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Case Summary of Minerva Mills vs Union of India, 1980

Facts of the case:

Minerva mills is a textile mill located in the vicinity of the city of Bengaluru. In 1970 because of the large decrease in the production of Minerva mills, the central government established a committee in accordance with Section 15 of the Industries Development Act,1951.

In October 1971, the Committee gave its report to the Central Government. The Central Government permitted the National Textile Corporation, Limited, to take over the operation of Minerva mills, as an organization constituted under the Industry Development Act of 1951.

Previously, through the 39th Constitutional (Amendment) Legislation, 1975, the Parliament added Nationalization Act, 1974 to the Ninth Schedule, making any challenge to the act in question ineligible for judicial review. After the 42nd Amendment was ratified, the petitioner was unable to challenge this portion of the 39th Amendment because this remedy was restricted by the Constitution.

Because of the massive defeat in the case of Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Shri Raj Narain, the Parliament passed the 42nd amendment in order to establish itself as the supreme domination. This amendment bars any challenge to constitutional amendments in the judiciary.

The petitioners challenged the court because of the order given by the Central Government to nationalize their Mills. Also, they asked about the priority of Directive Policy over Fundamental Rights.

Issues:

  • To what extent does the addition of Article 31C and Article 368 into the Constitution by Sections 4 as well as 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 impair the fundamental structure doctrine?
  • Is it true that the Directive Principle of state policy takes precedence over the Fundamental Right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution?
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Court Observation and Judgement:

There were two types of opinions that came out of this case, the majority opinion and the minority opinion.

The majority opinions were stated by Justice Chandrachud:

  • The parliament has the authority to bring amendments to the Constitution, but it must do so within the scope of the document.
  • Democracy would be alienated and a totalitarian state would be created if the premise of unrestricted authority to modify the Constitution were to be accepted.
  • It is unlawful to include clause (5) in Article 368 since it interferes with the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • Therefore, the most fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 19 and 14 of the Indian Constitution should be safeguarded.
  • Article 31 C of the Indian Constitution has been amended to remove Articles 19, 14, and 21, which will have a major negative impact on the citizens of this country.

The Minor opinion was given by Justice Bhagwati: 

  • He believes that the Constitution’s fundamental principles are an inherent component of it.
  • Because it violated two fundamental provisions of the constitution, clause (4) of Article 368 was declared unconstitutional. First, it limited the power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution. The second restricted the judicial review.
  • While clause 5 of Article 368 is unlawful and void, it had the effect of converting the constitution into one that was not under government control.
  • Article 31C of the Indian Constitution did not weaken it but rather enhanced, the fundamental basis of the country.
  • Non-compliance with the Directive Principle would be unconstitutional and would constitute a breach of the public’s trust.
  • No regulation that gives direct effect to the Directive Principle may be in conflict with the vegetarian principle because it is based on the Directive Principle.
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The court further discussed the relationship between the provisions of Part III and Part IV, concluding that the provisions of both sections serve as the foundation for the entire Indian constitution. The overemphasis on one aspect will be detrimental to the other aspect.

It is possible to attain the objectives of Part IV provisions without abrogating the provisions of Part III. The court also ruled that the harmonic relationship between Parts III and IV is a fundamental aspect of the Constitution’s design.

Held: 

The Supreme Court of India, by a majority of four judges and with the lone dissent of Justice PN Bhagwati, declared Sections 4 and 55 of the Indian Constitution to be invalid to the degree that they breached the basic structure doctrine.

Justification for the provisions’ failure to pass the constitutionality test was provided by Justice Chandrachud, who wrote on behalf of himself and three other justices. First and foremost, the Court explained the nature of Clause 5, which it judged destroyed the very foundations of democratic government.

Furthermore, only limited modifying power is provided under Article 368, which cannot be used as a yardstick to determine whether or not the amending power should be expanded. Due to the fact that Clause 4 deprives the courts of their judicial review authority, it has also been declared unconstitutional.

Article 31C was declared null and void because it contradicted the fundamental structure of the exclusion of judicial review and was in conflict with Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution, respectively.

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