A formal revision to a statute, contract, constitution, or other legally binding instrument is known as an “Amendment.” Ultimately, the purpose of any change is to improve things. The change may be an update, with aspects of these agreements added or removed. The legislative branch is the only one with the power to make changes and participate in the amendment process. A simple majority of Parliament, a special majority of Parliament, or a special majority of Parliament and at least half of the state legislatures must adopt the alteration.
Why are ‘Amendments’ made to the Constitution?
The Indian Constitution is the country’s supreme law, outlining the country’s essential political code, as well as government institutions’ structure, procedures, powers, and obligations, as well as people’s fundamental rights, directive principles, and responsibilities. Amendments are needed over time to correct inadequacies, adapt to new needs, and supplement rights, among other things. The text of a constitution cannot otherwise reflect social circumstances and political demands throughout time.
Article 356 of the Indian Constitution
Section 93 of the Government of India Act of 1935 was used to create this clause. At the time, it was met with vehement opposition from independence fighters, compelling the British authorities to put it on hold. This provision was inserted into the Constitution for the benefit of safeguarding democracy, federalism, and stability in the post-independence era.
Article 356 of the Constitution contains “provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in the State.” This article, also known as the ‘State Emergency,’ grants the Indian President the power to suspend state government and impose President’s rule on any state in the country “if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the state’s government cannot be carried on under the provisions of the Constitution.” In other words, it allows the Union government to seize control of state apparatus if a state administration fails to follow constitutional requirements.
Article 356 as stated in the Constitution:
356. Provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in State
(1) If the President, on receipt of the report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on by the provisions of this Constitution, the President may be Proclamation
(a) assume to himself all or any of the functions of the Government of the State and all or any of the powers vested in or exercisable by the Governor or anybody or authority in the State other than the Legislature of the State;
(b) declare that the powers of the Legislature of the State shall be exercisable by or under the authority of Parliament;
(c) make such incidental and consequential provisions as appear to the president to be necessary or desirable for giving effect to the objects of the Proclamation, including provisions for suspending in whole or in part the operation of any provisions of this constitution relating to anybody or authority in the State Provided that nothing in this clause shall authorise the President to assume to himself any of the powers vested in or exercisable by a High Court or to suspend in whole or in part the operation of any provision of this Constitution relating to High Courts
(2) Any such Proclamation may be revoked or varied by a subsequent Proclamation
(3) Every Proclamation issued under this article except where it is a Proclamation revoking a previous Proclamation, cease to operate at the expiration of two months unless before the expiration of that period it has been approved by resolutions of both Houses of Parliament Provided that if any such Proclamation (not being a Proclamation revoking a previous Proclamation) is issued at a time when the House of the People is dissolved or the dissolution of the House of the People takes place during the period of two months referred to in this clause, and if a resolution approving the Proclamation has been passed by the Council of States, but no resolution with respect to such Proclamation has been passed by the House of the People before the expiration of that period, the Proclamation Shall cease to operate at the expiration of thirty days from the date on which the House of the People first sits after its reconstitution unless before the expiration of the said period of thirty days a resolution approving the Proclamation has been also passed by the House of the People
(4) A Proclamation so approved shall, unless revoked, cease to operate on the expiration of a period of six months from the date of issue of the Proclamation: Provided that if and so often as a resolution approving the continuance in force of such a Proclamation is passed by both Houses of Parliament, the Proclamation shall, unless revoked, continue in force for a further period of six months from the date on which under this clause it would otherwise have ceased to operating, but no such Proclamation shall in any case remain in force for more than three years: Provided further that if the dissolution of the House of the People takes place during any such period of six months and a resolution approving the continuance in force of such Proclamation has been passed by the Council of States, but no resolution with respect to the continuance in force of such Proclamation has been passed by the House of the People during the said period, the Proclamation shall cease to operate at the expiration of thirty days from the date on which the House of the People first sits after its reconstitution unless before the expiration of the said period of thirty days a resolution approving the continuance in force of the Proclamation has been also passed by the House of the People
(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in clause (4), a resolution concerning the continuance in force of a Proclamation approved under clause (3) for any period beyond the expiration of one year from the date of issue of such proclamation shall not be passed by either House of Parliament unless
(a) a Proclamation of Emergency is in operation, in the whole of India or, as the case may be, in the whole or any part of the State, at the time of the passing of such resolution, and
(b) the Election Commission certifies that the continuance in force of the Proclamation approved under clause (3) during the period specified in such resolution is necessary on account of difficulties in holding general elections to the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned: Provided that in the case of the Proclamation issued under clause (1) on the 6th day of October 1985 concerning the State of Punjab, the reference in this clause to any period beyond the expiration of two years
Significant flaws of Article 356
- According to the Sarkaria Committee, it has been used over 100 times since independence. It was almost always used for political purposes rather than to remedy a legitimate issue.
- Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi used Article 356, 27 times to topple majority governments for a variety of reasons, including lack of political stability, lack of a clear mandate, and withdrawal of support.
- When the Janata government took power for the first time in 1977, nine state Congress governments were sacked.
- Manipur has experienced the most frequent application of Article 356 due to the state’s deeply fractious internal politics and protracted periods of violence.
- The politically important states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been on the centre’s radar due to their divided polities.
The 68th Amendment of the Constitution
- On March 12, 1991, an Act to amend the Indian Constitution was introduced. The ‘Sixty-Eighth Amendment Act, 1991’ was the name of the Act.
- To begin with, the Sixty-fourth Amendment Act of 1990 increased the three-year timeframe in the instance of the Proclamation issued on May 11, 1987, concerning the State of Punjab to three years and six months.
- Then, in October 1990, it was decided that free and fair elections to the Punjab State Legislative Assembly were not possible.
- As a result, The Sixty-seventh Amendment Act, 1990 altered clause (4) of Article 356 to allow the President’s Proclamation issued on May 11, 1987, to be extended for a total of four years.
- Despite security forces’ efforts, terrorist activity has continued in Punjab, and the current circumstances do not indicate that fair, free, and peaceful elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly are likely.
- This is why, for the third time, the ‘Sixty-Eighth Amendment Act, 1991’ changed Clause (4) of Article 356 of the Constitution, allowing the aforementioned Proclamation to be extended for a total of five years about the State of Punjab.
- The 68th amendment is the eighth and most recent change to Article 356, as of this writing.
Since its beginning, Article 356 has been revised multiple times. A list of proposed changes to Article 356 is as follows:
- 38th Amendment
- 42nd Amendment
- 44th Amendment
- 48th Amendment
- 59th Amendment
- 63rd Amendment
- 67th Amendment
- 68th Amendment
A few more revisions may be on the way, as the law-making body may identify further defects in this article over time and make changes for the people’s benefit and welfare.
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