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Indian Case Summary

Sri Sankari Prasad Singh Deo vs Union Of India And State Of … on 5 October, 1951 – Case Summary

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In the case of Sri Sankari Prasad Singh Deo vs Union Of India And State Of Bihar on 5 October, 1951, the Supreme Court of India was confronted with a constitutional challenge to the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. This landmark case was the first to challenge the power of the Indian Parliament to amend the Constitution.

Facts of the Case

The Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, introduced several changes to the Indian Constitution, including the insertion of Articles 31A and 31B. These amendments were primarily aimed at validating agrarian reform laws that had been enacted by several states, including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. These laws were challenged in courts by affected landowners, leading to conflicting judgments from different High Courts. The First Amendment was seen as an attempt by the Union Government to put an end to this litigation and remedy perceived defects in the Constitution.

Issues Raised

The petitioners challenged the validity of the First Amendment on several grounds. They argued that the power to amend the Constitution under Article 368 was conferred not on the Parliament but on the two Houses of Parliament as a designated body. Therefore, the provisional Parliament was not competent to exercise that power under Article 379. They also contended that the Constitution (Removal of Difficulties) Order No. 2, which adapted Article 368, was beyond the powers conferred on the President by Article 392. Furthermore, they argued that the Amendment Act, insofar as it purported to take away or abridge the rights conferred by Part III of the Constitution, fell within the prohibition of Article 13(2).

Court’s Observations and Judgment

The Supreme Court rejected all the arguments of the petitioners. It held that the power to amend the Constitution under Article 368 was conferred on the Parliament, and the provisional Parliament was competent to exercise that power under Article 379. The Court also held that the Constitution (Removal of Difficulties) Order No. 2 was within the powers conferred on the President by Article 392.

The Court further held that Article 368 was a complete code in itself and did not provide for any amendment being made in the bill after it had been introduced in the House. Therefore, the fact that the bill had been amended during its passage through the House did not invalidate the Amendment Act.

The Court also held that the Amendment Act did not fall within the prohibition of Article 13(2). It clarified that the term “law” in Article 13(2) referred to ordinary legislative enactments and not constitutional amendments made in the exercise of constituent power.

Finally, the Court held that the newly inserted Articles 31A and 31B did not require ratification under clause (b) of the proviso to Article 368. They were also not ultra vires as they related to matters enumerated in List II, with respect to which the State legislatures and not Parliament have the power to make laws.

In conclusion, the Court upheld the validity of the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. This judgment affirmed the power of the Indian Parliament to amend the Constitution and set the stage for future constitutional amendments and challenges.