Minerva Mills v union of india: Lawcirca: Arushi Anand

Minerva Mills v. Union of India (Basic Structure, Parliament’s Power to amendment and Power of Judicial Review)

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CITATION: 1980 AIR 1789

BENCH: Y. V. Chandrachud (C.J.I.), N. L. Untwalia (J.), P. N. Bhagwati (J.), A. C. Gupta (J.), and P. S. Kailasam (J.)

INTRODUCTION:

The case looks into the power of amendment of the Parliament. This power of the Parliament is subject to certain restrictions in the sense that it cannot violate the basic structure doctrine. The basic structure doctrine is evolved through the Kesavananda Bharti[i] Case defining the complete principle. In the present judgement, the court held that the power of the Parliament to amend is of limiting nature. So, this limiting power cannot in turn lead to an unrestricted power through amendment in the Constitution. It also said that the limiting power to the Parliament ensures checks and balances doctrine being satisfied which leads to smooth functioning of the democracy. The court further looked at the supremacy of the fundamental rights of the Constitution over the Directive Principle of State Policy. The court also looked into the power of judicial review given to the judiciary and how it cannot be taken away.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The Parliament had enacted The Sick Textiles Undertakings (Nationalization) Act, 1974. It was brought to achieve the objective of general public interest whereby the bad assets of the textile company can be reconstructed and a possible solution can be brought. Its purpose was to provide for commodities at the fair prices so that the public won’t be affected. Minerva Mills Ltd. was a limited company that has business in the textiles. It worked in the business of producing silk clothes. The Central Government in 1970 appointed a committee to do an investigation on the working mechanism of the Minerva Mills Ltd. under Section 15 of the Industries (Development Regulation) Act, 1951. They believed that there was a decline in the production of the textile company. Consequently, an order was passed under Section 18 A of the Act, 1951 where the management and control of it went to the National Textile Corporation Ltd. Further, under the Sick Textiles Undertaking (Nationalization) Act, 1974, the central government took the complete control of the undertaking, Minerva Mills Ltd.

The petitioner challenged through petitions on several issues. It challenges on the order of the central government to take the management and control of Minerva Mills Ltd.; it challenged the validity of the 39th Amendment Act that introduced the Sick Textile Undertaking (Nationalization) Act under the Entry 105 in the 9th Schedule; it, in continuation, of it challenged Article 31 B of the Constitution. But, all these contentions are answered through a different set of petition. The present petition focuses only on limited issues.

ISSUE OF THE CASE

The major issues in the case are:

1. Whether the Sections 4 of the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976 are constitutionally valid?

2. Whether the clauses 4 and clause 5 under Article 368 is constitutionally valid?

DECISION

The judgement was given by a majority consisting of Chief Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, Justice N. L. Untwalia , Justice A. C. Gupta , and Justice P. S. Kailasam. The dissenting opinion was of Justice P. N. Bhagwati.

1) VALIDITY OF 42ND AMENDMENT ACT, 1976 (ARTICLE 31C)

Section 4 of the 42nd Amendment Act brought changes in Article 31 C. The amendment brought in Article 31 C was such as it gave the supreme power to the Directive Principle of the State Policy. The amendment to this article protected the law under Article 39 (b) and (c) from any kind of scrutiny or challenge under Article 14 or 19 of the Constitution. The situation arose to a conflict between the fundamental rights and the supremacy of the one. The court explained that both Part III (fundamental rights) and Part IV (Directive Principle of the State Policy) forms an important and integral part of the Constitution of India.[ii] The court reasoned that it is not the case where one of these can survive without the other. The part IV is as much of importance as that of part III as Part IV defines the power given to the state. If these are not enlisted or provided the function of the state cannot be done smoothly. Also, this strikes a balance in the working of the Constitution. The constitutional makers thus, gave importance to both of these parts of the Constitution.  

But, Part III provides the liberties to the citizens of India which cannot in any way be snatched away. The court further added that these fundamental rights under Part III of the Constitution which provides the freedoms and rights to the people cannot be purposefully destroyed or struck down. It said that any law that gives the Parliament power to go beyond or against the Part III will be destroying the basic structure of the Constitution. Article 31C seeks to provide a situation where it gave force to a law that directive principles cannot be declared void on the rights under Article 14 and 19.

These articles forms part of the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution and cannot by the amendment be abrogated or removed. The Directive Principles are only directions given to the state which cannot be enforced in law. They cannot have more power over the fundamental rights. Though, both of these are of major importance. But, Article 14, 19 and 21 forms the part of the three pillars of the Constitution. It is these pillars that ensure the rights to its people and promises the society and principles mentioned in the Preamble to its citizens.

Thus, the court said that there should be harmony between Part III and Part IV of the Constitution as they are an essential feature of the Constitution and are part of the basic structure doctrine. The law given under Article 31 C that provides for Directive Principles of State Policy has to operate and to achieve its goals by a way of not destroying the fundamental rights as both of these are important in the Constitution. Thus, Article 31 C that cannot function without violating Article 14 and 19 of the Constitution. Thus, the Section 4 of the 42nd Amendment was unconstitutional.

a)    DISSENTING OPINION (JUSTICE P. N. BHAGWATI)

Justice P. N. Bhagwati gave a dissenting opinion on the point of validity of Section 4 of the 42nd Amendment holding it to be constitutionally valid. He said that the relationship between the fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy cannot be seen from the human rights area as there is no distinction between civil and political rights. He said that the Constitution is a “social document”. He explained that the both fundamental rights and directive principles are important as the right to protect the freedoms and liberties cannot be considered alone. If it is done alone, it would have no basis[iii]. He said that if the court is saying that directive principles are equal to the fundamental rights but in other sense it is pointing to the supremacy of the fundamental rights where they cannot be infringed or violated. The constitution does not provide for a distinction between them and they are both of equal stature.

2) VALIDITY OF ARTICLE 368

a)    CLAUSE 5 OF ARTICLE 368 (BASIC STRUCTURE DOCTRINE)

The court explained while looking at clause 5 of the Article 368 that any provision that gives unlimited power to any organ of the state is bad in law. It said that the power to amend that is with the Parliament is of a limited nature. This power of limited nature cannot in turn be used to extend to the unlimited power as anyone who has a limited power from the start cannot in the use of that limited power change it or expand it to an unlimited or unrestricted power. This is not possible. The court further reasoned that the Parliament under Article 368 cannot go beyond the basic structure doctrine as established in the Kesavananda Bharati Case. This is because the Parliament cannot in its unrestricted power destroy or abrogate the basic structure or essential features of the Constitution. If that is done, then it will lead to complete abolishment of the principles of the Constitution itself, rendering the Constitution ineffective. The basic structure doctrine was brought and evolved through judicial pronouncements as there are some features of the Constitution that cannot be changed or abrogated. These need to be protected as it forms the very basis of the Constitution and gives the Constitution the power to function. So, the Parliament in its power to amend the Constitution cannot have the unrestricted power to go against the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution.

b)   CLAUSE 4 OF ARTICLE 368 (POWER OF JUDICIAL REVIEW)

The court said while examining Article 368 and its clause 4 that the provision which provides that the validity of the amendment act cannot be brought before any court is also unconstitutional. The court explained that the power given to the judiciary which is power of judicial review is one that creates check and balance between the organs of the state. This power of judicial review is necessary to make sure that the Parliament does not pass law in a tyrannical way. If the power of judicial review is stopped or not given, then the whole provisions under Part 3 of the Constitution that deals with the fundamental right will become unenforceable. The reason is that the power of the Parliament is restricted through Article 13 of the Constitution.[iv] Thus, the court highlighted that if the amendment laws are not given the power of judicial review, then the ordinary law that are applicable by the way of these amendments would also cannot be brought under the power of judicial review. In that sense, all these laws will be protected without any kind of scrutiny creating a chain of unrestricted power in the hands of only one organ of the state. Thus, clause 4 of Article 368 is completely constitutional as it restricts the power of judicial review of the courts.

CONCLUSION:

Thus, it can be concluded that the power given to the Parliament to amendment is not an unrestricted power. This power under Article 368 of the Constitution gives a limited power to the Parliament. The Parliament cannot go beyond this power to amend the basic structure of the Constitution itself. The Basic Structure Doctrine as accepted in the Kesavananda Bharati Case is of utmost importance. Any law or amendment that tries to go beyond or above the basic structure doctrine will be unconstitutional in nature.  The court further ensured that power of judicial review cannot be taken away.


[i] Kesavananda Bharti V. State of Kerala (1973) 4 SCC 225

[ii] https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/minerva-mills-v-union-india-analyzing-basic-structure-doctrine/

[iii] https://www.academia.edu/27751839/Minerva_Mills_Ltd._and_Ors._v._Union_of_India_and_Ors_A_Jurisprudential_Perspective

[iv] http://lawtimesjournal.in/minerva-mills-vs-union-of-india-case-summary/

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Arushi Anand

Arushi Anand

Author

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