The prospective nature of Article 13(1) has given rise to the doctrine of eclipse. The doctrine of eclipse deals with pre-constitution laws or existing laws.
The law which has been valid at its inception but has become invalid on the coming into force of the Constitution of India by reason of being inconsistent with the Fundamental Rights guaranteed in Part-III of the Constitution is treated to be dormant but not dead and, therefore if by the subsequent amendment of the Constitution the inconsistency which has made it unconstitutional is removed. The law will become free from infirmity and will become enforceable this is called Doctrine of Eclipse.
LEADING CASE LAWS
- Prospective/Retrospective nature of Article 13(1): Keshavan Madhvan Menon v. State of Bombay AIR 1951 SC 128
In reaction to the case of Keshavan, various difficult problems surrounding the doctrine have been raised, including the retrospective and prospective character of Article 13(1), as well as the interpretation of the word “void” in Article 13(1). (1). The petitioner was prosecuted under the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act of 1931 for publishing a pamphlet without authorization in the landmark case of Keshavan Madhava Menon v. State of Bombay. When India’s Constitution was being drafted, the lawsuit was still pending. The fundamental question was whether the Act’s provisions violated Article 19(1). (a). The relevant regulations, according to the Court, violate Article 19(1)(a) and are therefore “invalid” to the extent of their inconsistency. The Court went on to say that basic rights are presumptively prospective in nature, and that the term “invalid” did not imply that the statute or provision had been repealed.
- Nexus between Article 13(1) and Pre-Constitutional Laws: FN Balsara and Behram
One of the first cases to explain the reasonable connection between Article 13(1) and pre-constitutional laws was Behram Khurshid Pesikaka v. State of Bombay. The appellant was charged with violating Section 66(b) of the Bombay Prohibition Act of 1949. Previously, in the case of F. N. Balsara, Section 13(b) of the same Act was held unlawful for violating Article 19(1). (f). As a model, the appellant used the case of F.N. Balsara. Section 66(b) was thereafter declared ineffective and unenforceable. The Court ruled that only a portion of the law was unconstitutional, not the entire law. Furthermore, the accused bears the burden of proving citizenship and the provision’s violation.
- The Genesis and Evolution of the Doctrine of Eclipse: Bhikaji Narain Dhakras v. State of M.P AIR 1955 SC 781
In the case of Bhikaji Narain Dhakras v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the doctrine’s concept, principle, and applicability were refined. The C. P. and Berar Motor Vehicles Amendment Act of 1947, which authorised the State Government to control and take over all motor transportation enterprises, was challenged in this case because it violated Part III’s Article 19(1)(g). The Doctrine of Eclipse applied since this Amendment Act was a pre-constitutional law, and the provisions of this legislative Act were rendered ineffective. Soon after, in 1951, the first Constitutional Amendment Act was passed, overturning the Eclipse and making the law effective against both citizens and non-citizens. “The impact of the modification was to remove the shade and to make the impugned Act free of every blemish or infirmity,” the Supreme Court said. It will also be enforceable against non-citizens, according to the Court.
DOES THE DOCTRINE OF ECLIPSE APPLY TO A POST-CONSTITUTIONAL LAW?
Article 13(2) relates to future laws i.e., laws made after the commencement of the Constitution. The doctrine of eclipse is invoked only in cases of pre-constitutional law and is not applicable in case of post constitutional law. If a post constitutional law is inconsistent with the constitution it is void ab initio. A Fundamental Right is a constitutional limitation upon the legislative power of the legislatures. Article 13(2) expressly states this limitation.
In Deep Chand v. State of U.P., AIR 1959 SC 648, the Supreme Court held that a post constitutional law made under Article 13(2) which contravenes a Fundamental Right is nullity from its inception and a still-born law. It is void ab initio. The doctrine of eclipse does not apply to post constitutional laws and therefore, a subsequent constitutional amendment cannot revive it. The minority, however expressed the view that the doctrine of eclipse is applicable even to post-constitutional law.
- Keshavan Madhvan Menon v. State of Bombay AIR 1951 SC 128
- Behram Khurshid Pesikaka v. State of Bombay AIR 1955 SC 123
- State of Bombay and Anr v. F.N. Balsara 1951 AIR 318
- Bhikaji Narain Dhakras v. State of M.P AIR 1955 SC 781
- Deep Chand v. State of U.P., AIR 1959 SC 648
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