Reasonable restrictions to GST: 103 amendments in 70 years
During the Emergency, Indira Gandhi’s dispensation attempted to overhaul the Constitution while the subsequent Janata Party government tried to undo these changes.Updated: Jan 22, 2020 10:14 IST
The Constitution has been amended 103 times since January 26, 1950. The power of the Parliament to make amendments to the Constitution and the extent to which it can do so, has been a contentious issue leading to a tussle between the Supreme Court and the central government in the 1960s and 1970s. This eventually led to the landmark Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala case, which outlined the concept of the basic structure of the Constitution.
During the Emergency, Indira Gandhi’s dispensation attempted to overhaul the Constitution while the subsequent Janata Party government tried to undo these changes.
Here is a list of the important amendments made to the Constitution.
This inserted Clause 4 to Article 15, enabling the state to make special provisions for the advancement of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. This was passed consequent to the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Champakam Dorairajan case (1951) in which the court struck down a law providing for reservation for admission to colleges.
It altered Article 19(2) to enable the government to impose reasonable restrictions on free speech. It also inserted Article 31-B and the ninth schedule to protect land acquisition laws. The changes reflected a struggle between a socialist government inclined to distribute land and a Supreme Court which seemed keen to protect individual liberty by securing property rights.
This amended Articles 368 and 13 to ensure that Parliament has the power to amend any part of the Constitution, including part III which lays down fundamental rights. The amendment was brought about to bypass the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Golaknath v. State of Punjab case (1967) which held that Parliament cannot amend Part III of the Constitution to take away fundamental rights.
This remains one of the most controversial amendments to date. It was enacted during the Emergency when Indira Gandhi was in power, and made wholesale changes to the Constitution, so much so that it is also referred to as the mini Constitution.
It amended the Preamble to insert the words “socialist” and “secular”.
It inserted Article 32A to curtail the power of the Supreme Court to examine validity of laws made by state legislatures ( subsequently omitted by the 43rd amendment).
It inserted Article 144A which provided that Supreme Court can consider constitutional validity of central or state laws only if it sits in a bench of at least seven judges.
It also inserted Article 228A which provides that a high court can decide constitutional validity of a state law only through a bench of at least five judges.
It amended Article 31C to give precedence to directive principles over fundamental rights (this was later held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the Minerva Mills case in 1980). It inserted Article 31D as per which law intended to prevent anti-national activities or prohibit anti-national associations cannot be challenged on the ground of violation of Articles 14,19 and 31 (subsequently omitted by 43rd amendment). It inserted provisions relating to fundamental duties.
It amended Article 368 to take away the power of judicial review with regard to constitutional amendments thereby preventing constitutional amendments from being “called in question in any Court on any ground”.
It also expressly declared that the Parliament shall have the power to amend, add or repeal any part of the Constitution. (This was held unconstitutional in 1980 by the Supreme Court in Minerva Mills v. Union of India case).
This deleted Articles 32A, 144A, 226A and 228A which curtailed powers of Supreme Court and high courts respectively. It also deleted Article 31D which saved laws prohibiting anti-national activities.
This amended Article 352 which deals with proclamation of emergency in the country; “internal disturbance” as a ground to invoke emergency was deleted and substituted by “armed rebellion”. This was after the Janata government came to power immediately after the excesses of national emergency.
It omitted right to property as fundamental right by deletion of Article 31. Article 300A was inserted in its place. Thus, right to property lost its status as a fundamental right and became a constitutional right.
It amended Article 326 to reduce the minimum age for voting for elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies from 21 to 18 years.
This change inserted Part IX to the Constitution so as to introduce the Panchayat system for local administration at the grass root level. Earlier, the Panchayat system was based on state legislations. The amendment gave it constitutional base.
It inserted Part IXA providing for municipalities with the intent to strengthen urban
local bodies which were earlier under state laws.
This inserted Clause 5 in Article 15, enabling the government to give reservation to socially and economically backward classes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in public and private educational institutions.
This introduced Goods and Service Tax.
This inserted Clause 6 in Article 15 enabling the government to make special provisions for the advancement of economically weaker sections of the society.