Home » Political-Corner  » Amendments to Indian Constitution

Amendments to Indian Constitution

Posted by Admin on July 16, 2014 | Read the First Comment

One can say with certainty that Indian Constitution is one of the most frequently amended constitutions in the world. It was just a year after the Constitution was adopted that the first amendment came into force and several changes were made effective. Many more amendments followed since then. As of May 2013, the Constitution has been amended 98 times. Although the process of amendment was made flexible by the makers of Indian Constitution to help the nation adapt to changing circumstances, yet that seems to have backfired. ‘Whims and fancies’ of the ruling government had often brought about amendments that didn’t augur well with the rest of the nation.

Amendments of Indian Constitution

42nd Amendment to the Constitution

It’s a classic example of amendments made in the Constitution because of serving political purpose. The 42nd Amendment or The Constitution Act, 1976, was brought into force by the Congress government during the infamous period of Emergency (25 June 1975-21 March 1977). Even today, it is considered the “most controversial constitutional amendment in Indian history.” It not only tried to lessen the power of judiciary to voice its opinion about the constitutional validity of laws but also ensured sweeping changes to the Constitution.

Often referred to as “Constitution of Indira”, the act was vehemently opposed by the people as it gave Indira Gandhi all the powers to do “almost anything she wanted.” Following the amendment, the Prime Minister’s Office was exempted from almost every kind of scrutiny. The amendment also gave unquestionable authority to Parliament to amend any parts of the Constitution without any judicial review. .

The political motive was too blatant to be missed. Firstly, the government secured its poll victory by excluding the courts from interfering in election disputes. Secondly, the amendment made the Central government more powerful than the state governments to make sure that the Centre has the final say in political matters. This amendment invited countrywide criticism as people realised its unconstitutional nature.

Lacunae in the Parliamentary System

The fact that the articles of the Indian Constitution can be amended by a simple majority in Parliament leaves enough scope for the self-serving political players to change the law of the land and fulfil their individual aspirations instead of giving people’s needs a thought. If there’s single-party dominance in the Centre and the states, it becomes a cakewalk for the party to win more than 50 per cent majority in both the Houses of Parliament. That way they get to use their power for “partisan motives.” Dr Ambedkar had once admitted that the amendment procedure was far more flexible and some rigidity was needed.

Driven by Political Pressures

Soon after the Constitution was adopted, re-organisation of Indian States became a political necessity. The first round of constitutional changes happened in the form of geographical re-structuring on the basis of linguistic identity, which led to the emergence of separate states for people who speak Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, etc. In recent example of geographical re-structuring based on regional and cultural affinities, new states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand were formed. If the power of amendment had not been given to Parliament alone and the consent of the states was made mandatory, territorial reorganisation might not have happened the way it did.

Amendment to Indian Constitution was also made to suppress the demand of secession or autonomy. There is no better example than the 48th amendment to the Indian Constitution. The Sikhs’ demand for an independent state of Khalistan triggered strong action from the government and later resulted in the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Following the anti-Sikh riots, the Article 356 of the constitution was amended to allow President’s rule in Punjab up to two years.

It won’t be wrong to assume that some constitutional changes are made effective because of political circumstances and different internal and external pulls and pressures that the government encounters.