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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Indian Constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950, and number of amendments have been made since then.
  • India is considered to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, and republic with a parliamentarian government.
  • India is not a typical federal state and is described as federal but with striking unitary characteristics.

INTRODUCTION

A country's constitution aims to establish fundamental or apex organs of government and administration, which would describe their structure, composition, powers, and principal functions and in addition define their inter-relationships with one another, and regulate their relationship with the people.When it comes to India, the Constitution is considered to be the mother of all laws. It is the mechanism by which the Parliament passes other legislations and further outlines our fundamental rights and responsibilities, as well as the Directive Principles of State policy.The Indian Constitution went into effect on January 26, 1950 with 395 articles (distributed over 22 parts) and 12 schedules. It is pertinent to note that, no other country has a constitution as comprehensive as ours, which is why it is considered the world's lengthiest and most detailed of all the written constitutions in the world. Apart from its comprehensiveness, the interest in analyzing the constitution is because of the flexibility being present. It was the goal of the founding fathers of our constitution that the constitution would not only help the country flourish, but also grow alongside it.

In general, any country's constitution includes provisions for amendment to meet future requirements of the people as amendments to the constitution are said to be a safety valve for the constitution. Hence, if they are not given, the entire structure would have been destroyed. Further, when compared to other nations' constitutions, the Indian Constitution is far more adaptable to amendments, reason being the government can amend the constitution using the powers granted under Article 368. Therefore, in this article, an attempt has been made to analyze the basic structure of the Indian constitution as well as the key amendments that have been made thus far with the help of case laws.

SIGNIFCANCE OF THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA

The Constitution of India is known as the country's fundamental law because it reflects the basic principles and laws of a nation, state, or social organization that define the government's powers and responsibilities while also guaranteeing certain rights to its citizens. Additionally, it embodies the nation's ideology and structure, and as stated, the primary source of other laws.It's important to bear in mind that the Preamble is a form of introduction to the Constitution that lays out the aims and aspirations of people and thus, regarded a part of the Constitution. The preamble states India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic that guarantees justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity to all of its citizens, emphasizing that the Constitution was given to the people by the people itself.

Further, there are two types of governments in the world - unitary and federal, which are distinguished by the form of interactions between the national and regional governments. To understand in simpler terms, al l powers are vested with the national government in Unitary, and the regional governments draw their authority from the national government here. In a federal government, on the other hand, the powers are divided by the constitution between the central government and the regional governments, and both operate autonomously within their prescribed area of authority. Upon understanding the types of government, it is vital to note that in a number of circumstances, there has been debate over whether the Indian constitution defines a federal system or a unitary form of government with some basic federal characteristics.The framers of the Indian constitution chose a unique kind of governance, combining some of the features of a federal state while also including other non-federal features. Thus, it was observed that India is not a typical federal state and was described as federal but with striking unitary characteristics.

AMENDMENT IN INDIAN CONSTIUTION

It is a well-known adage that time does not stand still; it continues to tick. Likewise, societies evolve and change through time. The only way a constitution can be useful is if it can be amended to meet changing social requirements because a constitution drafted in one era by group of individuals may not be suitable in another era for a different set of people. Thus, amendments to the constitution allow it to adapt to the changing needs of the people and the country, and so the provision for modification becomes a matter of concern. As previously said, people's rights must be safeguarded while meeting the requirements of a developing society, keeping that in mind the Constitution's provisions are split into three types for amendment:

Amendment by simple majority –Quite a few provisions can be amended by a simple majority of parliament, that is a majority of the members of each house present and voting.

Amendment by special majority – Under this category, the provisions maybe amended with a special majority of the Parliament, that is a majority which is more than 50 percent of the total membership of each house and a majority of two-thirds of the members of each house present and voting.

By Special majority and Ratification by States –In this category, the states are given an important voice in the amendment matters which is why in addition to the special majority as stated above, there is a ratification required by not less than half of the state legislatures. To cite a few provisions that could be amended under this type are - Election and manner of election of President, Representation of States in Parliament, VII Schedules, Article 368, etc.

AMENDABILITY OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

Prior to discussing the key amendments to India's constitution, it's crucial to understand that the major source of conflict has been whether fundamental rights can be amended to remove the constitutionally given rights. Secondly, the issue that arose was with regards to the extent, scope, and authority of parliament when it comes to amending the constitution. The Supreme court on this matter has delivered judgements from time to time which could be understood in light of the following cases:

The constitutionality of the first amendment to the constitution was challenged in the case of Shankari Prasad v. Union of India (1951),on the grounds that it sought to abridge basic rights. According to the Supreme Court, Article 368 of the Constitution grants the power to amend the constitution, including the fundamental rights. Further, it was stated that an amendment is not a law under Article 13(2) of the Constitution and even if it exceeds any basic right, an amendment is considered lawful. Later, the majority decision in the case of Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan (1965)affirmed this verdict.

Later, in the case of I.C. Golak Nath v. State of Punjab (1967),the Supreme Court overturned its decisions in the Shankari Prasad and Sajjan Singh cases, holding that parliament had no power to amend the Constitution to curtail or abolish any of the fundamental rights. It further stated that article 368 merely lays forth the method for amending the Constitution. Furthermore, the court determined that an amendment is a law under Article 13(2) of the Indian Constitution, and that it may be ruled unconstitutional if it breaches any basic rights.

As a result, the 24th Amendment Act, 1971, was enacted by the parliament to address the problems caused by the Supreme Court's judgments. By way of this amendment, it restored parliament's constituent power to modify any aspect of the constitution, including fundamental rights. In the case of Kesavanandh Bharti v. State of Kerala (1973),also known as the fundamental rights case, the constitutionality of the 24th amendment was questioned. Here, the Supreme Court overturned the Golak Nath decision and upheld the 24th Amendment Act, stating that the parliament could not change the constitution's "basic structure" by amending it.

Further, the Constitution (Forty-Second Amendment) Act of 1976 added two new clauses to Article 368: first, the parliament has the power to amend any part of the constitution, including the basic structure, and second, such amendments to the constitution cannot be challenged on any grounds.

In Minerva Mill Ltd. v. Union of India (1980),the Supreme Court addressed the scope and extent of the doctrine of basic structure's application and unanimously ruled that the insertion of the phrases under the 42nd Amendment was unconstitutional because it exceeded the amending power's that would damage or destroy the Constitution's basic structure.

IMPORTANT AMENDMENTS

Following a comprehensive understanding of the ability to be amended of fundamental rights, the important amendments to the Constitution of India are briefly explained below.

The 1st Amendment of 1951:This amendment allowed for reasonable restrictions to be imposed by legislation on exercising of Article 19 of the Constitution's right to freedom of speech and expression, as well as the right to practice any profession or carry on any trade or business. This was considered necessary for the sake of cordial relations with foreign states, public order, and provocation to commit an offence. The amendment also added two new articles 31A and 31B, as well as the Ninth Schedule, to safeguard land reform measures.

The 7th Amendment of 1956:This amendment was enacted in order to reorganize the states. It included not only the creation of new states and modifications to state borders, but also the elimination of three state categories and the classification of some areas as Union Territories were made. Further, it included provisions for the House of People's composition, the establishment of new High Courts, and the appointment of new High Court justices, as well as provisions for the State Reorganization Commission's constitutional safeguards for linguistic minorities were provided.

The 24th Amendment of 1971 – As previously stated, this amendment gave the parliament the authority to amend any article of the constitution via the procedure outlined in Article 368. This amendment is noteworthy because it recognizes parliament's power to modify the constitution, including fundamental rights.

The 31st Amendment of 1973–This amendment increased the upper limit for state representation in the Lok Sabha from 500 to 525, while lowering the ceiling for Union Territories from 25 to 20 and bringing the Lok Sabha's elective strength from 525 to 545.

The 42nd Amendment of 1976 – This amendment was passed in response to the Swaran Singh Committee's report, which established parliament's authority and granted Directive Principles priority over the Fundamental Rights. The important thing to note in this amendment is that it identified fundamental duties for the citizens.

The 44th Amendment of 1978– This amendment limits the government's ability to declare an internal emergency and corrected various inaccuracies that occurred during the emergency. Secondly, the right to property was removed from the list of fundamental rights and replaced with it being only a legal right. Apart from this another important point was that the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 20 and 21 cannot be suspended during a national emergency.

The 52nd Amendment of 1985–This amendment included the Tenth Schedule, which contained the provisions for disqualification on the basis of defection of parliamentary members and state legislatures.Further, it was held that defection to another party after elections was deemed illegal under the Act, and any member who defected another party after elections was barred from serving in parliament or the state legislature. In other words, this amendment had enacted the anti-defection laws.

The 61st Amendment of 1988 – The voting age for Lok Sabha and assembly elections was decreased from 21 to 18 years as a result of this amendment.

The 73rd Amendment of 1992 –With the introduction of the responsibilities and duties of Panchayati Raj Institutions in Article 243A and the new schedule known as the Eleventh Schedule, Part IX was introduced to the Constitution. It established Gram Sabha, a three-tier Panchayati Raj system with seats reserved for Scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their population, with a one-third seat reservation for women.

The 74th Amendment of 1992 - Part IX of the constitution was added as a result of this modification, which laid down the method for forming municipalities and ward committees. It also provided for the reservation of seats in municipalities for women, scheduled castes, and scheduled tribes and thereafter inserted the constitution's twelfth schedule.

The 86th Amendment of 2002–With this amendment, Article 21A was added, requiring the state to provide free and compulsory education to children under the age of 14 and making it a fundamental right.

The 99th Amendment of 2014 -This amendment added Articles 124A, 12B, and 124C to the Constitution, as well as the composition and powers of the National Judicial Appointments Commission. This amendment, however, was declared unconstitutional and ultra vires by a constitution bench later on.

The 101st Amendment of 2016–This amendment was introduced to implement the Goods and Services Tax Act, which replaced the multiple-tax framework and turned India into a single market. This amendment said that there will be only one tax on the provision of goods and services, and that had taken effect from September 8, 2016. In simpler terms, the 101st amendment was enacted to create a tax system that is uniform across the country. As a result, the 101st amendment to the constitution added articles 246A, 269A, and 279A.

The 103rd Amendment of 2019–Through this amendment, articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution were modified and provided a quota of 10% of all government positions and college seats for admission that include the Central Government-run educational institutions and private educational institutions except for the minority educational institutions.

The 104th Amendment of 2020 -In this amendment, the deadline for the cessation of reservation of seats for members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies was extended to 10 years.

CONCLUSION

To put in a nutshell, we understand that the basic structure of the Constitution has been used by judges in a number of cases in determining the constitutional amendments and therefore undoubtedly, the Indian Constitution is framed in such a manner that it ensures validity of law without becoming obsolete, and ensures everyone is treated equally before law. Lastly,the amendments to the constitution that are being made from time to time indicate that the needs of the people are being met, and if any amendment made breaches fundamental rights, it is being removed whenever necessary in order to protect the values of our constitution and fulfil the objective outlined in the preamble.


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