BY: RITIK RANJAN
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
|Name of the case||SRI SANKARI PRASAD SINGH DEO VS. UNION OF INDIA|
|Citations||1951AIR 458, 1952 SCR 89.|
|Date of Judgement||5 OCTOBER 1951.|
|Appellant||SRI SANKARI PRASAD SINGH DEO|
|Respondent||UNION OF INDIA|
|Bench/Judges||J. HIRALAL KANIA (CJ); M. PATANJALI SASTRI; B.K. MUKHERJEE; SUDHI RANJAN DAS; N. CHADRASEKHARA AIYAR.|
|Statues/Constitution Involved||CONSTITUTION OF INDIA|
|Articles/Sections Involved||CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, ARTICLE- 13(2), 31-A, 31-B, 32, 132, 368.|
The case of Sankari Prasad vs Union of India is a very important case of Indian history. It shows the conflicts between the Judiciary and the Legislature on the post independent India. In this case the validity of the 1st Amendment Act was challenged. The question of whether Fundamental Rights which are being provided under Indian Constitution can be amended by the Parliament was raised in this case. This case was put before the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court where court narrowed the scope of Article 13(2).
The Constitution of India is the supreme las of India. The document lays down the framework that demarcates fundamental code, structure, procedure, powers, and the duties of the government institutions and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and duties of the citizen.
It imparts constitutional supremacy and not parliamentary supremacy. Indian constitution is flexible in nature which means it can be amended, and for that the makers of the makers of the constitution inserted Article 368 which gives power to the Parliament to amend the provisions of the constitution to adapt to the changing need of the Indian society. But there are some limitations which were being put in front of the Parliament on their constitutional power to amend, because if the parliament is given absolute power, they might use it as tool to misuse its power.
There are many cases where question of Basic Structure Doctrine has been raised. The case of Sankari Prasad vs. Union of India is one of them, this case will answer the question of the amending powers of the Parliament.
FACTS OF THE CASE
Lands were mainly acquired by the zamindars during the British era. They use to hire labourers on their land and also, they use to collect taxes from poor farmers for the British. After the Independence, the Zamindari abolition Act was passed. This act was enacted in the States of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The main purpose of this act was to bring equality among all the citizens and it was major agrarian land reform. The zamindars got upset of this act and filled several petitions across these States, stating that this act is violative 0f their fundamental rights. The Allahabad and Nagpur High Court held that this act is valid as it promotes equality in the society and it is for the upliftment of the poor class but the Patna High Court held that the Bihar Land Reform Act 1950 is invalid.
In this respect, the Parliament passed First Amendment Act, 1951. Through this amendment, the Parliament inserted Article 31-A and Article 31-B in the Constitution of India and also through this amendment they added Ninth Schedule in the Constitution to protect the land reform and other laws in it from the judicial review. Which means the Ninth Schedule was inserted so that any subject matter which is under this schedule, it cannot be challenged in any court of India and it is beyond the preview of judicial review.
The zamindars filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the constitution raising a question whether the First Amendment Act, 1951 which was passed by the Parliament is unconstitutional and void. This issue was presented before a constitutional bench of the apex court, where mainly three issues were raised before the court.
ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT
- Whether the First Amendment Act passed by Parliament unconstitutional?
- Whether the Parliament has authority to amend Fundamental Rights?
- Whether the word ‘law’ in Article 13(2) includes the Constituent laws?
ARGUMENTS FROM THE APPELLANT SIDE
- The learned counsel submitted that the power of amending the constitution was conferred on the two houses of the Parliament as designated body and, therefore, the provisional Parliament was not competent to exercise this power.
- The learned counsel further submitted that, Article 368 is a complete code in itself and does not provide for any amendment being made in the bill after it has been introduced in the house. The bill in the present case having been admittedly amended in several particulars through this house, therefore this Amendment Act does cannot be said to have been passed with the procedure prescribed in Article 368.
- Learned counsel finally submitted that the matters related to land falls within List 2 of the seventh schedule, therefore laws on this matter can only be made by the State Legislature and Parliament had no jurisdiction on this matter to make laws on land matters.
ARGUMENTS FROM THE RESPONDENT SIDE
- The learned counsel representing the respondent, submitted that the Constitution provides for three classes of amendments of its provisions:
- Those that can be affected by a bare majority.
- Those that can be affected by a special a special majority as laid down in the Article 368.
- Those that require, in addition to the special majority above-mentioned, ratification by resolutions passed by not less than one-half of the States specified in parts A and B of the First Schedule.
- Learned Counsel submitted that, the third class, as mentioned in Article 368 seeks for change in the provision. The Parliament, which includes the two Houses of Parliament and the President, as conferred as the first class of amendment.
- Learned Counsel argued that if the petitioner’s argument that the reference to the ‘two houses’ mentioned in Article 368 makes it inapplicable to provisional parliament, if accepted, can take away the very purpose of Article 379.
- Learned counsel finally submitted that the petitioner’s argument by stating that is incorrect to consider Article 368 as a complete code in itself. There were certain procedural inconsistencies as to how and after what notice a bill is to be introduced, how it is to be passed in each House of the Parliament, and how to obtain the President’s assent.
Constitution of India.
- Article 13(2). The Sate shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this Part and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void.
- Article 31-A. Saving of laws providing acquisition of estates, etc.:
- Not withstanding anything contained in article 13, no law providing for-
- The acquisition by the State of any estate or of any rights therein or the extinguishment or modification of any such rights, or
- The taking over of the management of any property by the state for a limited period, either in the public interest or in order to secure the proper management of the property, or
- The amalgamation of two or more corporations, either in the public interest or in order to secure the proper management of any of the corporations, or
- the extinguishment or modification of any rights of managing agents, secretaries and treasurers, managing directors, directors or managers of corporations, or of any voting rights of shareholders thereof, or
- the extinguishment or modification of any rights accruing by virtue of any agreement, lease or licence for the purpose of searching for, or winning, any mineral or mineral oil, or the premature termination or cancellation of any such agreement, lease or licence, shall be deemed to be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with, or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by [article 14 or article 19]:
[Provided further that where any law makes any provision for the acquisition by the State of any estate and where any land comprised therein is held by a person under his personal cultivation, it shall not be lawful for the State to acquire any portion of such land as is within the ceiling limit applicable to him under any law for the time being in force or any building or structure standing thereon or appurtenant thereto, unless the law relating to the acquisition of such land, building or structure, provides for payment of compensation at a rate which shall not be less than the market value thereof.]
- In this article, –
- the expression “estate” shall, in relation to any local area, have the same meaning as that expression or its local equivalent has in the existing law relating to land tenures in force in that area and shall also include—
- any jagir, inam or muafi or other similar grant and in the States of [Tamil Nadu] and Kerala, any janmam right;
- any land held under ryotwari settlement;
- any land held or let for purposes of agriculture or for purposes ancillary thereto, including waste land, forest land, land for pasture or sites of buildings and other structures occupied by cultivators of land, agricultural labourers and village artisans;]
- the expression “rights”, in relation to an estate, shall include any rights vesting in a proprietor, sub-proprietor, under-proprietor, tenure-holder, [raiyat, under-raiyat] or other intermediary and any rights or privileges in respect of land revenue.]
- Article 31-B. Validation of certain Acts and Regulations.:
Without prejudice to the generality of the provisions contained in article 31A, none of the Acts and Regulations specified in the Ninth Schedule nor any of the provisions thereof shall be deemed to be void, or ever to have become void, on the ground that such Act, Regulation or provision is inconsistent with, or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by, any provisions of this Part, and notwithstanding any judgment, decree or order of any court or Tribunal to the contrary, each of the said Acts and Regulations shall, subject to the power of any competent Legislature to repeal or amend it, continue in force.]
- Article 32.
- Article 132. Appellate jurisdiction of Supreme Court in appeals from High Courts in certain cases.
- An appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court from any judgment, decree or final order of a High Court in the territory of India, whether in a civil, criminal or other proceeding, [if the High Court certifies under article 134A] that the case involves a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of this Constitution.
- Cl 2 omitted by ibid.
- Where such a certificate is given,5 any party in the case may appeal to the Supreme Court on the ground that any such question as aforesaid has been wrongly decided.
Explanation- For the purpose of this article, the expression “final order” includes an order deciding an issue which, if decided in favour of the appellant, would be sufficient for the final disposal of the case.
- Article 368. Power of Parliament to amend the Constitution and procedure therefor.:
- Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may in exercise of its constituent power amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of this Constitution in accordance with the procedure laid down in this article
- An amendment of this Constitution may be initiated only by the introduction of a Bill for the purpose in either House of Parliament, and when the Bill is passed in each House by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting, 8 [it shall be presented to the President who shall give his assent to the Bill and thereupon] the Constitution shall stand amended in accordance with the terms of the Bill:
Provided that if such amendment seeks to make any change in-
- Article 54, article 55, article 73, [article 162, article 241 or article 279A] or
- Chapter IV of Part V, Chapter V of Part VI, or Chapter I of Part XI, or
- Any of the lists in the Seventh Schedule, or
- The representation of States in Parliament, or
- The provisions of this article,
the amendment shall also require to be ratified by the Legislatures of not less than one-half of the States by resolutions to that effect passed by those Legislatures before the Bill making provision for such amendment is presented to the President for assent.
- Nothing in article 13 shall apply to any amendment made under this article.
- No amendment of this Constitution (including the provisions of Part III) made or purporting to have been made under this article whether before or after the commencement of section 55 of the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976] shall be called in question in any court on any ground.
- For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that there shall be no limitation whatever on the constituent power of Parliament to amend by way of addition, variation or repeal the provisions of this Constitution under this article.
After considering all the facts and circumstances, the apex court upheld the validity of the First Amendment Act. It ruled that the word ‘law’ in Article 13(2) includes only ordinary laws and not the constituent laws. The honourable court held that the amendment made under Article 368 is not affected by Article 13(2). The court held that the power to amend under Article 368 also includes the power to amend fundamental rights. Therefore, therefore any amendment which abridges the fundamental rights will not be considered void under Article 13(2) of the Constitution.
This case is a landmark case and played a significant role in the interpretation of the Constitution.
The judgement in this case was challenged various times, which was finally reversed in the Golaknath Case (I.C. Golaknath & Ors. Vs. State of Punjab & Anr.). The Doctrine of Basic Structure was inserted whereby Parliament can amend any provision of the Constitution but cannot amend the basic structure of the Constitution. It widened the scope of Article 13 and Article 368 of the Constitution. It can be concluded that the Sankari Prasad Singh Deo vs. UOI played a crucial role in the constitutional interpretation and also in the creation of the doctrine of basic structure, which helps in preserving the spirit of the Constitution of India.
 Author is 3rd semester student of the ICFAI University, Dehradun.
 See Constitution of India, Art-368.
 See Constitution of India, Art-32.
 See Constitution of India, 7th Schedule list 2.
 1967 AIR 1643, 1967 SCR (2) 762.