Constitution First Amendment Act, 1951
The First Amendment was passed in 1951 by the Provisional Parliament, which was elected on a limited franchise. The Statement of Reasons (SOR) relating to the First Amendment said: “Challenges to agrarian laws or laws relating to land reform were pending in courts and were holding up large schemes of land legislation through dilatory and wasteful litigation.”
- The First Amendment Act amended articles 15, 19, 85, 87, 174, 176, 341, 342, 372 and 376.
- It inserted articles 31A and 31B.
- It inserted Ninth Schedule to the Constitution to protect the land reform and other laws present in it from the judicial review.
- First Amendment Act had set the precedent of amending the Constitution to overcome judicial pronouncements to implement the programmes and policies of the Government.
- It placed reasonable restrictions on fundamental rights and added three more grounds of restrictions on freedom of speech such as public order, friendly relations with foreign states and incitement to an offence.
- Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution confers the right of citizens of India to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. The Amendment expressly provided that State trading and nationalization of any trade or business by the state is not being invalid on the ground of the violation of the right to trade or business.
- In response to the verdict on State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan case(1951), it made provision for special treatment of educationally and socially backward classes by adding the 9th schedule to the Constitution. It preventedthe acts listed in the 9th Schedule from being subjected to judicial review.
Why the first amendment was enacted?
- The citizen’s right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by article 19(1)(a) has been held by some courts to be so comprehensive as not to render a person culpable even if he advocates murder and other crimes of violence. In other countries with written constitutions, freedom of speech and of the press is not regarded as debarring the State from punishing or preventing abuse of this freedom. So, the main objective was to amend article 19 for the purposes indicated above and to insert provisions fully securing the constitutional validity of zamindari abolition laws in general and certain specified State Acts in particular.
- It is laid down in article 46 as a directive principle of State policy that the State should promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and protect them from social injustice. In order that any special provision that the State may make for the educational, economic or social advancement of any backward class of citizens may not be challenged on the ground
of being discriminatory.
- Certain amendments in respect of articles dealing with the convening and proroguing of the sessions of Parliament was found necessary and are also incorporated in this Act. So also a few minor amendments in respect of articles 341, 342, 372 and 376.
What were the implications of the First Amendment Act, 1951?
- Under the provisions of Article 31, laws placed in the Ninth Schedule cannot be challenged in a court of law on the ground that they violated the fundamental rights of citizens.Art.31-B is also retrospective in nature. So, even if a statute which has already been declared unconstitutional by a court of law is included with in the Schedule, it is deemed to be constitutionally valid from the date of its inception. In short, the judicial decision becomes void when the statute is included in the Schedule.
- Article 31(A), has vested enormous power to the State with respect to the acquisition of estates or taking over of management of any property or corporation in public interest. It sought to exclude such acquisitions or from the scope of judicial review under Articles 14 and 19.
- Even though the Supreme Court has held that judicial review, as a basic structure, cannot be taken away after the kesavanandaBharati case, 1973, Articles 31(A), 31(B) and 31(C) saved land reform legislations and gave priority to the implementation of the Directive Principles rather than to the individual liberty.
- Ninth Schedule was widely misused.Ninth Schedule contains more than 250 legislations receiving protection under Ninth Schedule from the judicial scrutiny. With the burgeoning laws which are placed under the Ninth Schedule, it has today become a constitutional dustbin and house for every controversial law passed by the government of the day. Such a situation was not envisaged at the time, the First Amendment was enacted. For instance, former PM Indira Gandhi made amendments to the Representation of Peoples Acts of 1951 and 1974 and placed in the Ninth Schedule along with the Election Laws Amendment Act, 1975 to make her election valid.