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Amendment In The Indian Constitution

Amendment In The Indian Constitution

Introduction

The term ‘amend’ means ‘to make right; to correct or rectify’[1] An amendment is a formal revision or addition proposed or made to a statute, constitution, pleading, order, or other instruments; specif., a change made by addition, deletion, or correction; esp., an alteration in wording.[2]

Part XX (Article 368) of the Indian Constitution provides for amendment.

Methods of Amendment

There are two methods of amendment: Formal and Informal

(A)  Informal Method:

There are two informal methods to bring an amendment to the Constitution:

  • Judicial Interpretation – Judicial interpretation includes gradual metamorphosis of constitutional principles by an analysis of a body of judicial precedents.
  • Conventions and Conventional Usages – Conventions develop with the evolution of practices with the progress of time. They are ‘non-legal rules,’ and the courts do not apply them, but they are binding.[3]

(B)   Formal Method:

Article 368 prescribes the procedure for bringing an amendment to the Constitution. Initiation of amendment begins by the introduction of a bill in either of the two houses. The initiated bill should be passed in each House by the respective majority. A joint sitting in case of disagreement between the two Houses is not possible.

Article 368 prescribes for various kinds of majority required to being an amendment. These include:

(1)   Amendment by Simple Majority

Some provisions can be introduced or changed without bringing Article 368 into the picture. A simple majority is a majority for passing an ordinary bill. These provisions include: Articles 2, 11, 59(3), 73(2), 75(6), 97, 105(3), 124(1), 125(2), 133(3), 135, 137, 148(3), 158(3), 164(5), 169, 171 (2), 221(2), 343(3), 348(1), Schedule V and VI. However, Article 368 doesn’t cover this category.

(2)   Amendment by Special Majority

For amending a majority of the provisions, a special majority of the Parliament is necessary. Special majority means a majority of more than 50 per cent of the total membership of each House and a majority of two-thirds of the members of each house present and voting.

The provisions amended through special majority are FRs[4], DPSPs[5] and all the remaining provisions which cannot be amended by other methods. Article 368 covers this provision.

(3)   Special Majority accompanied with the ratification of at least 1/3rd by the State Legislatures.

Some federal provisions require a special majority of the Parliament along with the consent of half of the state legislatures by a simple majority in order to be amended. However, if one or some or all the remaining states doesn’t give its consent or remains ineffective to the bill, it does not matter. The formality is complete when half of the states give their consent. In addition to this, there is no time limit within which the states should give their consent to the bill.

The provisions governed by this majority are:  Article 54, Article 55, Article 73, Article 162 or Article 241, Chapter IV of Part V, Chapter V of Part VI, or Chapter I of Part XI, any of the Lists in the Seventh Schedule, the representation of States in Parliament[6]. Article 368 applies to such provisions.

Amendment of the Indian Constitution

The scope of Article 368 has been in question since the inception of this provision. Shankari Prasad v. Union of India[7] was the first case in which amenability of the Constitution was questioned. There was a conflict between Article 13 and 368. However, the court hinted that Article 368 is absolute in nature, and even Fundamental Rights cannot be immunized from its effect. Likewise, the SC, while adjudicating the validity of the Constitution (Seventeenth Amendment) Act, appreciated the ratio of Shankari Prasad.[8]

However, the position changed in the case of Golaknath[9], the court held that the Fundamental Rights have an important position in the Constitution of India and no authority can amend them even under A. 368. 24th Amendment act neutralized Golaknath’s judgment. Then came the judgment of Kesavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala[10], where the scope of amendments was restricted, and protection was provided to the basic structure of the Constitution. Later, the court upheld Kesavananda’s judgment in the case of Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain[11]. Likewise, the same concept prevails till date.[12]

Important Amendments to the Indian Constitution

Some of the important amendments in the Indian Constitution are:

  • 1st Amendment Act, 1951: It added Article 15(4) and 19(6) and brought changes in the right to private property in pursuance with the decision of SC concerning Fundamental Rights.[13] Schedule IX was also introduced.
  • 7th Amendment Act, 1956: Reorganization of states was made on linguistic lines.
  • 24th Amendment Act, 1971: It was brought to neutralize the effect of Golaknath’s case[14].
  • 42nd Amendment Act, 1976: This amendment is also known as mini-constitution. It introduced the words ‘socialist’, ‘secular,’ and ‘integrity’ to the preamble.
  • 44th Amendment Act, 1979: This amendment was passed after the revocation of internal emergency in the country. It annulled several provisions of 42nd
  • 52nd Amendment Act, 1985: It added Xth Schedule to the Constitution.
  • 61st Amendment Act, 1988: Brought down voting age from 21 to 18 years.
  • 73rd Amendment Act, 1992: The system of Panchayati Raj gained sanctity through this amendment.
  • 74th Amendment Act, 1992: It provided constitutionality to the concept of Municipalities.
  • 86th Amendment Act, 2002: It introduced a fundamental Right to education for the children of the age of 6-14 years.
  • 101st Amendment Act, 2017: This amendment brought into force the Goods and Services Tax.
  • 103rd Amendment Act, 2019: It provided for economic reservation under Article 15 and Article 16 of the constitution.

Conclusion

Thus, amendments are an integral part of the Indian Constitution. In addition to this, amendments are a part of the constitution which are beneficial in eliminating the short-comings of the constitution and changing it as per the needs and aspirations of the society. Thus, constitutional amendments ensure the element of dynamism in the Constitution and make it a perfect blend of rigidity and flexibility.

[1] Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary 252 (8th ed., Thomson West, 2004).

[2] Ibid, 253.

[3] U.N. Rao v. Indira Gandhi, AIR 1971 SC 1002.

[4] Article 13-31, Constitution of India, 1950.

[5] Ibid, Article 36 – 51

[6] Ibid, Article 368(2)(e)

[7] AIR 1951 SC 458.

[8] Sajjan Singh v. the State of Rajasthan, AIR 1965 SC 845.

[9] LC Golaknath v. the State of Punjab, AIR 1967 SC 1643.

[10] AIR 1973 SC 1461.

[11] AIR 1975 SC 2299.

[12] See Waman Rao v. Union of India (AIR 1981 SC 271); Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillu (AIR 1993 SC 412).

[13] Kameshwar Singh v State of Bihar AIR 1951 Pat 91

[14] Supra note 9.

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