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Will constitutional amendment pose new hurdle for Telangana?

February 12, 2014 13:46 IST

The Lok Sabha secretariat has sought an opinion from the Union law ministry whether the Constitution needs to be amended to form a new state. Vicky Nanjappa reports 

The suspense over Telangana is likely to play out till the last minute.

While the bill has been cleared in principle by the ruling Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to back it, there’s one clause that could still delay the formation process. Posing a new hurdle is the constitutional amendment to divide the Andhra Pradesh legislative council.
The Lok Sabha secretariat has sought an opinion from the Union law ministry regarding the constitutional amendment. There is a lack of clarity on whether the Constitution needs to be amended, since with the division of Andhra Pradesh even the legislative council in the state will be divided.

The secretariat also has doubts about the amendment in order to protect special status. The special status provided to both new states under Articles 371 and 371 D could be lost in case there is no constitutional amendment.

The issue had come up for discussion even before the cabinet had taken a decision on Telangana, and the Group of Ministers were divided on the issue, insiders tell However, the cabinet approved the bill stating that no amendment was required.

However, experts point out that this is not a clause that the people of Telangana need to worry about. Article 371 is temporary and is a special provision of Part XXQ of the Constitution. This does not override the powers of the Parliament under Article 3 giving it the authority to alter boundaries of states.

There is no constitutional amendment since Parliament has the power to continue providing protection under Article 371D. Parliament can introduce a clause into the Andhra Pradesh State Reorganisation Act by introducing Telangana into Article 371D. Alternatively Parliament can also omit these clauses once both the new states to be formed, experts tell

In the case of the Punjab State Reorganisation Act, Parliament omitted the clauses after separation. Similar procedures were followed after the creation of Meghalaya out of Assam.

This matter was brought before the Supreme Court a few days ago. While dismissing ten petitions challenging the formation of Telangana without an amendment to the Constitution, the Supreme Court had held that it cannot interfere with the powers of Parliament.

The bill in all probability is expected to come up before Parliament on Thursday. Copies have already been circulated and it is expected to be tabled.

A final meeting of both the Congress and the BJP is scheduled for Wednesday. The BJP has put forth a few conditions, which include a package for Seema-Andhra, and if these clauses are abided by, then Telangana should become a reality in the next couple of days, say experts.

Vicky Nanjappa