, there is a maxim of a great caution saying “What cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly” and one wonders as to how the Government of Andhra Pradesh under Chander Babu Naidu and West Bengal under Mamta Bannerjee , a few days back “decided” to put hurdles , if not total ban on the premier investigating Agency of India , the CBI entering “their citadels”.
It is equally baffling as to how the Congress Party with a “vast and a long” experience of running Governments in New Delhi, could afford to remain silent on such a development with intent to axing the very fundamentals of our Federal structure. Was constitution not grossly and brazenly violated in the instant case and why did the ‘grand old party’, the upholders of hammers and sickle , the Samajwadis and other “secular” parties not vehemently oppose disregarding the constitution by the Telugu Desum and Trinmool Congress Parties. Was constitution not in danger by such proposed decisions or it is in “constant danger” only so long as Modi Ji continues to be the Prime Minister of the country elected by millions of Indians under the process lineated by the same constitution.
In the burst of opposing every move of the Central Government aiming at bettering the lot of the people , to come out with such a brazen “ban ” on the premier investigating agency of the country is not very difficult to comprehend. They, or for that matter anyone, are free and could justify under the aegis of the tenets of Indian democracy, to not only criticise but attack each and every policy of the Central Government under Narendra Modi but never losing sight of their commitment under the constitution to keep the country united and federally strong and not to aspire, act , speak or propagate anything that could stop only at weakening the federal structure of the country. It also is aimed at trivialising the constitutional mechanism of bicameralism where the Lok Sabha having adequate powers is there along with Rajya Sabha where the latter has a crucial role in representing the interests of the states at the centre. Rajya Sabha , therefore , is an important part of the government machinery . There were no fears needed to be nursed on this count, petty politicising being another matter but extraneous to the set constitutional safeguards to the states .
How can both the Governments withdraw “general consent” of the CBI to pursue investigations without any let or hindrance in their states? In other words , matters of serious nature involving financial irregularities and scams or security related crimes or any such crimes having horrendous proportions are proposed to be denied to the CBI to investigate and arrange for prosecution. There could be internal problems or any charges of misconduct under service rules within an organisation which is likely and the CBI not being an exception, cannot licence a state to deny “permission” under that alibi to it to discharge its duties it has been performing since 1946 in the country under Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. It derives legal powers of investigation under this Act and can move to investigate cases only with notification of the Central Government. Going by the same illogic, a few months back Country’s apex court too had some “problems” to the extent of even going public which later was settled internally. Why did these two states not declare the same decision in respect of the highest seat of judiciary too? Since they could not do it then, they cannot do it in the instant case excepting exposing their intentions to this extent in pursuance of avowed opposition to Modi and his Government. Public confidence about the impartiality of this autonomous premier investigating agency should by such pronouncements be never allowed. Its role as a deterrent to corruption should never be allowed to get diluted as corruption is eating into the vitals of this country.
There was a Hindi movie which this writer interestingly watched as that movie appeared to be sans “feats” of indiscriminate and avoidable shooting sprees, acts of violence and associated weary plots as per the prevailing trend. In the movie, a CBI officer is shown visiting a shop and the shop owner starts feeling uneasy on learning the identity of the “visitor” but the CBI officer , instead of deriving a sort of sadistic pleasure on the scare of the shop owner, asks him the reasons of feeling ill at ease, “What happened , have you done something illegal”? “No Sir, not exactly”, replied the shop owner. “Then relax and tell me about … just for my information”, was what the CBI officer assuredly told him. Going by the same simple logic , why is Chandrababu Naidu panicked and scared? Has he done anything wrong or any of his Ministers that the CBI is “denied” permission and consent. The same holds true of Mamta ji and it is expected that there is absolutely nothing to worry about and “all is well” and hence no “assignment” for the CBI in her state vis-a-vis her Ministers, bureaucrats and political activists of her Party.
Come on, Naidu Ji, please do not try to enrol yourself as a political martyr by saying that the “raids” were “planned” by the CBI on Telugu Desam leaders as a pressure tactic to dampen and frustrate your mobilising support on forging opposition unity. The opposition unity in itself and even political slugfest is nothing illegal provided there were genuine reasons for this unity and only for providing a better alternative, a perfectly transparent, perfectly honest and a performing Government at the centre and in states. Even if Naidu’s fears are momentarily assumed to be justified, unless there were solid grounds and facts and documental evidences, any raid of the sort as “politically” feared by Chandrababu Naidu would never stand the judicial approval as innocents can never be punished. So why this hullabaloo ? Keep your things and acts kosher and fear none whether the CBI or any other agency – would be a suggestion to these over enthusiastic political opponents of the present dispensation notwithstanding the fact that both these parties have been part of the NDA . The country’s federal structure and the quality of the democracy, therefore, are not only to be ensured but strengthened too , now as never before.