Article 263 provides a mechanism for resolving problems by collective thinking, persuasion and discussion through a high level coordinating forum, namely the Inter-State Council. In view of frequent friction between the States and the Union and between the States, the article has become more relevant.
Article 263 empowers the President to establish an Inter-State Council at anytime if it appears to him that the establishment of such a Council would serve the public interest.
In pursuance of the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission the Government of India took a decision in May 1990 to constitute the Inter-State Council. Article 253 of the Constitution provided for such a council to bring about coordination between the States.
The Council consists of the Prime Minister as Chairman, Chief Ministers of all states, and Administrators of the Union territories without legislature and six Union Cabinet Ministers nominated by the Prime Minister as members. The Council is a recommendatory body and, in that capacity, has the following functions;
(1) Inquiring into and advising upon disputes which may have arisen between States
(2) Investigating and discussing subjects in which some or all of the States, or the Union and one or more of the States, have a common interest or
(3) Making recommendations upon any such subject and, in particular, recommendations for the better co-ordination of policy and action with respect to that subject.
The Inter-State Council Order of 1990 provides that the council shall meet at least thrice in a year. Its meetings are held in camera and ten members constitute the quorum. Decisions are taken by consensus and the Chairman’s opinion on all matters is final. There is also a provision for a secretariat for the council. Inter-State Council was established in 1990 but it met for the first time in 1996.
The 7th Inter-state council meeting was held in mid-November 2001 since National Front Government first set it up in 1990. In the inaugural address, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee highlighted two major areas of concern to the nation; (1) Internal Security and (2) Developmental issues, including fiscal self- reliance.
He also harped on the perennially recurrent theme of ‘co-operative federalism”-“need to strengthen the States without weakening the Centre”. The ISC mainly dealt with as many as 59 items of recommendations in the Sarkaria Commission Report on Union-State relations.
Issues that particularly loomed large in the deliberations related to the office of the Governor, taxation, powers, royalties to the States for natural resources within their territories, the Centre’s consultations with the State Governments on legislation on concurrent subjects, sharing or transfer of TV channels to the States and so on.
The issue of the Centre’s right to suo motu deploys armed forces in the States and Articles 356 of the Constitution which empowers the Centre to impose President’s rule in a State formed the core of the agenda for the Inter-State Council meeting presided over by the Prime Minister, A B Vajpayee, in Srinagar on August 27-28, 2001.
The two-day meeting, being held outside the capital for the first time, will have an extensive debate on Articles 356 and 365, the two most widely discussed provisions of the Constitution.
Article 365 empowers the Centre to apply sanctions against a State Government which failed to comply with its directions under Articles 256 and 257 of the Constitution that are concerned with the construction and maintenance of roads, rail and waterways declared to be of national or military importance.
The Inter State Council has last met on November 16, 2001 in the Capital. The Council consists of the Prime Minister as the Chairman, and Chief Ministers of all the States and the Union Territories with Legislative Assemblies; Lieutenant Governors of other Union Territories and six Union Cabinet Ministers, including the Deputy Prime Minister as members. It also has two Union Cabinet Ministers as permanent invitees.
At the last meeting of the Inter State Council, the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister had recommended that Article 356 be deleted, as it was “redundant”. But the Deputy Prime Minister felt that since the Constitution gave the Centre the power to give directions there must also be a provision to impose sanctions against non-compliance with the directions.