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Doctrine Of Eclipse

The doctrine of eclipse means that any laws that were enacted before the making of the constitution ie. pre constitution laws but does not align with laws provided in the constitution after the constitution came into effect. Then in such a scenario such laws will not be void ab inito but will remain in an inactive state until the said right gets amended.

As a result, the Doctrine effectively seeks to overcome the following conundrum: If a law is declared void because it violates/contravenes a fundamental right, the right remains dormant until the said right is changed such that the law is no longer inconsistent with it.

"This doctrine directly derives from Article 13(1) of the Constitution, which is a part of the fundamental rights and specifies" that. "any laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Part, i.e. Part III, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void."

Essential Elements Of The Doctrine Of Eclipse Are:
The law should be a 'pre constitutional law'
"It Should align with the provisions of the fundamental rights".

The said law will become operative/enforced again only if there is an amendment to the fundamental right

Evolution And Origin

The idea of eclipse may be traced back to 1948, when a law was passed that granted the state the authority to exclude any private motor transport businesses. Following the implementation of the Indian Constitution on January 26, 1950, this regulation became incompatible with the fundamental right granted by article 19(1)g, which grants citizens of India the right to engage in any trade, occupation, or business.

Subsequently, this issue was taken up by the apex court in the case of Bhikaji vs State Of MP, subsequently the said act was amended by the 4th amendment act 1955 . This was the very first case which saw the application of the "doctrine of eclipse'' was applied and held valid as a law .

"The doctrine was implicitly adopted in the Supreme Court's verdict in the Keshavan Case; it was further defined by Das J.'s dissenting opinion in the Behram Case, and it was later established as legislation in the Bhikhaji Case ".

Retrospectively Of Fundamental Rights

One of the primary issues discussed before the Supreme Court in the case of Keshavan Madhava Menon vs The State Of Bombay was the retrospective nature of the fundamental right. one of the issues raised were:
"If fundamental rights are retrospective, then all pre-Constitutional laws inconsistent with fundamental rights must be void ab initio".

At this point the constitutional bench held "What article 13(1)provides is that all existing laws which clash with the exercise of the fundamental rights (which are for the first time created by the Constitution) shall to that extent be void. As the fundamental rights became operative only on and from the date of the Constitution the question of the inconsistency of the existing laws with those rights must necessarily arise on and from the date those rights came into being.

It must follow, therefore, that article 13(1) can have no retrospective effect but is wholly pro-spective in its operation". In following cases, this meaning has been upheld. The majority did not agree with the argument that the meaning of "void" in article 13 (1) amounted to "repeal" of the Act.

Behram Khurshid Pesikaka v/s State Of Bombay

This doctrine was further evolved through various case laws one of which is Behram Khurshid Pesikaka v. State of Bombay in which the dissenting opinion of Das J. has helped in interpreting this doctrine. In this case the apex court held that an existing law that does not align with the fundamental right is not completely dead even though it is no longer in effect as of the Constitution's start date.

"It is a good statute if an issue arises for determination of rights and responsibilities incurred before the commencement of the Constitution, as well as for determination of rights of persons who have not been granted fundamental rights by the Constitution " .

It was in this decision that Das J. dissented this opinion of the bench by saying that "The true position is that the impugned law became, as it were, eclipsed, for the time being, by the fundamental right. The effect of the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 was to remove the shadow and to make the impugned Act free from all blemish or infirmity."

Therefore Das J 's dissenting opinion meant that the such law are in force for the non-citizens of India it was only for the citizens of India that these laws were in a dormant stage. Subsequently this case became the foundation of this doctrine and the dissenting opinion of justice Das J has been subject of numerous contemplation in the judicial decisions.

Applicability Of Doctrine To Post Const Laws

The Indian Constitution does not allow the state from passing any laws that violates the rights granted by Part III, i.e., fundamental rights of the constitution, the application of this doctrine to post-constitutional laws is not possible . If the state enacts legislation that is inconsistent with or breaches Part 3 of the constitution , it will be deemed ultra vires and void to the extent that it violates basic rights.

This was also upheld in the case of Deep Chand vs The State of UP wherein it was held that the two clause's of Article 13 clauses clearly differ from one another. Pre-Constitutional laws remain in effect under clause (1) save to the extent that they conflict with Part III's provisions, whereas clause (2) prohibits the creation of post-Constitutional laws that do so, rendering any such laws that have already been passed null and void to the extent they do.

However, in the case of State of Gujarat v. Shree Ambica Mills, it was found that, "like a pre-Constitutional law, a post-Constitutional law contravening a basic right might also be legal in relation to people whose rights were not affected ".

Analysis And Conclusion
"The foregoing discussion and deliberation reveal that the framers of our constitution took great care in framing article 13 of the constitution of India .The fundamental rights are given "teeth" by Article 13, which also gives the courts the authority to defend them from attacks that violate the constitution. The way the article 13 was written shows that it was meant to include both pre-Constitutional and post-Constitutional laws in order to increase the extent of protection for fundamental rights. "

The doctrine of eclipse is a vital part of the constitution . this doctrine is used to protect the statues from being wiped off totally and merely renders them dormant for the time being. In this research paper the author tried to throw light upon the various aspect of the doctrine and traced the evolution of doctrine through various case laws.

The paper talks about how the doctrine has evolved and has been propounded as law in the Bhikaji case and how it was interpreted post keshvanan case.

One of major issues this paper seeks to resolve is wether or not the fundamental rights are retro prospective in nature. The author concludes that fundamental rights are not retrospective in nature this was also upheld in the case of Keshavanan case.

As if the fundamental were to be retrospective in nature then all the laws violating the fundamental rights pre const would be held void ab initio. "The doctrine is originally applicable to pre constitutional laws but wether or not it is applicable to post constitutional laws is still a matter of debate between many jurists and lawmakers" .

To sum up , the doctrine of eclipse is protect any laws that violate fundamental rights by putting them in a dormant state/ inactive state and not making them void ab initio. This doctrine is of great significance this is the doctrine which protects the pre constitutional laws and at the same time also help in safeguarding the post constitution laws to a certain extent .

  • Bond law review ( untangling the constitutional labyrinth)
  • DD Basu - Introduction to constitution
  • Indian constitution
  • MP Jain constitution of India
  • Student bar review (doctrine of eclipse in constitutional law)

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