Since they can be upheld by the court, fundamental rights are the heart of the Constitution and should be regarded as more than just a guiding concept. The Constitution’s three branches are the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The correct amount of balance must exist between them. The executive and legislative branches have occasionally taken action to increase their control over the other branches. To safeguard everyone’s rights, the judiciary has repeatedly acted. A similar attempt to abuse the power of the Parliament was made in the case of Minerva Mills v. Union of India.
- One of the most important rulings in the history of the Indian Constitution was issued by the Supreme Court on April 24, 1973.
- Under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, the government attempted to seize Kesavananda Bharati’s land through the Land Acquisition Act, of 1969. Several changes were passed before the challenge:
- Initial: 24-Amendment It gave the Parliament the authority to alter a law without affecting any changes made by Article 13 of the Constitution.
- 2nd: the 25th Amendment made it easier for the State to provide fair compensation to landlords. The Indian Constitution’s Articles 19(c) and 31(c) are no longer connected as a result. Articles 14, 19, and 31 of the Indian Constitution were accorded less precedence than clauses (b) and (c) of Article 39.
- Third: 29th Amendment inserted Kerala Land Reform Act, 1969 in the Ninth Schedule thus making it outside the scope of the judiciary to review.
- The Court ruled that if amendments to fundamental rights are consistent with the basic structural theory, the Parliament may modify the Constitution without impairing that principle.
- The Court invalidated the section that limited judicial review.
- The 42nd Amendment Act, which was passed in 1976 as a result of this judgment’s incompatibility with the law, stated that all Directive Principles of State Policy would have precedence over Articles 14 and 19’s Fundamental Rights. Inserted clauses (4) and (5) also stated that judicial review does not apply to the constitutional amendment under Article 368. This modification was passed to render the Kesavananda Bharati case ruling ineffective So that any law can be implemented without the fear of judicial scrutiny.
Facts of the case
A textile mill called Minerva Mills is situated close to Bengaluru. In 1970, the Central Government established a committee by Section 15 of the Industries Development Act of 1951 considering the significant decline in Minerva mills’ output. In October 1971, the committee delivered its report to the Central Government. The National Textile Corporation Limited, an organization created by the Industries Development Act of 1951, was permitted by the central government to assume control of the Minerva mills. Nationalization was included in the ninth schedule of the 39th amendment, which was exempt from judicial review. The parliament passed a 42nd amendment to the Constitution, amending Article 31C through Section 4 of the Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976, following a significant setback in the Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain struggle for supreme power. Additionally, Article 368 was modified by Section 55 of the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976.
Amended Article 31C read as:
No law containing the declaration that it is giving effect to such policy shall be called into question in any court because it does not give effect to such policy; no law containing the declaration that it is giving effect to such policy shall be called into question in any court because it is inconsistent with or restricts any right granted under Article 14 or Article 19.
The provisions of these Articles shall not apply to such laws, if such laws are adopted by the legislature of a State, unless such law, having time reserved for the consideration of the president, has gained his approval. This amendment meant that no laws that gave effect to the directive principle could be struck down by a court on the basis that it violated the right to freedom of speech or right to equality.
Amended Article 368 of the Indian Constitution there was an insertion of clauses (4) and (5) read as:
(4) No amendment to this Constitution, including those made or ostensibly made under this article before or after Section 55 of the Constitution, may be challenged in court on any grounds. This includes the provisions of Part III.
(5) For the avoidance of doubt, it is expressly stated that there shall be no restrictions of any kind on the constituent power of parliament to alter the provision of the Constitution under this article by addition, variation, or repeal.
The Kesavananda Bharati Judgment’s impact would be negated by the change made to Article 368.
The petitioners challenged
- They challenged the validity of Sections 5(b), 19(3) 21, 25, and 27 (read with 2nd Schedule of the Nationalization Act, 1974.
- Sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976.
- Order of the Central Government to nationalize Minerva Mills.
- The primacy of the Directive Principle of the State Policy over Fundamental Rights.
The issue before the Supreme Court
- Whether insertion made under Article 31C and Article 368 through sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 hampers the basic structure doctrine?
- Whether the Directive Principle of the State policy has primacy over the Fundamental right to the Indian Constitution?
Arguments of the Petitioner
- Nani Palkhivala, who was the Janata Government’s ambassador until he felt the need to return to India to defend human rights, defended the case on behalf of Minerva Mills’ former owners, who were the petitioners.
- Article 368 places restrictions on the parliament’s ability to change laws. This change would enable Parliament, the Constitution’s creation, to take control of it. The court’s ruling in the Kesavananda Bharati case said that the Parliament lacks the power to alter the fundamental provisions of the Constitution.
- The State was required to enact legislation based on the Directive Principle of the State Policy, but this had to be done in a way that didn’t violate Fundamental Rights.
- Due to section 55 of the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976 no court would have the power to review the constitutional amendment passed by the Parliament this would damage the balance between the Judiciary and the Parliament.
- There would be a disbalance would be created between the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of the State Policy there is a need to create a harmonious construction.
- Almost every law enacted by the government would one or another other way be associated with the Directive Principles.
- To give immunity to the Directive Principle would wipe out Article 19 and Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
Arguments of the Respondents
The State was represented by attorney general L.N. Sinha and additional solicitor general K.K. Venugopal they both were in a precarious position to defend the amendment passed during the emergency era:
- Article 31C of the Indian Constitution reinforced the basic structure doctrine, Directive Principles provided goals in the absence of Fundamental Rights.
- Any harm caused to the Fundamental Rights won’t amount to violating the basic structure doctrine.
- To achieve the goals framed under the Directive Principle of the State Policy powers of the Parliament should be supreme there should be no restrictions on its amendment powers.
- The issue related to academic interest should not be decided by the Court.
- The government through the naturalization process was assisting the company to raise loans.
After almost 7 years after the passage of the order passed by the Central Government to conduct the investigation, the decision was pronounced by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court with the Majority of 4:1.
The majority opinion was given by Justice Chandrachud on the behalf of Justice A.C. Gupta, N.L. Untwalia and P.S. Kailasam.
Article 368 of the Indian Constitution
- The parliament has the power to amend the Constitution but should be within its basic framework.
- The theory of unlimited power to amend the Constitution would alienate democracy and create a totalitarian State.
- e clause (5) is unconstitutional because it hampers the basic structure of the Constitution.
- e clause (50 was struck down because it restricted the court’s power of judicial review and amendment.
Article 31C of the Indian Constitution
- If part IV subverts Part III of the Indian Constitution it would destroy the basic structure.
- Part IV needs to be achieved without the abrogation of Part II of the Constitution.
- The most elementary freedoms provided under Articles 19 and 14 of the Indian Constitution therefore should be preserved.
- Article 31 C of the Indian Constitution has removed two sides of the golden triangles (Articles 19, 14, and 21) which will cause serious harm to the people of this country.
The dissenting opinion was given by Justice Bhagwati.
Article 368 of the Indian Constitution
Justice Bhagawati was in favor of the majority decision in striking down section 55 of the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976:
- He opined that basic features are an integral part of the Constitution.
- e clause (4) is unconstitutional because it breached two basic features of the constitution First Limited amending power of the Parliament. Second Restriction on judicial review.
- e clause (5) is unconstitutional and void it had the effect of transforming the constitution into an uncontrolled one.
Article 31C of the Indian Constitution
- Article 31C of the Constitution did not damage the basic structure but instead strengthened it.
- Non-Compliance with the Directive Principle would be unconstitutional and a breach of faith with the people.
- No law directly giving effect to the Directive Principle can be inconsistent with the vegetarian principle.
- If the law is substantially connected to the Directive Principle of the State Policy would be valid if there is no nexus then it would be struck down.
The decision of the Supreme Court
On 31st July 1980, the Court pronounced its judgment:
- Sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 are unconstitutional.
- The writ petition challenging the validity of Sections 5(b), 19(3) 21, 25, and 27 (read with 2nd schedule of the nationalization act, 1974 was dismissed by the court.
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ARTICLE WRITTEN BY ABHINAV SHUKLA.