Indian Polity Union And Its Territory

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Indian Polity Union And Its Territory

Constitutional Framework

  • Articles 1 to 4 under Part-I ofthe Constitution deal with the Union and its territory


  • Article 1 describes India, that is, Bharat as a ‘Union of States’ rather than a ‘Federation of States’. This provision deals with two things: one, name ofthe country, and two, type of polity.
  • There was no unanimity in the Constituent Assembly with regard to the name of the country. Some members suggested the traditional name (Bharat) while other advocated the modern name (India). Hence, the Constituent Assembly had to adopt a mix ofboth (‘India, that is, Bharat’)
  • Secondly, the country is described as ‘Union’ although its Constitution is federal in structure. According to Dr B R Ambedkar, the phrase ‘Union of States’ has been preferred to ‘Federation of States’ for two reasons: one, the Indian Federation is not the result of an agreement among the states like the American Federation; and two, the states have no right to secede from the federation. The federation is an Union because it is indestructible. The country is an integral whole and divided into different states only for the convenience of administration1.

According to Article 1, the territory ofIndia can be classified into three categories:

  • Territories ofthe states
  • Union territories
  • Territories that may be acquired by the Government ofIndia at any time.
  • The names ofstates and union territories and their territorial extent are mentioned in the first schedule of the Constitution. At present, there are 28 states and 7 union territories. The provisions of the Constitution pertaining to the states are applicable to all the states (except Jammu and Kashmir)2 in the same manner. However, the special provisions (under Part XXI) applicable to the States of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunanchal Pradesh and Goa override the general provisi-ons relating to the states as a class. Further, the Fifth and Sixth Schedules contain separate provi-sions with respect to the administration of sche-duled areas and tribal areas within the states.
  • Notably, the ‘Territory of India’ is a wider expression than the ‘Union of India’ because the latter includes only states while the former includes not only the states but also union territories and territories that may be acquired by the Government of India at any future time. The states are the members of the federal system and share a distribution of powers with the Centre. The union territories and the acquired territories, on the other hand, are directly administered by the Central government.
  • Being a sovereign state, India can acquire foreign territories according to the modes recognised by international law, i.e., cession (following treaty, purchase, gift, lease or plebiscite), occupation (hitherto unoccupied by a recognised ruler), conquest or subjugation. For example, India acquired several foreign territories such as Dadra and Nagar Haveli; Goa, Daman and Diu; Puducherry; and Sikkim since the commencement of the Constitution. The acquisition of these territories are discussed later in this chapter.
  • Article 2 empowers the Parliament to ‘admit into the Union of India, or establish, new states on such terms and conditions as it thinks fit’. Thus, Article 2 grants two powers to the Parliament: (a) the  power to admit into the Union of India new states; and (b) the power to establish new states. The first refers to the admission of states which are already in existence while the second refers to the establishment ofstates which were not in existence before. Notably, Article 2 relates to the admission or establishment of new states that are not part of the Union of India. Article 3, on the other hand, relates to the formation of or chan-ges in the existing states of the Union of India. In other words, Article 3 deals with the internal re-adjustment inter se of the territories of the constituent states of the Union ofIndia.


Article 3 authorises the Parliament to:

  • form a new state by separation of territory from any state or by uniting two or more states or parts ofstates or by uniting any territory to a part ofany state,
  • increase the area ofany state,
  • diminish the area ofany state,
  • alter the boundaries ofany state, and
  • alter the name ofany state.
  • However, Article 3 lays down two conditions in this regard: one, a bill contemplating the above changes can be introduced in the Parliament only with the prior recommendation of the President; and two, before recommending the bill, the President has to refer the same to the state legistature concerned for expressing its views within a specified period.
  • Further, the power of Parliament to form new states includes the power to form a new state or union territory by uniting a part ofany state or union territory to any other state or union territory3. The President (or Parliament) is not bound by the views of the state legislature and may either accept or reject them, even if the views are received in time. Further, it is not necessary to make a fresh reference to the state legislature every time an amendment to the bill is moved and accepted in Parliament4. In case of a union territory, no reference need be made to the concerned legislature to ascertain its views and the Parliament can itselftake any action as it deems fit.
  • It is thus clear that the Constitution authori-ses the Parliament to form new states or alter the areas, boundaries or names of the existing states without their consent. In other words, the Parliament can redraw the political map of India according to its will. Hence, the territorial integrity or continued existence of any state is not guaranteed by the Constitution. Therefore, India is rightly described as ‘an indestructible union of destructible states’. The Union government can destroy the states whereas the state governments cannot destroy the Union. In USA, on the other hand, the territorial integrity or continued existence of a state is guaranteed by the Constitution. The American Federal government cannot form new states or alter the borders of existing states without the consent of the states concerned. That is why the USA is described as ‘an indestructible union ofindestructible states.’
  • Moreover, the Constitution (Article 4) itself declares that laws made for admission or establishment of new states (under Article 2) and formation of new states and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing states (under Articles 3) are not to be considered as amendments of the Constitution under Article 368. This means that such laws can be passed by a simple majority and by the ordinary legislative process.
  • Does the power of Parliament to diminish the areas of a state (under Article 3) include also the power to cede Indian territory to a foreign country? This question came up for examination before the Supreme Court in a reference made by the President in 1960. The decision of the Central government to cede part of a territory known as Berubari Union (West Bengal) to Pakistan led to political agitation and controversy and thereby necessitated the Presidential reference. The Supreme Court held that the power of Parliament to diminish the area of a state (under Article 3) does not cover cession of Indian territory to a foreign country. Hence, Indian territory can be ceded to a foreign state only by amending the Constitution under Article 368. Consequently, the 9th Constitutional Amendment Act (1960) was enacted to transfer the said territory to Pakistan.
  • On the other hand, the Supreme Court in 1969 ruled that, settlement of a boundary dispute between India and another country does not require a constitutional amendment. It can be done by executive action as it does not involve cession ofIndian territory to a foreign country.


Integration of Princely States

  • At the time of independence, India com-prised two categories of political units, namely, the British provinces (under the direct rule of British government) and the princely states (under the rule of native princes but subject to the para-mountcy of the British Crown). The Indian Independence Act (1947) created two independent and separate dominions of India and Pakistan and gave three options to the princely states viz., joining India, joining Pakistan or remaining independent. Of the 552 princely states situated within the geogra-phical boundaries of India, 549 joined India and the remaining 3 (Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir) refused to join India. However, in course of time, they were also integrated with India—Hyderabad by means of police action, Junagarh by means of referendum and Kashmir by the Instrument ofAccession.
  • In 1950, the Constitution contained a four-fold classification of the states of the Indian Union—Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D State5. In all, they numbered 29. Part-A states comprised nine erstwhile governor’s provinces of British India. Part-B states consisted of nine erstwhile princely states with legislatures. Part-C states consisted oferstwhile chiefcom-missioner’s provinces ofBritish India and some of the erstwhile princely states. These Part-C states (in all 10 in number) were centrally administered. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands were kept as the solitary Part-D state.

Dhar Commission and JVP Committee

  • The integration of princely states with the rest of India has purely an ad hoc arrangement. There has been a demand from different regions, particularly South India, for reorgani-sation of states on linguistic basis. Accordingly, in June 1948, the Government of India appointed the Linguistic Provinces Commission under the chairmanship of S K Dhar to examine the feasibility of this. The commission submitted its report in December 1948 and recommended the reorganisation of states on the basis of administrative convenience rather than linguistic factor. This created much resentment and led to the appointment of another Linguistic Provinces Committee by the Congress in December 1948 itself to examine the whole question afresh. It consisted of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallahbhai Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramayya and hence, was popularly known as JVP Committee6. It submitted its report in April 1949 and formally rejected language as the basis for reorganisation of states.
  • However, in October 1953, the Government of India was forced to create the first linguistic state, known as Andhra state, by separating the Telugu speaking areas from the Madras state. This followed a prolonged popular agitation and the death of Potti Sriramulu, a Congress person of standing, after a 56-day hunger strike for the cause.

Fazl Ali Commission

  • The creation of Andhra state intensified the demand from other regions for creation of states on linguistic basis. This forced the Government of India to appoint (in December 1953) a three-member States Reorganisation Commission under the chairmanship of Fazl Ali to re-examine the whole question. Its other two members were K M Panikkar and H N Kunzru. It submitted its report in September 1955 and broadly accepted language as the basis of reorganisation of states. But, it rejected the theory of ‘one language–one state’. Its view was that the unity of India should be regarded as the primary consideration in any redrawing of the country’s political units. It identified four major factors that can be taken into account in any scheme ofreorganisation of states:
  • Preservation and strengthening ofthe unity and security ofthe country.
  • Linguistic and cultural homogeneity.
  • Financial, economic and administrative considerations.
  • Planning and promotion of the welfare of the people in each state as well as of the nation as a whole.
  • The commission suggested the abolition of the four-fold classification of states under the original Constitution and creation of 16 states and 3 centrally administered territories. The Government of India accepted these recommendations with certain minor modifications. By the States Reorganisation Act (1956) and the 7th Constitutional Amendment Act (1956), the distinction between Part-A and Part-B states was done away with and Part-C states were abolished. Some of them were merged with adjacent states and some other were designated as union territories. As a result, 14 states and 6 union territories were created on November 1, 1956.7

New States and Union Territories Created After 1956

  • Even after the large-scale reorganisation of the states in 1956, the political map of India underwent continuous change due to the pressure of popular agitations and political conditions. The demand for the creation of some more states on the basis of language or cultural homogeneity resulted in the bifurcation ofexisting states.

Maharashtra and Gujarat

  • In 1960, the bilingual state of Bombay was divided8 into two separate states—Maharashtra for Marathi-speaking people and Gujarat for Gujarati-speaking people. Gujarat was established as the 15th state ofthe Indian Union.

Dadra and Nagar Haveli

  • The Portuguese ruled this territory until its liberation in 1954. Subsequently, the administration was carried on till 1961 by an administrator chosen by the people themselves. It was converted into a union territory ofIndia by the 10th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1961.

Goa, Daman and Diu

  • India acquired these three territories from the Portuguese by means of a police action in 1961. They were constituted as a union territory by the 12th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1962. Later, in 1987, Goa was conferred a statehood. 9 Consequently, Daman and Diu was made a separate union territory.


  • The territory of Puducherry comprises the former French establishments in India known as Puducherry, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam. The French handed over this territory to India in 1954. Subsequently, it was administered as an ‘acquired territory’, till 1962 when it was made a union territory by the 14th Constitutional Amendment Act.


In 1963, the State of Nagaland was formed10 by taking the Naga Hills and Tuensang area out of the state of Assam. This was done to satisfy the movement of the hostile Nagas. However, before giving Nagaland the status ofthe 16th state ofthe Indian Union, it was placed under the control ofgovernor ofAssam in 1961.

Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh

  • In 1966, the State ofPunjab was bifurcated11 to create Haryana, the 17th state of the Indian Union, and the union territory of Chandigarh. This followed the demand for a separate ‘Sikh Homeland’ (Punjabi Subha) raised by the Akali Dal under the leadership of Master Tara Singh. On the recommendation of the Shah Commission (1966), the
    punjabi- speaking areas were constituted into the unilingual state of Punjab, the Hindi-speaking areas were constituted into the State of Haryana and the hill areas were merged with the adjoining union territory of Himachal Pradesh. In 1971, the union territory of Himachal Pradesh was elevated12 to the status ofa state (18th state ofthe Indian Union).

Manipur, Tripura and Meghalaya

  • In 1972, the political map of Northeast India underwent a major change.13 Thus, the two Union Territories ofManipur and Tripura and the Sub-State ofMeghalaya got statehood and the two union territories of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh (originally known as North-East Frontier Agency—NEFA) came into being. With this, the number of states of the Indian Union increased to 21 (Manipur 19th, Tripura 20th and Meghalaya 21st). Initially, the 22nd Constitutional Amendment Act (1969) created Meghalaya as an ‘autonomous state’ or ‘sub-state’ within the state of Assam with its own legislature and council of ministers. However, this did not satisfy the aspirations of the people of Meghalaya. The union territories of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh were also formed out ofthe territories ofAssam.


  • Till 1947, Sikkim was an Indian princely state ruled by Chogyal. In 1947, after the lapse of  British paramountcy, Sikkim became a ‘protectorate’ of India, whereby the Indian Government assumed responsibility for the defence, external affairs and communications of Sikkim. In 1974, Sikkim expressed its desire for greater association with India. Accordingly, the 35 th Constitutional Amendment Act (1974) was enacted by the parliament. This amendment introduced a new class of statehood under the constitution by conferring on Sikkim the status of an ‘associate state’ of the Indian Union. For this purpose, a new Article 2A and a new schedule (Tenth Schedule conseriving the terms and conditions of association) were inserted in the Constitution. This experiment, however, did not last long as it could not fully satisfy the aspirations of the people of Sikkim. In a referendum held in 1975, they voted for the abolition of the institution of Chogyal and Sikkim becoming an integral part of India. Consequently, the 36th Constitutional Amendment Act (1975) was enacted to make Sikkim a full-fledged state of the Indian Union (the 22nd state). This amendment amended the First and the Fourth Schedules to the Constitution and added a new Article 371-F to provide for certain special provisions with respect to the administration of Sikkim. It also repealed Article 2A and the Tenth Schedule that were added by the 35th Amendment Act of1974.

Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa

  • In 1987, three new States of Mizoram,14 Arunachal Pradesh15 and Goa16 came into being as the 23rd, 24th and 25th states of the Indian Union respectively. The Union Territory of Mizoram was conferred the status of a full state as a sequel to the signing of a memorandum of settlement (Mizoram Peace Accord) in 1986 between the Central government and the Mizo National Front, ending the two-decade-old insurgency. Arunachal Pradesh had also been a union territory from 1972. The State of Goa was created by separating the territory of Goa from the Union Territory ofGoa, Daman and Diu.

Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand

  • In 2000, three more new States of Chhattisgarh,17 Uttarakhand18 and Jharkhand19 were created out of the territories of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar respectively. These became the 26th, 27th and 28th states of the Indian Union respectively. Thus, the number of states and union territories increased from 14 and 6 in 1956 to 28 and 7 in 2000 respectively.20

Change of Names

  • The names of some states and union territories have also been changed. The United Provinces was the first state to have a new name. It was renamed ‘Uttar Pradesh’ in 1950. In 1969, Madras was renamed21 ‘Tamil Nadu’. Similarly, in 1973, Mysore was renamed 22 ‘Karnataka’. In the same year, Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands were renamed23 ‘Lakshadweep’. In 1992, the Union Territory of Delhi was redesignated as the National Capital Territory of Delhi (without being conferred the status of a full-fledged state) by the 69th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1991. 24 In 2006, Uttaranchal was renamed25 as ‘Uttarakhand’. In the same year, Pondicherry was renamed26
    as ‘Puducherry’. In 2011, Orissa was renamed27 as ‘Odisha’.

Territory ofIndia in 1950

States in Part-A States in Part-B States in Part-C States in Part-D
1. Assam 1. Hyderabad 1. Ajmer 1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
2. Bihar 2. Jammu and Kashmir 2. Bhopal  
3. Bombay 3. Madhya Bharat 3. Bilaspur  
4. Madhya Pradesh 4. Mysore 4. Cooch-Behar  
5. Madras 5. Patiala and East Punjab 5. Coorg  
6. Odisha 6. Rajasthan 6. Delhi  
7. Punjab 7. Saurashtra 7. Himachal Pradesh  
8. United Provinces 8. Travancore-Cochin 8. Kutch  
9. West Bengal 9. Vindhya Pradesh 9. Manipur  
    10. Tripura

Territory ofIndia in 1956

States Union Territories
1. Andra Pradesh 1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
2. Assam 2. Delhi
3. Bihar 3. Himachal Prades
4. Bombay 4. Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands
5. Jammu and Kashmir 5. Manipur
6. Kerala 6. Tripura
7. Madhya Pradesh  
8. Madras  
9. Mysore  
10. Odisha  
11. Punjab  
12. Rajasthan  
13. Uttar Pradesh  
14. West Bengal

Territory ofIndia in 2002

States Union Territories
1. Andra Pradesh 1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
2. Arunachal Pradesh 2. Chandigarh
3. Assam 3. Dadra and Nagar Haveli
4. Bihar 4. Daman and Diu
5. Chhattisgarh 5. Delhi (National Capital Territory)
6. Goa 6. Lakshadweep
7. Gujarat 7. Puducherry
8. Haryana  
9. Himachal Pradesh  
10. Jammu and Kashmir  
11. Jharkhand  
12. Karnataka  
13. Kerala  
14. Madhya Pradesh  
15. Maharashtra  
16. Manipur  
17. Meghalaya  
18. Mizoram  
19. Nagaland  
20. Odisha  
21. Punjab  
22. Rajasthan  
23. Sikkim  
24. Tamil Nadu  
25. Tripura  
26. Uttarakhand  
27. Uttar Pradesh  
28. West Bengal  

Articles Related to Union and its Territory at a Glance

Article No. Subject-matter
1. Name and territory of the Union
2. Admission or establishment of new states
2A. Sikkim to be associated with the Union—(Repealed)
3. Formation of new states and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing states
4. Laws made under Articles 2 and 3 to provide for the amendment of the First and the Fourth Schedules and supplemental, incidental and consequential matters.
  • Constituent Assembly Debates, volume 7, P, 43.
  • The State of Jammu and Kashmir enjoys a special position by virtue of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. It has its own separate State Constitution.
  • Added by the 18th Constitutional Amendment Act of1966.
  • Babulal v. State ofBombay (1960).
  • See Table 5.1 at the end ofthis chapter.
  • It had no chairman or convenor.
  • See Table 5.2 at the end ofthis chapter.
  • By the Bombay Reorganisation Act, 1960.
  • By the Goa, Daman and Diu Reorganisation Act, 1987.
  • By the State ofNagaland Act, 1962, with effect from December 1, 1963.
  • By Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966.
  • By the State ofHimachal Pradesh Act, 1970, with effect from January 25, 1971.
  • By the North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, 1971, with effect from January 21, 1972.
  • By the State ofMizoram Act, 1986, with effect from February 20, 1987.
  • By the State ofArunachal Pradesh Act, 1986, with effect from February 20, 1987.
  • By the Goa, Daman and Diu Reorganisation Act, 1987.
  • By the Madhya Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2000.
  • By the Uttar Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2000.
  • By the Bihar Reorganisation Act, 2000.
  • See Table 5.3 at the end ofthis chapter.
  • By the Madras State (Alteration ofName) Act, 1968, with effect from January 14, 1969.
  • By the Mysore State (Alteration ofName) Act, 1973.
  • By the Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands (Alteration ofName) Act, 1973.
  • With effect from February 1, 1992.
  • By the Uttaranchal (Alteration ofName) Act, 2006.
  • By the Pondicherry (Alteration ofName) Act, 2006.
  • By the Orissa (Alteration ofName) Act, 2011.

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