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How are disputes between states resolved in India?

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure


Source: IE


Direction: The article explores different methods to resolve inter-state boundary disputes. It also briefly covers the border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka.


Context: As the border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka (over Belagavi, Karwar and Nipani in North Karnataka) is intensifying, the article highlights formal methods in the Constitution of India to resolve inter-state disputes.



  • Often, attempts are made to resolve inter-state disputes with the cooperation of both sides, with the Centre working as a facilitator or a neutral mediator.
  • This was followed by Parliament bringing a law to alter state boundaries, such as the Bihar-Uttar Pradesh (Alteration of Boundaries) Act of 1968 and the Haryana-Uttar Pradesh (Alteration of Boundaries) Act of 1979.



Methods available to resolve inter-state disputes:


Judicial redressal:

  • Article 131: Supreme Court has the original jurisdiction in any dispute between –
    • The Government of India and one or more States; or
    • The Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or
    • Two or more States,
  • If the dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.
  • Exemption: The said jurisdiction shall not extend to a dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, or engagement, having been entered into or executed before the commencement of this Constitution.



Inter-state Council:

  • Inter-State and Zonal councils’ role in resolving inter-state disputes has been covered in a recent article which can be accessed through this link.
The Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute:
  • When state boundaries were redrawn on linguistic lines as per the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, Belagavi became part of the erstwhile Mysore state.
  • Maharashtra claims that parts of Belagavi, where Marathi is the dominant language, should remain in Maharashtra.
  • In 1966, the Centre set up the Mahajan Commission, to resolve the border dispute in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.
  • The Commission recommended that Belgaum and 247 villages remain with Karnataka. Maharashtra rejected the report and moved the SC in 2004.
  • The Union Home Minister met the Chief Ministers of both states and asked them to form a six-member team, comprising three ministers from each side, to address all boundary issues.
  • However, both states hardened their stance passing a unanimous resolution to support a legal battle to resolve the dispute.


Other inter-state disputes in India: There are border disputes mostly arising out of claims and counter-claims over territories between Assam-Meghalaya; Assam-Nagaland; Assam-Mizoram; Assam-Arunachal Pradesh and Maharashtra-Karnataka.


Insta Links:

The Belagavi border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka


Mains Links:

Q. How far do you think cooperation, competition and confrontation have shaped the nature of the federation of India? Cite some recent examples to validate your answer. (UPSC 2020)


Prelims Links: (UPSC 2014)

The power of the Supreme Court of India to decide disputes between the Centre and the States falls under its

(a) advisory jurisdiction

(b) appellate jurisdiction

(c) original jurisdiction

(d) writ jurisdiction

Ans: c