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To prepare for Indian Polity for any competitive exam, aspirants have to know about the basics of Inter-State Relations. It gives an idea of all the topics important for the IAS Exam and the polity syllabus (GS-II). Inter-State Relations and related topics are extremely important for the UPSC Exam. This is an essential portion of the polity. As IAS aspirants, you should be thorough with the Inter-State Relations. This article will provide you with relevant details about the Inter-State Council (Article 263).

INTER-STATE COUNCIL – Art. 263
  • Inter-state council is constitutional body as 263 implies the establishment of an Inter-State Council to effect coordination between the states and between Centre and states.
  • The PRESIDENT OF INDIA can establish such a council if at any time it appears to him that the public interest would be served by its establishment. President also can define the nature of duties to be performed by such a council and its organisation and procedure.
  • It was set up for first time in 1990 through a Presidential order as per the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission under the Ministry of Home affairs.
  • The council is a recommendatory body on issues relating to inter- state, Centre-State and CentreUnion Territories
  • The Council may meet at least thrice in a year. All questions are decided by consensus.

 

But in 26 years, it has met only 11 times. Recently the meeting was held after a gap of 10 years in Delhi in July 2016.

 

  • Council is the most dynamic platform to discuss policies, strengthen the Centre-State relations and act as a bridge to the trust deficit between the Centre and the States.

 

The functions of the council to enquire and advice upon inter-state disputes is complementary to the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction (Art. 131) to decide a legal controversy between the governments.

 

Art. 131 – vests the SC with original jurisdiction over any dispute arising between the states or between the centre and state.

 

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ISC
  • Constitutional Backing – Unlike other platforms for Centre State cooperation, ISC has constitutional backing which puts the states on more solid footing.
  • Cooperative federalism – In times of
    different political parties heading the
    Centre and various states, the need for
    dialogue assumes a greater importance.
  • Resolving disputes linked to state-state & centre-state
  • Decentralized decision making – If the goal of a more decentralised polity, which needs interaction between various levels of government, is to be achieved, Interstate Council is a crucial first step.
  • Makes governments more accountable – Given its status as a platform for dialogue and discussion, it makes the governments, both at centre and state level, more accountable for their actions.
  • A safety valve – The council helps to bridge the trust deficit between the centre and the states. If not always a problem solver, it at least acted as a safety valve.
  • Lack of other avenues – Other constitutional avenue

 

SARKARIA COMMISSION AND ISC
  • The Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State Relations (1983–88) made a pitch for the establishment of a permanent Inter-State Council (under Art. 263) of the Constitution.
  • Commission recommended Inter-State Council must be called as the Inter-Governmental Council in order to differentiate from other bodies established under the same Art. 263.
  • It recommended that the Council should be charged with the duties laid down in 263 (b) and (c).

 

Duties assigned to Inter-state council under Art. 263
a)       Enquiring into and advising upon disputes which may arise between states
b)      Investigating and discussing subjects in which the states or the Centre and the states have a common interest
c)       Making recommendations upon any such subject, and particularly for the better co-ordination of policy and action on it.
d)      Deliberating upon such other matters of general interest to the states as may be referred to it by the chairperson (i.e. Prime Minister)

 

 

MEMBERS OF INTER – STATE COUNCIL

The Janata Dal Government headed by V. P. Singh established the Inter-State Council in 1990.

  1. Prime minister à Chairperson
  2. Chief ministers of all the states
  3. Chief ministers of UTs having legislative assemblies à Delhi + Puducherry + J&K
  4. Administrators of UTs not having legislative assemblies
  5. Governors of States under President’s rule (Art. 356)
  6. Six Central cabinet ministers, (to be nominated by the Prime Minister).

 

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

 

STANDING COMMITTEE OF ISC
  • Standing Committee of the Council was set up in 1996 for continuous consultation and processing of matters for the consideration of the Council.
  • Members of standing committee:
  1. Chairmanship – Union Home minister
  2. Five Union Cabinet Ministers
  3. Nine Chief Ministers
  • Functions of standing committee:
  1. To monitor the implementation of decisions taken on the recommendations of the Inter-state Council
  2. To process all matters relating to Centre-State Relations before they are taken up for consideration in the Inter-State Council.
  3. To consider any other matter referred to it by the Chairman/Inter-state Council.

 

The Council is assisted by a secretariat (set-up in 1991) called the Inter-State Council Secretariat. It is headed by a secretary to the GoI. Since 2011, it is also functioning as the secretariat of the Zonal Councils.

 

ISSUES WITH INTER-STATE COUNCIL
  • Non-binding nature of advice of the council
  • Lack of regular meetings among members states – recently Inter-State Council met after a gap of 10 years.
  • Council lacks deliberation on socio-economically important topics such as poverty alleviation, health, education, SDG implementation at states level.
  • No representation to the civil society, NGOs and experts from corporate and academic streams in the Council.
  • Secretariat at Union Home Ministry and chairmanship of Union Home Minister gives perception of biasness.
  • It is seen as a mere arm-chair discussions without any substantial outcome.
  • Despite the constitutional backing to ISC (unlike the NITI Aayog) its potential is unutilized ad importance is underrated.

 

WAYS TO STRENGTHEN ISC
  • It should be strengthened as a forum for not just administrative but also political and legislative give and take between centre and states.
  • ISC should provide wider representation to civil society institutions, NGOs, corporate sector and domain experts to make their representations.
  • Council should have experts in its organizational set up drawn from the disciplines of Laws, Management, finance and economics, political Science besides the All India Services cadre.
  • Exploring possibility of shifting its secretariat from the Union Home Ministry to the Rajya Sabha secretariat to impart neutral federal character to the ISC.
  • The Vice-President of India should be made chairperson of council rather than the Union home minister.
  • The ISC must meet at least thrice in a year on an agenda evolved after proper consultation with States – Punchhi commission

 

Suitable amendments to Article 263 are required to make the Inter-State Council a credible, powerful and fair mechanism for management of interstate and Centre-state differences – Punchhi commission on Centre-State relation (2007)

 

There should be a continuing auditing role for the Inter-state Council in the management of matters in concurrent or overlapping jurisdiction. — Punchhi commission on Centre-State relation (2007)

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