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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 Development

Since 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 this opinion.

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 (1957).

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 toilet preparations.

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 medicinal preparations.

Bhikaji Narain Dhakras v. State of Madhya Pradesh

Bhikaji 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 transportation industry.

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 resolved.

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 Code

The 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 Laws

Pre-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 reaffirmed (2010).

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 laws.

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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