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Constitution amendment process

The Constitution of India came into force on 26th January, 1950. At the time of its adoption, the Constitution contained 395 Articles and 8 Schedules and was about 145,000 words long, making it the longest national Constitution to ever be adopted. Every Article in the Constitution was debated by the members of the Constituent Assembly, who sat for 11 sessions and 167 days to frame the Constitution, over a period of 2 years and 11 months.

Constitutional Amendment Process

One of the main doubt raised by students when we teach constitution is about the amendability of the constitution. The constitution of India is not unamenable. It can be amended by following the process as mentioned in Article 368 of the constitution, of course, judicial overview is permitted.

The procedure for the amendment of the Constitution as laid down in Article 368 is as follows:

· The proposal to amend the constitution should be initiated at the Upper house or Lower house of the Parliament (Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha) and not in the state legislatures.

· This has to initiated as a bill in the parliament, and can be introduced either by a minister or by a private member and does not require prior permission of the president.

· The bill must be passed in each House by a special majority, that is, a majority (that is, more than 50 per cent) of the total membership of the House and a majority of two-thirds of the members of the House present and voting.

· Each House must pass the bill separately.

· In case of a disagreement between the two Houses, there is no provision for holding a joint sitting of the two Houses for the purpose of deliberation and passage of the bill.

· If the bill seeks to amend the federal provisions of the Constitution, it must also be ratified by the legislatures of half of the states by a simple majority, that is, a majority of the members of the House present and voting.

· After duly passed by both the Houses of Parliament and ratified by the state legislatures, where necessary, the bill is presented to the president for assent.

· The president must give his assent to the bill. He can neither withhold his assent to the bill nor return the bill for reconsideration of the Parliament

· After the president’s assent, the bill becomes an Act (i.e., a constitutional amendment act) and the Constitution stands amended in accordance with the terms of the Act.

Scope of Amendability in Indian Constitution 

The present position is that the Parliament under Article 368 can amend any part of the Constitution including the Fundamental Rights but without affecting the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court is yet to define or clarify as to what constitutes the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution.

From the various judgements, the following have emerged as ‘basic features’ of the Constitution:

  1. Welfare of the state

  2. Judicial overview

  3. Supremacy of constitution

  4. Principal of equality, justice and good conscience.

  5. Free and fair election.

  6. Secular character of the constitution.

  7. Freedom of individual.

  8. Dignity of individual.

  9. Judicial independence.

  10. Separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

  11. Federal charector of the constitution.

  12. Access to justice.

  13. Unity and integrity of nation.

  14. Preserve harmonious relation ship between state and centre.

  15. Maintain between fundamental rights and directive principles.

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