Q) “Due to the single party rule at the centre, there are arguments to strengthen Inter-state council (ISC).” Do you agree? Suggest measures to strengthen ISC
The Inter-State Council is a constitutional body to facilitate coordination between states and the centre. It is set up on the basis of provisions in Article 263 of the Constitution of India by the Presidential Order, 1990 based on the recommendation of Sarkaria Commissions.
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.
In the modern Indian history single party rule at the centre induced many regional disparities in terms of resource sharing between the centre and states. In addition, single party rule also blamed for constitutional breakdown and wide spread misuse of article 356. Strengthening of ISC will ensure accountability, transparency and co- operation between the states and centre.
Measures to strengthen the ISC
- Sarkaria Commission recommended that it needs to be given all the powers contemplated in the Constitution like Art 263(a) which gives it the power to investigate issues of inter-state conflict but was dropped in the Presidential order of 1990.
- Moreover, it should provide some greater opportunities to civil society institutions and also the corporate sector to make their representations.
- Further, its secretariat may be shifted from the Union Home Ministry to the Rajya Sabha secretariat so that it would be under the direction of a neutral federal functionary, the vice-president of our India rather than the Union home minister.
- It should be strengthened as a forum for not just administrative but also political and legislative give and take between centre and states. For instance, while legislating on subjects that have been transferred from the state list to the concurrent list such as education and Forests, the centre must consult states more extensively and offer them greater flexibility.
- Punchhi commission recommended that the Inter-State Council must meet at least thrice in a year on an agenda evolved after proper consultation with States.
- The Council should have experts in its organizational set up drawn from the disciplines of Laws, Management and also political Science besides the All India Services.
- The Council should have the functional independence with a professional Secretariat constituted with experts on relevant fields of knowledge which is supported by the Central and also State officials on deputation for limited periods.
- After ISC is made a vibrant, negotiating forum for policy development and conflict resolution, the Government may consider the functions for the National Development Council also being transferred to the ISC.
Though, there are other bodies such as the NITI Aayog’s Governing Council with similar composition, including the prime minister, chosen cabinet ministers and also chief ministers that could address centre-state issues. But, the ISC has constitutional backing, as against the NITI Aayog which only has an executive mandate. This puts the states on more solid footing in building the atmosphere of cooperation needed for calibrating centre-state relations.