Union Territories

Union Territories

The Union of India and its territories are sovereign to the nation. No one can claim right over it. States also do not have the power to change it. Read on.

Union territories are defined as federal territories that are governed by the Central Government. India has a total of 28 states and 8 Union Territories. They can also be called centrally administered territories, wherein Lieutenant Governors (LGs) are the head of these regions. The Lieutenant Governors for the union territories are appointed by the President of India.  

About Union Territories

The state reorganization act in 1956 introduced union territories in India. The phenomenon of union territories in the country was added by the seventh amendment to the Indian Constitution in 1956. The fundamental reason for the formation of union territories is that these regions were too small in area to be independent or to be merged with the surrounding states. Also, some regions were financially unstable or politically sensitive areas, because of which they were recognized as union territories by the Indian Government. 

Daman and Diu and Puducherry were respectively under the rule of the Portuguese and the French for a very long time in history. This meant that these regions needed special treatment for preserving their cultures and identity and providing effective governance, which is why they were recognized as union territories. The Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands are too far to be integrated into the mainland and they are significant considering their strategic locations. Hence, imposing union control over these regions is a necessity owing to concerns of national security. Other states like Delhi and Chandigarh have been given the status of union territories because of many political and administrative reasons. Delhi is the national capital and has high political significance in India, whereas Chandigarh is the administrative capital for both Haryana and Punjab. Around the time of drafting the seventh amendment to the Indian constitution in 1956, India had only 14 states and 6 union territories. Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Goa became states only in 1960. Over the next couple of decades, India grew into 29 states and 8 Union Territories. As of 2020, the Union Territories of India are Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Delhi, Puducherry, Ladakh, Chandigarh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Articles 239 to 241 in Part VIII of the Indian Constitution deal with the union territories of India. These articles propose the regulations for these regions in the country and it is important to understand that there is no uniformity in the legislations or the administrative system of these union territories. Article 239 of the Indian Constitution proposed that union territories be directly governed by the President of India, using the corresponding Lieutenant Governors. However, in 1962, it was modified as Article 239A, wherein the President of India only made legislations for the UTs. 

Article 240 stated that the President had powers to change regulations of all the existing union territories with an exception to Puducherry, wherein the President had the power to make regulations only when the assembly was dissolved or suspended. The final article, Article 241 in the constitution states that the Parliament can lawfully constitute a high court for the Union territories or declare the high court in any territory to be the high court of union territories for all purposes and all situations. Only the union territory of Delhi has a separate high court, owing to political reasons.

Fundamental differences between state and a union territory

All Indian states have a federal relationship with the central government where there is a division between the legislature and the executive, but the union territories have a unitary relationship with the government, wherein all legislative and executive powers remain with the government of India. Unlike the states, which have a local government, the union territories are completely ruled by the Central Government. Each state in the country has a governor as its head, but the President is deemed to be head of state for all Union territories in the country (Barring Delhi, J&K, and Puducherry). Also, the union territories do not enjoy autonomous powers like the states of India. While the states in the country deal with different central government ministries for different matters, the union territories report to the Ministry of Home Affairs for all concerned matters. 


Union territories were declared in the country because these regions were too small to be left independent or be merged into other surrounding states. Unlike states, the union territories have a unitary relationship with the Union Government, special provisions and regulations, given directly by the President of India.