Centre powerful, but consult states in COVID-19 fight: Experts

Former Home Secretary GK Pillai said that since the MHA’s powers flowed from the Disaster Management Act, a central legislation, it got greater powers than states.

Published: 24th April 2020 03:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th April 2020 11:39 AM   |  A+A-

A medic works on samples collected from media professionals for COVID-19 tests at a special testing centre set up by the Delhi government during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus at Patel Nagar in New Delhi Thursday April 23 2020. (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Home Affair’s decision to have its own teams for monitoring and assessing the compliance of its lockdown measures at 11 most affected districts has sparked a debate on the distribution of power between the Centre and the states.

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has strongly reacted to the MHA’s decision, saying the Centre’s unilateral move was “not consistent with the spirit of federalism.”

In order to understand the dynamics of power distribution between the Centre and the states, TNIE spoke to experts. 

“Infectious diseases come in the concurrent list. In such matters, both the union and the states can make laws. If there is a conflict, then union law prevails according to Constitution,” said former Lok Sabha secretary-general Subhash Kashyap.

“The Union is justified in taking whatever steps are necessary to bring the situation under control. This matter should not be politicised since the Constitution is very clear that the will of Union should prevail in such matters.”

Former Home Secretary GK Pillai said that since the MHA’s powers flowed from the Disaster Management Act, a central legislation, it got greater powers than states.

“The MHA is well within its rights to send teams to ensure compliance of its guidelines. I don’t see why states should worry about these visits. If you’re complying with those guidelines, you shouldn’t have a problem.”

If there were lacunae in the implementation of guidelines, the states should take those shortcomings as learnings. Stressing that the situation should not be politicised, Pillai added that the Centre should have ideally informed the states before sending out the teams. “Ideally, it should have given the states some notice before sending out teams.”

Political commentators have pointed at a power tussle during the COVID crisis, especially when it comes to financial resources, as seen in Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar seeking a Rs 25,000 crore package from the Centre.

Sanjaya Baru, a political advisor to former PM Manmohan Singh, has written recently that “the manner in which the central and state governments resolve the problem of inadequate fiscal resources, given falling revenues due to the slowdown and rising claims on the public exchequer, will be a key issue in Centre-state relations.”

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