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Centre-State Financial Relations in India: An Overview

Aditya Shaw, a 2nd -Year Student of Heritage Law College, has written this Article on “Centre-State Financial Relations in India: An Overview”


In a federal system of governance like India, the financial relationship between the central government and state governments is critical to ensuring the smooth operation of the country’s economy and administration. Revenue sharing, grants-in-aid, taxation powers, and fiscal transfers are examples of financial relationships. The Indian Constitution contains detailed provisions for dividing revenues between the Union and the States. Part XII, Articles 268–293 deal with financial relations. The goal of this article is to provide a comprehensive understanding of India’s financial relationships between the central and state governments.


Following independence in 1947, India’s federal system of governance sought to strike a balance between national unity and regional diversity. Financial relations between the federal and state governments are critical in this federal structure, influencing public service delivery, infrastructure development, and economic progress. The Indian Constitution defines the distribution of powers between the two levels of government, primarily through the Seventh Schedule, fostering a cooperative approach to nation-building.

India has undergone economic and political transformations over the years, resulting in the evolution of economic policies, taxation systems, and revenue-sharing mechanisms. The challenge of achieving fiscal federalism remains, as both levels of government seek financial autonomy to fulfil their responsibilities while working together to address national goals. Recent reforms, such as the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), aim to simplify financial transactions and promote economic integration. Understanding the complexities and challenges of these financial relationships is critical for charting a path toward inclusive and sustainable growth for India’s diverse and vibrant democracy.


Article 265[1] of the Indian Constitution emphasizes the fundamental principle that no tax shall be imposed or collected unless authorized by law. This provision ensures that taxation in India is legal, transparent, and per democratic and rule-of-law principles.

The following key points are enshrined in the article:

1. Taxation Legality: Any taxation, whether at the federal or state level, must be based on legislation passed by the appropriate legislature. This means that taxes can only be levied if specific legal authorization is provided in the form of an act or legislation enacted by the Parliament or State Legislature.

2. Tax Collection: The provision also emphasizes that no tax can be collected from individuals or entities unless a valid and lawful authority exists to do so. Tax authorities, such as the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) or the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), can only collect taxes by the provisions of the law.

3. Protection of Citizens’ Rights: Article 265 protects citizens’ rights from arbitrary and unauthorized taxation, ensuring that the government does not impose undue financial burdens on citizens without proper legislative backing.

Article 265, in essence, serves as the cornerstone of the Indian taxation system, upholding the principles of legality, accountability, and transparency. It ensures that taxes are only levied following the law, allowing citizens to understand their tax liabilities, rights, and responsibilities, and ensuring fairness and justice in the country’s fiscal system.


The Consolidated Funds and public accounts of India and the States are addressed in Article 266[2] of the Indian Constitution. It outlines the mechanism for managing and utilizing the government’s financial resources both at the central (Government of India) and state levels (Government of a State).

1. Consolidated Funds:

(1) Under Article 266(1), all revenues received by the Government of India, including taxes and duties, all loans raised by the central government through the issuance of treasury bills, loans, or ways and means advances and all money received by the government in loan repayment are consolidated into a single fund known as “the Consolidated Fund of India.” Similarly, each state has its own Consolidated Fund, which consolidates all the state’s revenues, loans, and loan repayments. This fund ensures that all the government’s financial resources are pooled together in a single account.

2. Public Accounts:

(2) Article 266(2), in addition to the Consolidated Funds, establishes the concept of “public accounts.” This includes all other public funds received by or on behalf of the Government of India or a State, excluding revenues, loans, and loan repayments deposited in the Consolidated Funds. Deposits, funds held in trust, and specific earmarked funds are all examples of public account transactions.

3. Appropriation of Funds:

(3) Article 266(3) establishes a crucial principle: no money from the Consolidated Fund of India or a State’s Consolidated Fund may be appropriated or spent unless it is done under the law and for the purposes and in the manner specified in the Constitution. This means that the government cannot spend money from these funds arbitrarily; it must follow legal and constitutional procedures and allocate funds only for legal purposes.

Overall, Article 266 ensures that financial resources are managed in a systematic and accountable manner at both the federal and state levels. It creates Consolidated Funds for the federal government and each state to consolidate revenues, loans, and loan repayments. To handle various types of financial transactions, it also distinguishes between the Consolidated Funds and public accounts. The provision that no funds from the Consolidated Funds may be spent unless the prescribed legal procedures are followed ensures transparency and prevents the misappropriation of public funds.


Prudent financial management is essential for any government to meet unforeseen or urgent expenses efficiently. The Indian Constitution provides for the establishment of a Contingency Fund[3] at both the Union and State levels to address this need. This fund serves as an im-prest and is appropriately titled “the Contingency Fund of India” for the Union and “the Contingency Fund of the State” for the States.

• The Indian Contingency Fund: (1) The Parliament has the authority to establish the Indian Contingency Fund through legislation. This fund serves as an emergency reserve and is funded by deposits in the amounts specified by law. The President is in charge of managing and controlling this fund. The primary purpose of this fund is to allow the President to make advances for unforeseen expenditures while waiting for such expenditures to be authorized by Parliament under Article 115[4] or Article 116[5].

• The State Contingency Fund: (2) At the state level, each state’s legislature has the authority to establish the state’s contingency fund through legislation. This fund, like the Contingency Fund of India, acts as an interest and is intended to cover unforeseen expenses. This fund is administered and controlled by the Governor of the State. The purpose of this fund is to allow the Governor to make advances for unforeseen expenditures while the State Legislature authorizes them under Article 205[6] or Article 206.

These Contingency Funds are critical in providing flexibility and quick access to financial resources for urgent and unforeseen needs that do not require formal approval from the respective legislative bodies. With such funds in place, governments at the Union and State levels can respond to unexpected situations effectively and ensure smooth governance even during emergencies. The Contingency Funds are an important part of India’s fiscal management because they contribute to the country’s overall stability and financial prudence.


The Constitution grants taxing powers to both the Union (Central Government) and the States, but the taxes levied by the Centre are shareable with the States. This distribution is regulated under Articles 268 to 281 of the Constitution. The objective is to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of financial resources to meet the requirements of both the Union and the States.

The distribution of revenue between the Union and the States is achieved through the following mechanisms: – (a) Assignment of Revenue from several taxes; (b) Compulsory Sharing of taxes; (c) Permissive Sharing of taxes; and (d) Grants-in-aid.


(I) Duties Levied by the Union but Collected and Appropriated by the States-

Article 268(1) of the Indian Constitution deals with the allocation of revenue from certain stamp duties levied by the Union but collected and appropriated by the States. The Government of India imposes specific stamp duties specified in the Union List under this provision. However, the collection of these duties varies depending on their leviability within Union Territories or States.

If such stamp duties are levied within any Union Territory, the Government of India is responsible for collecting them. Stamp duties levied within the states, on the other hand, are collected by the states themselves.

This mechanism of assignment ensures that the revenue generated by these national stamp duties is appropriately shared with the states, in accordance with the principles of cooperative federalism. The Constitution encourages a more equitable distribution of financial resources and empowers states to address their specific developmental needs by allowing them to collect and appropriate these assigned duties.

(II) Service Tax Levied by the Union and Collected and Appropriated by the Union and the States-

Article 268A[7] of the Constitution (Eighty-eighth Amendment) Act, 2003, deals with taxes levied by the Government of India on services. Taxes on services, according to this amendment, shall be collected and appropriated by both the Government of India and the States in the manner prescribed by the President through legislation. The President’s law outlines the specific principles of collection and appropriation.

This amendment became effective on the date announced by the Government of India in an official notification. Its purpose is to ensure a fair and coordinated approach to revenue management for services rendered by regulating the collection and distribution of service tax revenue between the Union and the States.

(III) Taxes Levied and Collected by the Union but Assigned to the States-

The assignment of taxes on the sale or purchase of goods, as well as taxes on the consignment of goods, is addressed in Article 269(1) of the Indian Constitution. These taxes are levied and collected by the Government of India, according to this provision. They are, however, assigned to states on or after April 1, 1996, in accordance with the distribution principles established by Parliament through legislation.

To be clear, “taxes on the sale or purchase of goods” refer to taxes levied on goods other than newspapers when the sale or purchase takes place during interstate trade or commerce. Similarly, “taxes on the consignment of goods” refer to taxes on the consignment of goods, whether made to the person initiating it or to any other person, when such consignment occurs during interstate trade or commerce.

The net proceeds of these taxes, except those attributable to Union Territories, are not to be deposited in the Consolidated Fund of India, according to Clause (2) of Article 269. Instead, they will be assigned to the states where the tax is levied in that fiscal year. The distribution among the states shall be in accordance with the principles established by law by Parliament.

Article 269A of the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act of 2016 deals with the levy and collection of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on supplies during interstate trade or commerce. The Government of India levies and collects the GST, which is divided between the Union and the States based on the recommendations of the Goods and Services Tax Council. This ensures a consistent approach to taxation and promotes cooperative fiscal management between the Union and the states. The amount allotted to a state under Article 269A does not enter the Consolidated Fund of India. Furthermore, if a State’s GST revenue is used to pay the tax imposed under Article 246A, it does not contribute to the Consolidated Fund of India or the Consolidated Fund of the State, as applicable. When goods or services are involved in inter-State trade or commerce, Parliament has the authority to establish principles for determining the place of supply.


The compulsory sharing of taxes between the Union and the States is outlined in Article 270 of the Indian Constitution. This provision applies to all taxes and duties mentioned in the Union List, except for those mentioned in Articles 268, 269, and 269A, as well as any surcharge on taxes and duties mentioned in Article 271, and any cess levied for specific purposes under Parliament-made laws. The Government of India levies and collects such taxes and duties, which are then distributed between the Union and the States in accordance with Clause (2) of Article 270.

Clause (2) allocates a percentage of the net proceeds of these taxes and duties in any fiscal year to the states where the respective tax or duty is leviable. The distribution among the states is determined by the President’s principles, either until a Finance Commission is formed or after considering the recommendations of an existing Finance Commission, as the case may be.

Furthermore, Article 271 empowers Parliament to levy a surcharge on any of the duties or taxes mentioned in Articles 269 and 270, except for the goods and services tax mentioned in Article 246A. The proceeds of such surcharges are deposited in the Consolidated Fund of India.

In summary, Article 270 requires the Union and the States to share certain taxes and duties, whereas Article 271 allows for the imposition of surcharges on certain duties or taxes for the benefit of the Union. These provisions are critical in promoting fiscal cooperation and financial stability between the Union and India’s states.


Article 272 of the Indian Constitution previously permitted the permissive sharing of Union excise duties with the States, except for those on medicinal and toilet preparations listed in the Union List. This arrangement, which facilitated fiscal cooperation, was modified in 1989 in response to the Ninth Finance Commission’s recommendations. The Union Duties of Excise (Distribution) Act of 1979, as amended by Act 13 of 1990, allowed the Union and the States to share these excise duties.

The Constitution (80th Amendment) Act of 2000, on the other hand, brought about significant changes. It omitted Article 272, which went into effect on April 1, 1996. The amendment also included specific provisions to ensure a smooth transition of funds related to Union excise duties that were previously distributed to states as grants-in-aid. The amendment states that any such distributed sum, including the net proceeds of Union duties of excise and additional duties of excise collected by the Government of India, is deemed to have been distributed in accordance with the provisions of Article 270.

Similarly, any amount equivalent to the net proceeds of other taxes or duties distributed to the states as grants-in-aid between April 1, 1996, and the commencement of the 80th Amendment shall be deemed to have been distributed under Article 270.

In essence, the Constitution (80th Amendment) Act of 2000 changed permissively shareable taxes and duties under old Article 272 to compulsorily shareable ones under new Article 270. The primary goal of this amendment was to increase state income by establishing a more systematic and mandated sharing mechanism.

  • (d) GRANT-IN-AID:

The Constitution specifies three types of grants-in-aid to the states from Union funds:

(a) Article 273 authorizes the President to issue grants-in-aid to the states of Assam, Bihar, Odisha, and West Bengal in lieu of jute export duties. The amounts of these grants are decided in collaboration with the Finance Commission.

(b) Article 275 empowers Parliament to provide essential assistance to needy states through grants as deemed necessary. Furthermore, special grants may be made available to states that are engaged in development schemes aimed at promoting the welfare of Scheduled Tribes or improving administration in Scheduled Areas.

(c) Article 282 empowers both the Union and State Governments to make grants for any public purpose, even if it falls outside the scope of legislative powers granted to Parliament or the State Legislature.

In summary, these provisions allow the Union to provide financial support and assistance to the States while ensuring that funds are allocated to specific regions or projects in accordance with the country’s developmental needs and objectives.


Article 274(1) of the Constitution states that before introducing or moving a Bill or Amendment that imposes or modifies any tax or duty in which States have a stake, or changes the definition of “agricultural income” as used in Indian Income-tax enactments, or affects the principles governing the distribution of funds to States under this Chapter, or imposes any surcharge for Union purposes mentioned in this Chapter, such a proposal must be approved by the President.

The phrase “tax or duty in which states are interested” refers to the following:

(a) A tax or duty, the entire or partial net proceeds of which are allocated to any State; or (b) A tax or duty, the net proceeds of which are currently payable to any State from the Consolidated Fund of India.

In essence, this provision ensures that any legislative action concerning taxation that affects the interests of the states can only proceed with the President’s prior recommendation, thereby protecting the financial concerns and allocations of the Indian Union’s states.


Article 277[8] of the Indian Constitution ensures the preservation of taxes, duties, cesses, or fees lawfully imposed by the government of any state, municipality, or other local authority prior to the commencement of the Indian Constitution. Even if they fall under the Union List, these levies can still be imposed and used for the purposes of the respective State, municipality, district, or local area.

Article 277, in essence, ensures the continuation of pre-existing taxes, duties, cesses, or fees, allowing them to continue and be used for their intended purposes despite their inclusion in the Union List.


The method for determining the “net proceeds” of any tax or duty under Chapter 1 of Part XII is outlined in Article 279[9] of the Constitution. The term “net proceeds” refers to the tax or duty proceeds less the cost of collection. The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India certifies and determines the net proceeds of any tax or duty, or part thereof, within a specific area. For the purposes of these provisions, the certificate issued by the Comptroller and Auditor-General is deemed final.

Furthermore, subject to the foregoing and any other specific provisions in this Chapter, Parliament may enact laws, or the President may issue orders governing the calculation of proceeds assigned to any State, the timing and manner of payments, adjustments between fiscal years, and other incidental or ancillary matters related to the allocation of proceeds to the States. These steps are critical for ensuring smooth financial arrangements and collaboration with Part-B states on taxation and revenue distribution.


Article 279A of the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act of 2016, inserted by the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act of 2016, outlines the composition and functions of the Goods and Services Tax Council as follows:

1. Council Constitution: Within sixty days of the commencement of the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016, the President shall form the Goods and Services Tax Council.

2. The Council’s Membership: The Council will be made up of the following individuals: Union Finance Minister – Chairman (b) Union Minister of State in charge of Revenue or Finance – Member (c) Finance or Taxation Minister or any other Minister nominated by each State Government – Members

3. Vice-Chairperson: The Members referred to in Clause (2) sub-clause (c) shall elect a Vice-Chairperson of the Council for a specified period.

4. Council Functions: The Goods and Services Tax Council shall make recommendations to the Union and the States on a variety of issues, including:

(a) taxes, cesses, and surcharges to be incorporated into the goods and services tax.

(b) The goods and services that will be subject to or exempt from the goods and services tax.

(c) Model Goods and Services Tax Laws, levy principles, and Goods and Services Tax apportionment on interstate trade or commerce.

(d) The turnover threshold for goods and services is exempt from goods and services tax.

(e) Goods and services tax rates, including floor rates with bands.

(f) Special rates for specific periods during natural disasters or calamities.

(g) Specific provisions for specific states.

(h) Any other matter related to goods and services tax, as decided by the Council.

5. Taxation of specific petroleum products: The Council shall recommend the effective date for the imposition of goods and services tax on petroleum crude, high-speed diesel, motor spirit (commonly known as petrol), natural gas, and aviation turbine fuel.

6. Guiding principles: In carrying out its responsibilities, the Council will be guided by the need for a harmonized structure of goods and services taxes, as well as the development of a harmonized national market for goods and services.

7. Quorum: At its meetings, one-half of the total number of Members of the Goods and Services Tax Council shall constitute the quorum.

8. Procedure: The Council shall establish the procedure for carrying out its functions.

9. Decision-making: Every decision of the Council shall be made at a meeting by a majority of not less than three-fourths of the weighted votes of the members present and voting, with the vote of the Central Government having a weightage of one-third of the total votes cast and the votes of all State Governments having a weightage of two-thirds of the total votes cast.

10. Validity of proceedings: No act or proceeding of the Goods and Services Tax Council shall be deemed invalid because of a vacancy, a defect in the Council’s constitution, or a procedural irregularity that does not affect the case’s merits.

11. Dispute resolution mechanism: The Council shall establish a mechanism to adjudicate disputes arising between the Government of India and one or more States, or between different States, because of the Council’s recommendations or implementation.


Article 292 empowers the Government of India to exercise executive power by borrowing funds on the security of the Consolidated Fund of India, subject to legislative limits. This borrowing authority may also include the provision of guarantees within the limits specified. Article 293, on the other hand, grants borrowing powers to state governments in India, as well as the authority to issue guarantees, subject to limits set by the respective state legislatures. State borrowing, however, is subject to certain constraints.

According to Clause (3) of Article 293, states are not permitted to borrow funds from sources outside India. Furthermore, if there are outstanding obligations from a previous loan made or guaranteed by the Government of India or its predecessor, a State must obtain the consent of the Government of India before raising any loan. While providing consent, the Government of India has the authority to impose any conditions it deems necessary. This ensures that the Union and the States approach borrowing and guarantees in a coordinated and responsible manner.


The doctrine of inter-governmental tax immunity, also known as instrumentality immunity, is a critical principle in the federal system. It ensures that each level of government within a federation is not taxed by the other. This principle aids in the avoidance of unnecessary complications and conflicts in tax assessment and collection, allowing each government to operate independently of the other.

The doctrine of inter-governmental immunity was first established by the Supreme Court of the United States in the landmark case of McCulloch v. Maryland[10]. The court ruled that the states cannot impose taxes or burdens that would impede the functioning of laws enacted by the federal government to execute its constitutional powers. The doctrine states that when two separate governments exist within a federal constitution, each with limited jurisdiction, the exercise of power by each government must be limited in a way that does not interfere with the functions assigned to the other government.

In India, the doctrine of inter-governmental tax immunity is incorporated in Articles 285, 287, 288, and 289 of the Constitution. Article 285(1) prohibits a state from taxing the property of the Union government, unless Parliament passes a law allowing it[11]. However, Article 285(2) states that this exemption does not apply to any property of the Union on which tax was levied before the Constitution came into effect, provided such tax continues to be levied in that state. Parliament has the power to withdraw this exception by passing a law.

The scope of the exemption under Article 285 is limited to direct taxes and does not apply to sales tax, which can be validly levied on Union property[12]. For example, the Telecommunication Department run by the Ministry of the Government of India can claim exemption from octroi duty on goods brought within the limits of a Municipal Corporation[13]. However, service charges for the supply of water and maintenance of sewerage systems in railway colonies, as provided by the Jal Sansthan, cannot be considered a tax on Union property. Since it is a fee, its collection does not violate Article 285[14].

Article 289(1) contains similar provisions in favor of the states. It states that the property and income of a state shall be exempt from Union taxation. However, Article 289(2) specifies that the immunity from Union taxation does not apply to any trade or business conducted by or on behalf of a state government, or any property used or occupied for such trade or business, or any income arising from it. Article 289(3) empowers Parliament to declare certain trades or businesses as incidental to the ordinary functions of the government, making them exempt from Union taxation.

Articles 287 and 288 also incorporate the doctrine of immunity of instrumentality to some extent[15]. Article 287 prohibits states from taxing the consumption or sale of electricity used by the Government of India or railway companies for constructing, maintaining, or operating railways, unless permitted by Union legislation. Article 288 exempts from state taxation any water or electricity generated, consumed, distributed, or sold by authorities established to regulate or develop inter-state rivers or river valleys. However, this exemption is subject to any Presidential Order to the contrary. Article 288(2) allows a state legislature to impose a tax of the nature specified in Article 288(1), provided it has been reserved for the President’s consideration and has received his assent.

In the case of New Delhi Municipal Corporation v. State of Punjab[16], the Supreme Court held that the property exempted from tax under Article 289(1) refers to property used for government purposes and not for trade or business. The Court distinguished between Articles 285 and 289, stating that while the immunity in favor of the Union under Article 285 is absolute, the immunity in favor of a state under Article 289 is qualified.


Finally, financial relations between the central government and state governments in India are critical to the functioning of the federal system and the country’s overall economic progress. The Indian Constitution establishes a comprehensive framework for revenue sharing, taxation powers, and fiscal transfers, ensuring a cooperative approach to nation-building while respecting each level of government’s autonomy.

The taxation principles enshrined in Article 265 uphold the importance of legality, transparency, and citizen rights in the taxation system. Article 266 defines financial management and accountability as ensuring the efficient use of government resources while preventing arbitrary spending.

Articles 268 to 281 govern the distribution of revenue between the Union and the States, which promotes fairness and equity in sharing financial resources to meet the diverse needs of both levels of government. The Goods and Services Tax Council, established under Article 279A, facilitates coordination and cooperation in Goods and Services Tax matters, ensuring a harmonized national market.

Inter-governmental tax immunity, as enshrined in Articles 285, 287, 288, and 289, protects each level of government from being taxed by the other, promoting smooth functioning and avoiding unnecessary conflicts.

Overall, India’s financial relationships between the central and state governments exemplify the cooperative federalist spirit, fostering inclusive and sustainable growth in this diverse and vibrant democracy. By adhering to these constitutional provisions, India can continue on its path to economic progress and equitable development while upholding democratic, transparent, and fiscally prudent principles.

[1] Article 265 in The Constitution Of India 1949 (

[2] Article 266 in The Constitution Of India 1949 (

[3] Article 267 in The Constitution Of India 1949 (

[4] Article 115 in The Constitution Of India 1949 (

[5] Article 116 in The Constitution Of India 1949 (

[6] Article 205 in The Constitution Of India 1949 (

[7] Article 268A repealed by the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016 (w.e.f. 16.9.2016).

[8] Article 277 in The Constitution Of India 1949 (

[9] Article 279 in The Constitution Of India 1949 (

[10] McCulloch v. Maryland – Wikipedia

[11] M.C., Amritsar v. Supdt. Post Office, AIR 2004 SC 2912; Union of India v. Purna M. Corpn., 1992 (1) SCC 100.

[12] K.P. Engr. C.P.W.D., Bikaner v. R.T.B. Ajmer, AIR 2005 SC 4499.

[13] See Union of India v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 2008 (NOC) 116 (Bom.)

[14] Union of India v. State of U.P., AIR 2008 SC 521

[15] See D.V. Corpn. v. State of Bihar, AIR 1976 SC 1956

[16] AIR 1997 SC 2847

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