What are the essential features of the Union Territories of India?

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While discussing the reorganisation of States which took place in 1956, we had occasion to deal with the Part C States and the Territories under Part D, established under the original Constitution. There were in all ten Part C States.

The Territories under Part D were Andaman and Nicobar Islands. What should be the status of these States and Territories under the reorganised set-up was a question which the States Reorganisation Commission was called upon to deal with.

There were three alternative courses of action possible. First, to recommend the continuance of the Part C States and make them equal in status to the Part A States; secondly, to allow the status quo to continue; thirdly, to abolish them as separate entities and merge them with the neighbouring States. The Commission gave adequate consideration to the pros and cons of each of these alternatives. They said:

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“Separated from each other by long distances they have greater economic, linguistic and cultural affinities with the neighbouring States than with each other.

Politically, economically ail educationally and they are in varying phases of development. Even in the constitutional field, they do not follow a uniform pattern in that some of them have legislatures and ministries and others only advisory councils. Two are administered through Lieutenant-Governors and the remaining through Chief Commissioners.”

Summing up their discussion on these States, the Commission said:

“The position is that there is a general consensus of opinion that the existing set-up of the Part C States is unsatisfactory. The solution suggested by the official representatives of the Part C States, namely, a constitutional status which is identical with that of Part A States will only remove the constitutional anomalies. These small units will still continue to be economically unbalanced, financially weak, and administratively and politically unstable.”

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“The democratic experiment in these States, wherever it has been tried, has proved to be more costly than was expected or intended and this extra cost has not been justified by increased administrative efficiency or rapid economic and social progress.

Quite obviously, these States cannot subsist as separate administrative units without excessive dependence on the Centre, which will lead to all the undesirable consequences of divorcing the responsibility for expenditure from that for finding the resources.”

“Taking all these factors into consideration, we have come to the conclusion that there is no adequate recompense for all the financial, administrative and constitutional difficulties which the present structure of these States presents and that, with the exception of two, to be centrally administered, the merger of the existing Part C States with the adjoining States is the only solution of their problems.”

The organisation plan of the Commission envisaged only two categories of units in the India Union: (1) ‘States’ forming primary constituent units of the Indian Union having a constitutional relationship with the Centre on a federal basis. These units were to cover virtually the entire county.

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(2) ‘Territories’ which for vital strategic or other considerations, cannot be joined to any of the States and are, therefore, centrally administered. This plan was accepted and given effect to in the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution and the States Reorganization Act, 1956. This is the story of the origin of the present Union Territories.

There are in all seven Union Territories, These are:

(1) Delhi

(2) Andaman and Nicobar Islands

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(3) The Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands

(4) Daman and Diu

(5) Dadra and Nagarhaveli

(6) Puducherry

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(7) Chandigarh

Of these, Delhi is the federal capital. As such, it could not be made part of a full-fledged constituent unit of the Indian Union. Even under a unitary system of government, the normal practice is to place national capitals under a special dispensation.

London and Paris are perhaps the best examples of this where there is a greater degree of central control over the city administration than over other municipalities. Under a federal system there is an additional consideration.

Any constitutional division of powers, if it is applicable to a unit functioning in the seat of the national government, is bound to give rise to embarrassing situations.

This is why most federal capitals are under the Central Government. Washington, the capital of the United States, and Canberra, the federal capital of the Australian Commonwealth, are two good examples.

The next two Union Territories in the list are islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea respectively. They are not contiguous with any of the States and are comparatively backward and undeveloped. The former French and Portuguese colonies have distinct cultures of their own and as such deserved a special status.

In 1966 when Punjab was reorganised to form two separate States, Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh, the capital of undivided Punjab was made a Union Territory. Pondicherry and the Capital Territory of Delhi are the only two union territories which have each a Council of Ministers responsible to the Legislature.

The constitutional provisions dealing with these Union Territories attempt to set out the basic pattern of administration for them. Its main features are as follows:

(1) The Union Territories will be administered by the President through an administrator to be appointed by him with a suitable designation. Parliament, however, is empowered to make any other provision by law for the administration of any of these Territories.

(2) The President may, if he so chooses appoints the Governor of a State as the administrator of an adjoining Union Territory. In the exercise of his functions as administrator of a Union Territory, the Governor will act independently of his Council of Ministers.

(3) The President may make regulations for the peace, progress and good government of the Union Territories of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands.

Any such regulation made by the President may repeal or amend any existing Act dealing with the administration of these islands and will have the same effect as a Parliamentary enactment.

(4) Parliament is empowered to constitute a High Court for any Union Territory or to declare any existing court there to be a High Court. Such a High Court will have the same functions and powers as any other High Court in India except for such modifications or exceptions as Parliament may provide by law.

Until such a High Court is established, those High Courts under whose jurisdiction these territories had remained will continue to exercise such jurisdiction in relation to these territories. Parliament has the power to make any change with respect to this jurisdiction.

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