Features of the First Amendment of the Constitution of India

Introduction

Just like any other written Constitution in the world, the Constitution of India allows it to be amended so that it can better meet the needs and changes in the world.

Article 368 in Part XX of the Constitution talks about how Parliament can change the Constitution and how it does it, as well as how Parliament can do it. It says that the Parliament can add, change, or repeal any part of the Constitution as long as it follows the rules for doing so. However, the Parliament can’t change the parts of the Constitution that make up the “basic structure.” which was said by the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati case(1).

The Constitution (First Amendment Act) of 1951 is still one of the most controversial changes to the Indian Constitution. The First Amendment was debated for 16 days, and it was passed just 16 months after the Indian Constitution was put into place.

As part of the Constitutional Assembly, they had just finished writing the Constitution. The Provisional Parliament, which was made up of people who had just finished, made the amendment.

During the process of becoming independent, the Constituent Assembly also served as the Dominion Parliament, which was part of the process. People in the Constituent Assembly were no longer in charge after the Constitution was approved in 1950, so the Dominion Parliament, with the same number of people, changed its name to “Provisional Parliament.”

The Interim government made the first amendment to the Indian Constitution, which was led by the Interim Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It was made by people from the Congress Party. Because these changes were made less than a year before the first Parliamentary elections, there were no formal opposition parties in the debate.

Reasons behind the amendment

Supreme Court and High Court decisions made it clear that certain public safety laws, press-related laws, and criminal provisions were not in line with the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech. This was one of the main reasons for making changes.

A court’s decision in some cases, like the Kameswar Singh Case(2) and the Romesh Thapar Case(3), caused some problems.

The cases were about freedom of speech, land acquisition, the State’s monopoly on trade, and other things also went contrary to the stance of the government.

Provisions and impact of the First Amendment Act

1) The state could make special provisions for people who are socially and economically less well off than other people.

2) Added the Ninth Schedule to keep the land reforms and other laws in it from being judicially reviewed by the courts. After Article 31, Articles 31A and 31B were put in place of them.

3) Public order, good relations with foreign states, and inciting to an offence were grounds of violating free speech and subject to reasonable restrictions. 

4) As long as the state trades and nationalises any trade or business, it won’t be invalid just because it violates the right to trade and run a business.

Interim Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru proposed changes to Art. 19(2) that added restrictions on freedom of speech and expression based on “public order,” “incitement to a crime,” and “friendly relations with a foreign state”.

The people who didn’t like the Bill came from a wide range of political backgrounds, including socialists, Hindu right-wingers, and people from minority groups.

Among other things, the amendments brought back the controversial sections of the Indian Penal Code that the British used to try Indian nationalists for sedition and would bring back the model of public safety laws that the British used to keep dissent under control during colonial rule.

First Amendment free-speech issues were debated in Parliament at the time. Then interim Prime Minister Nehru said that both the armed peasant Telangana insurrection led by the Communist Party of India and the violent Partition of India were good reasons for giving police more power to stop people from speaking.

Mookerjee and other people who didn’t like the First Amendment in the Provisional Parliament kept talking about the Cooch-Behar food riots and the deaths of people who were shot by police because of a mandatory food tax in Rajasthan.

They also said that there had been reports of a police lathi charge on weavers who wanted yarn in the Saidapet area of Madras.

These riots were linked to the Interim government’s policies that led to, or were not enough, food, clothing, and housing shortages that the country was facing at the time. Those who opposed the First Amendment made their case in parliament.

The Interim Government decided to stop rationing and control schemes even though there was a bad harvest and a huge shortfall of food grains. This caused a lot of labour unrest and prices to rise by 250%. Government: After what was called among the most devastating and costly experiments in the short history of Independent India, the government had to change its mind and back down.

During the debate on the First Amendment, people were concerned about the legitimacy of government institutions. At this time, protests are a way for people to show their anger.

One of the things that people who didn’t like the changes to the First Amendment said was that the Interim Government should have resisted itself from any amendment to the constitution until the first election.

People who didn’t like the First Amendment said that it was wrong for a group that wasn’t elected to make changes to the Constitution so soon after it was made.

Nehru also said that Parliament was the voice of the people, and that the Interim Government’s actions were for the benefit of future generations of Indians, who will be born in the future. During the debate, Nehru framed the issue of trusting the Parliament as a legitimate voice of the people.

An in-depth look at how the government’s policies on press censorship, caste-based reservations in schools, and land redistribution were challenged by the people who were affected by them in courts. During all of the cases about press censorship, the courts overturned laws that limited free speech. Among them were Brij Bhushan v State of Delhi(4) and Romesh Thappar v The State of Madras. It was ruled unconstitutional by the Madras High Court and then the Supreme Court in Champakam Dorairajan v State of Madras(5). The Government Order that gave caste-based reservations was ruled unconstitutional by both courts.

People were going to vote in a few months, and Nehru thought the courts were blocking most of his new ideas. He thought this meant that the legal process of comparing legislation to the Constitution was putting his party’s social reform plans on hold. His First Amendment Bill was introduced on May 12. There were a lot of heated debates for two weeks, but it was passed on June 2.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

References

1 – (1973) 4 SCC 225

2 – AIR 1952 SC 252

3 – AIR 1950 SC 124

4 – 1950 AIR 129

5 – AIR 1951 SC 226

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.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THE SAME, DO LET ME KNOW.

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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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