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Inter-state dispute and Article 131

Article 131 of the Constitution Of India

Our Constitution provides several mechanisms, both judicial as well as extra judicial mechanisms, for the settlement of inter-State disputes or Union- State disputes, such as

The judicial mechanism

Article 131: Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute

  1. Between the Government of India and one or more States; or
  2. Between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or
  3. Between two or more States, if and in so far as the dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends:

Provided that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to a dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, engagements, and or other similar instrument which, having been entered into or executed before the commencement of this Constitution, continues in operation after such commencement, or which provides that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to such a dispute

Disputes relating to water-Article 262:

Under article 262 of the Constitution, it is permissible for Parliament, by law, to provide for the adjudication of disputes relating to inter-State rivers or river-valleys. The law so enacted can exclude the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and other courts.

Inter-State Council- Article 263:

Article 263 of the Constitution, provides for the formation of an Inter-State Council. Although this Council has several functions, it is also competent to tender advice regarding the resolution of inter-State disputes

Points to be noted for Article 131

  1. Purely political disputes are not covered by article 131. [State of Bihar Vs. Union of India, 1970]
  2. However, if the dispute involves some legal matter then article 131 can be invoked, even if the subject matter might have provoked political controversy.

[(i) State of Rajasthan Vs. Union of India, 1977 (Rajasthan Assembly Dissolution Case).

(ii)  State of Karnataka Vs. Union of India, 1978 [Case relating to Central Government’s power to order a direct inquiry into State Chief Minister’s conduct].

  1. So the jurisdiction of SC under Article 131 is extremely wide, provided the dispute is a justiciable one. The intention of the Constitution-makers is that such disputes should not be subjected to several tiers of the judicial hierarchy, but should come, for once and for all, before the highest court of the land.
  2. A claim by a private individual cannot be entertained under article 131, [State of Bihar Vs. Union of India, 1970]
  3. Disputes exclusively pertaining to ordinary business or commercial transactions are outside article 131. [Union of India Vs. State of Rajasthan, 1984]
  4. Parties to the dispute: the dispute to be brought before the court must be between Government of India and a State/s or between two or more States.
  5. Questions excluded from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, under Article 131

By specific provisions or implications of the Constitution, certain matters are excluded from the scope of article 131 –

  • Either by specific provision, e.g. article 262; or
  • Implicitly (see articles 280 and 290); or
  • By judicial interpretation. [State of Bihar Vs. Union of India, 1970 (Matters within advisory jurisdiction)].
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