An Analysis: Doctrine Of Eclipse
According to Indian law, any existing law that is incompatible with
fundamental rights does not entirely become invalid. This is known as the
eclipse doctrine. If the Constitution of India, 1950, is amended appropriately
to align the contested law with the fundamental rights, it can be made legal.
The fundamental rights doctrine is based on the idea that they are prospective.
Because the fundamental rights of the Constitution of India, 1950 did not exist
at the time that law was created, any pre-Constitutional law that violated those
rights would not be declared invalid. However, concerns have been raised about
whether this idea also applies to legislation passed after the Constitution, all
of which have been addressed in this article.
The Doctrine Of Eclipse: Its History And DevelopmentSince the Indian Constitution was adopted, many current laws have been open to
legal challenge because they are in violation of fundamental rights. Similarly,
the notion of eclipse has been established in large part because to judicial
scrutiny. Although this legal doctrine was officially declared by the Supreme
Court judges in Bhikaji Narain Dhakras and Ors v. State of Madhya Pradesh
(1955), it had already been applied in theory in a few other earlier judgments.
Keshava Madavan Menon v. State of Bombay is the earliest instance in
which signs of the development of this doctrine can be discovered (1951).
Regarding a booklet that was published in 1949, the appellant in this case had a
case against himself under the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act, 1931.
The appellant argued that since the booklet was in line with the right to
freedom of speech and expression as stated in Article 19(1)(a), no such action
could be brought against him. Because the Indian Constitution's fundamental
rights did not exist at the time the pamphlet was produced, the court expressed
Therefore, the appellant could not assert ownership of them. Thus, this decision
demonstrated that basic rights only have prospective, not retroactive,
application. Since any statute is prospective unless clearly stated differently,
the Court determined that Article 13(1) was prospective rather than
retrospective in this case. The same could not be expected because the text of
this article does not indicate any sort of retrospective applicability. In the
case of Pannala Binaraj v. Union of India, this opinion was reaffirmed
Behram Khurshid Pesikaka v. State of Bombay was the next significant case
that addressed the relationship between Article 13(1) and the justification of
pre-Constitutional laws that violated fundamental rights (1955). In this case,
the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949's Section 66(b) was used to accuse the
appellant. The topic of drunk driving was covered in this paragraph.
The appellant cited the 1951 case of State of Bombay and Anr v. F.N. Balsara,
in which it was determined that Section 13(b) of the Act was invalid insofar as
it applied to the use of alcoholic medicinal and toilet preparations because it
violated Article 19's fundamental rights. By extension, the appellant argued
that Section 66(b) should be disregarded in relation to alcoholic medicines and
The Balsara case was initially ruled by the Supreme Court judges to not have
repealed or amended the section. However, the majority ruling stated that the
part was "notionally deleted" from the statute for the determination of
citizens' rights and obligations in reference to a bigger constitutional bench.
The decision in Balsara was also deemed to be a strong defence against a Section
66(b) accusation involving alcoholic medicinal and sanitary preparations. It was
up to the defence to disprove the prosecution's claim that the accused was
driving while intoxicated with any type of alcohol other than alcoholic
Bhikaji Narain Dhakras v. State of Madhya PradeshBhikaji Narain Dhakras and Ors v. State of Madhya Pradesh was the pivotal
case that articulated and promulgated the notion of eclipse (1955). The Motor
Vehicles Act of 1939 was amended by the C.P. & Berar Motor Vehicles (Amendment)
Act of 1947, which the petitioners in this case contested as unconstitutional.
The petitioners argued that the Amendment Act was nullified by the adoption of
the Indian Constitution because it violated Article 19(1)(g), which guarantees
the right to practise any profession and to engage in any occupation, trade, or
business. The petitioners claimed that the Amendment had violated the
fundamental rights guaranteed by the 1950 Indian Constitution by allowing the
Provincial Government to establish a monopoly on the state's motor
The respondents argued that although the Act initially violated the Indian
Constitution, the inconsistencies were eliminated by the addition of Article
19(6) and the C.P. & Berar Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act became operational
once more following the passage of the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951,
and Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Act, 1955. In their answer, the petitioners
unequivocally declared that the Act was null and void in accordance with Article
13(1) and that it would be deemed dead unless it was passed anew.
However, the petitioners' assertions were disproved, and the respondents'
arguments were accepted. Several important takeaways from the Bhikaji case
ruling include the following:
The Keshava case was the foundation of the ruling, to begin with. It also
added that the term "invalid" in Article 13 referred to something that was
incompatible with basic rights.
This suggested that the Act's overall operation was unaffected. The underlying
intent of Article 13(1) was to make any Act that violated a fundamental right
ineffective to the degree of such violation. The fundamental right overshadows
it, and although it is dormant, it is still alive.
This is the eclipse doctrine. The Act is eclipsed by the fundamental right's
discrepancy until the inconsistency, which is what caused the eclipse, is
The provisions of the contested Act were no longer in conflict with the
Constitution (First Amendment) Act of 1951 and its modifications to Clause 6 of
Article 19, as a result of which the contested Act resumed operation on the date
of the amendment.
Applying The Eclipse Theory To The Indian Penal CodeThe constitutionality of Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which punishes
suicide attempts, was contested in the case of P. Rathiram v. Union of India
(1994). It was decided that Section 309 violated Article 19, which grants
the right to silence in addition to the freedom of speech. Additionally, it was
claimed that the clause violated Article 21, which, extrapolating from it, also
granted the right to not live.
In Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, this was deemed to be an invalid finding
(1996). Thus, in essence, Section 309 had been superseded by the Rathiram case
with respect to basic rights, which was eliminated by the Gian decision.
Application Of The Doctrine Of Eclipse To Post-Constitutional LawsPre-Constitutional laws are covered by Article 13(1), whereas
post-Constitutional legislation are covered by Article 13(2). In the case of
Deep Chand v. State of Uttar Pradesh, a crucial distinction between these
two clauses was made (1959). Here it was stated that no post-constitutional
legislation in violation of Part III of the Indian Constitution can be made and
that any such laws that are made are void from the beginning, with the exception
of any contradictions with the rights granted by that Part. Therefore, the
doctrine of eclipse cannot apply to legislation passed after the Constitution,
according to a simple reading of Article 13.
The Supreme Court ruled in Sagir Ahmed v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1954)
that any law passed after the Indian Constitution's inception that was not
covered by Clause 6 and that violated Article 19(1)(g) could not be upheld.
Mahendra Lai Jaini v. State of Uttar Pradesh is a further significant
case in this regard (1963). In this instance, it was conclusively determined
that post-Constitutional legislation were not covered by the doctrine of eclipse
and could not be automatically reinstated by Constitutional changes. Therefore,
if any basic right specified in Article 13(2) is violated, the contested conduct
would be declared void from the start. The Constitution would need to be changed
and the statute would need to be reenacted in order for it to take effect. In
the case of K.K. Poonacha v. State of Karnataka, this principle was
The key issue in this case was whether an act may be declared invalid because it
wasn't submitted for the President's consideration and didn't have his approval
as required by Article 31(3) of the Constitution. It was decided that simply
because an act didn't gain assent, it didn't make it invalid. Until the
abnormality was fixed, it was eclipsed. In the current situation, Article 31 was
revoked, which led to the act's resuscitation.
There have been additional instances where this doctrine has been applied. For
instance, the court determined in the case of K.P. Manu, Malabar Cements Ltd
v. Chairman, Scrutiny Commt (2015) that when a person converts to
Christianity or another religion, the original caste remains eclipsed; however,
as soon as the person reconverts to the original religion during his or her
lifetime, the eclipse vanishes and the caste automatically reemerges.
In addition, the court determined in UOI & Ors. v. Duli Chand (2010) that
a penalty order that is stayed will remain eclipsed and not dead. The penalty
would reappear on its account when the same stay was removed.
The doctrine of eclipse can therefore be applied in a very straightforward
manner. By allowing for Constitutional changes, it can justify laws that were
passed before the Constitution that are in violation of fundamental rights, but
it cannot justify laws that were passed after the Constitution. This is due to
the fact that Article 13 differentiates between pre- and post-Constitutional
This concept allows for the preservation of unconstitutional pre-Constitutional
laws by setting them dormant until they can be resurrected in the future,
protecting them from being abolished in extraordinary circumstances.
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