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First Constitutional Amendment Act 1951

First Constitutional Amendment Act 1951

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  • GS 2 || Polity || Constitutional Framework || Amendment of the Constitution

Introduction

  • The Indian Constitution, like any other written constitution in the world, allows for an amendment to adapt to changing conditions and needs.
  • Part XX of the Constitution contains Article 368, which deals with Parliament’s powers to amend the Constitution and the procedure for doing so. It states that the Parliament may amend the Constitution by adding, changing, or repealing any provision in accordance with the procedure established for that purpose.
  • The Parliament, on the other hand, cannot change the provisions that make up the Constitution’s “basic structure.” The Supreme Court ruled on this in the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973).

First Amendment Act, 1951

  • The Provisional Parliament, which was elected on a limited franchise, passed the First Amendment in 1951. According to the First Amendment Statement of Reasons (SOR), “challenges to agrarian laws or laws relating to land reform were pending in courts and were holding up large schemes of land legislation through dilatory and wasteful litigation.”
  • It provided means to restrict freedom of speech and expression, validation of zamindari abolition laws, and clarified that the right to equality does not bar the enactment of laws that provide “special consideration” for weaker sections of society.
  • The formal title of the amendment is the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. It was moved by the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, on 10 May 1951 and enacted by Parliament on 18 June 1951.

Amendments 

  • Empowered the state to make the advancement of socially and economically backward classes.
  • Provided for the saving of laws providing for the acquisition of estates
  • Added 9thSchedule to protect the land reform and other laws included in it from the judicial review.
  • Added three more grounds of restrictions on freedom of speech and expression, viz., public order, friendly relations with foreign states, and incitement to an offense. It also made the restrictions ‘reasonable’ and thus, justifiable.
  • The First Amendment Act amended articles 15, 19, 85, 87, 174, 176, 341, 342, 372 and 376.
  • It inserted articles 31A and 31B.
  • Article 19(1)(g)of the Constitution confers the right of citizens of India to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade, or business. The Amendment expressly provided that State trading and nationalization of any trade or business by the state is not being invalid on the ground of the violation of the right to trade or business.
  • State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan case(1951)- In response to the verdict on the State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan case(1951), it made provision for special treatment of educationally and socially backward classes by adding the 9thschedule to the Constitution. It prevented the acts listed in the 9th Schedule from being subjected to judicial review.

Why was the first amendment enacted?

  • Freedom of trade
    • The right of citizens of India to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade, or business conferred by article 19(1)(g) is subject to reasonable restrictions which the laws of the State may impose “in the interests of the general public”. While the words cited are comprehensive enough to cover any scheme of nationalization, it was thought desirable to place the matter beyond doubt by a clarificatory addition to article 19(6).
  • Equality
    • It is laid down in Article 46 as a Directive Principle of State Policy that the State should promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and protect them from social injustice. So that any special provision that the State may make for the educational, economic, or social advancement of any backward class of citizens may not be challenged on the ground of being discriminatory, article 15(3) was suitably amplified.
  • Right to free speech and expression
    • Some courts have held that the citizen’s right to free speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) is so broad that it does not make a person culpable even if he advocates murder or other violent crimes.
    • In other countries with written constitutions, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are not regarded as prohibiting the state from punishing or preventing abuse of this freedom.
  • Upholding land reforms
    • The main goal was to amend article 19 for the aforementioned purposes, as well as to insert provisions fully securing the constitutional validity of zamindari abolition laws in general, and certain specified State Acts in particular.
  • Certain amendments to articles dealing with the convening and proroguing of Parliamentary sessions were deemed necessary and are also included in this Act. There are also a few minor changes to articles 341, 342, 372, and 376.

Implications of the Ist amendment act

  • The ninth Schedule may not be challenged in a court of law -Article 31 provides that laws listed in the Ninth Schedule may not be challenged in a court of law because they violate citizens’ fundamental rights.
    • Art. 31-B is also a retrospective in nature. As a result, even if a statute has already been declared unconstitutional by a court of law, it is deemed constitutionally valid from the date of its inception. In short, when the statute is included in the Schedule, the judicial decision becomes null and void.
  • Power to State in terms of acquiring estates-Article 31(A) has given the State enormous power in terms of acquiring estates or taking over management of any property or corporation in the public interest. It sought to exempt such acquisitions from judicial review under Articles 14 and 19.
    • Even though the Supreme Court ruled in the KesavanandaBharati case of 1973 that judicial review as a basic structure could not be removed, Articles 31(A), 31(B), and 31(C) saved land reform legislation and prioritized the implementation of the Directive Principles over individual liberty.
  • Protection to more than 250 laws under the Ninth schedule-The Ninth Schedule was widely misapplied and misused. The Ninth Schedule contains over 250 pieces of legislation that are shielded from judicial scrutiny by the Ninth Schedule.
  • The Ninth Schedule has today become a constitutional dumping ground and a home for every controversial law passed by the government of the day.
  • Such a scenario was not anticipated when the First Amendment was enacted.

Mains model Question

  • What do you understand about the ‘Doctrine of Basic Structure’? Discuss its evolution and significance in strengthening democracy.

References