Fundamental rights have always been regarded with great sanctity in the scheme of the Indian Constitution, and the same have been analyzed and expanded on various occasions to include more supplementary rights within its purview to widen its ambit. The Supreme Court is currently considering whether the right to Privacy falls under Right to Life, in the case related to Aadhaar Cards being considered by a 9-Judge Bench. In the light of the impending situation, we proceed to examine the series of Judgments in which the amendability of Fundamental Rights was considered by the Supreme Court, beginning with the Shankari Prasad Case.
Title: Sankari Prasad Singh Deo v Union Of India and Anr.
• M. PATANJALI SASTRI
• HIRALAL KANIA (CJ)
• B.K. MUKHERJEA
• SUDHI RANJAN DAS
• N. CHANDRASEKHARA AIYAR
Citation: 1951 AIR 458
Matter: Power of Parliament to Amend Constitution
Facts in Brief: In order to abolish the Zamindari system widely prevalent in India, some State Govts enacted the Zamindari Abolition Act to acquire huge holding of land that lay with rich zamindars, and redistribute them among the tenants. But the same was challenged as being unconstitutional and violative of the Right to Property that was included in the Fundamental Rights. The Act was held unconstitutional by the HC of Patna but was upheld by the HCs of Allahabad and Nagpur; whereby eventually the matter was put before the Supreme Court. In the midst of this, the Union Govt brought forward the First Amendment to the Constitution, validating the Zamindari Abolition laws and limiting the Fundamental Right to Property. New Articles 31 A and B were included in the Constitution to validate the impugned measures. The Zamindars challenged the first Amendment in the Supreme Court, stating that it was unconstitutional and invalid.
Decision of the Court: It was held that the power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution including the Fundamental Rights is entailed in Art 368 and is not violative of the provisions of the Constitution. The validity of the land reforms was upheld by the Court; as they do not curtail the powers of the High Court under Art. 226 to issue writs for enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III or of the Supreme Court under Arts. 132 and 136 to entertain appeals from orders issuing or refusing such writs. Articles 31A and 31B are were held not invalid on the ground of ultra vires; the Court declared that though the subject of ‘Land’ came under the State List, the power to enact amendments of the Constitution lay solely with the Parliament.
Relevant Portions of the Judgment:
“… to make a law which contravenes the Constitution constitutionally valid is a matter of constitutional amendment, and as such it falls within the exclusive power of Parliament..”
“…these articles [31 A and B] do not either in terms or in effect seek to make any change in Article 226 or in articles 132 and 136.”
“…We find it difficult in the absence of a clear indication to the contrary; to suppose that they [Constitution framers] also intended to make those rights [Fundamental Rights] immune from constitutional amendment…”
“……“law" must be taken to mean rules or regulations made in exercise of ordinary legislative power and not amendments to the Constitution made in exercise of constituent power, with the result that article 13(2) does not affect amendments made under Article 368….”
Relevant Statutes (Indian Kanoon):
• Constitution of India
• Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951