The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world. Additionally, it emphasizes the importance of constitutional fundamental duties, assuring its citizens justice, equality, liberty, and promoting fraternity. In contrast to many others who became independent at the same time, the Indian constitution has stood the test of time.

The Constituent Assembly of India, established in 1946, focused on deliberating the features of the Constitution and establishing a democratic republic. The Constitution emphasizes the rule of law, which cannot be changed. In India's parliamentary democracy, all state organs have a responsibility to ensure inclusivity and accountability in policy-making. The goal of constitutional deliberations is equitable and participative development, reflecting the power of the people. The Parliament, as the supreme legislative body, carries out crucial functions such as legislation, overseeing administration, budget approval, addressing public grievances, and discussing national and international matters.

Article 368 of the Constitution deals with the power of Parliament to amend the Constitution and its procedures. It states that Parliament may amend the Constitution by way of addition, variation, or repeal of any provision in accordance with the procedure laid down for the purpose. It provides for two types of amendments, i.e., by a special majority of Parliament and a special majority of Parliament along with the ratification of half of the state's legislators by a simple majority.

Under Article 368(2), Parliament can amend the Constitution by passing a bill with a simple majority. An amendment of the Constitution can be initiated only by the introduction of a bill for the purpose in either house of Parliament, Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha, and not in the state legislatures. The bill can be introduced either by a minister or by a private member and does not require prior permission of the President. Each house must pass a bill separately, and the President must give assent to the bill. 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.

The Constitution Fourth Amendment Act of 1955 amended Articles 31, 31A, and 305, and also the 9th schedule of the Constitution. The landmark decisions of the Supreme Court of India gave a wide meaning to clauses 1 and 2 of Article 31. The deprivation of property in Clause 1 was to be inferred in the wider sense. In order to be valid according to the decisions, provision for compensation under clause 2 of the article was the intention.

In the case of Kameshwar Singh vs. The state of Bihar, the Bihar land reforms Act of 1950 was held invalid under Article 14 as it classified the zamindars in an indiscriminatory manner for the purpose of compensation. The central government added a new provision, Article 31A, to the Constitution, which provided for the acquisition by the state of any estate or for any rights therein, or for extinguishing or modifying any such rights. No law would be void on the ground of inconsistency with any of the fundamental rights contained in Articles 14, 19, and 31.

The Constitution Fourth Amendment Act of 1955 was passed by the Parliament to amend Article 31, 31A, 305, and the 9th schedule of the Constitution. After the enactment of the Constitution, the government introduced programs of social welfare legislations to give effect to Part 4 of the Constitution, and legislations, including zamindari abolition laws, were passed. These laws were being challenged in courts mainly on the grounds of violation of fundamental rights under Article 14, 19, and 31 of the Constitution.

To overcome such challenges, Parliament enacted the Constitution First Amendment Act of 1951, which added Article 31A and 31B, and also the 9th schedule to the Constitution. Article 31A dealt with the savings of laws providing for the acquisition of a state, and Article 31B validated certain acts and regulations by including them in the 9th schedule of the Constitution.

The Constitution Fourth Amendment Act of 1955 made the scale of compensation given in lieu of compulsory acquisition of private property beyond the scrutiny of courts, authorized the state to nationalize any trade, included some more acts in the 9th schedule, and extended the scope of Article 31A

While the abolition of the zamindari system and the numerous intermediaries between the state and the tiller of the soil was achieved for most parts of the country, the next objectives in land reform were fixing limits to the extent of agricultural land that may be owned or occupied by any person, disposing of any land held in excess of the prescribed maximum limit, and further modifying the rights of landowners and tenants in agricultural holdings. The proper planning of urban and rural areas required the beneficial utilization of vacant and vast lands and the clearance of slum areas.

Under Article 31 of the Indian Constitution, the right to property is provided. After India's independence, there were several judgments by the Honourable Supreme Court that reaffirmed this right. However, these judgments posed challenges to various land reforms following the abolition of the zamindari system and the utilization of land for public interest and purposes.

Thus, there was a need to amend the Constitution, specifically addressing Article 31 and other relevant articles and sections. The Constitution's fourth amendment was introduced to guarantee the right to property for individuals and citizens of the nation, with certain exceptions. Amendments were made to Article 31 and other articles to empower the state to compulsorily acquire private property for public purposes. The state was also authorized to define appropriate compensation for such acquisitions.

This amendment aimed to strike a balance, ensuring that individuals retained their rights to property while allowing the state the flexibility to acquire private properties for the greater good and the interests of the nation. Acquisition of private property is often necessary for various public works and developmental activities. Without the fourth amendment in the Indian constitution, the state would have been limited in its ability to acquire private property, which could have hindered development efforts for the benefit of all and the larger interests of the state and society.

In the interest of the national economy, the state should have full control over the mineral and old resources of the country, including, in particular, the power to cancel or modify the terms and conditions of prospecting licenses, mining leases, and similar agreements. This is also necessary in relation to public utility undertakings that supply power, light, or water to the public under licenses granted by the state. It is often necessary to take over, under state management for a temporary period, the commercial or industrial undertaking or other property in the public interest or in order to secure the better management of the undertaking or property. Laws providing for such temporary transfer to state management should be permissible under the Constitution.

The government believed that in order to implement the objectives enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution regarding justice, social, economic, and political equality, it was necessary to nationalize and run certain industries solely by the state. In the case of Saghir Ahmed vs. State of UP, a question arose as to whether providing for a state monopoly in a trade or business conflicted with the freedom of trade and commerce as outlined in Article 301 of the Constitution. Since the provision was being made to establish a state monopoly in a specific sector of trade and commerce, it was deemed necessary to ensure that any questions regarding such acquisitions being in the public interest remained within the power of the legislature. Therefore, Article 305 of the Constitution was also amended through the Fourth Amendment. It is important to note that Article 31, which was amended by the Fourth Amendment, has since been repealed by the Constitution 24th Amendment Act in 1977.

The First Amendment Act of 1951 introduced the 9th schedule to the Indian Constitution. The laws included in this schedule are shielded from judicial review. The creation of the 9th schedule was accomplished through the insertion of Articles 31A and 31B. Article 31A was added by the government to safeguard laws pertaining to agrarian reforms and the abolition of the zamindari system. Article 31B of the Indian Constitution stipulated that any law included in the 9th schedule could not be contested in the courts.

In the 9th schedule to the Constitution, after Entry 13, the following entries were added: The Bihar Displaced Persons Rehabilitation (Acquisition of Land) Act 1950, The United Provinces Land Acquisition Rehabilitation of Refugees Act 1948, The Resettlement of Displaced Persons (Land Acquisition) Act 1948, Sections 52A to 52G of the Insurance Act 1938 as inserted by Section 42 of the Insurance (Amendment) Act 1950, The Railway Companies (Emergency Provisions) Act 1951, Chapter III-A of The Industries (Development and Regulation) Act 1951, as inserted by Section 13 of The Industries Development and Regulation Amendment Act of 1953, The West Bengal Land Development and Planning Act, 1948.

Many of the laws that were introduced, especially in the fourth amendment of the Indian constitution, were also included in the 9thschedule. This was done to ensure that these laws, which primarily dealt with the compulsory acquisition of property, were exempt from scrutiny by the Indian courts. Consequently, citizens were unable to challenge them under the specific articles of 14, 19, and 21, and were unable to demand that the state cease the compulsory acquisition of property rights.

The Constitution establishes the roles and functions of each state organ, including the judiciary, and maintains checks and balances. The doctrine of separation of powers ensures that the executive, legislature, and judiciary operate independently. A state is a community occupying a defined territory, with an independent government that creates and enforces laws. Effective governance is crucial for a civilized society, and the government is essential for providing security, meeting basic needs, and promoting socio-economic development.

The framers of the Indian constitution aimed to establish a responsive and accountable government. They considered the Presidential form of government but were concerned about the potential development of a personality cult around the President. Instead, they opted for a parliamentary system with a strong executive branch and safeguards against a personality cult. The parliamentary system ensures that the executive remains accountable to the legislature and the people's representatives. The three organs of government—the legislature, executive, and judiciary—have distinct roles in articulating the people's aspirations. The legislature creates laws, the executive implements them, and the judiciary interprets laws and resolves disputes. These organs are well-structured to fulfil their functions.

In one of his speeches to the constituent assembly, Dr. Ambedkar emphasized the importance of constitutional morality. He stated that constitutional morality lies in considering the Constitution as supreme and following the constitutionally mandated procedures irrespective of any differences. All three organs of the state, including individuals holding constitutional positions, members of civil society, and former citizens of India, are expected to abide by constitutional morality.

This is the second part of a series. The first part can be read here.

Author is an Advocate practicing in the High Court of Bombay.

[The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Verdictum does not assume any responsibility or liability for the contents of the article.]