The Indian constitution, which is the longest among any sovereign nation in the world, provides a comprehensive framework to guide and govern the country, keeping in view its social, cultural, and religious diversity. Since its enactment in 1950, there have been 106 amendments to the Constitution of India as of September 2023. One of the strengths of the constitution is its dynamic nature, allowing it to evolve with time through amendments.

The Constitution (Fifth Amendment) Act was enacted in 1955. It amended Article 3 of the Indian Constitution, which provided Parliament with the power to reorganize the states constituting the Indian Union through legislation. The Fifth Amendment reenacted the proviso to Article 3. It granted the President the authority to set deadlines for state legislatures to submit comments on proposed central laws relating to the creation of new states or changes to the areas, boundaries, or names of existing states, as per the Constitution (Fifth Amendment) Act of 1955.

The original Article 3 was drafted for three main reasons. Firstly, at the time of its drafting, the princely states had not been fully integrated. Secondly, there was a possibility of reorganizing states on a linguistic basis. The Constituent Assembly had anticipated that such reorganization could not be postponed indefinitely. Hence, Article 3 was incorporated into the Constitution to provide an easy and straightforward method for state reorganization at any point.

When it was discovered that the initial version of Article 3 did not include a deadline for the states in question to express their opinions, a problem arose. The absence of such a constraint could impede or even hinder parliamentary legislation intended to achieve the stated objective. The Union of India is a federal union with the distribution of power between the Centre and the State governments. The states and their territories are specified in the first schedule of the Constitution. However, at the time of the Constitution's commencement on January 26, 1950, the territories of the states were not frozen due to the fact that the princely states were not entirely integrated, and there were also possibilities of states needing to be reorganized based on linguistic considerations. Therefore, Article 3 empowered Parliament to enact laws to form new states by uniting two or more states or by separating territories from any state, increasing or decreasing the area of any state, or altering the boundaries or names of any state. The article was designed in a manner that allowed Parliament to uphold the concept of federalism.

When certain proposals for reorganizing certain states were under consideration by the central government, it was realized that the original enactment of Article 3 did not include a deadline for states to express their opinions or concerns regarding their reorganization. This delay on the part of state governments was causing a delay in parliamentary legislation for state reorganization. As a result, the Constitution (Fifth Amendment) Act was passed by Parliament, providing a provision that when seeking the recommendation of the state legislature, the President may specify a deadline or time limit for obtaining the opinion of the concerned state. The main objective was to facilitate the reorganization of these states based on linguistic considerations without undue delay. After the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, Article 3 now specifies that the President may refer the bill to the state legislature for their input, which should be provided within the time frame mentioned in the reference or any additional time that the President may grant.

Article 3 granted Parliament the authority to introduce a reorganization bill, which needed to be passed by the state legislature before it could be enacted. The purpose of this provision was to provide an opportunity for the respective state legislature to express its views on the proposals outlined in the bill. However, Parliament was not bound by these views. The intention was that Parliament should have the input of the state legislatures affected by the proposals, but it retained the freedom to handle the matter as it deemed appropriate. Parliament could accept or reject the views expressed by the state legislature based on its own judgment and discretion.

Although we have a federal structure, when it comes to the reorganization of states, such as creating a new state, merging two states, altering state boundaries, or changing their names, it is important to clarify that Parliament holds supreme authority. Even after the amendment of Article 3 of the Constitution, which empowered Parliament to reorganize states, it is still required to seek a recommendation from the state legislature within a specified timeframe. The President will refer the matter to the state, allowing it to provide its views. However, the views received from the state legislature are not binding on Parliament. Therefore, despite the distribution of powers between the centre and the states being specified in Lists I, II, and III of the Constitution, when it comes to state reorganization within the Union of India, the Indian Parliament has the ultimate authority to determine the basis for carving out a new state. During the state reorganization in 1956, the primary objective was to reorganize states on a linguistic basis. Prior to that, it was mainly due to the fact that the princely states were not organized in a cohesive manner, which necessitated the need for reorganization.

The first state to undergo reorganization after 1947 was Andhra Pradesh, which was separated from Madras and established as a separate state. However, confusion arose regarding the interpretation of the term "express view of the state legislature." Consequently, the number of court cases arising from the violation of Article 3 increased. To address this issue, the Supreme Court provided a resolution in the case of Babulal Parate versus the State of Bombay.

In conclusion, we can say that the Fifth Constitutional Amendment Act has been helpful and has played an effective and efficient role in reorganizing states according to the requirements. The amendment, which introduced clauses related to time limits, successfully motivated both the state governments and Parliament to prioritize matters related to state reorganization.

This is the third part of a series. The first part can be read here and the second part here.

Author is an Advocate practicing in the High Court of Bombay.

[The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Verdictum does not assume any responsibility or liability for the contents of the article.]