Constitutional Law: Theory of Eclipse

Article 13 of our Constitution has two doctrines. One of them is the Doctrine or theory of Eclipse. The idea behind the Theory of Eclipse is that any law that is incompatible or inconsistent with the fundamental rights of the Constitution will not be right away deemed to be invalid. The Unconstitutional law isn’t completely gone, but it will be eclipsed by the Fundamental Rights. Any further Constitutional Amendment can resolve the inconsistency between the law and the rights. The eclipse will be removed by amending the appropriate Fundamental Right which makes the entire statute valid. 

Article 13 (1) says that:-

“All laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Part, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.”

The Theory of Eclipse says that if any pre-constitutional laws conflict with the Constitution’s provisions after the Constitution entered into force, the Constitution’s provisions will prevail, and the provisions of that pre-constitutional law will not be in force until the Constitution is amended to address the same issue. In this case, the provision of that statute will re-enter into force if it is compatible with the modified Constitution. This is known as the Eclipse Theory.

Now, the most important question arose which was:-

Can a Law that became unenforceable after the Constitution came into force be revived and given effect by a subsequent Constitutional Amendment?

In the case of Bhikaji vs. State of M.P., the Supreme Court developed the eclipse theory to address this same issue. A law passed by the Central Province government monopolized motor transportation. The Supreme Court ruled that a Pre-Constitutional statute that infringes on basic rights is not void ab initio. It’s just been overshadowed. The measure was made lawful again when Article 19 of the Constitution was modified to allow the State to monopolize any enterprise.

Now, these amendments speak about the Pre Constitutional Laws. A question arose whether this doctrine applies to Post Constitutional Laws as well. 

Article 13(2) prevents the state from enacting legislation that abridges or restricts the rights granted by Part III of the Constitution. If a state passes such legislation, it will be ultra vires and invalid to the degree that it is violated. Contrary to Article 13 clause (1), clause (2) declares inconsistent laws are invalid from the beginning. 

In the case of Deep Chand v. State of U.P., the Supreme Court held that if a law is passed after January 25, 1950, that is in violation of the Constitution, the statute is void from the beginning, and anything done under it is also void and illegal. The theory of eclipse, it was ruled, does not apply to Post-Constitutional legislations since it is invalid from the start. Such a statute cannot be revived by a later Amendment of the Constitution.

In the case of State of Gujarat v. Shri Ambica Mills, the Supreme Court held that even pre-existing laws apply to non-citizens, even if they violate the fundamental rights of the Indian citizens. Pre-existing laws apply to non-citizens, and the theory of eclipse only applies to pre-existing laws, not post-constitutional legislation. Deep Chand’s decision was overturned, and the court declared that a post-Constitutional statute that violates basic rights is not null and void in all circumstances and for all reasons.

In another case of Dulare Lodh v. III Additional District Judge, Kanpur it was held that the Doctrine of Eclipse, according to the Court, applies to post-constitutional legislation as well as citizens.



Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.


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