The Zonal Councils are the statutory (and not the constitutional) bodies. They are established by an Act of the Parliament, that is, States Reorganisation Act of 1956. The act divided the country into five zones (Northern, Central, Eastern, Western and Southern) and provided a zonal council for each zone.
While forming these zones, several factors have been taken into account which include: the natural divisions of the country, the river systems and means of communication, the cultural and linguistic affinity and the requirements of economic development, security and law and order.
Each zonal council consists of the following members: (a) home minister of Central government. (b) chief ministers of all the States in the zone. (c) Two other ministers from each state in the zone. (d) Administrator of each union territory in the zone.
Besides, the following persons can be associated with the zonal council as advisors (i.e., without the right to vote in the meetings):
(i) a person nominated by the Planning Commission; (ii) chief secretary of the government of each state in the zone; and (iii) development commissioner of each state in the zone.
The home minister of Central government is the common chairman of the five zonal councils. Each chief minister acts as a vice-chairman of the council by rotation, holding office for a period of one year at a time.
The zonal councils aim at promoting cooperation and coordination between states, union territories and the Centre. They discuss and make recommendations regarding matters like economic and social planning, linguistic minorities, border disputes, inter-state transport, and so on. They are only deliberative and advisory bodies.
The objectives (or the functions) of the zonal councils, in detail, are as follows: