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The 42nd Amendment: India's Mini Constitution

The 42nd Amendment to India's Constitution is like a major update. It happened in 1976, during a tough time called the Emergency. People also call it the "Mini Constitution." So, the 42nd Amendment is a big chapter in India's legal story, a bit controversial but definitely part of how the country's laws evolved.

What is the 42nd Amendment?

The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution of India, enacted in 1976 during a period of Emergency, marked a substantial and transformative overhaul of the country's supreme legal document. Often dubbed the "Mini Constitution," this amendment introduced significant changes across multiple dimensions. Notably, it appended the Preamble with the words "Socialist," "Secular," and "Integrity," reflecting the core values and aspirations of the Indian state.

The amendment redefined the delicate balance between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy, attempting to shield laws made during the Emergency from challenges based on violations of Fundamental Rights. The extension of the Lok Sabha's term from five to six years during the Emergency was a prominent feature, altering the political landscape. Additionally, the amendment sought to restrict the judiciary's power of review by stipulating that laws enacted during the Emergency couldn't be invalidated on the grounds of violating Fundamental Rights.

Changes were also made to the President's powers, particularly concerning the reconsideration of bills. Furthermore, the 42nd Amendment accorded constitutional status to laws passed by Parliament relating to the governance of Jammu and Kashmir, even if inconsistent with the state's constitution.

Following the conclusion of the Emergency, the 44th Amendment Act of 1978 was enacted to rectify and repeal some controversial provisions introduced by the 42nd Amendment, aiming to restore a more balanced and democratic constitutional framework. In essence, the 42nd Amendment left an enduring imprint on India's constitutional and political landscape, shaping subsequent discussions on individual rights, state directives, and the overall power dynamic within the constitutional framework.

Why is it called the Mini Constitution?

The designation of the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution of India as the "Mini Constitution" stems from the sweeping and transformative changes it introduced, fundamentally reshaping the nation's legal and political landscape. Enacted during the politically charged period of Emergency, the amendment reflected a pronounced ideological shift by incorporating the terms "Socialist," "Secular," and "Integrity" into the Preamble. Beyond procedural adjustments, this represented a profound redefinition of the guiding principles of the Indian state.

The amendment, enacted under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's leadership, responded to the exigencies of the Emergency by augmenting executive powers, limiting judicial review, and recalibrating the delicate balance between individual rights and state authority. Notably, the extension of the Lok Sabha term from five to six years during the Emergency signalled a departure from established parliamentary norms, providing the ruling party with an extended period of stability.

Additionally, the amendment granted constitutional status to laws concerning Jammu and Kashmir, furthering the goal of uniform governance. The controversial nature of these changes, perceived by critics as an encroachment on democratic principles, underscores the far-reaching impact of the 42nd Amendment and justifies its designation as the "Mini Constitution."

Major changes introduced through the amendment

Additions to the Preamble:
The preamble is said to represent the constitution. There are two new items in the preamble of the constitution. First off, India's former status as a "Sovereign Democratic Republic" has been replaced by "Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic." Second, instead of saying "unity of the nation," it said "unity and integrity of the nation." As "an altered portrayal of the Indian Constitution on the world stage," this revision reportedly drew a lot of criticism from the legal and public sectors nationwide.

Changes in the 7th Schedule
The following categories were transferred from the State list to the Concurrent list: education, forests, protection of wild animals and birds, weights and measures, administration of justice, constitution, and organisation of all courts´┐Żwith the exception of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.

Addition of Part IV-A (Article 51A)
The 10 Fundamental Duties were added to Article 51A through the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution of India. These duties were inserted to emphasize and promote a sense of civic responsibility and commitment among citizens. The Fundamental Duties listed in Article 51A are as follows:
  1. To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag, and the National Anthem.
  2. To cherish and follow the noble ideals that inspired the national struggle for freedom.
  3. To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India.
  4. To defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so.
  5. To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, and regional or sectional diversities.
  6. To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.
  7. To protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.
  8. To develop scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform.
  9. To safeguard public property and to abjure violence.
  10. To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement.


These Fundamental Duties were intended to serve as a moral and ethical guide for citizens, encouraging a sense of duty towards the nation and fostering a harmonious and responsible society.

Changes in the Parliament
One of the key modifications was the extension of the term of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, from five to six years. This alteration, however, was not a permanent adjustment but rather specific to the period of the proclaimed state of Emergency, reflecting the extraordinary circumstances prevailing during that time.

The extension aimed to provide the ruling party with a more prolonged period of political stability, thereby influencing the dynamics of governance. Concurrently, the amendment addressed the powers of the President, particularly in the context of bill reconsideration. It introduced changes to the President's authority, limiting the ability to return a bill (excluding money bills) for reconsideration.

This adjustment in presidential powers was part of a broader reconfiguration of the legislative process, emphasizing a streamlined decision-making approach during the Emergency. Collectively, these changes underscored the amendment's impact on parliamentary procedures and executive authority, albeit within the specific context of the Emergency period.

Changes to the Judicial Powers of the High Courts and the Supreme Court
The judicial review power and writ jurisdiction of the High Courts and Supreme Court were curtailed. The High Courts may have even challenged the Union Legislature's Acts in court prior to this amendment. It has been quite simple for the general people to challenge this practice in their state's supreme court.

Nonetheless, this change curtailed the High Court's jurisdiction. Articles 226A and 228A stipulated that this revision limited the authority of HCs to make decisions regarding the validity of State legislation. In a manner similar to this, Article 131A was enacted to grant the Supreme Court the only jurisdiction to determine the legality of central legislation. In addition to these modifications, Articles 144A and 228A were added to the Constitution, which has caused debate regarding judicial authority.

Addition of Articles 323A and 323B, Part XIV-A
It dealt with the establishment of administrative tribunals. This marked a departure from the existing legal framework, seeking to address concerns related to the adjudication of disputes and matters pertaining to the service conditions of government employees.

Article 323A empowered Parliament to legislate on the creation of administrative tribunals for the adjudication of disputes and complaints with respect to the recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or any State or of any local or other authority within the territory of India. This move was seen as an attempt to streamline and expedite the resolution of disputes related to the employment conditions of government officials, providing an alternative forum specifically designed for such matters.

Simultaneously, Article 323B granted the states the authority to establish tribunals for similar purposes within their jurisdiction. This dual provision allowed for the establishment of specialized administrative tribunals at both the central and state levels, streamlining the process of resolving disputes related to public service employment matters.

The inclusion of Articles 323A and 323B in Part XIV-A represented a conscious effort to enhance efficiency and expediency in dealing with disputes arising in the realm of public service employment. By establishing dedicated tribunals, the amendment aimed to create a specialized mechanism for the adjudication of disputes, thereby relieving the burden on regular judicial forums and ensuring a more focused and effective resolution of service-related matters. This structural addition reflected the evolving needs of governance and administrative justice in the context of the times during which the 42nd Amendment was enacted.

Addition of New DPSPs

Below are the specific DPSPs that were introduced:

  1. Article 39A: Equal justice and free legal aid:
    • Article 39A was added to the DPSPs, emphasizing the state's responsibility to secure equal justice and provide free legal aid to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen due to economic or other disabilities. This reflected a commitment to making the justice system more accessible and inclusive, especially for those who might face economic challenges in seeking legal recourse.
       
  2. Article 43A: Participation of workers in management of industries:
    • Article 43A aimed at promoting industrial democracy by calling for the participation of workers in the management of industries. This DPSP acknowledged the importance of empowering workers and involving them in decision-making processes within industrial establishments, contributing to a more equitable distribution of power and resources.
       
  3. Article 48A: Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife:
    • Article 48A introduced an environmental dimension to the DPSPs, emphasizing the state's obligation to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forests and wildlife. This addition recognized the growing environmental concerns and highlighted the need for sustainable development practices, aligning the state's policy with ecological conservation.
       
  4. Article 51A: Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker sections:
    • Article 51A focused on promoting the educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and other weaker sections of society. This DPSP underscored the state's commitment to addressing historical injustices and promoting inclusive development by targeting specific social groups that had historically faced socio-economic disadvantages.
These new DPSPs introduced through the 42nd Amendment reflected the socio-political context of the time, with an emphasis on socialist principles, environmental conservation, workers' participation in management, and targeted efforts towards the upliftment of marginalized sections of society.

Impact brought about by the amendment:

The amendment left a lasting impact with multifaceted consequences that reverberated across the legal, political, and socio-economic spheres. One notable consequence was the erosion of democratic checks and balances. The extension of the Lok Sabha's term and the restriction on the President's powers during the Emergency raised concerns about the concentration of power in the executive, potentially undermining the foundational principles of parliamentary democracy. Simultaneously, the amendment contributed to a perception of increased centralization of authority, deviating from the envisioned federal structure of the Constitution.

These new DPSPs introduced through the 42nd Amendment reflected the socio-political context of the time, with an emphasis on socialist principles, environmental conservation, workers' participation in management, and targeted efforts towards the upliftment of marginalized sections of society.

Impact brought about by the amendment:
The amendment left a lasting impact with multifaceted consequences that reverberated across the legal, political, and socio-economic spheres. One notable consequence was the erosion of democratic checks and balances. The extension of the Lok Sabha's term and the restriction on the President's powers during the Emergency raised concerns about the concentration of power in the executive, potentially undermining the foundational principles of parliamentary democracy. Simultaneously, the amendment contributed to a perception of increased centralization of authority, deviating from the envisioned federal structure of the Constitution.

The controversial changes made to the Preamble, specifically the addition of the terms "Socialist," "Secular," and "Integrity," stirred debates about potentially altering the basic structure of the Constitution and imposing a specific political ideology. Another consequential shift was the introduction of Fundamental Duties, emphasizing citizenship obligations.

However, critiques emerged regarding the potential conflict between state expectations and individual freedoms, altering the delicate balance between individual rights and state directives. The inclusion of new Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs) reflected an evolving socio-economic agenda, with heightened emphasis on environmental protection and social justice. While addressing contemporary concerns, these additions were seen as a departure from the original framers' intent in balancing individual rights and state directives.

The controversial nature of the 42nd Amendment fueled public debate and criticism within legal and political circles, prompting subsequent revisions, notably the 44th Amendment Act of 1978. This subsequent amendment aimed to rectify contentious provisions, indicating a recognition of the need to restore constitutional balance and address concerns related to individual rights and democratic principles. In essence, the 42nd Amendment reshaped the constitutional landscape, prompting reflection on the fundamental principles that underpin India's democratic framework.

Conclusion:
In conclusion, the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution of India, enacted against the backdrop of the Emergency, left a mark on the nation's legal and political landscape. Its impact extended across various dimensions, with implications for democratic governance, constitutional ideals, and socio-economic priorities. The centralization of power, curtailment of parliamentary checks, and the controversial changes to the Preamble represented a departure from established constitutional norms.

The introduction of Fundamental Duties and new Directive Principles of State Policy reflected a commitment to evolving socio-economic challenges, yet sparked debates about the potential compromise of individual freedoms. This transformative period, marked by an ideological shift and heightened political tension, led to public scrutiny and subsequent amendments, notably the 44th Amendment Act of 1978, aimed at restoring constitutional equilibrium.

As India's constitutional journey continues, the legacy of the 42nd Amendment underscores the imperative of preserving democratic values and maintaining a delicate balance between state authority and individual liberties, shaping ongoing discussions about the evolution of constitutional principles and the endurance of democratic ideals.

Written By: Akshaya Zavar

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