The life of a state is vigorous and so as to encourage the ever unique turns of events and necessities of society, its financial, social and political conditions change constantly. Hence, a Constitution drafted in one setting at a specific time may demonstrate insufficient at a later stage. Each Constitution has some technique for alteration whereby the provisions are changed by method of expansion, rectification or revision in order to suit the requirements of the present.
The framers of the Indian Constitution were aware that the changes would be needed in the Constitution from time to time. Thus, the provisions for the amendment of the Constitution were made in order to defeat the difficulties which may arise in the future. The authors of the Constitution wanted to have a bit flexible Constitution and they wanted to avoid extreme rigidity in the Constitution of India. They wanted to have the Constitution which could develop with the developing nation and which could change with the changing needs of the people.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru stressed on the reality that, however, the Constitution of a country is needed to be a perpetual and strong structure, he conceded that it is definitely not changeless. The Constitution ought to have essential adaptability somewhat so as to empower the parliamentarians to have a basic chance to achieve changes in the law which are in consonance with the changing needs of the general public.
CONSTITUTION (FIRST AMENDMENT) ACT, 1951
Jawaharlal Nehru introduced the Constitution (First Amendment) Bill in the Parliament in May 1951. This Bill proposed to amend the new Constitution which was adopted less than sixteen months before. The Bill was passed by the parliament in June 1951.
The First Amendment to the Indian Constitution was unique as it was enacted by the Interim Government which was dominated by the Congress Party. Also the Constitution mandates that two-thirds votes are required in both Houses of Parliament for amending the Constitution. However, in 1951 the provisional parliament was a unicameral institution as the Rajya Sabha did not exist at that time.
REASONS FOR PASSING OF CONSTITUTION (FIRST AMENDMENT) ACT, 1951
The Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 was passed to remove various difficulties which originated due to the Supreme Court’s decision in various cases such as Romesh Thapar Case, etc.
In 1950 the Supreme Court in case of Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras struck down the provisions of the Madras Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1949 Act on the grounds that it violated fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression provided in Part III of the Constitution.
Also in case of Brij Bhusan v. State of Delhi, the Supreme Court struck down the provisions of the East Punjab Public Safety Act, 1949 as it was violative of the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.
Later in year 1950 various High Court applied the Supreme Court’s reasoning to strike down various sections of the Press (Emergency Powers) Act, 1931, as well as the provisions governing sedition (Section 124-A) and the promotion of enmity between groups (Section 153) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Constitution (First Amendment) Bill was not only concerned with the freedom of speech was. The Bill also sought to amend the right to property in order to safeguard Zamindari abolition legislation. The Bill also sought to modify Article 15 in order to explicitly authorise the state to make “special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens”. This was in response to the Supreme Court’s judgement in case of State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan, in which the court struck down caste-based reservations for government professional colleges in Madras on the grounds that these violated Article 29(2).
Thus, these were the reason which provided the impetus to the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951
SALIENT FEATURES OF THE CONSTITUTION FIRST AMENDMENT ACT, 1951
- The Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 gives power to the state to make special provisions for the advancement of socially and economically backward classes. Article 15 was amended and by virtue of Constitution First Amendment Act, 1951 clause 4 was added to the Article 15 which allowed the State to make reservations for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in educational institutions.
- The Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 imposed limitations on the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Article 19 was amended for adding three grounds of restrictions on freedom of speech and expression based on “friendly relations with a foreign State”, “public order” and “incitement to an offence”.
- The Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 added Ninth schedule to Indian Constitution. Laws contained in this Ninth Schedule are immune from judicial review. The Ninth schedule was created by insertion of Article 31A and Article 31B. Article 31A was inserted by the government in order to protect laws related to agrarian reform and for abolishing the Zamindari system. Article 31-B of the Constitution of India provided that any law in the Ninth Schedule could not be challenged in courts. In other words laws under Ninth Schedule are beyond the purview of judicial review. The other feature of Article 31-B is that it is retrospective in nature that is when a law is declared unconstitutional by a court and later it is included in the Ninth Schedule, it is to be considered as having been in that Schedule from its commencement. Thus, it provides blanket protection to all laws under the Ninth Schedule.
- The Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 provided that state trading and nationalisation of any trade or business by the state is not violative of the right to trade or business if it is in accordance with the following conditions that are in the interest of:
- State security
- Amicable relations with foreign states
- Public order
- Contempt of court
- Incitement to commit an offence
The Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 which inserted Ninth Schedule curtailed the powers of judiciary as the laws listed under the ninth schedule were immune from judicial scrutiny. Moreover the Article 31B was given retrospective effect. It means if a law is declared void and later if it is included in the Ninth Schedule then it is taken to be a valid law.
Thus, the ninth schedule curtailed the powers of judiciary and gave advantage to the government as the laws contained in Ninth Schedule escape judicial review.
- Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras, AIR 1950 SC 124.
- Brij Bhusan v. State of Delhi, AIR 1950 SC 129.
- State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan, AIR 1951 SC 226.
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