[Notes] State vs Union Territory


Why this topic :
·The above topic has been selected because of ongoing demand of statehood for Delhi NCR by the newly emerged political party: AAP. There are several parameters on the basis of which the political as well as administrative procedure is different in states and Union Territories and any such difference in procedure of administration can be a question in the upcoming UPSC Examinations.

· Questions may come like :

# The impact on Delhi by granting statehood.

# Criteria for granting statehood to Union Territory.

# Uniqueness of Delhi among all Union Territories in India

# How union Territories evolved and finally consists of 7 union territories.

And many more related questions of similar kind can be framed.

Outline / Approach to the topic:
Below points have been explained in this article to get an  overview of the above topic and also to enable us to answer any questions as written above:

          # Evolution of Union Territories during Pre- Independence period.

          # Evolution of Union Territories in pre-independence period:

          # Administration of the Union Territories.

          # Differences between States and union Territories.

          # Delhi:  Special among all Union Territories.

          #  Demand of Statehood for Delhi.

The current political map of India consists of twenty eight states and seven union territories .

Under Article 1 of the Constitution; the territory of India consists of three categories of territories:

1.  Territories of the state; 

2. Union Territories; 

3. Territories that may be acquired by Government of India at any time.   

The Union Territories which are present today are the partly outcome of British regime (pre-independence) and partly as a by-product of the historic process of integration of former states (post-independence).

Evolution of Union Territories in pre-independence period:

1.      During British regime; few areas on the basis of their backward or tribal nature were declared as “Scheduled Districts” under the Schedule District Act, 1874. The main objective of the act then was to provide a simple and good administration to these areas. These areas were later known as Chief Commissioner Provinces.

2.      The Government of India Act,1919 divided the British India provinces in two categories : I ) The governor provinces      and    II )  Chief Commissioner Provinces

3.      Later in 1935 ; Government of India Act 1935 categorized the provinces in 3 categories :

·         The Governor’s provinces (11 were in numbers)

·         The Chief Commissioner Provinces (6 were in numbers)

·         The India States

4.      During that time ; there were 6 Chief commissioner provinces (British Baluchistan,Delhi,Ajmer-Merwara,Coorg,Andaman&Nicobar and Panth Piploda ).

5.      The Government of India Act 1935 mentioned that the : Chief Commissioner Provinces should be directly administered from the centre by the Governor General acting to such an extent as he thinks fit through a Chief Commissioner to be appointed by him in his discretion . This was the provision which later became the basis of Article 239 for the governance of Union Territories. 

Evolution of Union Territories in post-independence period: 
1.      At the time of Independence, India comprised of nine Governors’ provinces (Madras,

            Bombay, West Bengal, United Provinces, Bihar, East Punjab, Central Provinces; Assam

            Orissa) and five Chief Commissioners’ provinces (Delhi, Ajmer-Merwara, Panth Piploda,

            Coorg and Andaman & Nicobar Islands).

2.      In 1950, when the Constitution was adopted, India was declared as a Union of states             consisting of Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D states as per the first schedule of the Constitution.

3.      There were nine States headed by Governors (Part A States) and nine headed by Raj Pramukhs (Part B States). Ten (Part C States) were administered by the President through Chief Commissioners. Then, there were Part D Territories which were administered by the President through a Chief Commissioner although there was no provision for a legislative body or a Council of Ministers.

Hence, basically Constitution transferred the old Centrally Administered areas of 1935 to Part C states and Part D territories.

4.      Later on with the recommendations of State Reorganization Commission ; India was divided into 14 states and 6 union territories(Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Laccadive Minicoy and Amindivi Islands, Manipur and Tripura).

5.      Gradually with regular changes in the boundaries and names of states; acquiring of territories from colonial powers and converting them to Union Territories and states ; presently India consists of 28 states and 7 Union Territories.

Administration of Union Territories:
·         Articles 239 to 241 in Part VIII of the constitution deals with the Union Territories .Even though all the Union Territories belong to one category, but there is no uniformity in their administrative system.

·         Every Union Territory is administered by the president acting through an administrator appointed by him. An administrator of a union territory is an agent of the president and not head of the state like a governor. The President can specify the designation of an administrator like Lieutenant Governor or Administrator.

·         The Union Territories of Puducherry and Delhi are provided with a legislative assembly and a council of ministers headed by a chief minister. Remaining five union territories do not have such political institutions.

·         The administration for other five Union territories (except Delhi and Puducherry) is governed by special enactments passed by the parliament and regulations made under Article 240.

·         The Parliament is empowered to make laws on any subject of the three lists (including the state list) for the union territories.

·         The Parliament can establish a high court for a union territory or put it under the jurisdiction of the high court of adjacent state (except Delhi which has its own HC )

Union Territories




Year of Formation

Andaman & Nicobar

Lt. Governor


Calcutta High Court





Punjab & Haryana HC


Dadra and Nagar Haveli



Bombay High Court


Daman and Diu



Bombay High Court



Lt. Governor,CM

Legislative Assembly

Delhi High Court




Kerala High Court



Lt. Governor,CM

Legislative Assembly

Madras High Court


Differences between States and Union Territories



The relationship with the Centre is federal.

The relationship with centre is unitary

Distribution of powers between states and Centre.

Under direct control and administration of the Centre.

Have Autonomy

Do not have autonomy

Governor is Constitutional head of the state.

An administrator is an agent of the President.

Parliament cannot make laws on State List except under extraordinary circumstances.

Parliament can make laws on any subject of three lists in relation to the Union Territories.
Delhi (Special Provisions among other Union Territories):
Due to its strategic location, Delhi has been a seat of power of several empires in its long history and same continued after independence also. At the time of independence Delhi was a Chief Commissioner’s province and became Part C state after the adaption of Constitution.

In 1956, it became Union Territory and was governed by an administrator appointed by the President and called as Chief Commissioner.

Later on in 1960s, the demand for democratic representative in Delhi arouses. The demand was partially fulfilled by the Delhi Administration Act, 1966 where a Metropolitan Council and Executive Council were provided for the administration purpose. The Metropolitan Council was headed by the Lt. Governor to be appointed by the President under Article 239. It was a unicameral body consisting of 56 elected members and 5 other nominated members by the President.

Later on according to the recommendations of Balkrishan Committee, the 69th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1991 provided a special status to the Union Territory of Delhi and redesignated it as National Capital territory of Delhi and the administrator was designated as Lieutenant Governor. It also provided a legislative assembly and Council of Ministers for Delhi.

The assembly was empowered to make laws on all matters of the state list and Concurrent list except three matters of the state list: Public Order; Police and Land.

The President appoints the Chief Minister and on the advice of the Chief Minister appoints other Ministers. The Ministers hold office during the pleasure of the President. The Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers aid and advise the Lt. Governor in the exercise of his functions in relation to matters with respect to which the Legislative Assembly has power to make laws.

The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act 1991 provides for special provisions in case of Finance Bills to be considered by the Delhi Legislative Assembly. In terms of these provisions, a Bill or amendment shall not be introduced into, or moved in, the Legislative Assembly except on the recommendation of the Lieutenant Governor, if such Bill or amendment makes provision for any of the following matters, namely:-

(a) The imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax;

(b) The amendment of the law with respect to any financial obligations undertaken or to be   undertaken by the Government of the Capital;

(c) The appropriation of moneys out of the consolidated fund of the Capital;

(d) The declaring of any expenditure to be expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of the Capital                        

(e) The receipt of money on account of the Consolidated Fund of the Capital or the Public Account of the Capital or the custody or issue of such money or the audit of the accounts of the Capital.

Hence, all these attributes make Delhi special and unique among all other Union territories.

Why Demand of statehood for Delhi:
Although enjoying the special status among all other Union Territories, the demand of fully fledged statehood for Delhi is always on debate from past and is again the matter of the top priority for current Delhi Government. 

The demand of statehood for Delhi arose in response to the shortcomings of Delhi Administration Act 1966 as no legislative powers were resided to the Metropolitan Council.

As a result Balkrishan Committee was formed to analyze the administrative measures for Delhi. The Commission submitted its report which has recommended that Delhi should continue to be Union territory with legislative Assembly.

The Police Act, 1978 which was specifically enacted for the National Capital Territory of Delhi, provides for a Police Commissioner who works directly under the Lt. Governor. The Chief Minister of the NCT and the Council of Ministers thus do not have any powers with respect to public order and functioning of the police in Delhi.

The demand to bring the Delhi police under the purview of Delhi Government is the burning issue now a days in Delhi.

Apart from these problems; the major issue is because of very minimal power vested in hands of representatives of people which have been enumerated below:

Political truths which prove that the Chief Minister to be less powerful in Union Territory (as in Delhi):

·         In State Government, the Governor is generally called a rubber stamp but in union territories the Constitution has itself converted the Chief Minister into a rubber stamp.

·         Generally the Chief Minister is regarded as first among equals in the ministers in the council but in Union Territory, the Chief Minister also leads a council which can be superseded by the de facto head administrator.

·         In Union territories, the real executive power reserved with the Administrator and his ultimate boss, the President.

·         Article 239 says that the administrator can act “as he thinks fit” while Union Territory Act 1963 states that “he can act in his discretion, and his decision shall be final” which proves the superiority of the Administrator (or the President) over the Council of Ministers headed by Chief Minister.

·          Article 239AA (4) says that in the case of difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and his Ministers on any matter , the Lt.Governor shall refer it to the President for decision and act according to the decision given thereon by the President. 

·         The Administrator is also made competent to make decisions in urgent situations although he is under an obligation to refer it to the President.

·         Generally in state it is very difficult to impose President’s rule while suspending the Council of Ministers in a Union Territory is very simple.

·         While the Governor appoints the Chief Minister in the states , the president appoints the Chief Minister and Ministers for Union Territories who will hold office during president’s pleasure.

·         The President can also make rules for allocation of business to the Ministers.

All the above mentioned points which reflect the minimal power residing with the democratic representatives of the union territories; the constitution amendment also divested executive and legislative powers over key subjects like public order , police , land and revenue from the Delhi Union Territory and vested them to Union Government.

Hence although Delhi has been enriched with the special provisions or status in India among other union territories but the democratic institutions granted to Delhi needs to be reviewed with better measures which could help both the administrator as well as Executive to manage the social, economical and political affairs of Delhi.


1.      Political and Administrative Setup of Union Territories in India by Sudhir Kumar.

2.      Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth.

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