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Case Analysis: Shankari Prasad v/s Union Of India

The Doctrine of Basic Structure evolved through series of verdicts in India, one such case was of Shankari Prasad Vs. Union of India. This case was result of the ongoing struggles between the judiciary for sovereignty in independent India. Under this case question was raised of whether the fundamental rights can be amended under Article 368 by the parliament or not.

Herein, the validity of the First Amendment of the Constitution 1951 was also challenged which curtailed the Fundamental Right to Property under Article 31.The major augment that was brought forward was that Article 13 prohibits the enactment of law abridging the Fundamental Right.

Key Points:
  • Herein Supreme Court conceded absolute power to Parliament in amending the Constitution.
  • The court gave the verdict that the term law in Article 13 means rules or regulations made in exercise of ordinary legislative power and not amendments to the Constitution made in exercise of constituent power under Article 368.
  • According to this verdict the Parliament had the power to amend any part of the Constitution including Fundamental rights.
  • Article 13 of the original constitution said that the state shall not make any law that takes away or abridges the rights given to the citizens in Part III and any such law made in contravention of this article shall be deemed void to the extent of contravention. Therefore, the parliament cannot amend the constitution in a way that takes away the fundamental rights of the citizens. This concept was tested in the case of Shankari Prasad vs Union of India, by the Supreme Court.
  • Herein, it was said that that Amendment (in this case an amendment to Article 31A and 31B) that take away fundamental right of the citizens is not allowed by article 13. They argued that State� includes parliament and Law� includes Constitutional Amendments.
  • It was held that Law in Article 13 is ordinary law made under the legislative powers. And therefore, the parliament has power to amend the constitution.
  • The Supreme Court applied the principle of harmonic construction as there is a conflict between Article 368 and Article 13. The provisions of constitution should be interpreted in a manner that they do not conflict with each other and there must be harmony among them.
Facts Of Cases:
  • To cancel the zamindari framework pervasive all over India, some state councils took certain measures for agrarian changes in especially Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh by establishing Zamindari Abolition Act.
  • Under such enactment tremendous property of land that lay with rich zamindars was to be and rearrange them among the inhabitants. Certain Zamindars, feeling themselves distressed, tested the demonstration in the courts of law as being illegal and violative of their Fundamental Right for example Right to Property gave on them by Part III of the Constitution.
  • The High Court at Patna held that the Act passed in Bihar was unlawful while the high court at Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh and high court at Nagpur in Madhya Pradesh maintained the legitimacy of the enactment in the states.
  • Advances from those choices and petitions documented by some different zamindars in these courts were forthcoming. Amidst it, Union Parliament, so as to put an end all suits, presented a Bill to change the Constitution.
  • The Bill, subsequent to going through different changes, was passed by the necessary dominant part as the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951.
  • The Amendment Act was adequate as approving the Zamindari Abolition Laws and restricting the Fundamental Right to Property.
  • New Articles 31A and 31B were remembered for the Constitution to approve the denounced measures.
  • As a response, the zamindars brought the current petitions under Article 32 of the Constitution recording a writ request under the watchful eye of the Supreme Court testing the Amendment Act, expressing it as illegal and void.

  • The Supreme court precluded that the ability to alter the Constitution under Article 368 additionally incorporated the ability to correct basic rights and law� in Article 13(2) incorporates just a common law made in exercise of the administrative powers and does exclude sacred revision which is made in exercise of constituent forces. In this way, a sacred revision will be substantial regardless of whether it compresses or takes any of the crucial rights.
  • The court applies the standard of Harmonic Construction as there is a contention between article 368 and article 13. The arrangements of constitution ought to be deciphered in a way that they dont struggle with one another and there is concordance between them.
  • In this manner, the court maintained the legitimacy of first Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1951 and the petitions were excused with costs.

Implications Of Judgement
  • Fundamental rights, the basic human rights are enforceable. These fundamental rights are protected by the court of law by issuing writs.
  • Though under Article 352 and 356, the fundamental rights or some parts of them can be suspended during emergency yet they can be amended by Parliament.
  • The constitutional validity of first amendment (1951), which curtailed the right to property, was challenged.
  • The SC ruled out that the power to amend the Constitution under Article 368 also included the power to amend fundamental rights and that the word law� in Article 13 (8) includes only an ordinary law made in exercise of the legislative powers and does not include Constitutional amendment which is made in exercise of constituent power. Therefore, a Constitutional amendment will be valid even if it abridges or takes any of the fundamental rights.
  • (1951 SCR 89: AIR 1951 SC 458)
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