March 23, 2023

Indian Union and its Territories- A Brief Analysis

Part I of the Constitution deals with the Union and its territories. Just as Part II deals with the topic of citizenship, Part I deals with the territory of India.

Article 1

Art. 1 deals with the name and territory of India. It reads thus: –

“1. (1) India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.

(2) The States and the territories thereof shall be as specified in the First Schedule.

(3) The territory of India shall comprise –

(a) the territories of the States;

(b) the Union territories specified in the First Schedule; and

(c) such other territories as may be acquired.”

Art. 1 as it now stands is the result of amendments made by the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956. Before its amendment, Art. 1 referred to the territory of India as comprising the territories of the States specified in Parts A, B and C as well as the territories specified in Part D of the Schedule and such of the territories as might be acquired. Then a separate provision had been made by Art. 243 in Part IX for the administration of the territories specified in Part D and other territories such as newly acquired territories which were not comprised in the First Schedule.

The Constitution Amendments of 1956 made some important changes in Art. 1. The distinction between Parts A, B and C and territories specified in Part D was abolished and in its place came the distinction between the territories of States and the Union territories specified in the First Schedule. In consequence Art. 243 in Part IX was deleted. That is how under the present Article the territory of India consists of the territories of the States, the Union territories and such other territories as may be acquired.

In ‘Re: Berubari Union v. Unknown, (1960)’, the court observed that Art. 1(3)(c) does not purport to confer power on India to acquire territories; it merely provides for and recognises automatic absorption or assimilation into the territory of India of territories which may be acquired by India by virtue of its inherent right as a sovereign State to acquire foreign territory. Thus Art. 1 describes India as a Union of States and specifies its territories.

Article 2

Article 2 provides that Parliament may by law admit into the Union or establish, new States on such terms and conditions as it thinks fit. This Article shows that foreign territories which after acquisition would become a part of the territory of India under Art. 1(3)(c) can by law be admitted into the Union under Art. 2. Such territories may be admitted into the Union or may be constituted into new States on such terms and conditions as Parliament may think fit.

The expression “by law” used in Arts. 2 and 3 in this connection is significant. The acquisition of foreign territory by India in exercise of its inherent right as a sovereign State automatically makes the said territory a part of the territory of India. After such territory is thus acquired and factually made a part of the territory of India the process of law may assimilate it either under Art. 2 or under Art. 3(a) or (b).[1]

Article 3

Art. 3 deals with the topic of formation of new States and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing States. It reads as follows: –

“Art. 3. Parliament may by law –

(a) 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;

(b) increase the area of any State;

(c) diminish the area of any State;

(d) alter the boundaries of any State;

(e) alter the name of any State;

Provided that no Bill for the purpose shall be introduced in either House of Parliament except on the recommendation of the President and unless, where the proposal contained in the Bill affects the area, boundaries or name of any of the States … the Bill has been referred by the President to the Legislature of that State for expressing its views thereon within such period as may be specified in the reference or within such further period as the President may allow and the period so specified or allowed has expired.”

Prima facie Art. 3 may appear to deal with the problems which would arise on the reorganisation of the constituent States of India on linguistic or any other basis; but that is not the entire scope of Art. 3. Broadly stated it deals with the internal adjustment inter se of the territories of the constituent States of India.

Article 3(a) enables Parliament to form a new State and this can be done either by the separation of the 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. There can be no doubt that foreign territory which after acquisition becomes a part of the territory of India under Art. 1(3)(c) is included in the last clause of Art. 3(a) and that such territory may, after its acquisition, be absorbed in the new State which may be formed under Art. 3(a). Thus Art. 3(a) deals with the problem of the formation of a new State and indicates the modes by which a new State can be formed.

Article 3(b) provides that a law may be passed to increase the area of any State. This increase may be incidental to the reorganisation of States in which case what is added to one State under Art. 3(b) may have been taken out from the area of another State. The increase in the area of any State contemplated by Art. 3(b) may also be the result of adding to any State any part of the territory specified in Art. 1(3)(c). Article 3(d) refers to the alteration of the boundaries of any State and such alteration would be the consequence of any of the adjustments specified in Art. 3(a), (b) or (c). Article 3(e) which refers to the alteration of the name of any State presents no difficulty, and in fact has no material bearing on the questions with which we are concerned.

Article 4

Article 4 reads thus: –

“4. (1) Any law referred to in article 2 or article 3 shall contain such provisions for the amendment of the First Schedule and the Fourth Schedule as may be necessary to give effect to the provisions of the law and may also contain such supplemental, incidental and consequential provisions (including provisions as to representation in Parliament and in the Legislature or Legislatures of the State or States affected by such law) as Parliament may deem necessary.

(2) No such law as aforesaid shall be deemed to be an amendment of this Constitution for the purposes of article 368.”

The effect of Art. 4 is that the laws relatable to Art. 2 or Art. 3 are not to be treated as constitutional amendments for the purpose of Art. 368, which means that if legislation is competent under Art. 3 in respect of the Agreement, it would be unnecessary to invoke Art. 368.

On the other hand, it is equally clear that if legislation in respect of the relevant topic is not competent under Art. 3, Art. 368 would inevitably apply.


[1] Re, Berubari case (1960)