Inter-State Council: Composition, Functions, Challenges, Notes

By K Balaji|Updated : July 15th, 2022

The Inter-State Council is a recommendatory body empowered to discuss and investigate topics of common interest between the Union and State(s), or among States. It is basically a mechanism that sets standards for debate forums and other discussions to maintain the coordination between the state and centre levels. The Inter-State Council was established in 1990 under the provisions of Article 263 of Part Eleven of the Constitution. The President has the power to establish Inter-State Council.

The Inter-State Council is an important topic of GS Paper 2 of UPSC Mains. This article deals with all relevant topics with regard to the Inter-State Council, which is important from the UPSC Exam point of view.

Table of Content

What is Inter-State Council?

The Inter-State Council is a recommendatory body to discuss and investigate subjects of common interest between the Union and a state or among states. The prime task of the Inter-State Council is to inquire into areas of contention and advise upon disputes between the Union and a state or among states. The Inter-State Council may meet at least thrice a year. There is also a standing committee of the council.

The Sarkaria Commission in 1988 suggested that an Inter-State Council should exist as a permanent body, and in 1990 it came into existence through a Presidential Order. The Eleventh meeting of the Inter-State Council was held in July 2016. It was the last meeting to be held with respect to the Inter-State Council.

Since the Inter-State Council is formed by the President, the President can set up an Inter-State Council not just to advise and solve the disputes but also to investigate and discuss the subjects where all the states and union territories can land upon a single page for better policy coordination.

Recently, the Inter-State Council has been reconstituted, in which the Prime Minister is the Chairman and Chief Minister of all states, with 6 Union Ministers as members. Ten (10) union ministers are permanent invitees to the Inter-States Council. The government also reconstituted the standing committee of the Inter-State Council with the Union Home Minister as chairman.

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Constitutional Provisions of Inter-State Council

The Inter-State Council can be considered a constitutional body as it is composed of Members of States and is established under Article 263 of the Constitution by the president.

  • Despite the Supreme Court's exclusive authority under article 131, Inter-State conflicts can be resolved by the judiciary.
  • Extrajudicial tribunals may adjudicate one type of such issue under Article 262.
  • Similarly, Article 263 of the Indian Constitution provides for the investigation and recommendation of the administrative body to resolve Inter-State disputes.

Composition of Inter-State Council

The Inter-State Council consists of the following members:

  • The chairperson of the Council is the Prime Minister.
  • All states' chief ministers
  • All the Chief Ministers of union territories that have a Legislative Assembly
  • Administrators of union territories do not have legislative authority.
  • Governors of states under the President's rule
  • The Prime Minister is to nominate six central cabinet ministers, including a home minister.
  • The chairman of the Council, that is the Prime Minister, can also nominate five ministers of the cabinet rank or minister of state (independent charge) as permanent invitees to the Council.

Functions of Inter-State Council

The President defines the Inter-State Council's function under Article 263 as an investigation into and advice on disputes that may arise between States. and discussing subjects in which the states or the centre and the states have common interests, and making recommendations on any subject, particularly for the better coordination of their policy and action on it. The Constitution does not provide for the executive role of the Interstate Council.

The Inter-State Council can deal with both legally and non-legally contentious issues, but its role is advisory rather than binding, unlike the court. The Zone Council may discuss and make recommendations on:

  • any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning;
  • any question relating to border disputes, linguistic minorities or interstate transport; and
  • any matter relating to or arising out of the reorganization of States under the Act.

Standing Committees of Inter-State Council

The standing committee of the Inter-State Council for the continuous consultation and processing of matters for the consideration of the Council was set up in 1996 and consists of the following members:

  • Union Home Minister as chairman,
  • Five Cabinet-level Union Ministers
  • Nine Chief Ministers

There is also an Inter-State Council Secretariat which was set up in 1991 headed by the Secretary of the Government of India to assist the Inter-State Council. It has also functioned as the secretariat of the Zonal Council since 2011.

Bodies under Inter-State Council

There are majorly three bodies under Inter-State Council.

The Zonal Council

The zonal council is a statutory body, which works under the Inter-State Council. There are five zonal councils established by the State Reorganization Act of 1956 to develop the habit of cooperative working.

  • The Northern Zonal Council comprises Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi, and Chandigarh.
  • The Eastern Zonal Council comprises Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Odisha
  • The Western Zonal Council comprises Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Dadar and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu
  • The Southern Zonal Council comprises Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Kerala, and Puducherry.
  • The North-Eastern Zonal Council comprises Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Sikkim.

Every Zonal Council is comprised of the following members:

  • Home Minister of a central government
  • All state chief ministers in the zone
  • Two other ministers from each state in the zone.
  • The administrator of each UT in the zone

Inter-State Trade and Commerce Council

Articles 301 to 307 of the Constitution deals with the trade, commerce, and intercourse within the territory of India. It is dealt in the Part XIII of the Constitution.

Inter-State Water Disputes

Article 262 provides that Parliament will decide on the jurisdiction of any dispute involving the use or control of water in an interstate river or interstate river valley. Parliament accordingly passed the River Board Act 1956 and the Inter-State Water Dispute Act 1956. The Inter-State Water Dispute Act empowers the Centre to establish an Ad Hoc Tribunal and the advice given by the tribunal shall be binding and final. The Inter-State Water Dispute Ad Hoc tribunal are:

  • Krishna Tribunal
  • Kaveri Tribunal
  • Narmada Tribunal
  • Godavari Tribunal

Highlights of 11th Inter-State Council Meeting

The eleventh Inter-State Council meeting was held in 2016 under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. The highlights of the meeting were:

  • Consideration of the recommendation of the Punchhi Commission on Centre-State relations
  • To provide subsidies, benefits, and public services, use the Aadhaar card and direct benefit transfer (DBT).
  • Improving the quality of education with a focus on improving learning outcomes, incentivizing better performance, etc.
  • Internal Security with a focus on intelligence sharing and coordination for combating terrorism and insurgency. Police Reforms and Police Modernisation.

Challenges of Inter-State Council

The Inter-State Council acts as a tool for cooperation, coordination and the evolution of public policy. But, it does face challenges in its work. The challenges associated are:

  • Although an Inter-State Council was given in the constitution, It is just a recommendation body to investigate and discuss matters in which all states or some states or the central government have a common interest. Their recommendation is not binding in nature, like in the case of the courts.
  • The Inter-State Council was also condemned as not being a permanent constitutional body for coordinating between the centre and the state government. Rather, when it appeared to the President that the public interest would be served by the establishment of the Inter-State Council, he established it.
  • The Inter-State Council has also proposed that they meet thrice a year, but from 2006 to 2016, there was a decade gap in their meetings, and the eleventh meeting was held in 2016.

Inter-State Council UPSC

Inter-State Council is an important topic under the Political Science Syllabus of the UPSC Exam. The topic is relevant for both, UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains.

To prepare the Inter-State Council for the exam, one can download the NCERT Books for UPSC or the UPSC Books.

The aspirants who are willing to appear in the upcoming IAS Exam can see the UPSC Syllabus and Indian Polity Notes to get a basic idea. Aspirants are also advised to solve UPSC Previous Year's Question Papers to understand the UPSC Exam Pattern.

Inter-State Council UPSC Question

Question: Which of the following is/are extra-constitutional and extralegal device(s) for securing cooperation and coordination between the States in India?

  1. The National Development Council
  2. The Governor's Conference
  3. Zonal Councils
  4. Inter-State Council

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  1. 1 and 2
  2. 1, 2 and 3
  3. 3 and 4
  4. 4 only

Answer: Option B

Question: Which of the following are members of the zonal council?

  1. Home Minister of the central government as a chairman.
  2. Chief Minister of all states in zonal
  3. Prime Minister is the chairman of the zonal council
  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above.

Answer: Option A

Inter-State Council UPSC Notes PDF

Inter-State Council is relevant for the upcoming exams and candidates should be fully aware of the topic along with its functions and recent developments. A PDF at the last moment will prove to be very handy for revision.

Download Inter-State Council UPSC Notes PDF

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Suez CanalCoral Reefs
Sedition LawsSeparation of Powers
Atmanirbhar Bharat AbhiyanDeep Ocean Mission

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FAQs on Inter-State Council

  • Inter-State Council is a recommendatory body that allows for discussion and investigation of subjects that are of equal importance for the Union and a State or among states.

  • Inter-State Council is a recommendatory body the main role of the Council is to minimize the contention between Centre and State/States or between States.

  • Inter-State Council was established by the President by a Presidential order under article 263 of the Constitution of India in 1990. The council shall consist of the Prime Minister, Chief Minister of all states, Chief Minister of union territory having legislation and administrators of UTs having to legislate and 6 Union Ministers of the cabinet rank in Union Council of the ministers nominated by the Prime Minister are also a member.

  • Federalism in India is a basic structure of the constitution and the dispute between the Union and States is political in nature, not structure. So, the Inter-State Council plays a crucial role to minimise the dispute between the Union and States.

  • The Inter-State Council is enshrined in article 263 of part 11 of the constitution.

  • To Download Inter-State Council UPSC Notes PDF for free, click here.

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