The drafters of the Indian Constitution were mindful that the demands of a maturing democracy are dynamic, and hence the constitution should have room to meet new needs. As a result, they designed the amendment procedure to be both flexible and rigid, making it difficult to alter things. Article 368 in Part XX of the Constitution provides the amendment powers to the Parliament. However, Parliament cannot amend those sections of the constitution that are part of the “basic structure”.
The UPSC Exam includes a section on constitutional amendments. An aspirant is expected to understand all the ways by which Amendment of Indian Constitution is possible, as well as how each type of Amendment is applied in different contexts. In this article, we will discuss all the three types by which the Indian Constitution can be amended, which is very important for UPSC Prelims and Mains.
Provisions Related to Amendment in the Constitution
As stated earlier, Article 368 of the Constitution deals with the amendment procedures to be done in the Constitution. The article states that an amendment can only be initiated by proposing a Bill in either House of Parliament, which must be passed by both the Houses. Both Houses must pass the Bill with a total majority (regardless of vacancies or absentees) and a majority of not less than two-thirds of those present and voting. There is no provision for a joint sitting in the case of an amendment. To change provisions listed in Article 368, such as changing federal characteristics, it must be ratified by at least half of the states.
Ways of Amending the Constitution
There are three ways in which the Constitution can be amended:
- Amendment by a simple majority of the Parliament
- Amendment by a special majority of the Parliament
- Amendment by a special majority of the Parliament and the ratification of at least half of the state legislatures
Amendment by a simple majority of the Parliament
Outside the boundaries of Article 368, several provisions in the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority of the two houses of Parliament. Some of these provisions are-
- 2nd, 5th and 6th Schedules
- Abolition or creation of legislative councils
- Union Territories
- Privileges of the Parliament, its members and committees
- Number of puisne judges in Supreme Court
- Conferring more power to Supreme Court
- Elections to Parliament and state legislatures
- Delimitation of constituencies
- Citizenship: acquisition and termination
- Admission or establishment or formation of new states and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing states
Amendment by a special majority of the Parliament
A special majority of the Parliament is required to amend most of the provisions in the Constitution, which is a majority (that is, more than 50%) of the total membership of each House and a majority of two-thirds of the members of each House present and voting. The term “total membership” refers to the total number of members in the House, regardless of whether there are vacancies or absentees. The provisions which can be amended by this method include:
- Fundamental Rights
- All other provisions which are not covered by the above categories
Amendment by a special majority of the Parliament and the ratification of at least half of the state legislatures
When federal structures need to be changed, this form of majority is necessary. Aside from a special majority by both houses of Parliament, a simple majority of half of the state legislature is required. There is no time restriction for states to provide their approval to the law. The following provisions can be changed in this manner
- Power of Parliament to amend the constitution and its procedure
- Election of the President
- Representation of states in Parliament
- Any of the lists in the Seventh Schedule
- The extent of the executive power of the Union and the states
- Distribution of legislative powers between the states and the Union
- Supreme Court and High Courts
Although the power to amend the Constitution lies with the Parliament, the judiciary has been given the authority to review the constituent power of Parliament if it violates the “basic structure” of the Constitution. Hence, the Indian Constitution was intended to be that it retains its validity over time without becoming obsolete, while also responding to the needs of India’s many socio-economic groups.
If you are an aspirant of civil services, you are advised to check the notification and go through the IAS Prelims Syllabus for more such topics. The topic is very important for UPSC Prelims as the exam has at least one question on this topic, every year.
We hope the above article assisted you in quickly revising the different types of amendments. Continue to check the website for similar updates.