I.C. Golaknath vs the State of Punjab dealt with the power of Parliament to amend the Fundamental Rights provided under Part III of our Constitution.
In 1953, the Punjab State Government enacted the Punjab Security of Land Tenure Act, 1953. Through the 17th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1964, the said act was placed under the ninth schedule of our Constitution.
The petitioner’s family in Punjab had over 500 acres of land. By implementing the Punjab Security of Land Tenure Act, 1953, the state government conveyed the petitioner that he could possess only 30 acres of land and remaining land would be taken over by the government.
At that time, under Article 19(1)(f) ‘right to hold and acquire property’ was a fundamental right.
Petitioner approached the Court by using Article 32 of our Constitution and challenged the validity of the Punjab Security of Land Tenure Act, 1953. He contended that the said Act violated his fundamental right to hold and acquire the property.
LEGAL ISSUES INVOLVED –
1) Can the Parliament amend the Fundamental Rights?
2) If so, will the amendment law be considered, as a law under Article 13(2) of our Constitution?
The petitioner contended that the fundamental rights provided under Part III of our Constitution are an essential and integral part of our Constitution. They cannot be taken away by an act of Parliament. The Constitution without the fundamental rights is like a body without a soul.
He contended that the Constitution drafted by the constituent assembly is permanent. Any amendment which tries to bring about a change is unconstitutional. Any changes, if made, should be per the ‘basic idea’ of our Constitution.
He further contended that Article 368 merely prescribes the procedure for amending the constitution. It does not confer any authority on the Parliament to amend our Constitution.
Petitioner argued that any ‘law’ under Article 13(3)(a) includes both statutory and constitutional. Therefore, any law which violates the fundamental right is unconstitutional.
The respondent contended that the power to amend the Constitution is an exercise of sovereign power. It is different from the legislative power of Parliament.
The argument of the respondent was based on the reason that the changing needs of society require changes in our Constitution, or else it would become too rigid.
The respondent contended that all the provisions of our Constitution are of equal status and there is no special status bestowed on the fundamental rights.
In its previous judgments in Shankari Prasad vs Union of India (1951) and Sajjan Singh vs the State of Rajasthan (1965) the Supreme Court held that ‘no part of our Constitution was unamendable’. Consequently, it was held that the Parliament through a Constitutional Amendment under Article 368 could amend the Fundamental Rights as well as Article 368 itself.
It was held that the ‘law’ under Article 13 referred to ordinary legislation by the Parliament as a legislative body and it would not include an amendment passed by the Parliament in its constituent capacity.
In the Golaknath case, the Supreme Court overruled its earlier judgments and held that the Fundamental Rights provided under part III of our Constitution cannot be subjected to the process of amendment provided in Article 368. It was also held that to amend the fundamental rights a new Constituent Assembly had to be convened.
The ruling of the Supreme Court was based on the view that the power to amend the Constitution was a legislative power conferred by Article 245 of our Constitution. Hence, a Constitution Amendment Act was a ‘law’ within the purview of Article 13(2).
In 1950, the Parliament by invoking the power under Article 368 passed numerous legislation that violated the Fundamental Rights. Therefore, to check the colorable exercise of power and save the Constitution from autocratic actions of the Parliament, the Supreme Court held that the Parliament cannot amend Fundamental Rights.
The Supreme Court in the GOLAKNATH case held that the Fundamental Rights are the ‘primordial rights necessary for the development of human personality’.
The judgment provided for ‘Prospective Overruling of the law’, which means that the effects of the law to be laid down will be applicable on future dates only and the past decision would not be affected.
- M.P Jain, Constitution of India, Justice Jasti Chelameswar and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu, 8th edition, LexisNexis, Printed by Saurabh Printers Pvt limited (2018).
- V.N SHUKLA, Constitution of India, Mahendra Pal Singh, 13th edition, Easter Book Company, Printed by Gopsons Papers Ltd (2019).
- The Constitution of India, by PM Bakshi
- The Constitution of India, Ministry of Law and Justice (Legislative Department)
This blog is written by Kushal, KLE Society’s Law College.
Some more of Kushal BLOGs,
- LOCUST ATTACK: WREAKS HAVOC
- MOHORI BIBEE VS DHARMODAS GHOSE (Case Summary)
- CONTINGENT CONTRACTS
- THE BERUBARI UNION CASE (CASE SUMMARY)
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