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Inter-State Council-Functions And Powers

The Inter-State Council is a non-permanent constitutional body enshrined in Article 263 of the Constitution of India. It can set up the President based on the provisions of Article 263. First, such a body was established in 1990 on the recommendation of the Government Commission under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Inter-State Council can be defined as a recommendation committee that investigates and discusses issues of common interest to one or more states, for better coordination of policy and action on the issue.

Article 263 states: If at any time the President deems it necessary to do so by forming a Council in the public interest:
  • Investigate and advise on potential disputes between States;
  • Or to inquire into and discuss matters of common interest to some or all States or Union to one or more States; Or
  • Make recommendations on any such issue, especially recommendations for better coordination of policy and action on that issue,
It would be lawful for the President to establish such a Council and to define the nature of the duties to be performed by it and its organization and procedure.

There can be many potential challenges in the case of the Federation. The unions and the state government must work together for the success of a country and the functioning of the system, so periodic discussions and debates are required.

The Inter-State Council acts as a tool for cooperation, coordination and the evolution of public policy. By law, the Interstate Council was required to meet three times a year. Unfortunately, this has only been planned 11 times in 26 years. The Secretariat functions of the Zonal Councils were re-appointed to the Inter-State Council Secretariat from 1 April 2011. The meeting resumed in Delhi in July 2016 after a gap of 10 years.

Members of the Inter-state Council
The Prime Minister is the Chairman of the Inter-State Council. The Council members are the Chief Ministers of all the States and Union Territories with Assembly, the Governors of the Union Territories without Assembly, the Governors of the States under the rule of the President, and the six Ministers in the Cabinet nominated by the Council Chairman. The five ministers nominated by the council chairman are regular invitees to the cabinet.

Zonal Councils were created under Part III of the State Reorganization Act, 1956 as part of the State Reorganization Plan and related matters.

According to Section 15 of the State Reorganization Act, there should be one Zonal Council for each of the five regions of the country.

The current structure of each Zonal Council is as follows:
  1. Northern Regional Council comprising Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Region of Delhi, Union Territory of Chandigarh, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh.
  2. Central Zonal Council comprising Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh;
  3. The Eastern Regional Council includes the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal;
  4. Western Zonal Council comprising Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Union Territories of Dadra, Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu.
  5. Southern Zonal Council comprising of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Union Territory of Puducherry.


Sarkaria Commission

Government vide Ministry of Home Affairs dated June 9, 1983, constituted a Commission under the Chairmanship of Justice R.S. Sarkaria with Shri B. Sivaraman and Dr S.R. Sen as its members to reviewing the working of the existing arrangements between the Union and the States in the changed socio-economic scenario.

The Commission's reference terms as described in the notification were as follows:

The Commission shall review and review the functioning of the existing arrangements between the Union and the States with respect to powers, functions and responsibilities in all areas and recommend such changes or other appropriate measures. In examining and reviewing the functioning of the existing arrangements between the Union and the States and making recommendations for necessary changes and actions, the Commission will take into account the social and economic developments that have taken place over the years and give due consideration,

The Commission submitted its 1600-page report in January 1988 after conducting several studies, eliciting information, holding discussions and after detailed deliberations. The report contained 247 recommendations spreading over 19 Chapters.

Some of the main recommendations of the Commission about Inter-State Council and its Secretariat were:

The Council should be charged with duties in wide terms embracing the entire scope of clauses (b) and (c) of Article 263. The Council should not be vested with powers of enquiring into and advising upon disputes between the States;

Without an independent permanent secretariat, the Council will not be able to establish its integrity. Taking into account the nature of meetings and the level of participants, the Council�s Secretariat should be suitably staffed and exhibited on the Union Cabinet Secretariat.

Punchhi Commission

The Government of India constituted a Commission on Centre-State Relations under the chairmanship of Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi, former CJI on 27th April 2007 to look into the new issues of Centre-State relations keeping in view the changes that have taken place in the polity and economy of India since the Sarkaria Commission had last looked at the issue of Centre-State relations over two decades ago.

The Commission examined and reviewed the working of the existing arrangements between the Union and States, various pronouncements of the Courts regarding powers, functions and responsibilities in all spheres including legislative relations, administrative relations, the role of governors, emergency provisions, financial relations, economic and social planning, Panchayati Raj institutions, sharing of resources including inter-state river water etc. The Commission made 273 recommendations in its the seven-volume report presented to Government on 30 March 2010.

Functions & Powers Of Inter-State Council

The Inter-State Council is a recommendatory body that examines and discusses matters in which some or all of the States, or the Union, and one or more States have a common interest in better coordinating policy and action on that subject. It shall also discuss with the States any other matter of general interest which the President may refer to the Council. The Constitution does not provide for the executive role of the Interstate Council. Its purpose � would be a mixture of consultative, cognitive, normative and advisory functions.

Functions of the councils:

  1. Each zone council shall be an advisory body and may discuss any matter in which some or all of the States represented in the Council, or the Union and one or more States represented in the Council, have a common interest and advise the central government and government of the States concerned. what to do about such issues.
  2. In particular, without prejudice to the generality of the above provisions, the Zone Council may discuss and make recommendations on:
    1. any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning;
    2. any question relating to border disputes, linguistic minorities or interstate transport; and
    3. any matter relating to or arising out of the reorganization of States under this Act.

As referred to in Article 263 of the Constitution of India, the powers of the Interstate Council are as follows:
  1. Interest and advice in possible disputes between states:
  2. To examine and discuss matters of common interest to the States of the Union.
  3. Make proposals on any such topic in order to better coordinate policy and action.
In addition, the Council shall be provided with an appropriate secretariat, which shall prepare and distribute to members the necessary documents and records on matters to be discussed at its meetings and shall follow up on matters decided by it. But his conclusions are only advisory.

In addition, one should not get involved in the debate on interstate disputes, as this would prevent it from paying full attention to the various national concerns that it needs to take into account in the first place.

The study group also suggested that the Council should not lend a hand in the constitutional appointments of the President, such as the Chief Justice of India, the Chief Electoral Commissioner, the Governors, the Chief Inspector of India, etc.

Return Of Inter-State Council

After a long span of 11 years, 11th meeting of Inter-State Council was inaugurated at Rashtrapati Bhavan under the Chairmanship of PM Modi. Among the other issues that were discussed in the meeting where the role of governors, better implementation of central schemes by states, measures to involve the states more closely in the planning and delivery of services and steps to make Inter-State Council more decisive and directed towards better fiscal management, sources in the home ministry said. The role of a governor to grant prosecution sanction against a member of the council of ministers were specifically discussed.

A recharged Inter-State Council will thus have an important role to play in the coming years, especially since its members are the political leaders of their respective states. The council is as yet just a discussion group, but it should have a greater say in federal coordination in the future. The GST council has an innovative voting structure, with the Union government having a third of the vote while the states share the rest equally, irrespective of the size of their population or economy. That is one option for a more empowered Inter-State Council.

Highlights of 11th Inter-State Council Meeting

  1. Consideration of Punchhi commission recommendations on Centre-State Relations.
  2. Use of Aadhaar and DBT for providing Subsidies, benefits, and Public Services
  3. Enhancing the quality of education with a focus on improving learning outcomes, incentivizing better performance, etc.
  4. Internal Security with a focus on intelligence sharing and synchronization for fighting Terrorism and Insurgency and Police Reforms and Police Modernization.
All the suggestions have been noted by the Inter-State Council Secretariat. The Standing Committee of Inter-State Council and the Central Ministries/Departments will take further action to examine the suggestions.

In a federal system where powers are divided between two levels of governments, some differences, problems and disputes are bound to occur. Hence the relationship between the Centre and States in the federal system remains always a sensitive mat�ter.[1]

Eventually, the conclusion emerges that nobody can dispute or deny the need for a piece of standing machinery to examine the differences which may arise between the Centre and one or more States and the States inter se. Hence now is the most opportune time for the establishment of the Inter-State Council. It should consist of the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers of States.

Till now, the harsh reality is that the Inter-State Council has had just 12 meetings since it was set up in 1990. There was a gap of a decade between the 10th meeting in 2006 and the 11th meeting in 2016, and the council met again in November 2017. If the Inter-State Council is to emerge as the key institution to manage inter-state frictions, it first needs to have a regular meeting schedule. The council also has to have a permanent secretariat which will ensure that the periodic meetings are more fruitful. There is obviously an institutional gap in the Indian union right now�and it needs to be filled before inter-state frictions get out of control.

The Prime Minister should be the Chairman but the Council should also have Vice-Chairman, an office which should annually rotate among the Chief Ministers according to the alphabetical order of the names of their States. The Council should be regular in holding its meetings, preferably before the start of every parliamentary session. It should have a secretariat competent enough to prepare notes and papers on matters com� in up in its meetings.

The Council cannot but have an advisory status under our system of government but a convention should also be evolved to accept its recommendations. Among the pre� requisites of its success are the confidence in it and the attitudes of giving and take from all sides.

  1. Inter-State Council: Effective Solution for Centre-State Problems, Chandra Pal

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