Minerva Mills Case: Directive Principles VS Fundamental Rights
Posted on 23 June, 2023 by UTKARSH GUPTA
Minerva Mills Case:
Directive Principles VS Fundamnetal Rights
Minerva Milla & Ors. VS Union of India & Ors.
[ 1980 AIR 1789 ]
Bench: Y.V. Chandrachud (CJ.), P.N. Bhagwati, A.C. Gupta, N.L. Untwalia, P.S. Kailasam
Case No.:Writ Petition (Civil) 356 of 1977
For a long time, this was a big question of confusion, regarding the tussle between Directive principles of State Policy and Fundamental Rights, that whether the Legislature will be correct and within its constitutional limits if it brings forth and enactment to implement a Directive Principle of State Policy but that very enactment made supposedly for betterment and advancement of the society violates any/some/all of the Fundamental Rights. This was a topic of continuous arguments in the courts, legislative assemblies and the public too. To answer this question among some other questions, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India formed a five judges bench including the then Chief Justice himself. The judgement of the case though being a very voluminous one anyhow gained the attention of all the persons in the country and came to be known as one of the most known and famous judgements of all time regarding the status of constitutional law in India.
So to understand that what made this case such a landmark one in the legal field, we must analyse this case carefully and in depth.
Issues before the Hon’ble Court:
- Whether insertion made under Article 31C and Article 368 through sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 does hamper the basic structure doctrine?
- Whether the Directive Principle of the State policy has primacy over Fundamental right to the Indian Constitution?
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India held the Following:
In this case, it was held that parliament has power to amend the Constitution but, in doing so they cannot in anyway whatsoever, they cannot alter the basic structure of the Constitution. It was based on the reasoning that unlimited power to the Parliament will lead to the fall of democratic system of our Country and further establishment of a totalitarian state. Further it was held that debarring court from conducting a judicial review of such acts of the Parliament will make the Parliament the absolute authority thereby destroying the very essence of the Constitution. The powers u/a 368 of the Constitution does not mean the power to destroy or change the Constitution completely. Further, article 368(5) destroys the pillars of the preamble by total denial of social, political & economic justice, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.
The constitution has granted the parliament with limited powers to amend the Constitution for a purpose, the parliament cannot amend that very power to obtain absolute powers to amend the Constitution itself. Article 368(4) was also declared to be unconstitutional and was consequently struck down by giving the reason that judicial review is the essence and very well a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
Article 31C of the Constitution was also declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it destroyed the already established harmony between the Fundamental rights (Part III) and Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV).
Both Parts, III and IV are to be seen and implemented in harmony with each other and it should be well understood that none of them is superior to the other. Both have their own importance and independently, both hold and represent the basic essence and identity of our Constitution.
Further it was held that Directive Principles of State policies are a dynamic movement towards achieving certain objectives aimed at social advancement of country as a whole. On the other hand, the Fundamental Rights are static and they are some norms that need to be kept in mind at all times even while implementing and enforcing some/any/all of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Finally, section 4 and section 5 of the 42ndConstitutional Amendment Act were held to be unconstitutional and Article 31C of the Constitution was also held to be ultra vires to the basic structure of the Constitution.
The Minerva Mills case judgment, pronounced by the Supreme Court of India in 1980, is a landmark decision that upholds the principles of judicial review and the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. From my personal standpoint, this judgment holds immense significance for the democratic fabric of India. The ruling invalidated specific provisions of the 42nd Amendment Act, which aimed to limit the power of judicial review and expand the Parliament's authority to amend the Constitution. The judgment demonstrated the Supreme Court's commitment to maintaining a delicate balance of power among the legislature, executive, and judiciary.
In my opinion, the Minerva Mills case judgment reasserted the notion of the basic structure doctrine, safeguarding the core principles and values enshrined in the Constitution from ordinary amendments. This principle acts as a safeguard against potential abuse of power and protects the rights and liberties of citizens. Moreover, the judgment showcased the judiciary's independence and courage in standing against encroachments on constitutional rights. It highlighted the significance of an impartial judiciary as the guardian of the Constitution, responsible for upholding the rights and freedoms of the people.
Given India's diversity and complexity, with various ideologies and interests converging, the Minerva Mills case judgment acts as a bulwark against attempts to undermine the fundamental tenets of democracy. It ensures that no single entity, whether the Parliament or the government, can unilaterally alter the basic structure of the Constitution, thereby preserving the rights and liberties of all citizens.
In conclusion, the Minerva Mills case judgment's enduring significance lies in its defence of the basic structure doctrine and the principles of judicial review. It strengthens the democratic ethos of India, ensuring that the Constitution remains the foundation of the nation and safeguards the rights and freedoms of its citizens. This judgment serves as a testament to the judiciary's unwavering dedication to upholding the rule of law and protecting the democratic ideals upon which India was built.
Minerva mills judgment text: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1939993/
Article 368: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/594125/
Artcile 31C: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/198382/
42ndConstitutional Amendment Act: https://www.india.gov.in/my-government/constitution-india/amendments/constitution-india-forty-second-amendment-act-1976
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