LBR Law College: Law College in Varanasi

Procedure for Amending the Indian Constitution

  • Article 368 in Part XX of the Constitution deals with the power of parliament to amend the constitution and its procedures.
    • It states that the Parliament may amend the Constitution by way of addition, variation or repeal of any provision in accordance with the procedure laid down for the purpose.
    • However, the Parliament cannot amend those provisions which form the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. This was ruled by the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973).
  • It provides for two types of amendments, that is, by a special majority of Parliament and the special majority of parliament along with the ratification of half of the states legislatures by a simple majority.
  • Amendment of certain provisions of the Constitution requires amendment by a simple majority of each house present and voting. These amendments are not deemed to be amendments under Article 368.

What is a Simple Majority?

Simple majority means a majority of more than 50% of the members present and voting in the Parliament House. A number of provisions in the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority of the two House of Parliament outside the scope of Article 368.

  • These provisions include
    • Formation of new states and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing states,
    • Abolition or creation of legislative councils in states,
    • Use of official language,
    • Citizenship – acquisition, and termination,
    • Elections to Parliament and state legislatures,
    • Fifth Schedule – administration of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes,
    • Sixth Schedule – administration of tribal areas.

What is a Special Majority?

Special Majority:  The Lok Sabha is generally termed to be the lower house of the Parliament. The total strength in Lok Sabha is 545. As per the guidelines of Article 61 (b), if there is a presence of 300 members present and voting, then the special majority in the lower house of the Parliament present in the country of India will be 200. There is the presence of many cases where the special majority in the lower house of the parliament can be applied. The situation is the effective and efficient approval of a national emergency that requires a special majority as per “Article 348” in both the houses of the Parliament. However, this type of special majority represents the voting supported by two-thirds of the presented members and greater than half of the total strength of the parliament members.

  • About:
    • Under Article 368(2), Parliament can amend the Constitution by passing a Bill with a special majority.Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) are the two most important provisions that can be amended by the special majority, but the amendments should be within Basic structure of the constitution.  
    • All provisions that do not require ratification by states, and those that come directly under the purview of Article 368, can be amended by the special majority.
  • Special Majority with Consent of Half of States:
    • Those provisions of the Constitution which are related to the federal structure of the polity can only be amended by a special majority of the Parliament and also with the consent of half of the state legislatures by a simple majority.
    • Important provisions that require ratification by the states include the election of PresidentSupreme Court and High Courts, representation of states in Parliament, distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the states, and the extent of executive power of the Union and the states.
    • Most importantly, an amendment to Article 368 itself, requires ratification by the states.

Limitations of Parliament’s Amending Power

  • In the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case 1973, the Supreme Court has ruled that parliament has the power to amend any part of the constitution but it cannot alter the “basic structure of the constitution”.
  • The constituents of basic structure are not clearly defined by the court. However, it has been interpreted to provisions like values enshrined in preamble like secularism, equality etc., federalism, separation of power, independence judiciary, rule of law etc.

Recent Amendment

  • In 2019, the Parliament passed the Constitution (103rd )Amendment 2019 which provides for 10% reservation of the economically weaker sections (EWS) in educational institutions and employment by a special majority. The bill, however, saw arguments on the amendment procedure, including whether the Bill should be ratified by state Assemblies, and questions related to aided and unaided institutions.

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