Constitution of Indira: The most controversial amendment to the Indian constitution

Written By: Puniti Pandey WION Web Team
Delhi, India Updated: Feb 12, 2018, 11:56 AM(IST)

The preamble of the Constitution of India. Photograph:( Others )

The Constitution of India offers basic guidelines and principles for the efficient functioning of our nation. It dictates the fundamental political principles, powers, and duties of the government and also enumerates the fundamental rights, directive principles and duties of the citizens. 

The Constitution advocates constitutional supremacy over parliamentary supremacy and was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. It came into effect on January 26, 1950.

The Constitution was framed in a way to ensure that the Parliament does not have the power to override it.  

However, one of the most controversial amendments introduced in the Constitution -- during the emergency of 1975 -- tweaked this very characteristic of the Constitution. 

It was then when the powers of the Constitution were curtailed in the Forty-second Amendment of the Constitution. Popularly known as the Constitution (Forty second Amendment) Act of 1977, the amendment to the Constitution was initiated by the Indira Gandhi-led Indian National Congress during the emergency period. 

The amendment was considered the most controversial in the history of India as it called for restricting the power of the Supreme Court and the High Court in pronouncing judgments complying with constitutional validity. 

The 59th clause of the amendment snatched away several powers resting with the Supreme Court making Parliament the Supreme authority. 

The amendment equipped the Prime Minister with uncontrolled powers to amend any section of the Constitution without any judicial intervention. 

It transferred more powers to the Central Government, reducing the authority vested with the state governments. 

Article 368 of the Amendment act restrained any constitutional amendment from being “called into question in any court on any ground”. Also, it clearly stated the nature of (unlimited) powers offered to the Parliament allowing it to amend the Constitution at any given point. 

The Act dismissed the powers of the courts in dictating any judgment for office for profit cases. It eroded the federal structure of the Constitution completely.
The Preamble was changed from “sovereign, democratic, republic” to “sovereign, socialist, democratic, republic”  

Due to its utmost modifications of the Constitution, the amendment is often called “mini-Constitution” and the "Constitution of Indira”. 

The Supreme court in 1980 reverted these modifications calling two provisions of the 42nd Amendment as unconstitutional.

The Emergency era and its infamous Constitution amendment had been widely criticised. 

Indira Gandhi had to face its consequences in the elections that followed which led to the first-ever downfall of the Indian National Congress in India.

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