Daily Answer Writing
27 July 2021

Q) Enumerate the mechanisms available in the Indian federal scheme to resolve Interstate disputes. Are these adequate to address all the challenges to the Indian federation in modern times? (250 Words)

Source: <https://indianexpress.com/article/india/five-assam-policemen-killed-in-violent-turn-to-border-dispute-with-mizoram-7423835/>

GS 2: Separation of powers - dispute redressal mechanisms

Approach Answer:

Introduction: India is a diverse state with disputes between the states arising due to various matters such as water sharing, distribution of taxes, overlapping jurisdictions, border disputes and migration related issues. India has been largely able to resolve such disputes with the help of various mechanisms available.


Mechanisms to resolve inter-state disputes:

              • Supreme court of India: all disputes between any of the states and the union come in the Supreme court as original and exclusive jurisdiction under the Article 131.

              • Inter-state council: Article 263 of the constitution provides for the establishment of the Interstate council by the government. It can enquire into and advice upon disputes and investigate the matters of common interests.

              • Zonal council: These were set up via states reorganization act of 1956. It divides the country into five zones and each zone consists of chief ministers and two other ministers of the constituting states along with the union home minister. This makes it a perfect forum for dispute resolution.

              • North East council: It was setup through North eastern council act of 1971 and consists of all 8 north eastern states.

              • Inter-state water dispute tribunals: These can be set-up from time to time by an act of Parliament under the provisions of Article 262 of the constitution. It is one of the most important mechanism to resolve such disputes.

              • GST council: It is the forum to discuss and resolve disputes regarding indirect taxation, its norm, implementation and distribution of powers. It, in a way, now also serves the function of Inter-state Trade and Commerce commission that was recommended by the Punchhi commission.

              • Legislative forum: Rajya sabha or the council of the state is specially designed to serve the interests of the states. Further the Parliament has the power to set-up an Ad hoc committee to resolve any matter.


Adequacy of the mechanisms for resolving inter-state disputes:

              • These have been adequate in certain cases:

              Tax disputes: All decisions in the GST council till now have been taken by consensus i.e. all members have agreed.

              River disputes: Out of 9 river tribunals set-up so far decisions by most of them have been accepted by all parties.

              Decisions by the Supreme court: as the final arbiter, have been always accepted.

              India remains largely peaceful: with nationalism always triumphing regionalism.

              • Failure of these mechanisms in certain matters:

              Border disputes of the North eastern states: In the tribal regions of the north east, areas of the tribes are loosely defined. For example Naga organizations claim portions of all the surrounding states. This has often created tensions.  For example recently a 5 Assam policemen killed and 50 other were injured in violent turn to border dispute with Mizoram.

              Water sharing problems: Water sharing is the one of the biggest matters of disputes between the statesFor example there is a dispute between Haryana and Punjab on the Satluj Yamuna Link issue, then the dispute on Cauvery river have been raging for decades often leading to strong reactions and agitations.

              Migration related disputes: There have been a slight regionalism in the states for example in Maharashtra discrimination against non-marathis and especially those from Bihar and UP. Similar incidents have been reported from several states like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.

              Jurisdiction of the law enforcement agencies: There have been various cases in which state police have fought for the control of certain cases between states.


Conclusion: There have been many attempts and solutions for this issue. For example a permanent inter-state water tribunal is being set-up by a parliamentary law. There have been recommendations by the Sarkaria and Punchhi commission to utilize the inter-state and zonal council as continuing auditing role for the management of matters in overlapping jurisdictions.

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