What is a Union Territory? In India, several regions are governed directly by the Union government, and are therefore called Union Territories.

Jammu Kashmir Ladakh to be made Union territories What this means
news Politics Monday, August 05, 2019 - 17:59

After Home Minister Amit Shah proposed the scrapping of Article 370(1) and Article 35 (A) of the Constitution, which revokes the special status afforded to Jammu & Kashmir, he introduced a Bill to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories: Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory (UT) with a legislature, and Ladakh as a UT without a legislature. 

But what is a Union Territory? In India, several regions are governed directly by the Union government, and are therefore called Union Territories. Some of them – like Delhi and Puducherry – have legislatures, while others, like Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, do not. The UTs are governed by the Home Ministry of the Union government, which takes care of everything from funds allocation to the police in these places. 

As UTs, Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh will see a diminishing of their democratic powers, which will effectively be transferred to the central government. A Lieutenant Governor (LG) or “administrator” will be appointed by the President to govern these UTs. In the new UT of Jammu and Kashmir, the LG will have to govern alongside the Chief Minister. And in Ladakh, the LG/Administrator will take over the role of the Chief Minister. Remember – while the Chief Minister is an elected representative who the people have voted for, the LG is appointed by the President on advice from the central government. 

Unlike the Governor of a state, the Lieutenant Governor is not a nominal head. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill tabled by the Union government in Rajya Sabha says, “On and from the appointed day, the Governor of the existing State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be the Lieutenant Governor for the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and Union territory of Ladakh for such period as may be determined by the President.”

India currently has seven Union territories and 29 states, but those numbers will change to nine Union territories and 28 states. 

“The Ladakh Division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir has a large area but is sparsely populated with a very difficult terrain. There has been a long pending demand of the people of Ladakh, to give it the status of a Union Territory to enable them to realise their aspirations. The Union Territory of Ladakh will be without Legislature,” Home Minister Amit Shah said in the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill. 

“Further, keeping in view the prevailing internal security situation, fuelled by cross border terrorism in the existing State of Jammu and Kashmir, a separate Union Territory for Jammu and Kashmir is being created. The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be with legislature,” the Bill said. 

In recent days, the central government called for an unprecedented security lockdown in Kashmir valley, urging tourists to leave the area immediately. Scores had travelled to the region for the annual Amarnath Yatra. 

What is a Union Territory?

The classification of Union Territories was created under the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956. It allowed the reorganisation of states, alterations in the area and boundaries of existing states and “classification of certain areas as Union Territories.” 

While the state has its own elected government, a Union territory is regulated by the Union government. The Lieutenant Governor is not an elected position and is appointed by the President. 

Puducherry is governed under Article 239A of the Constitution, while NCT Delhi is under Article 239AA. J&K will likely initially follow Puducherry’s example; under 239A, the LG does not have the power to promulgate any ordinances in the Union territory. In cases where the LG does, it will not stand if the Legislative Assembly decides to disapprove it. 

What are the powers of a Lieutenant Governor?

According to Article 239, “Every Union territory shall be administered by the President acting, to such extent as he thinks fit, through an administrator to be appointed by him with such designation as he may specify.”

The Lieutenant Governor is a representative of the President. A Council of Ministers, with the Chief Minister at the head, will be appointed to advise the LG. The matters of land, law and order come under the purview of the LG, which means that Lieutenant Governors wield greater powers than state Governors.

The Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Minister will split the powers within the territory, though ill-defined discretionary powers held by the LG has led to conflict with Union Territories previously, The Hindu reports. 

If there is a difference in opinion between the LG and his ministers, the LG must defer to the advice of the President and act in accordance. 

Although Union territories can form governments with a Legislature, elected members and a Chief Minister, such as New Delhi and Puducherry, these governments hold less power than state governments. 

For a Union Territory’s Legislative Assembly, the central government may nominate only three persons to be members of the Assembly, though not persons in government service. The Assembly shall continue for five years. 

Puducherry conflicts

The functioning of the Union territory of Puducherry most closely resembles what can be expected for Jammu & Kashmir. However, Puducherry has witnessed multiple instances where the partnership between the elected Chief Minister and the Lieutenant Governor has turned sour.

Puducherry Chief Minister Narayanasamy and Lt Governor Kiran Bedi have had a rocky relationship since 2016 through a continued turf war for power within the Union territory. The two have sparred on several occasions, including on the nomination of MLAs to the Puducherry Assembly as well as Kiran Bedi’s stipulation that free rice would only be distributed in open defecation-free villages. 

Their most dramatic stand-off took place earlier this year, with the CM staging a sit-in protest outside Raj Nivas after the government issued a laundry list of demands to the LG. Narayanasamy has accused Kiran of being ‘non-cooperative’ and interfering with the duties of his elected representatives. 

Though Kiran Bedi, through her personal secretary, had submitted to the Madras High Court that an LG had certain powers granted by law, the High Court in May ruled that the LG had not been entrusted with any independent decision-making power and that the LG would have to act on the advice on the Council of Ministers.

Last year, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his ministers staged a nine-day sit-in inside the Lieutenant Governor’s residence due to conflicts that had arisen between the two.

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