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Indian Polity / Directive Principles

Conflict between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles

Upto 1967, there was not much conflict between fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy. Supreme Court was maintaining the stand that the Parliament can be able to amend any part of Constitution including the PART having the fundamental rights.

Golaknath vs the State of Punjab

In 1967, in Golaknath vs the State of Punjab case, Supreme Court declared that the Parliament cannot amend fundamental rights in order to implement directive principles.

24th and 25th Constitutional Amendments

In 1971, Parliament approved 24th and 25th Constitutional Amendments in order to overpower the limitation imposed by the Supreme Court in Golaknath case. 24th Amendment says that Parliament can also amend fundamental rights. By 25th Amendment, Article 31C was added.

Article 31C says that if any law is made to give effect or implement the policy in the directives, if such law restricts the fundamental rights, that law cannot be declared as invalid on the reason of violation of the fundamental rights.

Moreover, such laws should not be challenged in any court of law under the grounds of unconstitutional nature. This is nothing but the imposition of limitations on judicial review of Supreme Court and High Courts.

Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala

In 1973, in Keshavanda Bharathi case, these 24th and 25th Constitutional Amendments were challenged in the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court supported the 24th and 25th Constitutional Amendments to the maximum extent and held that Parliament of India can amend any part of the Constitution including the PART having the fundamental rights. However, it can not disturb the 'basic structure' of the Constitution.

Judicial Review comes under basic structure of the constitution. That part of the 25th Amendment (restricting Judicial Review) was declared invalid. However in 1976, by 42nd Amendment, the scope of the Article 31C was extended.

Supreme Court invented Doctrine of Basic Structure of the Constitution in Keshavananda Bharthi case. Supreme Court, in Keshavananda Bharathi case, also employed doctrine of prospective overruling.

Prospective overruling means Supreme Court may or may not follow the earlier judgments in subsequent cases.

Minerva Mills vs Union of India

42nd Amendment was challenged in Mineral Mills case in 1980. Supreme Court upheld the judgement of Keshavananda Bharathi case and declared that any Amendment restricting the judicial review of Supreme court is unconstitutional and invalid.

It also held that if any laws are made to implement the Directive Principles under Articles 39B and 39C, they are valid even though they are violating fundamental rights like Articles 14 and 19.

Now, only Articles 39B and 39C have Primacy over fundamental rights but not the other directive principles. As a result, the Supreme Court restricted the scope of Article 31C and it will have the same effect prior to 1976. So, 42nd Amendment was got struck down.

In Mineral Mills case, Supreme Court defined and listed the scope of basic structure. They are parliamentary democracy, Indian federal system, Republican nature, Secularism, rule of law, judicial review, universal adult franchise, the essence (spirit) of fundamental rights. In precise, there must be a fine balance between fundamental rights and directive principles.