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The Inter-State Council

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  • Last Updated : 02 Jul, 2022

The establishment of a permanent Inter-State Council as an independent national forum for consultation with a well-defined mandate in conformity with Article 263 of the Indian Constitution was one of the main recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission. The idea was to support and promote Co-operative Federalism in the country. It acts as a bridge to the trust deficit between the federal government and the states which is vital for the progress and development of a nation. The subject of Legislative power has been divided into three lists in the seventh schedule of the Constitution– Union List, State List, and Concurrent List. There have been disputes with regard to the subjects under the Concurrent List. The Central Government has taken initiatives to look into the controversial problems of power distribution between the center and the states from time to time.

When was Inter-State Council First Established?

Hence, in 1988 the Government constituted a commission under the Chairmanship of Justice R.S.(Ranjit Singh) Sarkaria to evaluate the functioning of the Union and the states’ current arrangements and give recommendations wherever necessary. Accepting the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, the Inter-State Council was established in 1990 through a Presidential Ordinance under Article 263 of the Constitution.

Who Can Establish Inter-State Council?

The President has the authority to establish Inter-State Council at any time whenever he believes it will be in the public interest. So, it is not a permanent Constitutional Body. The President has the authority to determine the nature of the functions to be performed by such a council, as well as its structure and procedure

What is the Standing Committee of the Inter-State Council?

The Standing Committee of the council was set up in 1996 for continuous consultation and processing of subjects for the council’s considerations. Its members include Union Home Minister as the Chairman; nine Chief Ministers and five central cabinet ministers. The Standing Committee oversees the execution of decisions made in response to the Council’s recommendations and considers any additional matters presented to it by the chairman or the council.

Recently, the Union Government has re-constituted the Inter-State Council. The head will be the Prime Minister, other members include chief ministers of all states, six union ministers, and ten union ministers will be the permanent invitees to the council. Additionally, the Centre has also reconstituted the standing committee of the Inter-State Council with Union Home Minister Amit Shah as Chairman.

Composition of Inter-State Council:

  •  The Council is chaired by the Prime Minister of India.
  •  Chief Ministers of all the States (Members).
  •  Chief Ministers of Union Territories having a Legislative Assembly (Members).
  •  Administrators of Union Territories not having a Legislative Assembly (Members).
  •  Governors of the states who are administered by the President (Members).
  •  Union Cabinet Ministers (including the home minister) to be appointed by the Prime Minister (Members).
  •  The permanent invitees of the council includes ministers of the cabinet rank (Members).

All decisions in the council meeting which is supposed to be held three times a year, are made through consensus after regular discussions and deliberations.

Functions of Inter-State Council:

  1. Inquiring into and advising on potential state-to-state and Centre-to-state conflicts and figuring out how to coordinate policy.
  2. In the Concurrent List, the subjects are mentioned in which both the Union and States have a common interest so, the inter-state council discusses and investigates on such subjects. It shall have its own secretariat.
  3. Making recommendations on such subjects for better co-ordination and and appropriate actions.
  4. To develop a sound mechanism for monitoring the implementation of their recommendations.

Limitations of Inter-State Council:

  1. Inter-State Council is just a recommendatory body to investigate and discuss subjects in which inter-state or Centre-state have a common interest. Its recommendations are not binding in nature.
  2. It is not a permanent Constitutional Body as it can only be formed when the President believes that it serves the public interest.
  3. In order to ensure that the periodic meetings are more productive, the Inter-State Council must have a permanent secretariat.
  4. There is a lack of regular meetings in the Inter-State Council, it is supposed to meet thrice a year but till 25th November 2017, it just had 12 meetings since its establishment in 1990.

Only if the Federal and State Governments work together can the country progress. The maintenance of the Cooperative federalism is fraught with difficulties. Periodic debates and discussions are vital for the smooth functioning of the system and to fulfill the institutional gap in the Indian Union. The Council is currently only a discussion group, but in the future, it should have a bigger influence on federal coordination.


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