Article 1(1) of the Constitution states that: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States” … that “(2) the States and the territories thereof shall be as specified in the First Schedule” … and that “(3) the territory of India shall comprise (a) the territories of the States; (b) the Union territories specified in the First Schedule; and…” In the original Constitution, the states which formed the Union of India were classified into three categories as parts A, B and C of the First Schedule. At the time of the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act 1956, which made the first major change, the number of these states was 10, 8, 9, respectively—that is a total of 27.
These 27 states of different categories aside, there was another group of Indian territories specified in part D of the First Schedule. The 1956 Act reduced the category of territory into two. Instead of three categories of states and the part D category, there were the ‘states’ and the Union territories (UTs); the UTs comprised not just Andaman & Nicobar Islands (previously under part D) but also some of the former part C states. Thus, as per the Act, there were a total of six UTs and 15 states.
That was in 1956. Now, 59 years have passed and the number of UTs has risen from six to seven (Chandigarh, Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Puducherry). But the number of states has almost doubled from 15 to 29. Now, some political entities want to make Delhi a ‘full-fledged state’.
According to Article 2, Parliament “may by law admit into the Union, or establish, new States … as it thinks fit.”
Article 3 enhances the scope of Parliament’s role and power pertaining to “form, increase, diminish and alter” the territory, area and the name of any state.
If Delhi, which has been one of the original UTs, is allowed to become another state, what could be the repercussions for “Bharat … a Union of States”?
Delhi as a state, unlike the other 29, will be different purely for a demography-geography mismatch. If a state, far bigger than Delhi, but far from Delhi’s federal government, clashes on ideology, politics or on issues such as tax sharing or election dates, it constitutes secondary news. But if the same event happens on the streets of Delhi, the national capital, it has repercussions for the whole of India.
Further, two sets of governments—the Union government and a state government if Delhi is created a full-fledged state—could also potentially create an unbridgeable polarisation. At the Union level, Parliament members represent the concerns of the culturally, linguistically and socio-economically diverse regions of India.
However, for Delhi, one must remember that, being the capital of India, the people of all 29 states have a right to be represented in the state government. But does it happen that way? If that were to happen for Delhi, then, to begin with, all the 22 languages of the 8th Schedule would have to be incorporated into the signage of Delhi, the Capital State of India, instead of four at the moment. Also, there has to be proper representation for the ‘minorities’ in Delhi—‘minority’ here does not mean religious minority only as Article 30 of the Constitution stipulates that “all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right … of their choice,” thereby putting linguistic minorities on a par with religious minorities. This is conveniently forgotten or deliberately ignored by the one who want Delhi to be a ‘full-fledged state’. Thus, this stance forwards a policy and politics of unending chaos and anarchy.
Delhi also houses over 100 foreign missions—something that statehood-for-Delhi advocates seem to have not factored in in their arguments. While full statehood for Delhi will become an administrative nightmare from this point of view, some foreign missions may play the situation to their advantage and to the detriment of the unity, integrity, safety and security of India.
While full statehood status for Delhi does imply a few advantages for Delhiwallahs, it also means much greater disadvantage for the states, and that militates against the principle underlying Article 1(1) of the Constitution—“India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”—as the national capital becomes the sole preserve of only its residents. Moreover, Delhi is sure to turn into a city-state in which people of origins that can be traced to only five or six states dominate at the cost of the entire country. Hence, there should be “only one ruler in Delhi”—the Union government—to protect the fundamental principle of federalism. India cannot be compared with other democracies whose capitals enjoy a vast deal of autonomy as many of these nations would themselves be no bigger than Delhi itself, with relatively culturally and socio-economically homogeneous populations which may not even exceed that of, say, two Delhi colonies, such as Defence Colony and Lajpat Nagar. Delhi can be a full state only at the expense of national unity and interest.
The author is advocate, Supreme Court