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This article the Constitutional Values of Landmark Amendments in India. Some of the important amendments to the Constitution have been discussed herewith.
Constitutional Values of Landmark Amendments in India
A Constitution is a document of people’s faith and aspirations possessing a special legal sanctity. It is the fundamental and the most supreme law of a country and all other laws, rules and regulations of the country in order to be valid, must conform to it. An amendment, on the other hand, is an improvement, a correction or a revision to the original content.
In a federal Constitution, the power to amend the Constitution is of special importance because it can affect the distribution of powers between Union and states. The framers of the Indian Constitution provided for a process which is neither too rigid nor too flexible. Article 368 especially deals with amendments in the Constitution.
There are certain constitutional values such as liberty, equality, sovereignty, fraternity, socialism and secularism etc. These values and their interpretations change from time to time, which calls for amendments to the Constitution to safeguard these constitutional values.
1. First Amendment Act, 1951
This amendment was brought to eliminate some practical constraints that arose due to Kameshwar Singh Case (issues relating to the acquisition of zamindari land and state trade monopoly), Romesh Thapar Case (issues relating to freedom of speech), etc. and the decisions given by the Supreme Court on them. These reasons led to the amendment as follows:
- The States were encouraged to create special arrangements to promote socially and economically disadvantaged classes.
- Added Ninth Schedule to shield from judicial review the land reforms and other laws contained in it.
- Added three additional grounds for restricting freedom of expression and speech: public order, friendly relations with foreign states and incitement to an offence. Also, it made the restrictions ‘reasonable’ in nature.
2. Seventh Amendment Act, 1956
This amendment implemented the State Reorganization Act, 1956 in India based on the recommendations of the State Reorganization Committee. The changes made by the amendment to the Constitution include:
- The existing classification of states into four categories ( i.e., Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D states) was abolished and reorganized into 14 states and 6 union territories.
- Extended High Court jurisdiction to Union Territories.
- Called for two or more States to establish a common High Court.
3. Twenty Fourth Amendment Act, 1971
This amendment was brought after huge hue and cry in the Supreme Court, discussing whether any amendment can abridge or take away the rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution. Supreme Court in the Golak Nath case denied this power to the Parliament. After which the following changes were made to the Constitution:
- Affirmed Parliament’s power to amend any part of the Constitution, including fundamental rights, by amending Articles 13 and 368
- Rendered it compulsory that the President give his approval to an Amendment Bill to qualify as an Act.
4. Thirty-Ninth Amendment Act, 1975
This amendment is often regarded as the one which hampers the transparency of public officials. This amendment, again, was brought after yet another Supreme Court ruling (Raj Narain case) against the then PM Indira Gandhi, rendering her election to Lok Sabha as void. Soon after this amendment, India also had the declaration of National Emergency for a period of two years. The amendment:
- Placed issues beyond the control of the courts involving the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister and Speaker.
- The issues shall be determined by such authority as the Parliament can determine from time to time.
5. Forty Second Amendment Act, 1976
This amendment is the most controversial amendment in the history as it took away the powers of Supreme Court and High Court which were subsequently restored by the 43rd and 44th Amendment. This amendment is also known as the ‘Mini Constitution’ as it was a really lengthy amendment. Few of the notable changes made to the Constitution by this are:
- Across the Preamble, three additional terms were introduced (i.e., socialist, secular and integrity).
- Fundamental duties of citizens have been added (Part IV A).
- Added three new directive principles, namely equal justice and free legal aid, worker participation in industry management and environmental protection.
6. Forty-Fourth Amendment Act, 1978
This amendment restored the changes brought forth in the 42nd Amendment along with the following changes:
- Replaced the word ‘internal disturbance’ with ‘armed rebellion’ in the case of a national emergency.
- Made the President declare a national emergency only on the cabinet’s written recommendation.
- Deleted the right to property from the list of fundamental rights and made it a legal right only.
- Provided that the fundamental rights secured by Articles 20 and 21 cannot be suspended during the course of a national emergency.
7. Fifty-Second Amendment Act, 1985
A lot of members of different political parties decided to leave the party at the time of integral decisions making it a chaotic situation. This amendment brought rules to stop defection in the following manner:
- Provided for disqualification on the ground of defection of parliamentary representatives and state legislatures, and added a new Tenth Schedule containing the specifics in this regard.
8. Sixty-First Amendment Act, 1989
This amendment changed the voting age in India by amending Art 326 of the Constitution in the following manner:
- For Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly Elections, the voting age was reduced from 21 years to 18 years.
9. Sixty-Fifth Amendment Act, 1990
To safeguard the interests of people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, it was not enough to just have a Special Officer in place and therefore, this amendment:
- Provided for the establishment of National Commission for Scheduled Castes (Art 338) and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (Art 338-A).
10. Sixty-Ninth Amendment Act, 1991
This amendment granted special status to Delhi as the National Capital. The present CM Arvind Kejriwal although demand to make changes to this amendment to grant Delhi full statehood. This amendment:
- Accorded a special status to the Union Territory of Delhi by designing it as the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
11. Seventy-Third Amendment Act, 1992
The Parliament passed the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act to grant the Panchayati Raj Institutions in India a legislative status by adding Article 243 and Part IX of the Indian Constitution. Pursuant to Article 243, the Act was imposed on all state governments to amend their Panchayat Laws in compliance with the Constitutional provisions. This amendment:
- Granted constitutional status and protection to institutions of the Panchayati Raj. To this end, the amendment added a new Part-IX entitled ‘the panchayats’ and a new Eleventh Schedule.
12. Seventy Fourth Amendment Act, 1992
The Amendment seeks to provide a common framework for the structure and mandate of the local urban bodies so that they can function as effective democratic units of local self-government. The amendment:
- Granted constitutional status and protection to the urban local bodies. To this end, the amendment added a new Part IX-A entitled ‘the municipalities’ and a new Twelfth Schedule.
13. Eighty-Sixth Amendment Act, 2002
This is a landmark amendment highlighting free and compulsory education in India by adding a new fundamental duty as well as directive principles relating to the Right to Education. This amendment:
- Made elementary education a fundamental right under the Article 21A
14. Ninety-Third Amendment Act, 2005
The purpose of this amendment was to undo the Supreme Court judgment of TMA Pai v State of Karnataka which mentions:
- Authorized the State to make special provisions for socially and educationally backward classes or SC and ST in educational institutions, including private educational institutions, except for minority educational institutions.
15. Ninety-Ninth Amendment Act, 2014
This amendment would have replaced the traditional collegiums system with the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC). The amendment:
- Substituted the system of nominating judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts with a new body named the NJAC. This Amendment Act, however, was ruled unconstitutional and invalid by the Supreme Court in 2015.
16. One-Hundredth Amendment Act, 2014
The Agreement between India and Bangladesh for the land boundary was signed in 1974 but was not ratified as it included the transfer of territories which mandates a constitutional amendment. Finally, in 2014, this amendment came into force with:
- An Act further to amend the Constitution of India to give effect to the acquiring of territories by India and transfer of certain territories to Bangladesh in pursuance of the agreement and its protocol entered into between the Governments of India and Bangladesh.
17. One-Hundred and First Amendment Act, 2017
As of 1 July 2017, this amendment introduced a national Goods and Services Tax (GST) in India. It substitutes all the indirect taxes levied by the central and state governments on goods and services into a unified tax regime. This amendment led to:
- Introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
18. One Hundred and Second Amendment Act, 2018
Similarly, to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Commission of Scheduled Tribes, this amendment granted constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes. This amendment provides under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the following:
- Constitutional status was provided to the National Commission for Backward Classes under Article 338B.
19. One Hundred Third Amendment Act, 2019
The Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019, establishes a 10% quota for economically weaker sections (EWS) of society for admission to central government-run educational institutions and private educational institutions (with the exception of minority educational institutions) as follows:
- It introduced 10% reservations for Economic Weaker Section in public employment.
- All the information has been obtained from the National Portal of India; can be accessed HERE
 AIR 1951 Pat 246.
 1950 AIR 124, 1950 SCR 594.
 1967 AIR 1643, 1967 SCR (2) 762.
 1975 AIR 865, 1975 SCR (3) 333.
 AIR 2003 SC 355.
 Supreme Court AOR Association v Union of India; WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 13 OF 2015.