(Online Course) GS Concepts : Indian Polity – Inter State Council

Subject : General Studies Concepts

Chapter : Indian Polity

Topic: Inter State Council

Question : Inter-State Council is the only constitutional
body to deal with federal disputes in a comprehensive manner. Discuss.

Answer: Art. 263 reads as follows:

If at any time it appears to the President that the public
interests would be served by the establishment of a Council charged with the
duty of-
(a) inquiring into and advising upon disputes which may have arisen between
(b) 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
(c) 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
organisation and procedure.

The Inter-State Council was set up under Article 263 of the
Constitution of India by the President in 1990.

Prime Minister is the head of the ISC and the composition

  • six Ministers of Cabinet rank in the Union Council of
    Ministers to be nominated by the Prime Minister

  • two Ministers of Cabinet rank in the Union Council of
    Ministers to he nominated by the Prime Minister as permanent invitees.

  • Chief Ministers of all States

  • Chief Ministers of Union territories having Legislative

  • Administrators of Union territories not having
    Legislative Assemblies

  • Governors of States under President’s Rule

The following issues, as far as may be expedient, may not be
brought up before the Council

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  • Any issue which can be resolved by discussion at the
    official level or at the level of Ministers between the Central Government
    and the State Governments concerned.

  • Any issue which has to be considered or dealt with by the
    National Development Council, the National Integration Council , the Finance
    Commission, the Planning Commission or such other body or authority of a
    like nature as may be set up from time to time to deal with specific
    subjects relating to Centre-State relations.

  • Any issue which is currently under consideration or
    discussion in either House of Parliament or which is sub-judice.

Any issue relating to a matter which, under the Constitution,
is left or the decision of a specified authority other than the Central
Government such as the Election Commission or the Supreme Court etc
Any other issue the discussion of which may, in the opinion of the Chairman,
create discord between the States or otherwise be against the public interest or
against the interests of the sovereignty or integrity of India, the security of
the State, friendly relations with foreign State or Public Order.

Any issue which relates to the discharge of any duty or
special responsibility of the Union under the provisions of the Constitution or
any law of Parliament.
The Council in its first meeting in 1990 had considered the recommendations made
by the Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State Relations. Keeping in view the
complexities of the issues involved and their wider implications, the Council
set up a Subcommittee of the Council to examine the recommendations. The Council
broadly endorsed the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission as finalised by
the Sub-committee. The Inter-State Council decided to set up a Standing
Committee for having continuous consultation and processing of all matters for
consideration of the Inter-State Council. Accordingly the Standing Committee was
set up in 1996.

The Inter-State Council held nine meetings so far and has
taken important decisions on 171 of the 247 recommendations of the Sarkaria
Commission. The last meeting 9th – was held in 2005 and discussed good
governance. Some of the major decisions of the Council are a follows

  • approved the Alternative Scheme of Devolution of Share in
    Central Taxes to States

  • The Council decided that on the subject of delay in State
    Bills referred for President’s consideration, there should be time-bound
    clearance of Bills referred. Also, The Bills should not be reserved for
    President’s consideration in a routine manner.

  • Laid down norms for the use of Art.356

  • Discussed residuary powers of taxation, Art.355 rye

  • In the 9th meet in 2005, discussed good governance.

ISC is the only Constitutional body to deal with federal
disputes in a comprehensive manner. Finance Commission deals with only financial
matters in the federal field. Supreme Court adjudicates on federal matters (Art.
131). Inter state water disputes tribunals exclusively deal with only water

Question : The working of the Inter-state Council has
highlighted the need for additional bodies to assist ISC in dealing with
increasing member of centre-state disputes.

Answer: The then Prime Minister, Shri Jawaharla1 Nehru
convened the National Integration Conference in 1961 to find ways and means to
combat the evils of communalism, casteism, regionalism linguism and similar
social evils. This conference decided to set tip a National Integration Council
(NIC) to review all matters pertaining to national integration and to make
recommendations thereon.
The NIC held 12 meeting so far. Issues relating to National Integration and
Communal Harmony in the context of Kashmir and Punjab problem and dispute over
Ram Janam Boomi-Babri Masjid, problem of Regionalism and Communalism, role of
Educational Institutions and Mass Media and responsibility of the Press, etc.
were discussed in the various meetings of NIC.
The NIC functions as a forum for effective initiative and interaction on issues
of national concern, review issues relating to national integration and make
National Integration Council was reconstituted in 2005. It has 103 members.
Besides Union Ministers, Chief Ministers and political leaders, the NIC will
have representation from various categories such as national commissions, media
persons, business, eminent public figures and women.

The NIC (2008) has 11 Cabinet Ministers, and leaders of all
major political parties

Leaders of regional political parties have also been
nominated. The reconstituted body also has the chairpersons of the National
Commission for Minorities, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, the
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, the National Commission for Women and
the National Human Rights Commission.
Representatives of business are also members like Ratan Tata, Rahul Bajaj, N. R.
Narayana Murthy and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.
Among the 36 public figures named on the NIC are Mrinal Sen, M.S. Swarninathan
and Ram Jethrnalani.
Media persons and women’s representatives are also among the members.

Zonal Councils

The idea of creation of Zonal Councils was mooted by the
first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1956 when during the
course of debate on the report of the States Re-organisation Commission. He
suggested that the States proposed to be reorganised may be grouped into four or
five zones having an Advisory Council “to develop cooperative working” among
these States. This suggestion was made – by Pandit Nehru at a time when
linguistic reorganization led to bitterness and hostilities. As a remedy to this
situation, it was suggested that a high level advisory forum should be set up
resolve common problems and to create healthy inter-State and Centre-State
environment and fostering balanced socio economic development of the respective
zones. There are five zonal councils.

  • The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of
    Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jarunni & Kashinir, Punjab, Rajasthan, NCT of
    Delhi and U.T of Chandigarh;

  • The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of
    Chhatisgarh, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh;

  • The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of
    Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkirn and West Bengal;

  • The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa,
    Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra &
    Nagar Haveli; and

  • The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of
    Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of

The seven North Eastern States i.e (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal
Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya and (vii) Nagaland
are not included in the Zonal Councils and their special problems are looked
after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act,
1972. Sikkim was added to them later.

The Zonal Council for each zone consists of the following

  • the Chief Minister of each of the States included in the
    zone and two other Ministers of each such State nominated by the Governor;

  • where any Union Territory is included in the zone, two
    members from each such territory nominated by the President;

Further the Zonal Council for each zone has the following
persons as Advisers to assist the Council in the performance of its duties

  • one person nominated by the Planning Commission

  • Chief Secretaries of the States included in the Zone

  • Development Commissioners of States included, in the

The union home minister is the chairman .of each of these
councils. The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice
Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for
a period of one year at a time. Union Ministers are also invited to participate
in the meetings of the Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.

Each Zonal Council has setup a Standing Committee consisting
of Chief Secretaries of the member States of their respective Zonal Councils.
These Standing Committees meet from time to time to resolve the issues or to do
necessary ground work for further meetings of the Zonal Councils. Senior
Officers of the Planning Commission and other Central Ministries are also
associated with the meetings depending upon necessity.

The Secretariat explores centre-State, inter-State and zonal
issues which are to the deliberated by the Councils or the Standing Committees.

The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are as

  • national integration

  • balancing regionalism with federalism

  • Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and
    exchange ideas and experiences; and

  • Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States
    for successful and speedy execution of development projects.

Broadly these Councils are expected to :

  • Promote a cooperative approach to facilitate economic and
    social planning and the execution of development schemes particularly
    inter-State projects;

  • Deal with matters arising out of the re-organisation of
    States such as border problems, integration of services, linguistic
    minorities, inter-State transport, roads, etc;

  • Initiate measures of common interest in the field of
    social and economic planning, and exchange experience available with each
    State to the best common advantage;

  • Tackle common law and order problems and devise uniform
    policies regarding administration of civil and criminal law; and

  • Deal with common problems like floods, drought, scarcity,
    local cess, etc.

Zonal Councils provide a forum where irritants between Centre
and States and amongst States can be resolved through discussions and
consultations. Though there are a large number of other fora like the National
Development Council, inter State Council, Governor’s/Chief Minister’s Conference
add other periodical high level conferences held under the auspices of the Union
Government, the Zonal Councils are different, both in content and character.
They are regional fora of cooperative, endeavour for States linked with each
other economically, politically and culturally. Being small and high level
bodies, specially meant for looking after the interests of respective zones they
are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account
regional factors while keeping the national perspective in view.

The scope of functions of these Zonal Councils is very wide,
as they can discuss any matter in which some or all of the States represented in
that Council, or the Union and one or more of the States represented in that
Council, have a common interest. These Councils have been set up with the
objective to provide a common meeting ground in each zone for ensuring
resolution of Inter-State problems, fostering balanced regional development and
building harmonious Centre-State Relations.

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