Indian constitution has been amended multiple times since it’s inception. Trace the type and nature of amendments in post- independence India.
The Indian Constitution is neither flexible nor rigid but a synthesis of both, as it provides for its amendment in order to adjust itself to the changing conditions and needs.
Article 368 in Part XX of the Constitution deals with the powers of Parliament to amend the Constitution and its procedure
- It states that the Parliament may, in exercise of its constituent power, amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of the Constitution in accordance with the procedure laid down for the purpose.
- However, the Parliament cannot amend those provisions which form the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. this was ruled by the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973)
Some of the Important Amendment post-Independence, and their nature are as follows:
Technical or Administration natured Amendments, which were in form of clarifications, explanations and minor modifications
- Fifteenth Amendment Act,1963
Increased the retirement age of high court judges from 60 to 62 years.
Provided for appointment of retired judges of the high courts as acting judges of the same court.
- We may also take the example of the provision regarding reserved seats in the legislatures for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The original provision said that these reservations were for a period of ten years. However, in order to ensure fair representation of these sections, it was necessary to extend this period by ten Years. This has led to five amendments so far
Amendments based on Differing Interpretations
- A number of amendments are a product of different interpretations of the Constitution given by the judiciary and the government of the day.
When these clashed, the Parliament had to insert an amendment underlining one particular interpretation as the authentic one.
It is part of the democratic politics that various institutions would interpret the Constitution and particularly the scope of their own powers in a different manner
- Twenty-Fifth Amendment Act,1971
Curtailed the fundamental right to property.
Provided that any law made to give effect to the Directive Principles contained in Article 39 (b) or (c) cannot be challenged on the ground of violation of the rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 19 and 31.
Amendments through Political Consensus
- Fifty-Second Amendment Act, 1985
Provided for disqualification of members of Parliament and state legislatures on the ground of defection and added a new Tenth Schedule containing the details in this regard
- Sixty-First Amendment Act, 1989
Reduced the voting age from 21 years to 18 years for the Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly elections
- Seventy-Third Amendment Act, 1992
Granted constitutional status and protection to the panchayati raj institutions. For this purpose, the Amendment has added a new Part-IX entitled as ‘the panchayats’ and a new Eleventh Schedule containing 29 functional items of the panchayats.
- Seventy-Fourth Amendment Act, 1992
Granted constitutional status and protection to the urban local bodies. For this purpose, the Amendment has added a new Part IX- A entitled as ‘the municipalities’ and a new Twelfth Schedule containing 18 functional items of the municipalities.
Thirty-Eighth Amendment Act,1975
- Made the declaration of emergency by the president non- justiciable.
- Made the promulgation of ordinances by the president, governors and administrators of union territories non-justiciable.
- Empowered the president to declare different proclamations of national emergency on different grounds simultaneously Thirty-Ninth Amendment Act, 1975
- Placed the disputes relating to the president, vice president, prime minister and Speaker beyond the scope of the judiciary. They are to be decided by such authority as may be determined by the Parliament.
- Included certain Central acts in the Ninth Schedule
Forty-Second Amendment Act, 1976 (The most comprehensive amendment made so far to the Constitution; it is known as ‘Mini Constitution’)
- Added three new words (i.e., socialist, secular and integrity) in the Preamble.
- Added Fundamental Duties by the citizens (new Part IV A). Made the president bound by the advise of the cabinet.
- Froze the seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies on the basis of 1971 census till 2001.
- Made the constitutional amendments beyond judicial scrutiny. Curtailed the power of judicial review and writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and high courts.
- Provided that the laws made for the implementation of Directive Principles cannot be declared invalid by the courts on the ground of violation of some Fundamental Rights.
- Empowered the Parliament to make laws to deal with anti-national activities and such laws are to take precedence over Fundamental Rights.
- Added three new Directive Principles viz., equal justice and free- legal aid, participation of workers in the management of industries and protection of environment, forests and wild life.
- Facilitated the proclamation of national emergency in a part of territory of India.
- Extended the one-time duration of the President’s rule in a state from 6 months to one year.
- Empowered the Centre to deploy its armed forces in any state to deal with a grave situation of law and order.
Thus, the amendments have kept pace with time to evolve to the exigencies of time. From what seemed like an overpowering phase of Amendments before 1970s, has been corrected by the Supreme court after 1973 to ensure the Amendments stick to the basic structure of Constitution.