Describe the procedure for the amendment of the constitution. Do you think that the procedure for amendment makes the position of states weak vis-a-vis center?
Amendment of constitution means “addition, variation or repeal any provision of the Constitution” in accordance with the procedure laid down for the purpose. Article 368 in Part XX of the Constitution deals with the powers of Parliament to amend the Constitution and its procedure. The Constitution of India provides for the amendment in order to adjust itself to the changing conditions and needs of the society.
PROCEDURE FOR THE AMENDMENT AS PER ARTICLE 368
Type 1 – Special Majority:
- An amendment of the Constitution can be initiated by the introduction of a bill in either House of Parliament.
- The bill can be introduced either by a minister or by a private member.
- The bill must be passed in each House by a special majority, (that is, more than 50%) of the total membership of the House and a majority of two-thirds of the members of the House present and voting.
- Each House must pass the bill separately. In case of a disagreement between the two Houses, there is no provision for holding a joint sitting of the two Houses.
- After duly passed by both the Houses of Parliament, the bill is presented to the president for assent.
- The president must give his assent to the bill. The 24th Constitutional Amendment Act had made it obligatory for the President to give his assent to a constitutional Amendment Bill.
- After the president’s assent, the bill becomes an Act (i.e., a constitutional amendment act). Example: Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy and All other provisions which are not covered by the Type 2 and Type 3.
Type 2 – Ratification by states:
If the bill seeks to amend the federal provisions of the Constitution, it must also be ratified by the legislatures of half of the states by a simple majority, that is, a majority of the members of the House present and voting.
Example: Election of the President and its manner, Seventh Schedule, Representation of states in Parliament, etc.
OTHER PROCEDURE FOR THE AMENDMENT
Type 3 – Simple Majority:
A large number of provisions contained in the constitution are open to change by a simple majority. Such changes are not considered to be Constitutional Amendment Bills for the purpose of Article 368.
Example: Admission or establishment of new states, Formation of new states and alteration of areas, Delimitation of constituencies, Fifth Schedule, Sixth Schedule, etc.
POSITION OF STATES WEAK VIS-A-VIS CENTRE
- The Council of States enjoys equal power with the House of People in constitutional amendment. Because there is no provision for holding a joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament if there is a deadlock over the passage of a constitutional amendment bill.
- The Constitution does not prescribe the time frame within which the state legislatures should ratify or reject an amendment submitted to them.
- Major Part of the constitution can be amended by the Parliament alone.
- Only States have the power to initiate a resolution requesting the Parliament for the creation or abolition of legislative councils in the states.
Although states enjoys some power in constitutional amendment, still there are certain limitations like:
- The constitutional amendment power of state legislature is limited to a few areas only. Example: Election of the President and its manner, Representation of states in Parliament, etc.
- Even in those few areas, the consent of the state legislature required is too low i.e. only half of the states, while in the USA it is three-fourths of the states.
- An amendment to the Constitution can be initiated only in the Parliament. This deprives the power of constitutional amendment from state legislatures.
- The Parliament can either approve or disapprove the resolution request by the State Legislature for the creation/abolition of state council.
- Unlike USA, states in India doesn’t have equal representation in Rajya Sabha. Smaller states are in weaker position during the process of amendment. Example: States like Nagaland, Meghalaya have only one representation in Council of States.
Despite these defects, it cannot be denied that the process has proved to be simple and easy and has succeeded in meeting the changing needs and conditions. The procedure is not so flexible as to allow the ruling parties to change it according to their whims. Nor is it so rigid as to be incapable of adapting itself to the changing needs.