Inter-state Council

Inter State council is a constitutional body set up on the basis of provisions in Article 263 of the Constitution of India by a Presidential Order dated 28th May, 1990 on recommendation of Sarkaria Commission. Article 263 of the Constitution envisages establishment of an institutional mechanism to facilitate coordination of policies and their implementation between the Union and the State Governments.

Article 263

Article 263 says that “if at any time it appears to the President that the public interest would be served by the establishment of a Council charged with the duty of –

  • inquiring into and advising upon disputes which may have arisen between States;
  • investigating and discussing subjects in which some or all of the States, or the Union and one or more of the States, have a common interest; or
  • making recommendations upon any such subject and in particular, recommendations for the better co-ordination of policy and action with respect to that subject,

it shall be lawful for the President by order to establish such a Council, and to define the nature of the duties to be performed by it and its organization and procedure.”

Functions and Duties

Inter-State Council is a recommendatory body and it investigates and discusses such subjects, in which some  or all of the States or the Union and one or more of the States have a common interest, for better coordination of policy and action with  respect to that subject. It also deliberates upon such other matters of general interests to the States as may be referred by the Chairman to the Council. Its duties include:

  • Inquiring into and advising upon disputes which may have arisen between/among States
  • Investigating and discussing subjects in which some or all of the States, or the Union and one or more of the States have a common interest
  • Making recommendations upon any such subject for the better coordination of policy and action with respect to that subject
Composition of Inter-state Council

Prime Minister is the Chairman of the Inter-state Council. Chief Ministers of all the States and Union Territories having Legislative Assemblies, Administrators of Union Territories not having Legislative Assemblies, Governors of States under President’s rule and six Ministers of Cabinet rank in the Union Council of Ministers, nominated by the Chairman of the Council, are members of the Council. Five Ministers of Cabinet rank nominated by the Chairman of the Council are permanent invitees to the Council.

Secretariat

The Inter-State Council is assisted by Secretariat, which is headed by a Secretary to the Government of India. The Inter-State Council Secretariat closely monitors the implementation of the recommendations made by the Inter-State Council, and places the Action Taken Report before the Standing Committee/Council for consideration. Inter-State Council Secretariat also works as Secretariat of the Zonal Councils.

Competence of Interstate Council on Riparian Disputes

Although this Council has several functions, it is also competent to tender advice regarding the resolution of inter-State disputes including the River Dispute. The above mentioned Article 263 contemplates inquiry into, and advice upon, disputes between States, it does not bring within the scope of the article disputes between the Union and a State. Further, though it does authorize investigation and discussion of subjects of common interest and the making of recommendations upon such subjects, the body itself remains advisory and recommendatory only.

Inter-state Council – An underutilised and ignored constitutional body

Till 1967, most states in India were under rule of a common party {Congress} and it was easier to resolve inter-state disputes. After 1967, other parties or coalitions than the one running at centre or neighbouring states started ruling. These governments with different opinions and political visions were unable to solve the disputes in inter-state problems. Setting up of this council was based on Sarkaria Commission recommendations. It was set up in 1990 but not a single meeting was held for long time. It was only during Atal Bihari Vajpayee government tenure when the council was revived and meetings happened almost every year. However, even today, the Inter-state Council has been largely under-utilized and ignored.

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