Minerva Mills Ltd v. Union of India (1980) – Upholding Basic Structure of Constitution

Minerva Mills Ltd v. Union of India (1980) is a landmark case in Indian constitutional law that dealt with the relationship between the judiciary and the executive in the context of the power of judicial review. The case dealt with the validity of the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, which had been passed by the Indian parliament in 1976.

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Background of the Case:

  • The 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act was passed by the Indian parliament in 1976 during the Emergency period imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • The amendment had the effect of altering the basic structure of the Indian Constitution, including the insertion of a new clause (in Article 31-C) which provided that laws made to implement the Directive Principles of State Policy would not be subject to judicial review.
  • This amendment was challenged by Minerva Mills Ltd, along with several other parties, on the grounds that it violated the basic structure of the Constitution.
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Arguments:

  • The petitioners argued that the 42nd Amendment Act violated the basic structure of the Constitution by taking away the power of judicial review of laws made to implement the Directive Principles of State Policy.
  • They also argued that the amendment had the effect of making the Directive Principles superior to the Fundamental Rights, which is contrary to the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • The Union of India, on the other hand, argued that the amendment was necessary to give effect to the Directive Principles and that it did not violate the basic structure of the Constitution.

Issues before the Court:

  • The main issue before the court was whether the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act was valid and constitutional.
  • The court also had to consider whether the amendment violated the basic structure of the Constitution.
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Judgement:

  • The Supreme Court of India, in a majority judgement, held that the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act was unconstitutional and violative of the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • The court held that the amendment took away the power of judicial review of laws made to implement the Directive Principles of State Policy, which is an essential feature of the Constitution.
  • The court also held that the amendment had the effect of making the Directive Principles superior to the Fundamental Rights, which is contrary to the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • The Supreme Court added new clauses to the basic structure doctrine: 1) judicial review and 2) harmony between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principle of the State Policy. 

Significance of the Case:

  • The case of Minerva Mills Ltd v. Union of India (1980) is an important case in Indian constitutional law, as it strengthened the principle of the “basic structure” of the Constitution and affirmed the power of judicial review as an essential feature of the Constitution.
  • It also reaffirmed the supremacy of fundamental rights over the Directive Principles of State Policy.

Relevant Articles & Cases:

  • Article 13: which lays down that all laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Part, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.
  • Article 31-C: which was inserted by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, provided that laws made to implement the Directive Principles of State Policy shall not be subject to judicial review.
  • Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973) – this case established the principle that the parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is not absolute and that certain “basic features” of the Constitution cannot be amended.
  • Golak Nath v. State of Punjab (1967) – this case established that the Fundamental Rights cannot be abrogated by the parliament through an amendment to the Constitution.

This article is part of the series “Landmark Judgements that Shaped India” under the Indian Polity Notes & Prelims Sureshots. We aim to make the articles comprehensive while leaving out unnecessary information from the UPSC perspective. If you think this article is useful, please provide your feedback in the comments section below.

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