Recently, the Chief Minister of Puducherry has demanded Statehood for the Union Territory (UT) of Puducherry.
Statehood Demand By Puducherry
- The demand for Statehood is a long pending issue for Puducherry making it unable to exercise any powers for creating employment potential by inviting more industries to Puducherry and also creating infrastructure facilities for tourism.
What are Union Territories (UTs)?
Union Territories (UTs) are the federal territories and are administered by the Union Government of India. In the Union Territories, Lieutenant Governors are appointed by the President of India who serves as their administrators.
However, Puducherry, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi are the exception in this regard and have an elected legislature and government due to the status of partial statehood which was granted to them under the special Constitutional Amendment.
At present, India has 8 Union Territories (UTs)— Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry.
Types of Union Territories in India
There are two types of Union Territories in India. These are:
- Union Territories with Legislature— Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, and Puducherry.
- Union Territories without Legislature— Andaman and Nicobar, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Ladakh, and Lakshadweep.
It is to be noted that the Union Territories have no separate representation in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) except for Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, and Puducherry.
Need for Union Territories in India
The concept of Union Territory was first introduced in the States Reorganisation Act, 1956. It refers to those territories that are too small to be independent or are too different (economically, culturally and geographically) to be merged with the surrounding states or are financially weak or are politically unstable. Due to the aforementioned reasons, they couldn’t survive as separate administrative units and need to be administered by the Union Government.
Why Union Territories exist in India?
- Except for Delhi, Union Territories have less population and land size as compared to a state. Thus, these are too small to be independent and are administered by Union Government (except for Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and Puducherry).
- Many of the Union Territories have a different culture than their surrounding States as they were earlier under the rule of Portuguese (Daman and Diu) and French (Puducherry). Hence, these UTs cannot be merged with the surrounding states.
- Delhi is the administrative capital of India while Chandigarh is the administrative capital of both Haryana and Punjab.
- Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands are located far from mainland India. Thus, they are strategically important to India and in case of any emergency, the Indian government can directly act there.
- The Indian constitution empowers the Union government to create new states out of existing states or to merge one state with another. This process is called reorganisation of the states.
- As per Article 2 of the Indian Constitution, Parliament may by law admit into the Union, or establish, new States on such terms and conditions.
- As per Article 3 of the Indian Constitution, the Union Government has the power to form a State, increase or decrease the size of any State, and alter the boundaries or name of any State.
Structural Fragility Of Union Territories
- Composition of the Legislature: Article 239A was originally brought in, by the 14th Constitutional amendment act, 1962, to enable Parliament to create legislatures for the UTs. Under this article, the parliament enacted the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963.
- The aftermath of this law is that a simple amendment in the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 can create a legislature with more than 50% nominated members.
- However, the question remains, how can a predominantly nominated House promote representative democracy.
- Issue of Nomination: The Government of Union Territories Act provides for a 33-member House for Puducherry of whom three are to be nominated by the Central government.
- So, when the Union government nominated three members to the Assembly without consulting the government, it was challenged in the court.
- The Supreme Court in K. Lakshminarayanan v. Union of India, 2019 case held that the Union government is not required to consult the State government for nominating members to the Assembly and the nominated members have the same right to vote as the elected members.
- Arbitrariness in Nomination: There is provision for the nomination of members to the Rajya Sabha (under Article 80). The Article specifies the fields from which they will be nominated.
- The purpose of this nomination is to enable the House to draw on the expertise of those eminent members who are nominated and thus enrich the debate in the House.
- However, in the case of nomination to the Puducherry Assembly, no such qualification is laid down either in Article 239A or the Government of Union Territories Act.
- Due to this, the law invites arbitrariness in dealing with the nomination of members to the UT legislature.
- Administrator’s Power: The UTs were never given a fully democratic set-up with the necessary autonomy. The power vested in the administrator (Lieutenant Governor) conflicts with the powers of the elected government of UTs having a legislature.
- Section 44 of the Government of Union Territories Act and Article 239 AA(4) (proviso) of the Constitution vests the power in the administrator to express his or her disagreement and refer the matter to the President
- The President decides on the advice of the Union government. So, in effect, it is the Union government that finally determines the disputed issue.
- This can be reflected in the Chief Minister of Puducherry asking removal of the Lt. Governor.
- Similarly, in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, one often hears of complaints against the Lt. Governor from the ministers about the non-cooperative federalism being practiced by him.
- Overlapping Areas: The Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 provides for a Legislative Assembly of Puducherry with a Council of Ministers to govern this Union Territory. Although the legislative assembly of Puducherry is empowered to make laws, the administrator is not bounded by the aid and advice of the council of ministers headed by the Chief Minister.
- This creates overlapping of jurisdictions, which in turn leads to conflict between the union government and elected government of union territory.
Difference between States and Union Territories
|It is an independent unit which is run by the state legislature which either is unicameral or bicameral: (to read the difference between unicameral and bicameral, refer to the linked article.)
|It is not an independent unit but is run by the administrators appointed by the President of India Note: Delhi and Puducherry are the only two UTs that have a legislature and are governed by a Lieutenant Governor (LG), CM, and council of ministers.
|State Legislature: Governor Chief Minister & Council of Ministers
|Central Government through Lieutenant Governors & Administrators. 3 Union Territories – Chandigarh, Lakshwadeep, Dadar and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu have Administrators, rest of the 5 Union Territories – Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, and Puducherry have Lieutenant Governors (LG).
|Federal in character
|Unitary in character
|Chief Minister is elected
|An LG/Administrator is appointed by the President
|Does not exist
- Puducherry city is capital of Puducherry UT in southeastern India.
- UT was formed in 1962 out of the four former colonies of French India:
- Pondicherry (now Puducherry) and Karaikal along India’s southeastern Coromandel Coast, Yanam, farther north along the eastern coast, and Mahe, lying on the western Malabar Coast, surrounded by Kerala state.
- It originated as a French trade centre in 1674, when it was purchased from a local ruler.
- The colony of Pondicherry was the scene of frequent fighting between the French and Dutch in the late 17th century, and it was occupied several times by British troops. However, it remained a French colonial possession until it was transferred to India in 1962.
- Economic and social viability rather than political considerations must be given primacy.
- It is better to allow democratic concerns like development, decentralization and governance rather than religion, caste, language or dialect to be the valid bases for conceding the demands for a new state.
- Apart from this the fundamental problems of development and governance deficit such as concentration of power, corruption, administrative inefficiency etc. must be addressed.
Source: The Hindu