NEW DELHI: A UPA-era report that recommends the imposition of President’s rule on a smaller area affected by serious internal disturbances rather than on an entire state and says governors should only be removed by impeachment by the state assembly is back on the discussion table.
The Narendra Modi government has dusted off the justice MM Punchhi commission report that lays out a roadmap for redefining Centre-state relations, and will formally start discussions with states on its recommendations at an Inter-State Council meeting this weekend.
The panel made several other key suggestions, including one for a model anti-conversion law — a demand supported by the ruling BJP — and powers to suo motu deploy central forces in states during emergencies.
The PM is an active advocate of ‘cooperative federalism’ — a term he uses to describe the Centre’s intent to have harmonious relations with states — but the move to breathe new life into the report may raise eyebrows in the opposition camp as some of its recommendations impinge on the rights of states.
Saturday’s meeting of the council headed by the PM is its first since 2006. The council, with all the chief ministers as members, was set up as a forum for states to discuss issues of common interest. But invariably, its agenda is dictated by the Centre’s priorities.
The Congress-led UPA set up the commission headed by the former Chief Justice of India in 2007 under pressure from the Left parties, which were supporting the alliance from outside. The panel gave its report in 2010, but the UPA-2 government put it on the backburner, ostensibly to give the states time to furnish their opinions.
The commission’s 273 recommendations include fixing a six-month deadline for the President to clear state legislations, and limiting the Centre’s powers to sign international treaties without consulting states or Parliament.
Terming forcible conversions a provocation for communal tension, the report asks the Centre to come up with a law that stipulates the sternest action in proven cases — a recommendation in line with the BJP’s, and Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s, assertion for a debate on the subject.
This could turn controversial in the run-up to assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and other key states early next year.
However, the Centre is unlikely to agree to certain other recommendations — such as the appointment of governors by a panel headed by the PM but with the chief minister of the state as a member, or the one that prevents a governor from being removed unless he or she has been impeached by the assembly.
A government official said it was reasonable to expect the Centre to push for the recommendations that suit its politics or interests.
Out of the 273 suggestions, the government plans to put 123 up for discussion and decision.
In the case of the remaining recommendations, some action has already been taken or there is no need for action, according to a summary of the status report.
Officials said most of the recommendations on which action has been taken weren’t significant. The government planned to just take up the sensitive ones at the meeting.
Some recommendations of Justice MM Punchhi commission on Centre-state relations
· Largest pre-poll alliance – and not single largest party -- should be invited to form government
· Governors should have the right to sanction prosecution of a minister against the advice of council of ministers
· End practice of treating governors as ‘political football’
· Governors should be selected by a panel comprising PM, HM, Lok Sabha Speaker and chief minister concerned
· Governors should be appointed on 5-year term and removed only through impeachment by state assembly
· Set six-month time limit for President to decide on state legislations
· National Integration Council should meet at least annually. Five members of council should travel to affected area after every communal incident to reach out to people
· Supported introduction of Goods and Services Tax, remove impediments in inter—state trade