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Doctrine of Eclipse

The Doctrine of Eclipse states that any law which is inconsistent with fundamental rights is not invalid. It is not totally dead but overshadowed by the fundamental right. The inconsistency (conflict) can be removed by constitutional amendment. The amendment to the relevant fundamental right will remove the eclipse and the entire law becomes valid.

 Doctrine of eclipse is contended in Article 13(1) of the Indian Constitution. Article 13 states that any law which was made before the commencement of the constitution must be consistent with the part III of the Indian Constitution. If any statue which is inconsistence with the provisions provided under part III of the Indian constitution such statue shall become void. At the same time such statue shall not be treated as dead but will be in the moribund condition until and unless it is abolished by the Parliament.

 Thus, any law prior to independence if it infringes or is in conflict with the Fundamental rights then it should be void up to that inconsistency. It doesn't make the whole law void but that part of law which is inconsistent with Part-III of the Indian constitution will be void. The law is not dead but will be in moribund condition and is at disposal of parliament.

Bhikaji v State of MP AIR 1955:

The MP Government passed an Act in the year 1950 for nationalizing the motor transport and the Act was passed before the commencement of the constitution. The statue was challenged by the petitioner under Article 19(1)(g) of the constitution. The Central Government amended the Act that enabling the state to nationalize the motor transport. The apex court held that the statue of Madhya Pradesh State of nationalizing the motor transport was cured by the 4th Amendment Act 1955 and therefore the Doctrine of Eclipse has been applied and such Act is valid.

The Doctrine of Eclipse

It is based on the principle that a law which violates fundamental rights, will not be declared null or void ab initio but it becomes, only unenforceable i.e. remains in a moribund condition.
The term Eclipse in the doctrine means "It is over-shadowed by the fundamental rights and remains dormant, but it is riot dead." Such laws which infringes part 3 are not entirely wiped out from the statute book. It is only against the citizens that the law remains in a moribund condition it is because part III of the constitution is provided only for the citizens but they remain in operation as against non-citizens as they are not entitled to fundamental rights provided by Indian constitution.

The Apex Court for solving such problems, formulated the doctrine of eclipse in the landmark case of Bhikhaji v. State of M.P., AIR 1955 S.C. 781.

Fact: In this case the provisions of. C.P. and Berar Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 1948 authorized the State Government to take up the entire motor transport business in the Province to the exclusion of motor transport operators. This provision though valid when enacted, but became void on the commencement of the Constitution in 1950 as they violated Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. However, in 1951 Clause (6) of Article 19 was amended by the Constitution (1st Amendment Act) so as to authorize.

The Government to monopolise any business. The Supreme Court held that the effect of the amendment was to remove the shadow and to make the impugned Act free from blemish or infirmity. It became enforceable against citizens as well as non-citizens after the constitutional impediment was removed. This law was eclipsed for the time being by the fundamental rights. As soon as the eclipse is removed, the law begins to operate from the date of such removal.

Elements of Doctrine of Eclipse

  • It should be Pre-constitutional law
  • Must be in conflict with fundamental right
  • the law doesn't become a dead letter but only inoperative
  • if there is an amendment to the Fundamental Right in future it will automatically make the impugned law operative.

Post constitutional law
Article 13(3) prohibits State to make any law which takes away or abridges rights conferred by part III i.e., fundamental right of the constitution. If state makes such a law which in inconsistent or infringes Part 3 of the constitution then it will be declared ultra vires and void to the extent of its contravention with fundamental rights.

It is still-born law and cannot be revived by removal of the constitutional prohibition by subsequent amendment of the constitution. Though post-constitution laws inconsistent with fundamental rights are void from their very inception. A declaration by the court of their invalidity will be necessary.

Does the Doctrine of Eclipse apply to Post Constitutional Law?
The doctrine of eclipse does not apply to post-constitutional laws.

In Deep Chand v. state of U.P., the supreme court held that post-constitutional law made under Article 13(2) which contravenes a fundamental right is nullity from its inception and a still-born law. It is void ab intio.

State of Gujrat v Ambica mills, the supreme court modified its view as expressed in Deep Chand and Mahendra lal Jain case and stated that a post constitutional law which is inconsistent with the fundamental rights is not nullity or non-existent in all cases and for all purposes.

Exception to post Constitutional law
A post-constitution law which takes away, abridges or infringes the right conferred by Article 19 of the Indian Constitution will be operated as regards to non-citizens because fundamental rights are not available to non-citizens. Such a law will become void or non-existent only against citizens because fundamental rights are available only for citizens. The voidness stated under Article 13(2) can only be stated void as against the persons whose fundamental rights are taken away or abridges by law. Non-citizens cannot take advantage of it.

Thus the doctrine of eclipse provides for the validation of pre- constitution laws which violates the fundamental rights provided undert Part III of the Indian Constitution on the premise that such laws are not null and void ab initio but remains unforceable and in moribund condition only to the extent of such inconsistency with the fundamental rights. If any subsequent amendment made by the Parliament to the constitution which removes the inconsistency or the conflict of the existing law with the fundamental rights, then the eclipse disappears and that particular law becomes active again.

Written By: Tusharika Singh Gaharvar - B.A.,LL.B(h) semester-8th, Amity Law School, Amity University, Lucknow
[email protected]

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