Shankari Prasad v Union of India : Case Analysis
After the Independence of India, the agrarian land reforms through legislation was enacted in
the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh which was known as the Zamindari
Abolition Act. The zamindars were upset because due to this they were deprived of their
respective landholdings. The zamindars to get hold of there properties filled a petition in the
High Court of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh as this law is violative of their
Fundamental Rights. The Patna High Court invalidated the Bihar Land Reforms Act 1950,
whereas High Courts at Allahabad and Nagpur upheld the validity of the legislation in Uttar
Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
The Government brought forward a remedy in the form of the Constitution (First
Amendment) Act, 1951 to put an end of the various litigation regarding the same issue. The
zamindars reacted by bringing the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution and raised the
question whether the Constitutional (First Amendment) Act, 1951 which was passed by the
Parliament and insert article 31A and article 31B in the Constitution of India is
unconstitutional and void.
Whether the 1st Constitutional Amendment, 1951 passed by the Parliament is valid.
Whether the word ‘law’ used under Article 13(2) also includes the ‘law of the
amendment of the Constitution of India.
Judgement/Holding with Reasoning
The judgment was delivered by Hon’ble Judge M Patanjali Sastri.
The Court unanimously held that even if the amendment is considered to be superior to
ordinary legislation, it will not be able to strike its validity by Article 13(2). The word ‘law’
as given under Article 13(2) ordinarily will be inclusive of Constitutional amendment but it
must be in consideration of ordinary legislative power and therefore the constitutional
amendment done by the Parliament in its constitutional power is not subjected to Article
13(2) and such powers include the power to amend the Fundamental Rights. The Court
observed that “We are of the opinion that in the context of Article 13 law must be taken to
mean rules and regulations made in the exercise of ordinary legislative power and not
amendments to the Constitution made in the exercise of constituent power with the result
that Article 13(2) does not affect amendments made under Article 368.” The Court upheld
the validity of the First Amendment Act, 1951by using the literal interpretation. It also held
that Article 368 entitle the Parliament to amend the Constitution with treating the
Fundamental Rights with any exceptions unlike they are treated under Article 368. The Court
diverged with the view that the Fundamental Rights can be here inviolable. The Supreme
Court narrowed the view if Article 13(2) and adopted the progress of the independent nation
through the acquisition of property.
The Supreme Court by dismissing the petition by the petitioners have narrowed down the
scope of Article 13(2). The unanimous decision of the bench also followed in the next case
of Sajjan Singh v State of Rajasthan were the court upheld the Shankari Prasad case.
Further Development in the Journey of Basic Structure
The Indian Judiciary gave the complete amending power but later this position was changed
with a completely different outlook.
The question regarding the amenability of the Fundamental Rights conferred and given in the
Constitution of India could be revoked or limited by amendment of the question still remains
the centre for the conversation.
The cases which marked and contributed in this judicial discussion which was started in the
said case of Shankari Prasad are Sajjan Singh v State of Rajasthan, Golaknath v State of
Punjab and later all have culminated in Keshavananda Bharti v State of Kerala.
Overruling of Shankari Prasad v Union of India
The majority in the case of I.C Golaknath n State of Punjab overruled the said judgement and
held that no distinction can be found between the power of legislative and constituent power.
Justice Hidayatullah held that the amending power was not to be found as the residuary
power of our legislation. The procedure as laid down in Article 368 when compiled resulted
in the amending ability of the Constitution. It can be called the legislative power. The
majority held that the Fundamental Right has a transcendental approach and position in the
constitution and so Article 368 would be incompetent to amend the Fundamental Right.
This added the ongoing controversy and power struggle between the Judiciary and the
I.C. Golaknath v State of Punjab was overruled
The Supreme Court in the Keshavananda Bharti v State of Kerala overruled the Golaknath
case. The court held that the inherent limitation of the power of Parliament in regards to
amendment and Article 368 does not confer any power to destroy the Basic Structure of the