Inter-State Councils

  • Article 263 contemplates the establishment of an Inter-State Council to effect coordination between the states and between Centre and states.
  • Thus, the President can establish such a council if at any time it appears to him that the public interest would be served by its establishment.
  • He can define the nature of duties to be performed by such a council and its organisation and procedure.
  • Even though the president is empowered to define the duties of an inter- state council, Article 263 specifies the duties that can be assigned to it in the following manner:
  1. enquiring into and advising upon disputes which may arise between states;
  2. investigating and discussing subjects in which the states or the Centre and the states have a common interest; and
  3. making recommendations upon any such subject, and particularly for the better co-ordination of policy and action on it.

“The council’s function to enquire and advice upon inter-state disputes is complementary to the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction under Article 131 to decide a legal controversy between the governments. The Council can deal with any controversy whether legal or non-legal, but its function is advisory unlike that of the court which gives a binding decision.”

Under the above provisions of Article 263, the president has established the following councils to make recommendations for the better coordination of policy and action in the related subjects:

  • Central Council of Health.
  • Central Council of Local Government and Urban Development.
  • Four Regional Councils for Sales Tax for the Northern, Eastern, Western and Southern Zones.

The Central Council of Indian Medicine and the Central Council of Homoeopathy were set up under the Acts of Parliament.

Establishment of Inter-State Council

  • The Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State Relations (1983–87) made a strong case for the establishment of a permanent Inter-State Council under Article 263 of the Constitution.
  • It recommended that in order to differentiate the Inter-State Council from other bodies established under the same Article 263, it must be called as the Inter-Governmental Council.
  • The Commission recommended that the Council should be charged with the duties laid down in clauses (b) and (c) of Article 263.

In pursuance of the above recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, the Janata Dal Government headed by V. P. Singh established the Inter- State Council in 1990.It consists of the following members:

  1. Prime minister as the Chairman
  2. Chief ministers of all the states
  3. Chief ministers of union territories having legislative assemblies
  4. Administrators of union territories not having legislative assemblies
  5. Governors of States under President’s rule
  6. Six Central cabinet ministers, including the home minister, to be nominated by the Prime Minister.

Five Ministers of Cabinet rank / Minister of State (independent charge) nominated by the Chairman of the Council (i.e., Prime Minister) are permanent invitees to the Council.

  • The council is a recommendatory body on issues relating to inter-state, Centre–state and Centre–union territories relations.
  • It aims at promoting coordination between them by examining, discussing and deliberating on such issues.
  • Its duties, in detail, are as follows:
    • investigating and discussing such subjects in which the states or the centre have a common interest;
    • making recommendations upon any such subject for the better coordination of policy and action on it; and
    • deliberating upon such other matters of general interest to the states as may be referred to it by the chairman.
  • The Council may meet at least thrice in a year.
  • Its meetings are held in camera and all questions are decided by consensus.
  • There is also a Standing Committee of the Council.
  • It was set up in 1996 for continuous consultation and processing of matters for the consideration of the Council.
  • It consists of the following members:
    1. Union Home Minister as the Chairman
    2. Five Union Cabinet Ministers
    3. Nine Chief Ministers
  • The Council is assisted by a secretariat called the Inter-State Council Secretariat.
  • This secretariat was set-up in 1991 and is headed by a secretary to the Government of India.
  • Since 2011, it is also functioning as the secretariat of the Zonal Councils.

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