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Minerva Mills vs Union of India : a significant case that India has forgotten

January 08, 2021
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This article is written by Darshit Vora from SVKM, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, this article critically analyses the Minerva Mills Judgment also explains the concept of basic structure and the concept of judicial review. Various contents of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 have been included in this article.  

Introduction

Fundamental Rights are the essence of the Constitution and should be considered more than a directive principle because they can be enforced by the Court. The three organs of the Constitution include legislation, executive, and judiciary. It is important that there should be a right balance between them. There have been instances where the executive and legislative have committed action in order to expand power over the other organs. To protect the rights of the individual judiciary have time and again taken steps to protect those rights. In the case of Minerva Mills vs Union of India a similar attempt was made to exploit the power of the Parliament.  

Background

On 24, 1973 the Supreme Court pronounced its one of the most historic judgments in the history of the Indian Constitution. 

The government through the Land Acquisition Act, 1969 tried to acquire the land of Kesavananda Bharati under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. Before the challenge, there were a series of amendments passed:

Judgment: 

This Judgment didn’t go well with the legislation then the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 was passed which mentioned that all or any Directive Principle of the State Policy would have primacy over the Fundamental Rights of Article 14 and 19. Further inserted clauses (4) and (5) stated that the Constitutional Amendment under Article 368 is outside the scope of judicial review. This amendment was passed to nullify the effect of the judgment passed in the Kesavananda Bharati case so that any law can be implemented without the fear of judicial scrutiny.    

Facts of the case

Minerva mills is a textile mill located near the Bengaluru city. The Central Government considering the substantial fall in the production of Minerva mills appointed a committee under Section 15 of the Industries Development Act,1951 this was done in the year 1970. The committee submitted its report to the Central Government in October 1971. The Central Government authorized the National textile Corporation Limited which was a body formed under the Industries Development Act,1951 to take over the management of Minerva mills. In the 39th amendment, nationalization was included in the ninth schedule which was outside the purview of judicial review. After a huge setback in Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain to have supreme power, a 42nd amendment was passed in the parliament which amended Article 31C through Section 4 of the Constitutional amendment Act, 1976. Further Section 55 of the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976 made amendments in Article 368.  

Amended Article 31C read as: 

No law giving effect to the policy of the State towards securing (all or any principles laid down in Part (IV) shall be deemed to void on the ground that it is inconsistent or abridges any right which is conferred under Article 14 or Article 19; no law containing the declaration that it giving effect to such policy shall be called in the question in the in any court on the ground that it does not give effect to such policy. 

Proviso: that where such laws are made by the legislature of a State, the provisions of these Articles shall not apply thereto unless such law, having time being reserved for the consideration of the president has received his assent.   

This amendment meant that no laws that gave effect to the directive principle could be struck down by a court on the basis that it violated the right to freedom of speech or right to equality.  

Amended Article 368 of the Indian Constitution there was an insertion of clauses (4) and (5) read as: 

(4) No amendment of this Constitution including the provisions of part III made or purporting have been made under this article whether before or after Section 55 of the Constitution shall be called in question in any court on any ground. 

(5) For removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that there shall be no limitation whatever on the constituent power of parliament to amend by addition variation or repeal the provision of the Constitution under this article. 

The amendment made in Article 368 would nullify the effect of the Kesavananda Bharati Judgment.

The petitioners challenged

The issue before the Supreme Court 

Arguments of the Petitioner 

The petitioners were represented by Nani Palkhivala he was the ambassador of the Janata Government soon he felt the need to return to India to protect Human Rights so he argued the case on the behalf of the previous owners of the Minerva Mills. 

Arguments of the Respondents 

The State was represented by the attorney general L.N. Sinha and additional solicitor general K.K. Venugopal they both were in a precarious position to defend the amendment passed the emergency era: 

Judgment 

After almost 7 years from the passage of the order passed by the Central Government to conduct the investigation. The decision was pronounced by a five judge bench of the Supreme Court with the Majority of 4:1. 

Majority Opinion

The majority opinion was given by Justice Chandrachud on the behalf of Justice A.C. Gupta, N.L. Untwalia and P.S. Kailasam. 

Article 368 of the Indian Constitution 

Article 31C of the Indian Constitution 

Minority Opinion 

The dissenting opinion was given by Justice Bhagwati. 

Article 368 of the Indian Constitution

Justice Bhagawati was in favor of the majority decision in striking down section 55 of the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976:

Article 31C of the Indian Constitution 

The decision of the Supreme Court

On 31st July 1980, the Court pronounced its Judgment: 

The Concept of basic structure 

In the Indian Constitution, there is no mention of the term of basic structure; it has come to its existence through a series of judgments. This doctrine mentions that amendments can be made in the Constitution without hampering the basic structure. 

The subject  matter under the basic structure doctrine include: 

  1. The rule of law. 
  2. Separation of power between the Centre and the State. 
  3. The balance between Fundamental Rights and the Directive principle of the State policy. 
  4. Right to have free and fair elections. 
  5. The Parliamentary system of government. 
  6. Powers of the Supreme Court under Article 32, 147, 142 and 136 of the Indian Constitution. 
  7. Power of the High Court under Article 226 and 227 of the Indian Constitution. 
  8. Article 14 right to equality. 
  9. Limited power of the parliament to amend the Constitution. 
  10. Unity and Integrity of the nation. 
  11. Secularism and Socialism. 
  12. Preamble  

Evolution of the basic structure doctrine 

The evolution of this doctrine happened through various landmark judgments. Some of them are as follows: 

Golaknath case

Kesvananda Bharati case

Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain 

Minerva Mills case

Indira Sawhney Case 

R. Bommai Case

Therefore basic structure doctrine has a significant place in the Indian Constitution it limits the power of the Parliament to frame laws that are inconsistent with the rights of the people. 

The doctrine of judicial review 

The doctrine was inserted in the Indian Constitution from the American Constitution which provides the power to the judiciary to review the Acts of the executive and the legislature.

The Court can use the power of judicial review on: 

Evolution of doctrine of judicial review  

Judicial review plays an important role in maintaining the supremacy of the Constitution. It also helps us in maintaining the balance between the three organs of the Constitution so that no law can be passed through without any check. 

Contents of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 

The amendments inserted two new parts IV-A and  XIV-A and eleven Articles and substituted 36 Articles of the Indian Constitution: 

Similar Cases

Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain

Facts:  In this case 39th Amendment Act, 1971 was passed in the Constitution which inserted Article 329-A of the Indian Constitution. The Article stated that the election of the President, Prime Minister, Vice President, and the Speaker of Lok Shaba can not come under judicial scrutiny. 

Judgment: The Court held that the Amendment to reduce the judicial scrutiny was held unconstitutional. There is a clear violation of Article 14. It was considered a breach of free and fair elections. 

This was also a critical Judgment where an attempt was made by the legislature to restrict the role of the judiciary in matters of elections.

Sanjeev Coke Mfg Vs Bharat Coking 

Facts: There was the passage of the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1972. Which provided nationalization of Coking Coal Mines. It was challenged by the petitioner on the ground that it was violative of the right to equality. The petitioner mentioned that there was no need for nationalization.  

Judgment: The Court in this case, held that the Amendment was held under Article 31C notwithstanding that it is violative of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

This judgment was contradictory with the judgment of Minerva Mills nationalization is beyond the preview of the judicial review. 

I.C. Golaknath Vs State of Punjab 

Facts: In this case, the Government of Henry and William Golaknath that they can keep 30 acres each and rest 460 acres would be taken by the Central Government. This action of the government was challenged under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.

Judgment: The Supreme Court held that Parliament doesn’t have the power to amend the Fundamental Rights. These are important rights of growth and development of human beings. 

The Court, in this case, held that any law passed which is inconsistent with the Fundamental Rights, and therefore it was struck down similar to that of Minerva mills case.   

Critical Analysis 

After the historic Judgment in Indira Gandhi vs Raj Narain, it was a huge setback for the Central Government which led to the passing of the 42nd amendment to curb the power of the judiciary on any amendments passed by the Parliament. Through the amendment, the Parliament tried to disbalance the harmony between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principle of the State Policy. The Majority opinion favored that the amendment caused a disbalance therefore it needed to be struck down. They contended that Fundamental Rights have a Unique place in civilized societies they are the Heart and Soul of the Indian Constitution.

Due to this amendment Directive Principle of the State Policy was given absolute power even being inconsistent with the Part-III(Fundamental Right) of the Constitution it can’t be struck down. They contended that there should be a right balance struck between both no one should have an unconditional power over another. The Minority decision was pronounced by Justice Bhagwati which contended that the Directive Principle of the State Policy nourishes the roots of the Democracy and plays a critical role in fertilizing the static provision of the Fundamental Rights.

The Majority opinion of the Judges to Section 5 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 was accurate because if Directive Principles precedes over the Fundamental Rights in the name of welfare various amendments would be passed that would be discriminative and against individual liberty through being unconstitutional won’t be struck down. 

On the Second Part of the Amendment Section 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act which provided unlimited power to amend the Constitution the full bench of Judges were in favor of striking down this section again the bench was accurate in their pronouncement, they tried to create a disbalance with various organs of the Democracy this amendment would have provided untenable power to the Parliament the amendment would have been out of the scope of judicial review. The court striking it down held that the limited amending power of the Constitution is a part of the basic structure. The court allowed the Parliament to make altercations in the Constitution but should not be inconsistent with the basic structure.

  

Conclusion  

After the judgment that was pronounced by the Supreme  Court Justice Bhagwati received a fair share of criticism the Judges admitted that they didn’t have the chance to review the Judgment of one another. The Government in order to expand the amending power of the Parliament filed a review petition to overturn the significant judgment. This was rejected by the court. Even after four decades of the passing of the judgment text which was declared unconstitutional is still a part of the text. This was one out of many occasions where the Parliament was exhibiting his arrogance of power by manipulating the Constitution. 

References 


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