Amendments to the Constitution

Amendments: The Constitution of India is kind of like a Goldilocks blend – not too flexible, not too rigid, but just right. Thanks to Article 368 in Part XX, Parliament has the power to tweak and tune the Constitution through amendments, but there’s a catch. The Supreme Court, in the Keshavananda Bharti Case of 1973, laid down the law: while Parliament can play with the Constitution, it can’t mess with the core stuff. It’s like a game of Jenga – some blocks are untouchable because they’re the fundamental building blocks of the Constitution, and the Supreme Court is the referee making sure the game stays fair.


The Constitution of India is a bit like a versatile friend—it’s not too strict or too easygoing, but a perfect mix of both. In Article 368 of Part XX, it gives Parliament the power to tweak and adjust the Constitution through amendments and outlines the procedures. However, there’s a catch. The Supreme Court, in the Keshavananda Bharti Case of 1973, said, “Hold on, you can’t mess with the heart and soul of the Constitution.”

So, while Parliament can make changes, it can’t tamper with the ‘basic structure’—the essential elements that make our Constitution what it is. Changing the Constitution is a bit like updating your software; you’ve got three ways to do it: add, edit, or delete, but some core features remain untouchable.

  • Amendment by simple majority of the Parliament.
  • Amendment by special majority of the Parliament.
  • Amendment by special majority of the Parliament and the ratification of half of the state legislature.

Important Amendments to the Constitution

First Amendment Act, 1951:
  • Empowered the state to address the socio-economic disparities by promoting the advancement of socially and economically backward classes.
  • Introduced provisions to safeguard laws related to the acquisition of estates, ensuring their protection.
  • Introduced the 9th Schedule to shield land reform and other laws from judicial review, promoting developmental measures.
  • Expanded grounds for restricting freedom of speech and expression, such as public order, friendly relations with foreign states, and incitement to an offense. Emphasized that these restrictions should be ‘reasonable’ and justifiable.
  • Ensured that state trading and nationalization of trade or business by the state would not be invalidated on the grounds of violating the right to trade or business.
Constitution (6th Amendment) Act, 1956:
  • Incorporated a new subject in the Union list, dealing with taxes on the sale and purchase of goods in inter-state trade, limiting state powers in this domain.
Constitutional (8th Amendment) Act, 1960:
  • Extended the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Anglo-Indians in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies until 1970.
  • Amended Article 334 of the constitution to accommodate the changes in reservation policies.
Constitutional (15th Amendment) Act, 1963:
  • Empowered High Courts to issue writs beyond their territorial jurisdiction, expanding their authority to protect fundamental rights.
  • Increased the retirement age of High Court judges from 60 to 62 years, recognizing their valuable experience.
  • Introduced the appointment of retired High Court judges as acting judges of the same court, utilizing their expertise.
  • Provided compensatory allowances to judges transferring from one High Court to another, recognizing the challenges of such transitions.
  • Enabled retired High Court judges to act as ad-hoc judges of the Supreme Court, leveraging their experience.
  • Established procedures for determining the age of Supreme Court and High Court judges, ensuring transparency and clarity.
Constitution (24th Amendment) Act, 1971
  • This amendment, made in 1971, clarified that Parliament had the authority to amend any part of the Constitution, including Fundamental Rights.
  • It made it mandatory for the President to give his approval to a Constitutional Amendment Bill.
Constitution (31st Amendment) Act, 1973
  • In 1973, the elective strength of the Lok Sabha was increased from 525 to 545. This change included an increase in the representation limit for States and a decrease for Union Territories.
Constitution (39th Amendment) Act, 1975
  • Passed in 1975, this Act shielded the election to Parliament of the Prime Minister or Speaker, as well as the elections of the President and Vice-President, from legal challenges.
  • The Bill swiftly passed through the Lok Sabha on August 7 and received Presidential assent on August 9, 1975.
Constitution (40th Amendment) Act, 1976
  • Enacted in 1976, this amendment granted Parliament the authority to define territorial waters, the continental shelf, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and maritime zones of India.
  • It also added 64 more Central and state laws, mainly related to land reforms, to the 9th Schedule.
Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976
  • Enacted during the internal emergency in 1976, it emphasized the supremacy of Parliament over other branches, prioritized Directive Principles over Fundamental Rights, and introduced a list of ten Fundamental Duties.
  • Imposed constraints on the power and jurisdiction of the judiciary, extended the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha terms to six years, allowed the use of Central armed forces for maintaining law and order, and established administrative tribunals.
  • Clearly stated that Constitutional Amendments could not be challenged in any court of law.
Constitution (43rd Amendment) Act, 1978
  • Enacted in 1978, this amendment nullified the restrictive provisions of the 42nd Amendment passed during the Emergency. It restored civil liberties, removed Article 31D, and reinstated legislative powers to the States for anti-national activities within the bounds of Fundamental Rights.
  • Ratified by more than half of the States, this law also reinstated the judiciary to its rightful place in the constitutional framework.
  • The Supreme Court will now have power to invalidate State laws, a power taken away by the 42nd Amendment Act. The High Courts will also be able to go into the question of constitutional validity of Central laws thereby enabling persons living in distant places to obtain speedy justice without having to come to the Supreme Court.
Constitution (44th Amendment) Act, 1978:
  • In 1979, the 44th Amendment, originally known as the 45th Amendment Bill, became effective with the President’s approval.
  • This amendment corrected distortions introduced during the Emergency, notably reducing the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies’ term from six to five years, a change made during the 42nd Amendment.
  • The 44th Amendment transformed the Right to Property from a Fundamental Right to a legal right, reflecting changes in post-Emergency constitutional values.
  • Notably, the Act enhanced constitutional protection for publishing parliamentary proceedings, with exceptions for cases proven to be “malicious.” It also stipulated that proclamations of Emergency required the President’s action based on written advice from the entire Cabinet, preventing unilateral decisions.
  • To prevent authoritarian rule, the 44th Amendment introduced safeguards against the subversion of the Constitution, making it challenging to impose a state of emergency similar to the one experienced for 19 months.
Constitution (52nd Amendment) Act, 1985:
  • This amendment rendered defection to another party after elections illegal, leading to disqualification from Parliament or State Legislature.
Constitution (61st Amendment) Act, 1989:
  • It marked a significant change by lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, broadening political participation.
Constitution (66th Amendment) Act, 1990:
  • This amendment brought land reforms within the protection of the 9th Schedule of the Constitution.
Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992:
  • Ensuring direct election to all Panchayat seats, this amendment also mandated proportional reservation for SCs and STs and reserved at least one-third of seats for women.
Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992:
  • Aimed at Nagarpalikas and Municipalities, this amendment facilitated direct elections to all seats.
Constitution (75th Amendment) Act, 1994:
  • This amendment established State-level Rent Tribunals, limiting jurisdiction to exclude all courts, except the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution.
Constitution (78th Amendment) Act, 1995:
  • This amendment ensures that land reform laws are placed in the Ninth Schedule, protecting them from legal challenges in the courts.
Constitution (82nd Amendment) Act, 2000:
  • It allows the state to make provisions for relaxation in qualifying marks for members of SC/ST communities in exams, jobs, and promotions under Article 355.
Constitution (85th Amendment) Act, 2001:
  • Introduced ‘consequential seniority’ for government servants of SCs and STs in promotions, with retrospective effect from June 1995.
Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, 2002:
  • Guarantees the Right to Education for children up to the age of fourteen and early childhood care for those up to the age of six.
Constitution (87th Amendment) Act, 2003:
  • Adjusts and rationalizes territorial constituencies in states based on the 2001 census, deviating from the 1991 census as previously provided.
Constitution (88th Amendment) Act, 2003:
  • Introduces service tax under Article 268-A.
Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003:
  • Splits the combined National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes into two separate bodies: National Commission of SCs (Article- 338) and National Commission of STs (338-A).
Constitution (90th Amendment) Act, 2003:
  • Maintains the representation of Scheduled Tribes in the Assam legislative assembly from the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (Article-332 (6)).
Constitution (91st Amendment) Act, 2004:
  • Limits the size of the Council of Ministers to 15 percent of legislative members and strengthens Anti-Defection laws.
Constitution (93rd Amendment) Act, 2006:
  • Introduces 27 percent reservation for other backward classes in government and private higher educational institutions.
Constitution (98th Amendment) Act, 2013:
  • Empowers the Governor of Karnataka to take steps for the development of the Hyderabad-Karnataka Region.
Constitution (99th Amendment) Act, 2014:
  • Establishes the National Judicial Appointments Commission.
Constitution (100th Amendment) Act, 2015:
  • Pertains to the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between India and Bangladesh.
Constitution (101st Amendment) Act, 2016:
  • Introduces the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2016:
  • Implements a 10% reservation for economically weaker sections.

Read Also: Constitutional Law in Legal Reasoning – Previous Year Questions of CLAT 2022

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