Inter-state Relations

  • Success of India has a federal country, depends not just on the harmonious relationship between centre and the states but also between states
  • To ensure this harmonious relationship, constitution of India has included several important provisions in the constitution, such as-
  1. Adjudication of inter-state water disputes
  2. Coordination through inter-state councils
  3. Mutual recognition of public acts, records and judicial proceedings
  4. Freedom of inter-state trade, commerce and intercourse
  • Zonal councils established through acts and the recent Goods and Services Tax (GST) council are also steps to ensure harmonious relationship between the states

Inter-state water dispute: Art 262 provides for the adjudication of inter-state water disputes. It has two following provisions:

  1. Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution and control of waters of any inter-state river and river valley
  2. Parliament may also provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court is to exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint
  3. Under the provisions of the act, the central government has enacted, River boards act (1956) and Inter-state water disputes act (1956)
  4. The river board acts provides for the establishment of river boards for the regulation and development of Inter-state River and river valleys. Such a river board is established on the request of the state governments concerned
  5. The inter-state water dispute act empowers the central government to set up an ad hoc tribunal for the adjudication of a dispute between the two or more states in relation to the water of an inter-state river. The decision of the tribunal would be final and binding. Furthermore, the act bars the SC and any other court to have jurisdiction in this matter

Inter-state council

  • Art 263 contemplates the establishment of an inter-state council to effect coordination between the states and between centre and states
  • The President can establish such a council at any time it appears to him that public interest would be served by its establishment. He is also authorized to define the nature of duties to be performed by such a council and its organization and procedure


Constitution also defines certain duties for the council

  1. Inquiring into and advising upon disputes which may arise between the states
  2. Investigation and discussing subjects in which the states or the centre and the states have a common interest
  3. Making recommendation on any subject for the better co-ordination of policy and action

Composition of the council

  1. PM as chairman
  2. CM of all the states
  3. CM of UTS having legislative assemblies
  4. Administrators of UTs not having legislative assemblies
  5. Governors of states under President’s rule
  6. Six Central cabinet ministers, including the home minister, to be nominated by the PM
  7. Five ministers of the cabinet rank are permanent invitees of the council
  • The council meeting are supposed to be held thrice a year and its decisions on all questions are decided by consensus
  • A standing committee of the council was setup in 1996 for continuous consultation and processing of matters for the consideration of the council. The chairman of this standing committee is Union Home Minister

Benefits of inter-state council

  1. The ISC is the only multilateral centre-state forum that operates directly within the framework of the Constitution (Article 263 (b) and (c)) where topics like the GST and contemporary issues like disaster management, terrorism and internal security can be taken up.
  2. The constitutional backing of ISC puts the states on more solid footing—an essential ingredient in building the atmosphere of cooperation needed for calibrating centre-state relations.
  3. The council will help bridge the trust deficit between the centre and the states. If not always a problem solver, it at least acted as a safety valve.


Limitations of the council:

  1. It is just a recommendatory body to investigate and discuss subjects, in which some or all of the states or the Central government have a common interest.
  2. The Inter-state council is not a permanent constitutional body for coordination between the states and Central government. Rather, President can establish it at any time if it appears to him that the public interests would be served by the establishment of such a council
  3. The interstate council is proposed to meet thrice a year. Inter-State Council has had just 12 meetings since it was set up in 1990. There was a gap of a decade between the 10th meeting in 2006 and the 11th meeting in 2016, and the council met again in November 2017.
  4. The ISC also has to have a permanent secretariat which will ensure that the periodic meetings are more fruitful.

Inter-state trade and commerce

  1. Article 301 to 307 in Part 13 of the constitution deal with the trade, commerce and intercourse within the territory of India
  2. Article 301 declares that trade, commerce and intercourse throughout the territory of India shall be free. The freedom afforded by this applies to between the states and also within the state
  3. However, article 302-305 imposes some restrictions on the above. These restrictions are:
  • Restriction can be imposed by the Parliament to safeguard public interest. However, no discrimination can be made between states while imposing restrictions
  • Legislature of a state can impose reasonable restrictions on the freedom afforded by Art 301 to safeguard public interest. But, a bill for this purpose can only be introduced in the legislature with the prior recommendation of the president of India
  • Legislature of a state can impose tax on import of goods and services from other states in those cases where similar taxes are imposed by the state on their goods and services
  • Freedom under Art 301 can be curtailed subject to nationalization laws. Both Parliament and state can make laws in this regard
  • Parliament has been authorized to appoint an appropriate authority for carrying out the purposes of the above provisions relating to Art 301
  • They are statutory bodies established by an act of parliament (State reorganization Act of 1956)
  • The home minister of central government is the common chairman of all the zonal councils
  • Other members include: 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, Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
  • At present there are six zonal councils– Northern, Central, Eastern, Western, Southern and North-Eastern

The objectives of the zonal councils are:

  1. Bringing out national integration
  2. Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies.
  3. Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences.
  4. Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.