Friday, March 24, 2017

Inter State Council under Article 263 of Indian Constitution

Article 263 of Indian Constitution provides for the establishment of an Inter-State Council to improve the coordination between the state governments and the between the state and the union governments.

The main purpose of such a council is to maintain harmony among the various state governments and the centre.

This ensures a conflict free political environment in the country.

The Inter-state council is established by the President for a specific purpose as and when he sees it necessary and fit.

In other words, if a conflict or dispute arises among any of the state governments and the centre, or, there are signs of imminent dispute, then the president on his discretion can establish an Inter-State council for the resolution of the particular conflict.

The president has the power to define the nature and extent of the council’s powers and jurisdiction.

The constituting members, the procedure for its constitution, and the process of its proceedings can also be designed by the president.

Even though the president has the power to define the duties and powers of such a council, Article 263 of the Indian Constitution describes the duties that can be assigned to the Inter-state councils.

Duties for Inter State Council as described under Article 263 of Indian Constitution are as follows:

1. The councils has the duty to enquire and investigate the disputes which might arise between the states.

2. The council has to investigate and hold discussion on matters which hold the common interests of the centre and the states or multiple states.

3. After suitable investigation and discussions, the council has to make recommendations in way that improves the efficiency of policy making and acting on such policies.

Relation between the Supreme Court and Inter-State Councils

Just like the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction under Article 131 of Indian Constitution to decide a legal conflict between the governments, the inter state councils also have the jurisdiction to enquire and advice on inter-state disputes.

The jurisdiction of these two bodies are designed in such a manner that they complement each other.

The Supreme Court can only pass judgements on strictly legal controversies while on matters that are precisely legal, but more of a welfare and policy related conflict, the Inter-state councils have the jurisdiction.

Moreover, while the judgments of the Supreme Court are law binding, the nature of the inter-state councils are purely advisory.

The President of India has formed numerous Inter-State Councils for conflict resolution between the governments under the provision of the Article 263 of Indian Constitution.

They are:

* 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

Note: Apart from these, the Central Council of Indian Medicine and the Central Council of Homeopathy were established under Parliamentary Acts.

Establishment of Inter-State Council


The Sarkaria Commission which was set up in 1983 recommended in its final report in 1987 that instead of a setting up a temporary Inter-state council for individual conflict incidents, a permanent inter-state council should be established for the harmony and efficient functioning of the governments.

The Sarkaria Commission recommended that this council be set up under Article 263 of the Indian Constitution.

Moreover, the commission also recommended that to avoid any kind of confusion between an interstate council and other governmental bodies, the new permanent interstate council be called as inter-governmental council.

It recommended that this council should be in charge of the duties laid down in clause (b) and (c) of Article 263 of Indian Constitution.

Following suit of these recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, the Janata Dal government led by VP Singh finally established the Inter-state council in the year 1990.

This council comprised the following members:

1. The Prime Minister of the country as the Chairman.
2. The Chief Ministers of all the states of the country.
3. The Chief Ministers of those Union territories which have a legislative assembly.
4. The Chief Ministers of those Union Territories which do not have legislative assemblies.
5. Six central cabinet ministers which are nominated by the Prime Minister, provided that the Home Minister is included.

Apart from these members, if in any case, a specific area like health, education, Human or Natural Resources are concerned, then the respective independent ministers of that particular areas are also invited to the council, while a discussion is taking place on the said matter.

This inter-state council is also an advisory or re-commendatory body which is allowed to provide its opinion on matters relating to Inter-state, centre-state and centre-union territories relations.

Its main objective is to encourage harmony and coordination between the different governments by examining, investigating, discussing and deliberating on such matters.

The inter state council has to meet at least three times in a year.

These meetings are held in camera and all queries and issues are decide by voting.

In its first meeting in 1990, the council deliberated on the recommendations of Sarkaria commission.

So far, important decisions have been taken on 171 of the 247 recommendations made by the Sarkaria Commission.

In 1996, a sub-committee was founded to specifically review on the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission.

Based on the review by this subcommittee, the inter-state council broadly endorsed and supported most of its reviews.

The duties assigned to this body are as follows:

1. the council is designated with the duty to investigate and discuss the subjects and matters upon which both the state and the central government has an interest in.

2. the council is designated with the duty to give and recommend a proper solution and path of action on those matters for better coordination between the state and the union governments.

3. the council is designated with the duty to deliberate on the matters in which different states have a vested interest in as and when referred to it by the chairman, that is, the prime minister.

Inter state councils are the only constitutional bodies that examine and deliberate the federal matters comprehensively.

The finance commission deals with the financial issues, the supreme court under article 131, adjudicates legal issues and inter state water dispute tribunals deal exclusively with water disputes.