Punchhi Commission report


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  • Nearly five years after announcing that its work on the Punchhi Commission’s report on Centre-state relations is “complete”, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has decided to start the process of seeking the states’ comments on the issue afresh.


  • The Constitution of India, being federal in structure, divides all powers (legislative, executive and financial) between the Centre and the states.
  • However, issues which create tensions and conflicts between the Centre and states often come up. Such issues in Centre-State relations have been under consideration since the mid-1960s.
  • In this direction, several commissions have been established to study the Centre-State relations. This includes the first Administrative Reforms Commission (1966), Rajamannar Committee (1969), Sarkaria Commission (1983), the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2005) and the Punchhi Commission (2007).


  • The Second commission on Centre-State Relations was constituted by the UPA government in 2007 under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India Madan Mohan Punchhi.
  • Its basic objective was to look into the issues of Centre-State relations keeping in view the sea-changes that have taken place in the polity and economy of India since the Sarkaria Commission.
  • In 2010, the Commission submitted its report to the Centre in seven volumes. The Commission was of the view that ‘cooperative federalism’ will be the key for sustaining India’s unity, integrity and social and economic development in future.
  • The recommendations were considered by the Inter-State Council’s Standing Committee at its meetings in 2017. Following these, in 2018, the Centre announced that the work on Punchhi Commission Report has been completed.
  • Now, the Centre has decided to go for another round of feedback on the report.


  • Appointment and removal of Governors:
    • The Central Government should adopt the following guidelines as recommended in the Sarkaria Commission report and follow its mandate in letter and spirit:
      • He should be eminent in some walk of life
      • He should be a person from outside the state
      • He should be a detached figure and not too intimately connected with the local politics of the states
      • He should be a person who has not taken too great a part in politics generally and particularly in the recent past (Suggested by the Punchhi commission)
    • Governors should be given a fixed tenure of five years and their removal should not be at the sweet will of the Government at the Centre.
    • Provide for impeachment of the Governor on the same lines as provided for impeachment of the President in Article 61 of the Constitution.
  • Governors' discretionary powers:
    • The scope of discretionary powers under Article 163(2) has to be narrowly construed. Governor’s action must be a choice dictated by reason, activated by good faith and tempered by caution.
    • In respect of bills passed by the Legislative Assembly of a state, the Governor should take the decision within six months.
    • On the question of Governor’s role in appointment of Chief Minister in the case of a hung assembly, it is necessary to lay down certain clear guidelines to be followed as Constitutional conventions.
    • On the question of dismissal of a Chief Minister, the Governor should insist on the Chief Minister proving his majority on the floor of the House for which he should prescribe a time limit.
  • Other functions of Governors:
    • Governor should not be burdened with positions and powers which are not envisaged by the Constitution and which may expose the office to controversies or public criticism, like the posts of the Chancellors of the universities.
  • Imposition of President’s rule:
    • In case of a potential break down of the Constitutional machinery of the state, all alternative courses available to the Union government for discharging its responsibility under Article 355 should be exhausted to contain the situation and the exercise of the power under Article 356 should be limited strictly to rectifying a “failure of the Constitutional machinery in the State”.
    • On the question of invoking Article 356 in case of failure of Constitutional machinery in states, suitable amendments are required to incorporate the guidelines set forth in the S.R. Bommai V. Union of India (1994).
  • “Local emergency” under Article 355 and 356:
    • Provide a Constitutional or legal framework for “local emergency” to deal with situations which require Central intervention but do not warrant invoking the extreme steps under Articles 352 and 356.
  • On institutions:
    • Amendments to Article 263 are required to make the Inter-State Council a credible, powerful and fair mechanism for management of interstate and Centre-state differences.
    • States should be consulted through the inter-state council before bills are introduced on matters that fall in the concurrent list.
    • Zonal Councils should meet at least twice a year with an agenda proposed by States concerned to maximize coordination and promote harmonization of policies.
  • National Integration Council (NIC)
    • The Commission envisages a definite, expanded and effective role of NIC for addressing major divisive issues.
    • Given the paucity of time for the Prime Minister, the Constitution of the Council be suitably amended to have the Union Home Minister as the ex-officio Dy. Chairman.
    • Council should meet preferably twice a year but must have a meeting at least once a year.
    • The commission, however, does not favour giving Constitutional status to the NIC.
  • Rajya Sabha to be a Chamber to protect States' rights
    • Amendment of the relevant provisions to give equality of seats to States in the Rajya Sabha, irrespective of their population size.
  • Other recommendations:
    • The period of six months prescribed in Article 201 for State Legislature to act when the Bill is returned by the President can be made applicable for the President also to decide on assenting or withholding assent to a Bill reserved for consideration of the President.
    • New all-India services in sectors like health, education, engineering and judiciary should be created.
    • All future Central legislations involving states’ involvement should provide for cost sharing as in the case of the RTE Act.
    • All fiscal legislations should provide for an annual assessment by an independent body and the reports of these bodies should be laid in both Houses of Parliament/state legislature.


  • The recommendations, if accepted, will reshape the role of the Governors besides enhancing the powers of the state governments considerably. However, with the Centre now deciding to go back to the states for another round of feedback on the report, that process is set to be further delayed.


Q. Punchhi commission’s recommendations seeks to address a range of complex issues which have come up in Centre-State relations. Elucidate.

Q. The concept of cooperative federalism has been increasingly emphasized in recent years. Highlight the drawbacks in the existing structure and the extent to which cooperative federalism would answer the shortcomings. (GS 2, CSM 2015)