Minerva mills vs Union of India | A case that evolved basic structure doctrine

Minerva Mills vs Union of India

Minerva Mills case judgment is a landmark judgment of the supreme court on the basic structure doctrine. In this case, the supreme court explained the basic structure and evolved it. 

Court also held that “The edifice of our constitution is built upon the concept crystallized in the preamble.”

In this case, the supreme court held that the power limit to amend the Constitution is a fundamental feature of the Indian Constitution. Court further said the balance and harmony between the fundamental right and directive principles is an essential feature of the basic structure of the Constitution.

On August 20, 1970, the central government appointed the committee under the industries development and regulation act 1951 to report the company and submit the report. The said committee submitted the said report in January 1971. Based on the said report, the government passed the order to take management of the Minerva mills.

The central government nationalized the Minerva Mills under the silk textile undertakings act 1974. The reason given was that the company’s affairs were managed in a way detrimental to the public interest. Together with shareholders, the company challenged the government’s move under Article 32 of the Constitution.

Challenges made by owner of Minerva mills

1. The petition challenged section 4 and section 55 of the Constitution 42 amendment act.

 2. Petitioner also challenged the Constitution 39 amendment act, which inserted the Nationalisation act in the ninth schedule.

3. Challenge to Article 31(c) was also made.

4. Petitioner also challenged the specific provision of the silk textile undertaking act.

Changes made after amendment.

(a) Sec 4 of the amendment act amended article 31C of the Constitution by substituting the words “all or any of the principles laid down in part 4” for the words for principles specified in clause (c) and clause (b) of Article 39 of the Constitution.

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(b) Sec 55 of the act inserted sub-section 4 and 5 in article 368 of the Constitution.

1. Subsection 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.

2. Subsection (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.”

3. The act also amended the preamble by inserting secular, socialist, and unity and integrity of the nation.

Arguments of the petitioner.

Nani Palkivala, the celebrated lawyer of the twentieth century, represented the Minerva mills. He also fought the kesavananda Bharati case that gave birth to the basic structure doctrine. 

1. He contended that if this amendment is not struck down, then the creature of the Constitution will become its master.

2. The Parliament cannot destroy the basic structure of the Constitution by taking away judicial review.

3. To give dispensation to the Directive Principle would wipe out Article 19 and Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. 

4. Permissible means should be adopted in giving force to directive principles.

Arguments of Repondent 

1. Article 31C reinforced the basic structure of the Constitution by applying directive principles.

2. To achieve the goals framed under the Directive Principle of the State Policy, the powers of the Parliament should be supreme. Accordingly, there should be no restrictions on its amendment powers. 

3. The majority in the Kesavananda Bharati case has upheld the unamended Article 31C, especially since it has not brought about a qualitative change compared to the provisions of the unamended article and comes within the sweeping powers of amendment under Article 368.

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4. Directive principles are fundamental in a country’s governance. Accordingly, no amendment to achieve the ends specified in the directive principles can alter the basic structure doctrine.

5. The petitioner argued that it is the settled principle of the court not to decide an issue that is too wide and academic.

6. The deprivation of some of the fundamental rights to achieve the welfare of people cannot possibly amount to a destruction of the basic structure of the Constitution.

Judgment of case Minerva Mills vs Union of India

A five-judge bench delivered the court’s judgment with the majority of four judges, and justice Bhagwati giving dissenting judgment.

The court dismissed the challenge of Minerva mills to nationalization.

It was held that clause 5 of article 368 transgresses the limiting power of the Parliament and hence is unconstitutional. Although it was said that the Constitution has provided limiting the amending ability to Parliament, the Parliament under the exercise of that limited power, enlarge that sheer power into absolute power.

The Supreme court held clause 4 of article 368 unconstitutional and void. If the power of judicial review is taken from courts, then the controlled Constitution will become uncontrolled. Clause 4 deprive a citizen of fundamental right under article 32. 

The conclusion can be drawn from the judgment that Article 19 and 14 are the basic feature of Indian Constitution. Therefore, if we achieve directive principles, we destroy the protection of a fundamental right. It will subvert the Constitution by destroying its basic structure.

The power to take away the protection of article 14 is the power to discriminate without a valid reason for classification. The Supreme court held Article 31(c) with the majority of four judges as void.

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Supreme Court said that there are three articles of the Indian Constitution and only three on which Tagore wanted the country to awake. They are article 14, article 19, and article 21. Article 31(c) has removed two sides of the golden triangle. These articles affirm to the people of India that promise held by the preamble will be assured.

Judgment of Justice Bhagwati.

Justice Bhagwati agreed with the other four judges on clauses 4 and 5 of article 368 but gave dissenting judgment regarding the challenge to article 31(c).

Clause 4 of article 368 of the Constitution is unconstitutional because it damages the basic structure of the Constitution. However, Justice Bhagwati also highlighted that if clause 4 remains, then even if any amendment that violates the constitutional amendment procedure cannot be challenged.

Justice Bhagwati said if a petition cannot be presented to challenge a law, it will destroy one of the basic structural features of judicial review. 

Justice Bhagwati rejected the argument that clause five only clarifies the situation on amending power. He said Clause 5 of article 368 is violative of Constitution. There was no doubt at all that the

amendatory power of Parliament Parliament was limited. Therefore, it was not competent for Parliament to alter the basic structure of the Constitution, and clause 5 could not remove the doubt that did not exist.

Justice Bhagwati, on article 31 C, said, “Section 4 of the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 making amendments in Article 31(c) and giving priority to Directive Principles over Fundamental Rights, in case of conflict between them, does not damage or destroy the basic structure of the Constitution and is within the amending power of Parliament and therefore amended Article 31(c) is constitutional and valid.”

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