The dissolution of states – Who has the power?

If the constitutional theorists are to be believed, India has been bestowed with a quasi-federal judicial framework; but the State Reorganisation Act of 1956 is enough to uphold the supremacy of the central legislative authority over all provinces of the country.

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Dr. B.R. Ambedkar - No words are needed to express his relevance for India

The act in itself specifies that the central government has the liberty to draw/alter the boundaries of legislative and administrative authorities of state governments.

It is to be noted that no state legislative assembly has been conferred with the privilege of determining its’ territorial, administrative and judicial extent. There is a central authority in the form of the parliament which by a 2/3rd majority and ascertaining by the president which can divide an existing province into smaller administrative divisions.

Prior to the State Reorganisation Act of 1956, Indian states were sub-divided into 3 primary categories they were

  • Parts A states – States that were the former governors’ provinces of British India, these were administered by an elected governor and state legislature.
  • Part B states – Those states commanding former princely states or groups of princely states, they were headed by a ‘rajpramukh’, who was often a former prince, and an elected legislature.
  • Part C states – These included both the former chief commissioners’ provinces and some princely states, and each was governed by a chief commissioner appointed by the President of India.

The State Reorganisation Act of 1956 abolished these categories and established two distinct divisions in the administrative procedures of the different parts of the country.

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These were states and Union territories, whereas states were conferred with a legislative machinery to regulate and administer laws in their regions, Union territories were directly administered by a lieutenant governor appointed by the central government.

The 1956 act also allowed the division of state on linguistic lines, and further gave detailed directives to the new states being formulated.

Now when considering the recently proposed dissolution of Uttar Pradesh into four smaller states of Bundelkhand, Purvanchal, Awadh Pradesh and Paschim Pradesh, one needs to understand that the state legislature does not have the power to draw its’ own boundaries.

The resolution passed by the Uttar Pradesh state government was merely an indicative measure. Yes, the president needs to ascertain the opinion of the state assembly being dissolved of its’ powers but there is no binding force that enforces the view of the state assembly on the parliament.

Also, the proposal would not ‘divide’ Uttar Pradesh to create new states but it would completely ‘disintegrate’ the state as once the resolution is passed by the central authority, the state by the name of Uttar Pradesh would cease to exist.

If overlooking the media hullabaloo over the resolution passed by the Uttar Pradesh government, the resolution had no legal standing, hence reinstating the belief that incomplete knowledge of our constitutional machinery leads to its’ complete misinterpretation.

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