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Amendments to Indian Constitution (Part-1)

Updated: 6 days ago

Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru rightly observed, “While we want this Constitution to be as solid and permanent as we can make it, there is no permanence in the Consitution. There should be certain flexibility.” The machinery of the amendment is like a safety valve for the nation. The procedure of amendment is mentioned in Article 368, Chapter XX of the Indian Constitution. Regarding its extent, it was the Keshvananda Bharti case that held that the Doctrine of Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution could not be abrogated even by a Constitutional amendment.

Amendments in Indian Constitution

The 1st Constitutional Amendment Act, 1951 added the Ninth Schedule to protect the land reforms and other laws included in it from the judicial review. It added Article 15(4) that empowered the State to make special provisions for the advancement of socially and economically backward classes. Most importantly, it also added three more grounds for restrictions in Article 19 (1). The 7th Amendment Act, 1956 abolished the existing classification of States into four categories i.e., Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D states, and reorganized them into 14 States and 6 Union Territories. The 9th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1960 facilitated the cession of the Indian territory of the Berubari Union (located in West Bengal) to Pakistan as provided in the Indo-Pakistan Agreement (1958).

The 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 is the most comprehensive amendment and hence is called the ‘Mini-Constitution’. Here the Preamble was amended for the first and last time where words ‘Socialist’,’ Secular’, and ‘Integrity’ were added. The Fundamental Duties were added upon the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee that was constituted by the government in 1976. This amendment provided for Administrative Tribunals for speedy justice. It transferred five subjects from the State list to the Concurrent list: education, forest, protection of wild animals and birds, weights and measures, and administration of Justice. It enabled the President to make a Proclamation of Emergency either in respect of any part of the country or the whole of India. It also added three new Directive Principles - Equal justice and free legal aid, the participation of workers in the management of industries, and protection of the environment, forests, and wildlife. 

The 44nd Amendment Act, 1978 was also a very important one in the Constitutional history of our country. It replaced the term ‘Internal disturbance’ with ‘Armed rebellion’ in respect of National Emergency. It bound the President to declare a National Emergency only on the written recommendation of the Cabinet. The Right to Property was changed from a fundamental right to a legal right. It provided that during a National Emergency, fundamental rights under Articles 20 and 21 cannot be suspended.

Amendments in Indian Constitution

The 52nd Amendment Act, 1985 was enacted to curb the evil of defections from the body politic of our country. The disqualifications specified under the amendment were included in the Tenth Schedule. The 61st Amendment Act, 1989 reduced the voting age from 21 to 18 years. A National Commission for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes was established under the 65th Amendment Act, 1990. The 69th Amendment Act, 1991 accorded a special status to the Union Territory of Delhi by designing it as the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts (1992) granted Constitutional status and protection to Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies respectively.

Till now, a total of 106 Constitutional Amendment Acts have been enacted which give a great insight as to the fact that the Indian Federation does not suffer from the faults of rigidity of legalism. Its distinguishing feature is that of a flexible federation. The Constitution makers kept a balance between the danger of having a non-amendable Constitution and one that is too easily amendable.

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