This article is written by Ritika Sharma, a law graduate from the University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University. It is a comprehensive study of the First Amendment of the Indian Constitution. Along with examining the intention and need to introduce the First Amendment, it provides insights into the history, characteristics, and repercussions of the amendment of 1951. 

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Giving the status of a backbone to the Constitution of India, 1950 would be an understatement, as apart from being a support system, it breathes life into the laws of our land. It is also the heart and soul of India’s legal fraternity and provides a back to the victims of crime and injustice. The latest amendment to the Constitution of India, 1950, is the 104th amendment via the Constitution (One Hundred and Fourth Amendment) Act, 2019, which has extended the deadline for ending reservations to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for another 10 years. The journey from the 1st to the 104th amendment is about 7 decades-long traverse. 

Let’s go about 70 years back and peek into the features of the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, which has served as a basis for ensuring several rights and remedies for Indian citizens. 

This article will be a journey back to the 1950s when we had just adopted the Indian Constitution and immediately felt the need to amend it in the very first year of its enforcement. What were the concerns of the Parliament? What was altered in this bulky, self-sufficient document? How is the First Amendment important to our Constitution? Apart from going into the depths of these questions, this article will illuminate the features and challenges of the First Amendment to the Indian Constitution. 

Drafting of the Indian Constitution

The framing of the Indian Constitution was a long procedure carried out by the Constituent Assembly. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was held on December 9, 1946, under the presidency of Dr Sachchinanda Sinha. Then, a different committee was formulated by the Constituent Assembly that submitted reports on separate areas of the Constitution. The Drafting Committee prepared a draft that was published for the citizens who could suggest any alterations or modifications to the provisions. After that, amendments were made, and the final draft was presented to the Assembly for discussion and debate. The Constituent Assembly debates are the comprehensive discourse on the final draft of the Indian Constitution. These are one of the fundamental sources of this bulkiest instrument, which are often looked into by the judiciary to decipher the intention behind the debatable constitutional provisions. The discussion on the draft was concluded on November 26, 1949, following which the Indian Constitution was adopted. 

Mode of amendments in the Indian Constitution

The amendments to the Constitution are made by two methods:

  1. The informal method,
  2. The formal method.

Informal method of amendment of the Constitution

No proper procedure is required to be followed for an informal method of amendment. In this method, the Constitution is amended by a change in the interpretation of the constitutional provisions. The law is applied by judges who can overrule their previous decisions by interpreting certain laws in a different manner. However, adopting this indirect mode of amendment leads to debates as the judiciary is criticised for usurping the power of the legislature.

Formal method of amendment of the Constitution

This is provided under Article 368 of the Indian Constitution. The Parliament is empowered to add, alter, or repeal any constitutional provision. In the landmark case of I.R. Coelho (Dead) By LRs v. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors. (2007), a distinction was made between the constituent power and the power to make amendments. The Supreme Court highlighted that constituent power was the original power that belonged to the Constituent Assembly while framing the Constitution. On the other hand, the power to amend the Constitution is a derivative power that has been culled out from Article 368 of the Indian Constitution and, thus, is subject to certain limitations stipulated under the Constitution itself. 

Types of constitutional amendments 

Depending upon the provisions of the Constitution, there are three ways of introducing amendments. These are discussed below:

Amendment by simple majority

Some of the constitutional provisions can be amended by the simple majority vote of members present and voting in both Houses of Parliament. For this, a Bill is introduced in either House of Parliament. These are initiated at the instance or in consultation with the states. Examples of the provisions that can be amended by the simple majority are Article 11, Article 73, Article 169, Schedule V, and Schedule VI

Amendment by a special majority of Parliament

The provisions which cannot be amended by a simple majority are amended in accordance with Article 368 of the Indian Constitution. For this, a Bill is introduced in either House of Parliament. After the Bill is passed in each House of Parliament by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the House present and voting, it is presented to the President. The amendment procedure is completed only after the Bill receives the assent of the President.

Amendment by a special majority of Parliament with the ratification by half of the total states

In case of certain constitutional provisions, along with the vote of members of both the House, it is essential to receive the consent of not less than one-half of the States. This is called ratification, and it has to be done before the Bill is presented to the President. The provisions that require this procedure include the following:

Overview of the First Amendment of the Indian Constitution

Objectives of the First Amendment

The Indian Constitution was enforced in 1950, and in the very next year, an amendment was introduced. The Act amended the Indian Constitution even before the first elections were held in independent India. There were three fundamental changes made in the Constitution via this amendment. The following points reflect the objectives for the same:

  • Need to restrict the right to freedom of speech and expression- It was necessary to add certain restrictions by including the terms ‘public order’, ‘friendly relations with foreign states, and ‘incitement to an offence’. 
  • Need to introduce special provisions for backward classes- Clause 4 was added in Article 15 as the country felt the need to make special provisions for the backward classes or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 
  • Land reforms- Article 31A and Article 31B were added which exempted land reforms from constitutional scrutiny. In addition to these, the Ninth Schedule was inserted that contained the laws insulated from any challenge against violation of fundamental rights. 

Highlights of the First Amendment

The Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 contains 14 sections that amended or inserted certain provisions in the Indian Constitution. The following are the highlights of the changes that were introduced.

Right to non-discrimination

Under Article 15, a fourth clause has been added, which provides that the government can make special provisions in favour of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. Article 15 and Article 29(2) of the Constitution will not restrict the state from introducing benefits for these sections of society.

Restrictions on freedom of speech

Under Article 19, clause (2) was modified. The right to freedom of speech and expression ensured under Article 19(1)(a) can be exercised unless it is against the interests of the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency, or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to an offence. Secondly, a substitution was made in Article 19(6), which empowered the government to carry on trade or business with or without the exclusion of other entities. 

Saving of certain laws

Articles 31A and 31B were added to the Constitution via Sections 4 and 5, respectively. These provisions were aimed at removing social and economic disparities in the agricultural sector.

Power of President/Governor regarding sessions of Parliament, prorogation, and dissolution

With Section 6 of the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, Article 85 was substituted to include the provision related to the sessions of Parliament, prorogation, and dissolution. It lays down that the President can summon each House of Parliament and the interval should not be more than 6 months between two sessions. Further, the President can prorogue the Houses of Parliament and dissolve the House of People. 

Similarly, Section 8 of the Amendment Act, 1951, substituted a provision with regard to the sessions of the State Legislature, prorogation, and dissolution. The substituted Article, i.e., Article 174, is the mirror image of Article 85 with the difference that it stipulates the power of the Governor for the respective states. 

Special address by President/Governor

In Article 87, two changes were made. Firstly, the frequency of special addresses by the President was changed from “every session” to “the first session after each general election to the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session of each year”. Secondly, the words “and for the precedence of such discussion over other business of the House” were omitted in the second clause.

Section 9 of the First Amendment Act, 1951, made changes similar to Article 87 with respect to the Legislative Assemblies of the states. The amended Article 176 contains provisions for a special address by the Governor. 

Changes in provisions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

In Article 341 and Article 342, the phrase “may with respect to any State, and where it is a State specified in Part A or Part B of the First Schedule” was added. These provisions have undergone further amendments, which will be discussed later in this article. 

Extension of the time period for modification in laws

Clause 3 of Article 372 specifies the power of the President to make any adaptations or modifications to the existing laws. Section 12 of the First Amendment Act extended the time period within which such modifications could be made from 2 years to 3 years from the commencement of the Indian Constitution. 

Eligibility of judges of the High Court of provinces for appointment as Chief Justices

Article 376 was amended to make the judges of the High Court of any province eligible for appointment as Chief Justices of High Courts. 

Addition of Ninth Schedule

The last section of the First Amendment Act of 1951, added the Ninth Schedule to the Indian Constitution. This Schedule is read with Article 31B, and it contains 13 statutes on land reform. With further amendments, more Acts were added, and currently there are 284 Acts in the Ninth Schedule.

Amendment of Article 15

Article 15 is an important constitutional provision that bars any kind of discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. It ensures citizens the right not to be discriminated against on any basis. Also, it establishes that every person must have access to public places without any kind of prejudice against any particular community. Furthermore, it empowers the government to formulate any law for the benefit of women and children.

Need for amendment of Article 15

The First Amendment Act, 1951, added the fourth clause to Article 15 that empowered the government to make any law for the upliftment of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It reads, “Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.”. The added clause elucidates that in case such special provisions are introduced, they cannot be said to be breaching Article 15 and Article 29(2) of the Constitution. 

The need to insert this clause was felt after the decision of the Supreme Court in the State of Madras v. Srimathi Champakam (1951). According to the facts of this case, the Madras government issued an Order that provided reservation on the grounds of religion, race, and caste. This Order was contended to be in breach of Article 15(1) of the Indian Constitution. The Court also gave a literal interpretation to the constitutional provisions and held that reserving seats in public institutions for backward classes violates Articles 15(1) and 29(2). Therefore, in order to nullify the effect of similar judicial pronouncements, Article 15 was amended. 

Scope of Article 15(4)

Article 15(4) is an enabling provision, and it gives the government the discretion to make special provisions. It has a wide ambit provided that special provisions are made for the advancement of backward classes of citizens and those of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. 

In the case of M.R. Balaji And Others v. State of Mysore (1963), it was held that the term ‘backward’ used in Section 15(4) denotes both social and educational backwardness. The social backwardness could be due to the person’s occupation, place of habitation, or other relevant factors besides caste. Furthermore, in R. Chitralekha & Anr. v. State of Mysore & Ors. (1964), the Supreme Court determined that the basis on which the socially and educationally backward classes are classified are economic conditions and occupations. 

Another landmark case that illuminated the ambit of Clause 4 of Article 15 is Mrs. Valsamma Paul v. Cochin University And Others (1996). In this case, the Supreme Court examined the scope of Article 15(4) with respect to voluntary mobility into the backward classes or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The Court very succinctly put forth that the objective behind the addition of clauses such as Article 15(4) and Article 16(4) is to remove the handicaps or disadvantages that these communities have to face right from their birth. Thus, in the cases of voluntary mobility into these communities via conversion or marriage, these special provisions will not apply. 

Amendment of Article 19

Article 19(1)(a) grants the right to free speech and expression to Indian citizens. This right is considered an essential feature of democracy. However, Article 19(2) specifies the restrictions that can curtail this freedom. The First Amendment to the Indian Constitution altered these restrictions by widening their ambit. The second change, via the Amendment Act of 1951, was made to Clause 6 of Article 19.

Need of amendment of Article 19(2)

When the Constitution was adopted, the barriers to free speech and expression included ‘security of state’, ‘decency or morality’, ‘contempt of Court’, and ‘defamation’. With the First Amendment, the following three restrictions were added to Clause 2 of Article 19:

  • Friendly relations with foreign states- This was added to prohibit any kind of malicious propaganda against a foreign nation. This addition was an attempt to build friendly relations with foreign states.
  • Public Order- This barrier was constructed in response to the case of Romesh Thappar v. The State of Madras (1950). The Supreme Court observed that the ambit of Article 19(1) was so large that it can even acquit a person charged with the offence of murder. Also, the Court stated that the expression ‘security of state’ is not comprehensive enough to include the concept of ‘public order’. This decision was sufficient to introduce an amendment to Article 19(2). 

In the case of Babulal Parate v. State of Maharashtra and Others (1961), the Supreme Court examined the ambit of restriction ‘public order’. In this case, Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1908 was upheld on the ground that it was a reasonable restriction to prevent a person from carrying out certain acts if those acts were likely to disturb public tranquillity or result in a riot or an affray. 

  • Incitement to an offence- This is a limitation on free speech in the form of opinions or agitations on the involvement of an accused in any crime. 

Need for amendment of Article 19(6)

The alteration was made in Article 19(6) via the First Amendment, and the intention behind this was to avoid objections to the power of the state to create any monopoly. 

Article 19(6) is a reasonable restriction on the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade, or business. Before the First Amendment, the State had the power to impose reasonable restrictions by asserting that it is in the interests of the general public. This conferred the state the power to implement any scheme of nationalisation provided it is ‘reasonable’. However, the Amendment in 1951 added the clause which said, “the carrying on by the State, or by a corporation owned or controlled by the State, of any trade, business, industry or service, whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise”, thus removing any scope of ambiguity regarding the power of the government to nationalise. This modification even excluded the factor of reasonableness while creating such a monopoly.

The Supreme Court in the case of Saghir Ahmad v. the State of U.P. and Others. (1954) studied the consequences of this amendment. The Court observed that after this alteration, the government can create a monopoly in its own favour, but this clause will prevent it from creating any monopoly in the favour of third parties. 

Criticism of the amendment of Article 19

The changes made in Article 19(2) faced criticism as several people opined that it was an arbitrary move to limit the restrictions on the right to freedom of speech and expression. The addition of three more restrictions has the capability of narrowing down the liberty of citizens that was granted to them by the Constituent Assembly. This step was condemned, stating that it could revive the arbitrary power of the government by convicting citizens under the offences of ‘sedition’ (Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860), and ‘enmity between the groups’ (Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860). 

Insertion of Article 31A 

Section 4 of the First Amendment Act, 1951, added Article 31A to the Indian Constitution, which made provision for the saving of laws for the acquisition of estates, etc. Currently, this article, along with Articles 31B and 31C is grouped under a separate sub-head ‘Saving of Certain Laws’. This subheading was introduced via the Constitution (Forty-second) Amendment Act, 1976

Need for the addition of Articles 31A 

The objective behind this amendment was to validate the acquisition of zamindaries or the abolition of the Permanent Settlement without interference from the courts. After the Constitution was adopted, several steps were taken by the state governments toward agrarian reform. One of them was the introduction of the legislation, the Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950. This Act empowered the state government to acquire the estates of some zamindars. However, when the Act was challenged before the Patna High Court in the case of Sir Kameshwar Singh v. Province of Bihar (1951), the Court declared it to be unconstitutional as it breached Article 14 of the Constitution. In order to nullify such issues, Article 31A was introduced. This provision empowered the government to acquire any estate and restricted anyone from challenging it on the ground of violation of the rights enshrined under Part III of the Indian Constitution.

Scope of Article 31(A)

The government has the power to acquire estates under this provision. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the term ‘estate’ refers to “a large area of land in the country that is owned by a family or an organisation and is often used for growing crops or raising animals.” Article 31A was added with the aim of introducing agrarian reforms in the country. 

In the case of the State of Kerala and Anr. v. The Gwalior Rayon Silk Mfg. (Wvg.) Co.Ltd. (1973), the constitutionality of the Kerala Private Forests (Vesting and Assignment) Act, 1971, was in question. The Supreme Court observed that as this statute was enacted for the purpose of distributing private forests to the rural people, the owner of the lands could not claim it to be against their fundamental rights. Therefore, it is well protected within the ambit of Article 31A(1)(a). 

Present scenario

Article 31A was further amended by three amendments: the Constitution (Fourth  Amendment)  Act, 1955, the Constitution (Seventeenth  Amendment) Act, 1964, and the Constitution (Forty-fourth  Amendment) Act, 1978. It includes five clauses under Article 31A(1), and Clause (2) was also amended. The following are some of the key features of the other amendments made in Article 31A(1):

  • Taking over the management of the property- This clause empowered the government to take the management of property for a limited duration if it is in the interests of the public.
  • Amalgamation of corporations- This can be done if it is in the public interest in order to eliminate the unhealthy competition between rival concerns. 
  • Modification of rights of mine owners- The government is empowered to modify the conditions of the mining leases and similar agreements. This amendment was introduced via the Fourth Amendment Act, 1955, and the purpose was to put mineral and oil resources under government control. 

Amendment of Articles 85 and 174

Articles 85 and 174 deal with the sessions of Parliament and the State Legislature, respectively. The contents of these provisions were altered via the First Amendment, 1951. The significant features of these provisions are as follows:

  • Summoning of sessions- The President/Governor has the right to summon the sessions of Parliament/State Legislature, and this right is subject to the condition that there should not be a gap of more than 6 months between two sessions of either House of the Parliament or State Legislature.
  • Prorogation of the Houses of Parliament/State Legislature- Article 85(2)(a) provides for the prorogation of the House. The power to terminate a session is with the President under this provision. 
  • Dissolution of House- Clause (b) of Articles 85(2) and 174(2), empowers the President/Governor to dissolve Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly. If not dissolved, then these automatically get dissolved within a period of 5 years. 

Amendment of Articles 87 and 176

The First Amendment has made alterations to these provisions by substituting certain terms. According to the amended Articles 87 and 176, the President/Governor has to address both Houses on two occasions. Firstly, after the elections to the House of People or Legislative Assembly, as the case may be, and secondly, after the commencement of the first session each year. This special address by the President/Governor, not only takes the form of a motion of thanks but also of a motion of confidence in the government. 

Furthermore, in Articles 86(2) and 176(2), a phrase was omitted via the First Amendment. The amended clause reads, “Provision shall be made by the rules regulating the procedure of either House for the allotment of time for discussion of the matters referred to in such address.” 

Amendment of Articles 341 and 342

Articles 341 and 342 specify the provisions that guide the enlistment of communities as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, respectively. The First Amendment Act amended these Articles, which then stated that the President could specify the castes, races, or tribes, with respect to any state. Furthermore, if it is a state specified in Part A or Part B of the First Schedule, then the President has to consult the Governor or Rajpramukh. However, these provisions were amended multiple times via further amendments.  The words “specified in Part A or Part B of the First Schedule”, which were added by the First Amendment Act, were also omitted by the Constitution  (Seventh Amendment)   Act,  1956.

The President, while exercising the power under Article 341(1) issued two orders, namely the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, and the Constitution (Scheduled Castes Part C States) Order, 1951. They stipulate the communities covered under the Scheduled Castes with respect to every state. Similarly, acting under Article 342(1), the President issued the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950

Amendment of Article 372

Article 372 is a transitional provision. Clause (2) of this Article empowers the President to make adaptations or modifications to the existing laws for a certain time period after the commencement of the Constitution. The Indian Constitution, as adopted in 1949, stipulated this time period as 2 years, however with the First Amendment in 1951, it was extended to 3 years.

Amendment of Article 376

At the time of the commencement of the Indian Constitution, Article 376 ensured the right of the Judges of the High Court in any province to be appointed as the Judges of the respective High Court. The First Amendment further clarified that these judges would also be eligible for the appointment as Chief Justice of such a High Court, or as Chief Justice or other Judge of any other High Court. 

Addition of Article 31B and Ninth Schedule

Article 31B is read with the Ninth Schedule. The intention behind adding these provisions to the Constitution was to insulate the acts and regulations from being challenged on the ground that they violate fundamental rights. 

With the First Amendment, 13 Acts were provided with this protection. However, after further amendments, this list extended to 284 Acts and regulations. Thirteen land reform legislations that were originally added are:

  1. The Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950 (Bihar Act XXX of 1950).
  2. The Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 (Bombay Act LXVII of 1948).
  3. The Bombay Maleki Tenure Abolition Act, 1949 (Bombay Act LXI of

1949).

  1. The Bombay Taluqdari Tenure Abolition Act, 1949 (Bombay Act LXII of 1949).
  2. The Panch Mahals Mehwassi Tenure Abolition Act, 1949 (Bombay Act LXIII of 1949).
  3. The Bombay Khoti Abolition Act, 1950 (Bombay Act VI of 1950).
  4. The Bombay Paragana and Kulkarni Watan Abolition Act, 1950 (Bombay Act LX of 1950).
  5. The Madhya Pradesh Abolition of Proprietary Rights (Estates, Mahals, Alienated Lands) Act, 1950 (Madhya Pradesh Act I of 1951).
  6. The Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1948 (Madras Act XXVI of 1948).
  7. The Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Amendment Act, 1950 (Madras Act I of 1950).
  8. The Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950 (Uttar Pradesh Act I of 1951).
  9. The Hyderabad (Abolition of Jagirs) Regulation, 1358F. (No. LXIX of 1358, Fasli).
  10. The Hyderabad Jagirs (Commutation) Regulation, 1359F. (No. XXV of 1359, Fasli).

The objective of introducing Article 31B was looked into in the case of I.R. Coelho (Dead) by LRs v. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors. (2007). The Supreme Court stated that the intention was “not to obliterate Part III in its entirety”. The Court further discussed the concerns related to the extension of the list of regulations under the Ninth Schedule. It was held that this has resulted in the “destruction of constitutional supremacy and creation of Parliamentary hegemony”, thus, disrupting the system of checks and balances. 

Challenges to the First Amendment

Challenges before the First Amendment Bill was passed

The First Amendment Bill was introduced as it was felt that there were certain difficulties in the functioning of the Indian Constitution. One of the major criticisms was that this Amendment Bill was introduced just within 15 months of the commencement of the Constitution and that too without public consultations. 

Furthermore, on the basis of the constitutional provisions, several Acts such as the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act, 1931, and Sections 124 to 153 of the Indian Penal Code were challenged. The objective of the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act, 1931, is to “provide against the publication of matter inciting to or encouraging murder or violence”. These were some of the reasons that the First Amendment Bill was highly condemned.  It narrowed down the scope of the fundamental right enshrined under Article 19(1)(a). 

Criticisms of the First Amendment Act 

The First Amendment Bill, 1951, was passed without much scrutiny and evaluation. The following points illuminate some of the criticisms of the First Amendment Act of 1951:

  • Power under Article 31(A)- Under Article 31(A), the government has been provided broad powers to acquire any estate, and these acts cannot be challenged for violating Articles 14 and 19 of the Indian Constitution. This led to the creation of wide powers within the government and became a subject of criticism.
  • Limitations on right to free speech and expression- Three more grounds of restrictions were introduced with the First Amendment, 1951. This raised several questions and was called ‘arbitrary state action’ by many judicial scholars. 
  • Misuse of the Ninth Schedule- The Ninth Schedule was inserted with the objective of land reforms, and progressing the economic and social development of the agricultural sector. However, the further addition of about 270 legislations in the Ninth Schedule clearly highlights that this amendment has greatly been misused. Any law, which otherwise could have been declared unconstitutional, was put into the Ninth Schedule.

The First Amendment was called into question in the case of Sri Shankari Prasad Singh Deo v. Union of India and State of Bihar (1951). The question was whether the amendments that were initiated according to Article 368 were included within the ambit of ‘law’ as stated under Article 13 of the Indian Constitution, or not. The Court answered negatively and declared that the power granted to the Parliament under Article 368 was constitutive power, while the term ‘law’ under Article 13 refers to ordinary legislative power.

Tabled summary of First Amendment

The Draft Constitution of India, 1948, was submitted by the Drafting Committee to the President on 21st February 1948. It was the first blueprint of the Indian Constitution, after which it was reviewed and amended according to feedback and suggestions. The following table reflects upon the history and current status of the provisions that were altered by the First Amendment Act, 1951. 

Name of the provisionAs under Draft Constitution, 1948As under the Constitution adopted in 1949Amendments under the First Amendment Act, 1951Current status (2022)
Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birthThis was provided under Article 9, and it contained only two clauses.Under the adopted Constitution, this provision is stipulated under Article 15 with three clauses.The Fourth clause that gave discretionary power to the government to formulate special provisions for the socially backward classes was added.Article 15 now consists of 6 clauses. The latest amendment made to this provision is the  Constitution  (One  Hundred  and  Third  Amendment)  Act,  2019. The government can make special provisions for the backward and economically weaker sections of society in the field of education.
Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.Article 13 of the Draft Constitution contained this right.The corresponding Article to Article 13 of the Draft Constitution is Article 19.Freedom of speech was further curtailed as restrictions such as public order, friendly relations with foreign states and incitement to an offence were added in Article 19(2).The amendments were also made in Article 19(6) on the basis of which the state was empowered to carry on any business, industry, or trade to the complete or partial exclusion of others.With the Constitution (Sixteenth  Amendment) Act, 1963, the term ‘sovereignty and integrity of India’ was added under clause (2) of Article 19 as another restriction to the freedom of speech and expression. 
Saving of laws and validation of certain Acts related to the estate.These provisions were not present in the Draft Constitution.They were not present in the Constitution as adopted in 1949.Articles 31A and 31B were inserted.Article 31A has been amended by three further amendments: the Constitution (Fourth  Amendment)  Act, 1955, the Constitution (Seventeenth  Amendment) Act, 1964, and the Constitution (Forty-fourth  Amendment) Act, 1978. 
Sessions of the Parliament, prorogation, and dissolutionThis was provided under Article 69.It is stipulated under Article 85.The First Amendment substituted the contents of this Article, however, it did not introduce any significant change.No further amendment has been made.
Special address by the PresidentThis was provided under Article 71.It is stipulated under Article 87 of the Indian Constitution, 1950.The amendment with regard to the occasions of a special address by the President was introduced. In addition to the commencement of every session, now President shall also address both Houses at the start of the first session after the general elections. No further amendment has been made.
Sessions of the Legislature, prorogation, and dissolutionThis was provided under Article 153 of the Draft Constitution.It is stipulated under Article 174.The First Amendment substituted the contents of this Article, however, it did not introduce any significant change.No further amendment has been made.
Special address by the GovernorThis was provided under Article 155.It is provided under 176 of the adopted Constitution of India.The amendment with regard to the occasions of a special address by the Governor was introduced. In addition to the commencement of every session, now Governor shall also address both Houses at the start of the first session after the general elections. No further amendment has been made.
Scheduled CastesThis was provided under Article 300A.It is provided under 341.It altered the provision by empowering the President to specify the Scheduled Castes with respect to any State, and where it is a State specified in Part A or Part B of the First Schedule, after consultation with the Governor or Rajpramukh.It was amended further via the Seventh Amendment Act, 1956. 
Scheduled Tribes This was provided under Article 300B.It is provided under 342.It altered the provision by empowering the President to specify the Scheduled Tribes with respect to any State, and where it is a State specified in Part A or Part B of the First Schedule, after consultation with the Governor or Rajpramukh.It was also amended further via the Seventh Amendment Act, 1956. 
Continuance in force of existing lawsThis was provided under Article 307.It is provided under 372.The amendment extended the time period during which the President could modify any law after the commencement of the Constitution from 2 years to 3 years.No further amendment was made, and currently, this provision has no effect.
Provision as to judges of the High CourtThis was provided under Article 310.It is provided under 376 under the Indian ConstitutionThe First Amendment made the Judges of the Province eligible for the appointment as the Chief Justice of any High Court in independent India. No further amendment was made. 
Ninth Schedule It was not present in the Draft Constitution.It was not present in the Constitution as adopted in 1949.The Ninth Schedule was added, and it is read with Article 31B. It consists of 13 Acts that are protected from being challenged on the ground of violation of fundamental rights.Now, Ninth Schedule contains 284 Acts. 

Concluding Remarks

Some of the constitutional provisions were amended by the First Amendment as a sequel to the judicial pronouncements. The literal interpretation of Article 15, and the challenges around free speech and expression, seemed dangerous to the Legislature. Consequently, within a span of 15 months from the commencement of the Constitution, the First Amendment was made. On one hand, this Amendment was applauded for its wide approach to guaranteeing equality to all sections of society, while on the other hand, it was also criticised for curtailing the right to free speech by widening the ambit of Article 19(2)

The power to introduce amendments is with the Parliament/Executive. Several times, this power is exercised to assert its supremacy. Therefore, it is crucial that the Supreme Court performs the simultaneous role of interpreting and evaluating them judiciously. It is the role of the judges to limit these powers or declare the arbitrary and flawed amendments unconstitutional.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the significant features of the First Amendment of the Indian Constitution?

Three fundamental changes were introduced via the First Amendment Act, 1951. Firstly, clause (4) was added to Article 15, which empowered the state to make special provisions for backward communities and castes. Secondly, restrictions on the right to freedom of speech and expression were widened. Thirdly, Articles 31A, 31B, and the Ninth Schedule were added to introduce land reforms, and uplift the agricultural sector.

What is the doctrine of prospective overruling?

The doctrine of prospective overruling implies that the decision of the courts will be applied in the future, and the ruling of the courts cannot affect any transaction of the past. This doctrine was applied in the case of I.C. Golaknath & Ors. v. State of Punjab & Anr. (1967) for the first time. The Apex Court, in this case, held that the ruling of the Court cannot invalidate the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution. 

How is prorogation of the House different from adjournment of the House?

Prorogation terminates the House, while adjournment merely suspends the sitting of the House. Unlike in prorogation, when a House of Parliament or Legislative Assembly is adjourned, it is not required to be re-summoned. The President/Governor has the right to prorogue the session, while the adjournment motion can be initiated with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairman. 

References


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