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Indestructible Union of Destructible States

The federation is a Union, because it is indestructible. Though the country and the people may be divided into different States for convenience of administration, the country is one integrated whole, its people a single people, living under a single imperium derived from a single source. - Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Constituent Assembly.

Article 1 of the Constitution of India (the Constitution) describes India as a Union of States. Although, the Constitution is federal in structure, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar while submitting the draft clearly specified the advantages of using the term union over federation. Usage of the term union indicates that the Indian state is not the result of some sort of arrangement among the states and these states have no right or freedom to secede from India.[3]

To be more precise, our constitution, according to Sir Kenneth Clinton Wheare[4], D. D. Basu[5] and Supreme Court judgments[6], is quasi-federal in nature yet the union has the last say and has powers to override any state’s decision. For all these reasons, India is known to be a union of states and not a federation of states like the countries of United States of America[7] wherein the Federation does not have the power to create new states or alter borders of existing states.

As we establish how India is a union of states, we also cannot fail to notice how indestructible it is. India as a union is indestructible in order to protect the sovereignty, integrity and unity. Units or states within the union cannot secede as there is no provision for it under the Constitution. The territory and borders of India will always remain intact as no state has the authority and power of their own to alter their boundaries which could affect the union as a whole.

Thus, it is safe to say that no decision or order by any of the states could possibly harm the union in any whatsoever but at the same time it is not true for its contrary. States in India are considered as indestructible for the simple reason that the union has more power over the state than the state itself and at any point of time, the union could pass a bill to alter its territorial boundaries.[8] Any state’s identity can be altered and obliterated and because of this states in India are considered destructible. Another interesting thing to be noted and remembered is that Article 3 in no way whatsoever allows cession of the Indian Territory to a foreign state. In order to do so, it must pass a Constitutional Amendment under Article 368.[9] Thus proving how the union is indestructible.

India has had a long history of states reorganization. At the time India became a republic country, India had 27 states and the Constitution distinguished between them based on three types. Under Part A there were nine states which were ruled by the state legislature and an elected governor and these were the former governors’ provinces of British India. Part B had eight states governed by a Rajpramukh, who was appointed by the President, and these were former princely states or group of princely states. Ten Part C states were governed by a chief commissioner, who was too appointed by the President, and these states were either former chief commissioners’ provinces or princely states.[10]

Post the division of states under the Constitution, the parliamentarians felt the urge to reorganize the states. Retired Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Fazal Ali, was appointed as the head of the States Reorganization Committee in 1953.[11] Reorganization of states was recommended by the three-member panel on 30th September, 1955.[12] Under the States Reorganization Act, passed in November 1956, the 27 states were reorganized to 14 states and 6 union territories.[13]

These states were classified largely on linguistic lines which was the anti-colonial demand of the nationalist movements during that period. Indian National Congress was a big supporter of the linguistic divide and encouraged the idea of linguistic states since 1900s.[14]

Since then, India has seen multiple reorganization acts implemented largely on linguistic grounds like the Bombay Reorganization Act, 1960 which split the Bombay State into Gujarat and Maharashtra. It has all been possible due to the implementation of just one Article for the purposes of internal reorganization. Article 3 of the Constitution allows the formation of new states and alteration of areas, boundaries and names of existing states as one can comprehend from the text below.[15]

Formation of new States and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing States.
Parliament may by law
  1. form a new state by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States or parts of States or by uniting any territory to a part of any state;
  2. increase the area of any State;
  3. diminish the area of any State;
  4. alter the boundaries of any State;
  5. alter the name of any State.
Parliament’s power to enact legislations with respect to formation of new states under Article 3 of the Constitution is subjected to two conditions.
  1. Firstly, only on the recommendation of the President of India the bill to form new states can be proposed in either of the Houses.
  2. Secondly, if the bill contains provisions which affect the areas, boundaries or name of the states then such a bill must be referred to the concerned State Legislature by the President in order for the states to express their views and concerns, if any.
It is interesting to note that neither the President nor the Parliament are bound to take these views into account. Thus, states whose territories are getting adjusted do not have any say in the parliament’s decision regarding the same.

Additionally, Article 4 of the Constitution clearly states that any territorial change made under Article 3 would never be considered as a Constitutional Amendment.[16] This is so because such laws can be passed by the Parliament by a simple majority following the ordinary legislative policies. It is rather a statutory change affected by a law enacted by the ruling government and thus no amendment under Article 368 is required.[17]

India has gone through a diverse transition when it comes to the concept of state reorganization and thus there are various instances to be referred to. The NDA led government with its Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in order to fulfill their election promise to create separate states from existing ones passed three reorganization acts. The Uttar Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2000 created a separate state of Uttaranchal.

The Bihar Reorganization Act, 2000 created a separate state of Jharkhand while the Madhya Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2000 created a separate state of Chhatisgarh. The Uttaranchal (Alteration of Name) Act, 2006 changed the name of the state of Uttaranchal to Uttarakhand. Similarly, the Orissa (Alteration of Name) Bill, 2010 changed the name of the state of Orissa to Odisha.

The Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014 bifurcated the state of Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh due to the 10 year long Telangana movement. The Act in addition to laying down the status of Hyderabad as the temporary capital of Andhra Pradesh and permanent capital of Telangana, determined how the assets and liabilities will be divided and defined the boundaries of the two states. Recently, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 received the assent of the President on 9th August 2019. This act will be effective from 31st October 2019 and it reconstituted the state into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

After going through several of the recent enactments, one can easily understand as well as relate to the phrase – indestructible union of destructible states. As mentioned before, neither the President nor the Parliament needs to take into consideration the views of the states whose boundaries are getting altered. India is a diverse nation with several cultures and languages and this characteristic benefits the country as a whole in avoiding plausible chaos and riots. Yet, the citizens of the states who do get affected should have a higher say in the process and their opinions should be considered to a level where their voices matter.

  1. K. H. Cheluva Raju, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and Making of the Constitution: A Case Study of Indian Federalism, 52 No. 2, The Indian Journal of Political Science, 153, 156 (1991).
  2. Art. 1, the Constitution of India.
  3. Supra 1.
  4. Onward march of federalism, Hindustan Times,
  5. S. L. Verma, INSTALLATION OF FEDERAL AUTHORITY IN THE INDIAN POLITICAL SYSTEM: QUEST FOR A REAL FEDERATION, 47 No. 2 The Indian Journal of Political Science 247, 247 (1986).
  6. Ram Kirpal Chhakkar and Anr. v. Union of India, AIR 1955 All 468.
  7. U.S. Constitution, Article IV, S. 3, Cl. 1.
  8. Art. 3, the Constitution of India.
  9. In Re: The Berubari Union v. Unknown, AIR 1960 SC 845.
  10. Part VII, the Constitution of India (Repealed by the Constitution (Section 26 and Schedule, Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956.)
  11. Telangana: Did you know how India got its 29 states and 7 UTs, India Today,
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Harihar Bhattacharyya, India creates three new states, 1 No. 3 Federations: What’s New in Federalism Worldwide 5, 5 (2001).
  15. Art. 3, the Constitution of India.
  16. Art. 4, the Constitution of India.
  17. Art. 368, the Constitution of India.

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