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Minerva Mills case (1980)

Minerva Mills case (1980)

Introduction

  • Minerva Mills Ltd. vs Union of India is one of the most important judgments which guarded the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution form being amended by parliament.
  • The constitutionality of sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1986 gave the parliament ‘unlimited powers’ to amend the constitution and hence were struck down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Issue

  • Constitutional Validity of 42nd Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1976

Background | Minerva Mills case (1980)

  • The Parliament in order to serve general public interest came up with a noble solution by reconstructing bad assets of companies having importance to the general public. Therefore, in accordance with the achievement of the said solution the Parliament enacted The sick textile undertakings (taking over of management) Act, 1974 [Act no. 57 of 1974] on December 24, 1974.
  • Minerva Mills was a textile industry in the State of Karnataka engaged in the mass production of silk clothes and provided market to the general public. The Central Govt. was suspicious that company fulfilled the criteria to be classified as a sick industry. Therefore, the Central Govt. in 1970 appointed a committee u/s 15 of the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951 for making a full detailed report analyzing the affairs of Minerva Mills. Relying on the Committee’s report, on October 19, 1971 the Central govt. empowered National Textile Corporation Limited (a body under the 1951 act) to take over the management of Minerva Mills u/s 18A of the 1951 act.
  • Earlier through 39th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1975 the Parliament inserted Nationalization Act, 1974 into Ninth Schedule which means that any challenge on the said act was outside the purview of judicial review. Now, the petitioner was not able to challenge this aspect of 39th amendment since this remedy was barred by 42nd Amendment. The Parliament after suffering massive defeat in Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Shri Raj Narain in order to make its power and authority supreme passed 42nd amendment to bar any challenge on constitutional amendments in courts of law. Hence, this undertaking was nationalised and taken over by the Central Government under the provisions of the Sick Textile Undertakings (Nationalisation) Act, 1974 (hereinafter referred to as the Nationalization Act).
  • Thereafter, the petitioners challenged this order before the High Court. The High Court, however, dismissed their petition.
  • The petitioners, therefore, filed a writ petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court under article 32 of the Constitution of India, 1950.
  • They challenged the constitutionality and validity of the following;
    • Sections 5(b), 19(3), 21 (read with 2nd schedule), 25 and 27, of the Sick Textile Undertakings (Nationalisation) Act, 1974
    • Order of the Central Government dated October 19, 1971
    • Sections 4 and 55 of the Constitution (Forty Second Amendment) Act, 1976; and
    • The primacy given to the Directive Principles of State Policy over the fundamental Rights.

Judgement | Minerva Mills case (1980)

  • This landmark Judgment came on July 31, 1980.
  • By this judgement, the court declared two changes made in the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act 1976 to be null and void.

First change | Minerva Mills case (1980)

  • By the 42nd Amendment, changes were made in Article 368 of the Constitution (which provides for power and procedure for amendment of the Constitution). Clause 4 and 5 were added to this Article 368, which were as follows :
    • (4) No amendment of this Constitution (including the provisions of Part III) made or purporting to have been made under this article whether before or after the commencement of section 55 of the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 shall be called in question in any court on any ground.
    • (5) For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that there shall be no limitation whatever on the constituent power of Parliament to amend by way of addition, variation or repeal the provisions of this Constitution under this article.
  • The court ruled both these clauses unconstitutional as –
    • the 13 judge bench in Kesavananda Bharati case had put limitations on the power of Parliament to amend the Constitution, through the Doctrine of Basic Structure
    • these changes restricted the court’s power of ‘Judicial Review‘, which was adjudged to be a part of Basic Structure, and hence, was inviolable.

Second change | Minerva Mills case (1980)

  • By the 25th Amendment Act 1971, Article 31C was inserted in the Constitution which provided for precedence of Article 39(b) and 39(c), i.e. two of the directive principles, over Article 14, 19 and 31 (fundamental rights).
  • This was upheld by the court in Kesavananda Bharati case.
  • But by the 42nd amendment, Article 31C was amended to give precedence to all the directive principles over Article 14, 19 and 31.
  • The court declared this change as unconstitutional.

Decision of the Court | Minerva Mills case (1980)

  • The court in the judgment dated July 31, 1980 by majority of 4:1 held the sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd (Amendment) Act 1986
  • Further, the writ petition challenging the constitutionality of the Sections 5(b), 19(3), 21 (read with 2nd schedule), 25 and 27, of the Sick Textile Undertakings (Nationalisation) Act, 1974, was dismissed.

ALSO READ : https://www.brainyias.com/iasbuzz/42nd-amendment-of-indian-constitution/

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