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Minerva Mills Ltd. & Ors. vs. Union of India & Ors. (1980): A Detailed Analysis

Introduction:

The Minerva Mills case (1980) is yet another landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India that played a pivotal role in determining the limits of the Parliament’s amending power and further elaborated upon the “Basic Structure” doctrine laid down in the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973).

Background:

  1. Context: Following the Kesavananda Bharati judgment, the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1976. This amendment, among other things, attempted to limit the judicial review over constitutional amendments by adding clauses (4) and (5) to Article 368.
  2. Challenge: Minerva Mills Ltd., a textile company, challenged the constitutional validity of Sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd Amendment.

Key Issues:

  1. Were clauses (4) and (5) of Article 368, inserted by the 42nd Amendment, in line with the “basic structure” doctrine?

Judgment and Key Takeaways:

  1. Striking Down Clauses (4) and (5): The Supreme Court, by a majority decision, struck down clauses (4) and (5) of Article 368. Clause (4) made any constitutional amendment immune from challenge in courts, and clause (5) declared that there was no limitation on the Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution.
  2. Harmony Between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles: The Court emphasized the necessity of balance and harmony between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. Both were deemed essential elements of the “basic structure” of the Constitution. The judgment asserted that the power to amend does not include the power to abrogate the balance between these two parts.
  3. Limitation on Parliament’s Power: The judgment reaffirmed that while Parliament has vast powers to amend the Constitution, it cannot alter its “basic structure” or fundamental identity.
  4. Judicial Review as Part of Basic Structure: The Court underscored the importance of judicial review as an integral part of the Constitution’s basic structure. By attempting to limit the scope of judicial review, the 42nd Amendment was infringing upon this essential feature.

Implications and Importance:

  1. Strengthening the Basic Structure Doctrine: The judgment reinforced the principles set in Kesavananda Bharati and provided more clarity on the tenets of the “basic structure” doctrine, particularly the harmonious relationship between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles.
  2. Preservation of the Role of Judiciary: By upholding the importance of judicial review, the judgment safeguarded the judiciary’s role as the protector of the Constitution against possible transgressions by the legislature.
  3. Affirmation of Constitutional Balance: The judgment recognized the delicate balance within the Constitution, emphasizing the importance of various parts operating in harmony rather than any one part superseding others.

Conclusion:

The Minerva Mills case, much like the Kesavananda Bharati case, stands as a sentinel guarding the sanctity and integrity of the Constitution of India. It emphasizes the need for a balance of power, underscoring the importance of checks and balances in a vibrant democracy. The judgment also serves as a testament to the judiciary’s unwavering commitment to uphold the principles enshrined in the Constitution.

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

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