This Article is written by Janhavi Sakalkar pursuing BA. LL.B.(Hons.) from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
Minerva Mills was a textile industry based in the State of Karnataka, it was engaged in the mass production of silk clothes. The Central Government appointed a committee under Section 15 of the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951 for making a detailed report on the affairs of Minerva Mills, since the Government believed that its volume of production was likely to be in the considerable plunge. Later, based on the report, the Central Government passed an order which authorised National Textile Corporation to take over the management of the Mills under Section 18A of the aforementioned Act.
The issues involved in this case were:
- Whether Sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 are constitutional?
- Whether the Directive Principles of State Policy should be given supremacy over the Fundamental rights?
- Whether the judicial review is a part of the basic structure or not?
The Parliament enacted the Sick Textile Undertakings Act, 1974 (Nationalization Act) to serve the public interest by reconstructing the bad assets of companies. After receiving the Court order which authorised the National Textile Corporation Ltd. to take over the management of the mill, the petitioners challenged certain provisions of the Nationalization Act and the court order, they further challenged the constitutionality of the Constitution (Thirty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1975 which inserted the impugned Nationalization Act as entry 105 in the ninth schedule which meant that any challenge on the act would be outside the scope of judicial review. Lastly, they challenged Sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 as the Parliament had passed this amendment to bar any challenge on a constitutional amendment in the courts of law.
Section 4 of the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976 gave parliamentary sanction to any law or regulation passed to fulfill any goal laid in the Directive Principle of State Policy, resulting in the violation of Article 13 when read with Articles 14 and 19 of the Indian Constitution. Section 55 introduced sub-clauses (4) and (5) to Article 368 of the Indian Constitution, which gave the Parliament unlimited powers to amend the Constitution. Limited amending power is one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution. Hence, the meaning and spirit of article 13 will cease to exit.
The DPSP is essential for the welfare of the people but to subvert the fundamental guarantees of Part III of the Indian Constitution is to destroy the basic structure of the Indian constitution. In Kesavananda Bharti v. Union of India, Fundamental Rights constitute the soul of the Constitution. The goals to be achieved in Part IV of the Indian Constitution are not to be achieved at the cost of violating our rights and fundamental freedom.
With respect to the category of laws mentioned in Article 31C, Section 4 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 abrogates Articles 14 and 19. The Amendment was of such nature that if the spirit of Article 13, when read along with Article 14 and 19, is violated by any law, it shall not be subjected to any questions as to its validity as long as it seeks to attain the goals laid down in Part IV which state the DPSP.
Therefore, it can be inferred that the amendment to Article 31C was made to empower the legislatures to pass the laws of a certain description, even if it violates Articles 14 and 19. This can not be held that Article 31C of the Indian Constitution should be protected from the challenge of unconstitutionality by reading in that Article words which disrupt the purpose of that Article and an aim which is contrary to its stated purpose.
The Court gave its judgment on 31st July 1980, with a 4:1 ratio, while Justice Bhagwati wrote the dissenting opinion. The majority struck down Article 31C, as amended by Section 4 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 as unconstitutional on the ground that it destroys the “basic features” of the Constitution. It also held that Section 4 was void as to any challenge made to any law giving effect to the DPSP, even if they were inconsistent with the rights guaranteed by Articles 14 and 19. Justice Bhagwati had dissented with the majority on this point. The court also held Section 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 void. Since firstly made challenge in court impossible & secondly it removed all the restrictions on the power of Parliament under Article 368, additionally, the Court held that the Clause 4 and 5 were added to bar the courts to entertain any challenge on the question of the validity of the constitutional amendments and thereby stating the significance of Judicial Review. The Court stated that the harmony and balance between the Fundamental Rights and DPSP is an essential feature of the basic structure of the Constitution.
In this case, the Court struck down Article 31C as unconstitutional as it destroyed the basic features of the Indian Constitution. Therefore, the Supreme Court held the following features as the basic features of the Indian Constitution:
- Limited power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution;
- Harmony and balance between fundamental rights and directive principles;
- Fundamental rights in certain cases;
- Power of judicial review in certain cases.
It was also held in this case that there is no conflict between the DPSP and Fundamental Rights, they are meant to supplement each other. Besides, it was held that Article 31C as originally introduced by the 25th Amendment Act is constitutionally valid.
Indira Gandhi’s government after feeling exasperated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Indira Gandhi Nehru v. Raj Narain in 1976 passed the 42nd Amendment Act. The amendment was a blotch on Article 368 noble provision i.e. amending the Indian Constitution. This amendment made explicit such things that no one from a constitutionally elected country would conceive. This amendment appealed constitutional amendments unjustifiable in the courts of law, further, it specifically stipulated that when it comes to constitutional amendments there is no kind of restriction on the competency of the Parliament. The reform was made so that Parliament can do whatever it takes to fulfill its political ambition without the fear of any institution. This provision also granted Parliament the authority to rewrite the whole Constitution of India and turn this Democratic country into an autocratic regime. Initially, however, the courts had the right to shed water on unlawful legislative actions, after the 1976 reform act was passed, the courts were deprived of this right. The claim raised by the government in favour of such a draconian law is that, to attain the aims and objectives set out in Part IV, it is appropriate to make Parliament Supreme when in reality, the Parliament made it free from the clutches of the judiciary. The Parliament argued that because the provisions of Part IV are also part of a basic structure, the achievement of these provisions cannot be considered as a violation of the basic structure. The legislature also declared that if an unintentional injury is caused to Part III provisions in the process of upholding Part IV provisions, it would not be a violation of the basic features of the Constitution.
The doctrine of basic structure has been vehemently criticised. Even though the Court has not precisely defined as to what are the essential features of the basic structure and if this doctrine is accepted every amendment is likely to be challenged on the ground that it affects some of the other essential features of the basic structure. In other words, it is urged that the amending power of the Parliament cannot be subjected to this vague and uncertain doctrine. But the criticism of the doctrine cannot be justified on the ground that it lays down a vague and uncertain test. The basic structure of the Indian Constitution is not a vague notion. The fact of the essential elements of the basic structure cannot be denied on the ground that they do not exist just because they have not been statutory authority. Many concepts of law cannot be defined precisely, but they do exist and play a very important part of our law.
Therefore, any law made should be consistent with the basic structure of the Indian Constitution, it should neither violate any Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution nor be inconsistent with the DPSP. Any violation thereof would give the judiciary the right to strike it down and hold it unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court rejected all the arguments raised by the Legislature and also held that Section 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 is unconstitutional as it violates the basic structure of the Constitution. The Court also struck down the said sections and also opined that the Amendments cannot deprive the citizens of their right to seek constitutional remedies, it is a condemnable offence. The Parliament can never curtail this right since Judicial Review is a basic structure of the Indian Constitution. The Court stated that the entire Constitution of India is based on the foundation of the provisions mentioned in Part III and Part IV. Superiority to one part over another would result in turmoil and injustice. The balanced relation between Part III and Part IV is also a basic feature of the Indian Constitution.
Justice Bhagwati had written the minority opinion wherein, he dissented with the majority and held that the courts need to look into the substance of the law, if the law is actually for the fulfillment for the Part IV provisions only then it would be constitutional.
The court held that Judicial Review is an inherent part of the Constitution and that they cannot take away with making law. The court reiterated that the balance between DPSP’s & FR’s is the Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution.
- Indira Gandhi Nehru v. Raj Narain ; 1975 AIR 1590
- Kesavananda Bharti v. Union of India ; AIR 1973 SC 1461
- Minerva Mills v. Union of India;AIR 1980 SC 1789
- Anam Ahmad, Amendment Process of Constitution of India, YOUNG ARENA LITIGATORS, http://youngarenalitigators.blogspot.com/2017/01/amendment-process-of-constitution-of.html
- Monika Rahar, Case Analysis of Minerva Mills V Union of India, LATEST LAWS, https://www.latestlaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Case-Analysis-Minerva-Mills-and-Ors-v-Union-of-India-and-Ors-By-Monika-Rahar.pdf
- Image Credits : https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/