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Minerva Mills vs Union of India: Case Analysis

This case analysis has been written by Shalini Mishra. She is a 3rd year BBALLB student at Amity University, Patna.

Introduction

Indian constitution is the mother and supreme law of India which demarcate the framework of fundamental political, structure, powers, function of the government of India and sets out the fundamental right, directives principle and duties for citizens of India.

According to the constitution of India, the state legislature and the parliament can make laws within their jurisdiction. As there is no mention of the basic structure in the Indian constitution so the parliament or any state legislation cannot make laws and amend the basic structure of the Indian constitution.

The concept of the doctrine of basic structure evolved over time in many landmark cases such as the Golaknath case, 1967 and Minerva mills case 1980.

Hence, the doctrine of basic structure was propounded by the Indian judiciary in Kesavananda Bharti v. the State of Kerala to put the limitation on the amending powers of the parliament so that the ‘basic structure of the constitution of India cannot be amended in the exercise of its constituent power’ under the constitution.

This basic structure consists of features as follows: –

  1. Supremacy of the constitution
  2. Republican and Democracy form of government
  3. Secular character of the constitution
  4. Separation of powers between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary
  5. Federal character of the constitution

The power to amend the constitution of India is in hands of the parliament under Article 368 of the constitution, but the parliament cannot destroy the basic structure of the constitution while using this power and therefore further two features were added in Minerva Mills case, 1980.

Statement of facts:-

Minerva mills was a textile industry business in the state of Karnataka as the textile mill was involved in the mass production of silk clothes and provide a market to sell in public

On August 20, 1970, the central government appointed a committee under the Industries Development and regulations Act, 1951 to investigate complete affairs about Minerva Mills Ltd. As there was that there is a substantial fall in the production of silk clothes.

In January 1971 the committee submitted a report based on which the central government has passed the order dated October 19, 1971, under section 18A of Industries development and regulations Act, 1951 to authorize the National textile corporation ltd. To take the management of textile industry on the ground of mismanaged of textile highly in the public interest.

Hence, the undertaking was nationalized and taken over by the central government under the provisions of the sick textile undertaking ( nationalizing) Act, 1974

Thereafter, a petition was filed before the Hon’ble High court, however, the petition was dismissed by the Hon’ble High Court.

Then, the petitioners filed a writ petition under Art. 32 before Hon’ble Supreme Court

Issues:-

Whether insertion of Article 31C and Article 368 of the constitution and section 4 and section 55 of 42nd amendment Act, 1976 does hamper the doctrine of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution?

Whether the directive principle of State policy has primacy over the fundamental right to the Indian Constitution?

Arguments of Petitioner:-

The amendment powers of parliament are limited under Article 368. This amendment will allow parliament the creature of the constitution to become its master.

Section 4 of the 42nd amendment Act has robbed the fundamental right of their supremacy as if there were a permanent emergency in operation.

Almost every law is enacted by the government would one or another may be associated with the directive principle.

To give weightage to the directive principle would wipe out Article 14 and Article 19 of the Indian constitution.

The Hon’ble court decision on case Kesavananda Bharti vs. State of Kerala that the parliament has no authority to disturb the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.

Arguments of Respondent:-

To achieve the goals framed under DPSP powers of parliament should be supreme as no restrictions on its amendment powers.

The central government through the naturalization process was assisting the company to raise loans.

Any harm to the fundamental right won’t amount to the violation of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.

The issues related to academic interest should not be decided by the Hon’ble court.

Judgment:-

The writ petition challenging various provisions of the sick textile undertaking Act, 1974 was unanimously dismissed by the Supreme Court. The court also observed that the affairs of the company were mismanaged, and the management was not good for the public interest. The order was passed by the central government to conduct the investigation. The decision was made by the 5 judge bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court with the majority of 4:1. The majority opinion was made by Justice Chandrachud on behalf of Justice A.C. Gupta, Justice N.L. Untwalia and Justice P.S. Kailasam.

Majority Decision:-

The Hon’ble court held that section 4 of the Indian constitution of 42nd amendment Act, being unconstitutional on the ground of violating the doctrine of the basic structure of Indian Constitutional. Similarly, section 55 of the Act was also held violate unanimously.

As Justice Chandrachud explained that in the kesavananda Bharti case “Parliament has only the right of alterations in the constitution within its framework. Parliament cannot under Article 368 to expand its amending power to acquire itself the right to abrogate the constitution or its basic features. The majority then took the task of weighing the directive principle of state policy against the fundamental right.

Also, the court added two features to the list of basic structural features i.e. judicial review and balance between fundamental right and DPSP

Hence, the majority declared the amendment beyond the powers of Parliament as violative of the essential features of basic structure.

Critical Analysis: –

After the historic judgment came by Hon’ble court in Indira Gandhi Nehru vs. Raj Narain where 42nd amendment Act, 1976 passed on the provision of Article 368 i.e. constitutional amendment.

Through the 42nd amendment Act, the parliament tried to disbalance the harmony between DPSP and the fundamental right of the constitution. The majority opinion favoured that the amendment caused a disbalance, therefore, needed to be struck down. Due to this amendment Directive Principle of State Policy was given the absolute power to inconsistent with Part III i.e. fundamental right of the constitution and the minority decision contended that the Directive Principle of State Policy nourishes the roots of democracy and play a vital role in the provision of fundamental rights. The majority decision is to both Part III and Part IV formed an integral and indivisible scheme and thus the opinion of the majority ‘to destroy the guarantees given in Part III to achieve the goals of Part IV is plainly to subvert the constitution by destroying its basic structure and undertook the task of weighing to the directive principle of state policy against the fundamental right. Earlier the 39th amendment had inserted Article 329A in the constitution and clauses (4) and (5) of this article barred the judicial review of elections for president, prime minister, vice president and the speaker of Lok Sabha. These clauses were struck down for being a flagrant violation of basic structure.

So to be back in favour of the Parliament, and subsequently dominate the power spectrum once and for all, the government decided to overhaul the entire constitution bypassing the 42nd amendment Act.

However, it didn’t seem enough as the basic structure still did not get that relevance which it deserves and remained an unfinished business. Thus, the task of both achieving objective was taken in the year 1980 in Minerva mills v. union of India.

Conclusion:-

This case was regarding the basic structure doctrine of the Indian constitution by emphasizing over time the importance between fundamental rights and the directive principle of state policy as being a part of basic structure. The basic structure of the constitution the prime importance as it prevents the parliament from having unconditional power and Master of Law Itself after the judgement taken by the Supreme Court the Hon’ble court ruled that the power of the parliament to amend the constitution limited.

Hence, the parliament cannot exercise the limited power to grant itself unlimited power.

References:-

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