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.
To be more
precise, our constitution, according to Sir Kenneth Clinton Wheare, D. D.
Basu and Supreme Court judgments, 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 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
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. 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. Thus proving how the union is
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
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
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
were governed by a chief commissioner, who was too appointed by the President,
and these states were either former chief commissioners’ provinces or princely
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. Reorganization of states was recommended
by the three-member panel on 30th September, 1955. Under the States
Reorganization Act, passed in November 1956, the 27 states were reorganized to
14 states and 6 union territories.
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.
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.
Formation of new States and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of
Parliament may by law
- 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;
- increase the area of any State;
- diminish the area of any State;
- alter the boundaries of any State;
- 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.
- Firstly, only on the recommendation of the President of India the bill
to form new states can be proposed in either of the Houses.
- 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.
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. 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.
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.
- 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).
- Art. 1, the Constitution of India.
- Supra 1.
- Onward march of federalism, Hindustan Times, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/onward-march-of-federalism/story-q0nTgCcbPG8oYlobYa0YQP.html.
- 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).
- Ram Kirpal Chhakkar and Anr. v. Union of India, AIR 1955 All 468.
- U.S. Constitution, Article IV, S. 3, Cl. 1.
- Art. 3, the Constitution of India.
- In Re: The Berubari Union v. Unknown, AIR 1960 SC 845.
- Part VII, the Constitution of India (Repealed by the Constitution
(Section 26 and Schedule, Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956.)
- Telangana: Did you know how India got its 29 states and 7 UTs, India
- Harihar Bhattacharyya, India creates three new states, 1 No.
3 Federations: What’s New in Federalism Worldwide 5, 5 (2001).
- Art. 3, the Constitution of India.
- Art. 4, the Constitution of India.
- Art. 368, the Constitution of India.