The Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act of 1956 restructured the constitutional framework for India's existing states and paved the way for the passage of the States Reorganization Act of 1956 under the provisions of the Constitution of India. All the boundaries of Indian states have been changed since 1956, but the States Reorganization Act of 1956 remains the most extensive change in the state boundaries after India's independence. Under Article 3 of the Indian Constitution, the Parliament passed the States Reorganization Act 1956 to put into motion and redefine the territories of the states. Several states were enlarged by adding districts. The redefining of state boundaries was not solely based on linguistic considerations; regional, cultural, and other imbalances were also taken into account to transform the boundaries of the disjointed princely states into new states.

India became independent in 1947, and the Constitution of India came into force on 26th January 1950. It declared India as a Sovereign Democratic Republic. Article 1 of the Constitution stated that India, which is also called Bharat, shall be a Union of States. These states and other territories were specified in the First Schedule of the Constitution.

Prior to Independence, India had two types of territories: the provinces of British India, which were ruled by the British through the Governor General, and the Indian States, which were ruled by local rulers known as princely states. The British provinces had elected legislatures, and smaller provinces were governed by Chief Commissioners appointed by the Governor General.

As for the princely states, which numbered more than 500, they were given the freedom to accede to India.

The States Reorganization Commission was formed in 1953 to define the boundaries of Indian states and Union Territories. At the time of the ratification of the Constitution, there were four distinct types of states: Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D.

The States Reorganization Commission created Indian states by considering regional languages, economic, industrial, and administrative factors. Historical events and conditions primarily gave rise to the formation of these Indian states. Since then, more reasonable governmental changes have been increasingly necessary.

In 1951, India had 27 states divided into four parts. Part A included the former governor's provinces of British India, such as Bihar, Assam, Bombay, Madras, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh. Part B included the former princely states or unions of princely states, where the President of India appointed Raj Pramukhs, such as Rajasthan, Saurashtra, Mysore, Patiala, East Punjab, Hyderabad, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Bharat, and Travancore-Cochin.

Part C included a few princely states and former Chief Commissioners' provinces, such as Bhopal, Ajmer, Tripura, Vindhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Bilaspur, Coorg, Cutch, and Manipur. Part D included the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

The Seventh Amendment of the Constitution was necessitated to implement the recommendations of the States Reorganization Commission regarding the reorganization of these states on linguistic basis. It also paved the way for doing away with the classification of the states into categories A, B, C, and D, and the newly introduced system of States and Union Territories was introduced by amending Schedule One of the Constitution of India.

The areas and boundaries pertaining to the states and union territories, which were present in the First Schedule of the Constitution, were completely revised by this amendment to reflect the changes brought in by the state reorganization scheme. As many as 20 articles of the Constitution were amended by this constitutional amendment. It also inserted as many as eight new articles in the Constitution, and it also amended Schedules 1, 2, 4, and 7 of the Constitution.

The States Reorganization Commission submitted its report on September 30th, 1955, and its recommendations were debated by the Indian Parliament. Subsequently, bills were passed to make changes to the Constitution and administer the reorganization of the states. Another act also came into effect on November 1st, transferring certain territories from Bihar to West Bengal.

Andhra state was the first state of independent India, and Andhra Pradesh was formed on November 1st, 1956. The states formed under the reorganization plan included Andhra Pradesh, which was formed by merging the Telugu-speaking regions of Hyderabad. The state of Assam was further bifurcated into Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Meghalaya in subsequent years. Bihar was reduced by transferring small territories to West Bengal.

The districts from the southernmost part of the Bombay Presidency were transferred to Mysore State, but the Bombay state was expanded by adding the Marathi-speaking region of the Berar Division and Nagpur Division of the Central Provinces and Berar. The Saurashtra state, Kutch state, and the Marathwada region of Hyderabad state were also added to Bombay.

In 1956, no boundary changes were observed for Jammu and Kashmir. The Kerala state was formed by merging the Travancore-Cochin state with the Malabar district and Kasargod taluk of the South Canara District of the Madras Province.

Madhya Pradesh was expanded by merging Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, and Bhopal state. Marathi-speaking districts were transferred to the Bombay state from the Nagpur Division. The Madras state was expanded by adding Sengottai Taluk, Kanyakumari district, and the southern parts of Travancore-Cochin, while the Malabar District was transferred to the new Kerala state.

Mysore was enlarged by adding the Coorg State and the Kannada-speaking regions of the western Madras Presidency, southern Bombay Presidency, and western Hyderabad state. No boundaries were changed for Orissa. Patiala and East Punjab states were added to Punjab to enlarge it, and Ajmer State, parts of Bombay and Madhya Pradesh states were added to Rajasthan. No changes were made to the boundaries of Uttar Pradesh in 1956, and Purulia District of the old Bihar was added to West Bengal.

The States Reorganization Act of 1956 through Seventh Amendment was a landmark event that fundamentally reshaped the administrative geography of India. By carving out new states and redefining boundaries based on linguistic, cultural, and administrative considerations, the act created a more cohesive and representative federal structure. While not without some controversy, the reorganization helped address longstanding regional and ethnic tensions, laying the groundwork for more effective governance and economic development across the country. The flexibility built into the Constitution, through provisions like Article 3, has allowed India to continue adapting its state boundaries over time to meet evolving needs. The 1956 reorganization stands as a testament to India's commitment to responsive, democratic governance that empowers diverse communities.

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

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

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