Constitutional Amendments

  • Article 368 in Part XX of the Constitution deals with the powers of Parliament to amend the Constitution and its procedure.
  • It states that the Parliament may, in exercise of its constituent power, amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of the Constitution in accordance with the procedure laid down for the purpose.
  • However, the Parliament cannot amend those provisions which form the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. Constitutional Amendments 
 

Procedure of Amendments

  1. An amendment of the Constitution can be initiated only by the introduction of a bill for the purpose in either House of Parliament and not in the state legislatures.
  2. The bill can be introduced either by a minister or by a private member
  3. It does not require prior permission of the president.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
 

Types of Amendments

  • Article 368 provides for two types of amendments
  • Some other articles provide for the amendment of certain provisions of the Constitution by a simple majority of Parliament
  • The Constitution can be amended in three ways:
  1. Amendment by simple majority of the Parliament,
  2. Amendment by special majority of the Parliament, and
  3. Amendment by special majority of the Parliament and the ratification of half of the state legislatures.
 
 

By Simple Majority of Parliament

  • A number of provisions in the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority of the two Houses of Parliament outside the scope of Article 368.
  1. Admission or establishment of new states.
  2. Formation of new states and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing states. Constitutional Amendments 
  3. Abolition or creation of legislative councils in states.
  4. Second Schedule—emoluments, allowances, privileges and so on of the president, the governors, the Speakers, judges, etc.
  5. Quorum in Parliament.
  6. Salaries and allowances of the members of Parliament.
  7. Rules of procedure in Parliament.
  8. Privileges of the Parliament, its members and its committees.
  9. Use of English language in Parliament.
  10. Number of puisne judges in the Supreme Court.
  11. Conferment of more jurisdiction on the Supreme Court.
  12. Use of official language.
  13. Citizenship—acquisition and termination.
  14. Elections to Parliament and state legislatures.
  15. Delimitation of constituencies.
  16. Union territories.
  17. Fifth Schedule—administration of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes.
  18. Sixth Schedule—administration of tribal areas.
 
 

By Special Majority of Parliament

  • The majority of the provisions in the Constitution need to be amended by a special majority of the Parliament
  • Majority (that is, more than 50 per cent) of the total membership of each House and a majority of two-thirds of the members of each House present and voting.
  1. Fundamental Rights
  2. Directive Principles of State Policy
  3. All other provisions which are not covered by the first and third categories
 
 

By Special Majority of Parliament and Consent of States

  • Those provisions of the Constitution which are related to the federal structure of the polity can be amended by a special majority of the Parliament and also with the consent of half of the state legislatures by a simple majority.
  • If one or some or all the remaining states take no action on the bill, it does not matter; the moment half of the states give their consent, the formality is completed.
  • There is no time limit within which the states should give their consent to the bill. Constitutional Amendments 
  1. Election of the President and its manner.
  2. Extent of the executive power of the Union and the states.
  3. Supreme Court and high courts.
  4. Distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the states.
  • Any of the lists in the Seventh Schedule.
  1. Representation of states in Parliament.
  2. Power of Parliament to amend the Constitution and its procedure (Article 368 itself).
 
 
Notes
  • The 24th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1971 made it obligatory for the President to give his assent to a constitutional Amendment Bill.
 
 
See Also
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