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Asymmetric Federalism in India: Special Provisions for States

By Amigos IAS

Why is it in the news?

  • India’s Constitution, while generally favoring the Centre, incorporates special provisions for certain states, exemplified by Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir, Article 371 for specific states, and Article 239AA for Delhi.

Special Provisions in the Constitution

Article 370:

  • Originally, Article 370 granted special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • In 2019, the Parliament passed the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, effectively revoking the special status accorded under Article 370.

Article 371:

  • Encompassed in Part XXI of the Constitution, Article 371 provides temporary, transitional, and special provisions to certain states in India. Some of the key features include:
  • Setting up developmental boards for specific regions, such as Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra, Kutchh in Gujarat, and the Hyderabad-Karnataka region.
  • Special responsibilities assigned to the Governor, as seen in Arunachal Pradesh, where the governor holds a specific responsibility for maintaining law and order.
  • Limited application of Acts of Parliament on certain matters, with exceptions for states like Nagaland and Mizoram unless the state Assembly decides otherwise.

Article 239AA:

  • Added by the 69th Constitutional Amendment Act in 1991.
  • Introduces a unique administrative arrangement for the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
  • While not categorized as a state in the First Schedule, it possesses legislative powers over subjects in both the state and concurrent lists in the Seventh Schedule.


Asymmetric Federalism in India

·       Asymmetric federalism involves unequal powers and relationships in political, administrative, and fiscal arrangements between units in a federation.

·       Constituent states have varying levels of independence, resulting in an asymmetrical distribution of powers.

·       Special Status of Kashmir: Article 370 granted special terms to Jammu and Kashmir, limiting the jurisdiction of the Centre to foreign affairs, defence, and communications, with the state legislature having residuary powers.

·       Northeastern Hill States: Upgraded from Union Territories, Article 371 provides special powers to northeastern states, safeguarding their cultural and traditional divisions, including respect for customary laws, religious and social practices, and restrictions on land ownership and migration.


Importance of Asymmetric Federalism in India

·       Special provisions protect fundamental rights, compensating for initial social inequalities.

·       Allows separate laws for different religious groups, ensuring affirmative action for extremely disadvantaged groups.

·       Preserves diversity by protecting vulnerable groups through special powers, contributing to the concept of ‘sabka sath sabka vikas.’

·       Addresses diverse needs arising from ethnic, linguistic, or cultural differences, reducing dissatisfaction among states.

·       Special powers in Jammu and Kashmir help reduce radicalization, considering its diverse population, Muslim majority, and proximity to Pakistan.

·       Facilitates representation for minority areas and sparsely populated regions, ensuring justice and inclusivity.

·       Acknowledges the need for constitutional recognition of inequality, aiming to protect diversity without compromising unity or imposing uniformity.

·       Asymmetric federalism and special provisions address dissatisfaction arising from inequalities among states and regions in India.

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