Divided we stand

What the Constitution really says about forming new states

India has often been described as an "indestructible union with destructible states". It is this power to reorganise the state of Andhra Pradesh and create a Telangana state that is now being contested. Despite the fairly clear process stipulated in the Constitution for creating a new state, the opponents of Telangana, including the chief minister, have invoked the Constitution to oppose its creation. This deserves close scrutiny.

First, it has been urged that in the absence of a supporting state resolution from the state legislature, a new state should not be carved out of an existing one. The chief minister has specifically urged that this constitutional convention, which was followed for the creation of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, be followed even for the creation of Telangana.

This argument proceeds on a misunderstanding of the constitutional process for the creation of a new state. Constitutional conventions apply only when the Constitution is silent. The issue of creation of new states was extensively debated in the Constituent Assembly. Two proposals were specifically considered one, a new state can be created only after the previous consent of the state legislature was obtained; and two, any proposal for legislation that increases or diminishes the area of an existing state shall originate from the state legislature. Both proposals were rejected on the ground that if either of these were accepted, a minority in the state would never be able to achieve its aspiration for a new state, however justified it may be. It is for this reason that Article 3, dealing with the formation of the new state, only requires the state legislature to "express its views", rather than a supporting state resolution.

When the States Reorganisation Act, 1956 and the Uttar Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2000 were challenged, the Supreme Court on both occasions categorically stated that the views of the state legislature would be taken into consideration, but the same would not mean that Parliament would be bound thereby (Babulal Parate vs State of Bombay, 1960 and Pradeep Chaudhury vs Union of India, 2009).

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