Apart from defining the name of the Indian Union, article 1 of the Constitution of India (hereinafter- the Constitution) also acquaints the readers with the Union of India and its territory. Clause (1) of article 1 of the constitution runs as:
India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
The said description of India as a Union is an oft objected one amongst the scholars in the beginning of their constitutional perusal. The objection they put forth is:
‘Why label the Indian-State a Union when it is filled with federal colours? And would not the said description give it unitary characterisation?’
Just like South Africa indeed which is a unitary nation-State. Such objections were raised even in the Constituent Assembly of India (hereinafter- the Assembly), which Dr. Ambedkar took note of. He clarified that the Drafting Committee had voluntarily adopted the said description as it had a specific implication. Despite being a Federation, Dr. Ambedkar remarked, India remains a Union because of its indestructible character. And Indian Federation remains an indestructible Union in the sense that the unit states have no right of secede from it because Indian Federation was not the result of any agreement by the unit states to be a part of it. He further suggested that the Canadian Constitution too had made a similar setting for the Canadian Federation and that how the Americans had to wage a civil war to establish a similar relationship with its unit states. Dr. Ambedkar, thus, reflected beautifully in the Assembly debates:
Though the country and the people may be divided into different States for convenience of administration, the country is one integral whole, its people a single people living under a single imperium derived from a single source.
Article 1 of the Constitution additionally specifies the territory of India in the clause (3). As per the provision, it shall comprise of:
• The territories of the States, which is specified in the First Schedule of the Constitution;
• The Union territories specified in the First Schedule of the Constitution;
• And such other territories as may be acquired.
Prior to the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution, there were four categories of Indian territories: Part A, B, C and D states. These categories were merged into two, in 1956, as Part A, B, and C states were clubbed as “the States” and Part D states were renamed as the Union territories. It remains so since then.
Article 1 must be read with the First Schedule of the Constitution which enlists the States, in order of their inclusion in the Indian Union, and the territories thereof alongwith the Union territories. Apart from the States and the Union territories, the Indian territory may also include Acquired territories. Acquisition of territories can be made via cession effected by treaty (for instance the territories of Pondicherry, Karikal, Mahe and Yanam were ceded by France to India), or purchase (for instance as Alaska was purchased by United States from Russia). These Acquired territories may, in future, be admitted into the Union as new States or be assimilated into the States or Union territories via articles 2 or 3 respectively, which this author would elaborate upon separately.
So far as governance is concerned, the States form a part in the vertical distribution of political powers, that is, they are on the second level of the bipartite federal system of India and are governed, by a separate government, in compliance with Part VI of the Constitution.
The Union territories are governed, in compliance with Part VIII of the Constitution, by the President of India through administrators appointed by him.
Acquired territories, too, are governed as per Part VIII by virtue of article 366(30) of the Constitution which interpretes Acquired territories as Union territories for sake of constitutional operation.
To conclude, there can be another, and significantly easier, perspective of looking at this provision wherein it is so read to understand the difference between Union of India and Territory of India. They are, mind you, not the same for the former is understood to include the States and the Union territories only but the latter includes Acquired territories as well.
1. Shorter Constitution of India, Durga Das Basu.
2. Constituent Assembly Debates, Vol. VII/November 4th, 1948.