[Answered]Despite constitutional mandate the inter-state council has not come of age. Discuss.

Demand of the question

Introduction. Contextual introduction.

Body. Discuss various reasons for the non-effective functioning of the Inter-State Council.

Conclusion. Way forward.

Inter-State Council (ISC) is a constitutional body as provided by Article 263 of the Constitution of India to deal with federal issues. Its mandate is to inquire and advise on interstate disputes and to provide recommendations for better policy coordination. Although the council was established for promotion of cooperation and coordination, it has been ineffective.

Reasons of non-effective functioning of Inter-State Council:

  1. Underutilisation: Underutilization of the council is one of the major problems. Despite repeated assertions by different Commissions, the ISC has held only 10 meetings in the last 22 years of its existence and made tardy progress in addressing inter-State disputes.
  2. Advisory in nature: It is merely an advisory body with no bindings on either the centre or the state. Thus, often its recommendations are ignored by the government at the centre as well as the states.
  3. Lack of expertise: It lacks technical and management experts along with the autonomy that is required for effective functioning.
  4. Not participatory: There is no presence/engagement of the civil society in the council which makes it less participatory and cooperative.
  5. Not permanent body: The Inter-state council is not a permanent constitutional body for coordination between the states and Central government. Rather, the 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.

Way forward:

  1. Regular meeting: It is important that the council meets regularly and within a fixed time frame so as to effectively address the problems/matters pertinent to the prevalent times. Punchhi commission had recommended strengthening and activating the ISC and said that ISC must meet at least thrice a year.
  2. More authority: Suitable amendments must be made to Article 263 so as to give more power and authority to the council rather than merely being an advisory body.
  3. Adequate manpower: The council must be staffed by technical and management experts so as to carry out its functions more effectively.
  4. Civil society engagement: The council should also engage the civil society in its functioning so as to become truly participative.
  5. Making it permanent: ISC must be made a permanent body which was one of the important recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission.

The Inter-state council mandate was inter-State coordination on issues such as river water disputes, problems pertaining to the location, funding and execution of mega projects, ecosystems management, development of tourism etc. The ISC has not been able to achieve much progress on these fronts. Thus, effective measures are needed to strengthen ISC in order to make it able to fulfil its mandate.

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