Types of Amendments
Article 368 of the Indian Constitution outlines two distinct methods for making changes to the Constitution. The first method requires a special majority vote in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha (the two houses of Parliament). The second method involves a special majority vote in Parliament along with approval from at least half of the total states in India. This topic, “Types of Amendments,” is a crucial part of the UPSC Exam’s Indian Polity syllabus. In this article, we will delve into the specifics of these amendment types and provide a comprehensive overview of the Constitutional Amendment Process in India.
What are Constitutional Amendments(Article 368)
The process of amending the Constitution of India is defined in Article 368 of Part XX. There are two primary types of amendments:
By a Special Majority of Parliament: This method requires a significant majority vote within the Parliament.
By a Special Majority of Parliament with Ratification by Half of the Total States: Here, in addition to the special majority vote in Parliament, the amendment must also be ratified by at least half of the total states in India.
It’s important to note that some other articles allow for the amendment of specific provisions of the Constitution through a simpler process, requiring a majority vote in each House of Parliament, similar to regular legislation. However, these amendments are not considered changes to the Constitution as defined in Article 368.
Types of Amendments in Indian Constitution
The Indian Constitution provides three distinct methods for making amendments:
1. Amendment by Simple Majority of Parliament: This method involves amending the Constitution with a straightforward majority vote in Parliament, similar to regular legislative processes.
2. Amendment by Special Majority of Parliament: To use this method, a more substantial majority vote within Parliament is required, reflecting the significance of the proposed change.
3. Amendment by Special Majority of Parliament and Ratification by at Least Half of State Legislatures: In addition to the special majority vote in Parliament, this method mandates approval from at least half of the state legislatures, ensuring a broader consensus for significant constitutional changes.
These three avenues offer varying degrees of flexibility and stringency in the process of amending India’s Constitution.
A Simple Majority of Parliament
A “simple majority” in Parliament means that more than half of the total members must be present and vote in favor of a proposal. It’s also known as a “working majority” because it represents at least half of the members participating in the vote. This type of majority is commonly used when the law doesn’t specify a specific majority requirement. It’s essential for passing motions or bills.
For example, in the Lok Sabha with a total of 545 members, if 45 were absent, and 100 didn’t vote, only 400 members were present and voting. In this case, a simple majority would require at least 201 votes in favor.
Simple majorities are needed for various important actions, including:
- Passing ordinary or money bills.
- Voting on confidence and non-confidence motions.
- Declaring a financial emergency.
- Declaring a state or presidential emergency.
- Electing the Deputy Speaker and Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
- Ratifying the Constitutional Amendment Act of “Article 368” in state legislatures, which also requires a simple majority.
These instances highlight the significance of a simple majority in parliamentary decision-making.
Special Majority of the Parliament
In addition to the commonly known effective, simple, and absolute majorities, there is a category called “special majority” in parliamentary and legislative processes. Special majorities are required for specific situations and are characterized by different clauses within the law. There are four types of special majorities, each associated with different constitutional articles:
- “Article 249” requires a special majority.
- “Article 368” also demands a special majority.
- “Article 368” goes a step further, requiring both a special majority and the approval of at least
- 50% of the states through a simple majority vote.
- “Article 61” calls for a special majority as well.
These special majorities are essential in certain constitutional matters, and their specific requirements vary depending on the article in question.
Article 249 Special Majority
- In Article 249, a special majority is needed, which means at least two-thirds of the total members must be present and vote.
- For example, if there are 245 members in the Lok Sabha, but only 150 are present and voting, then, according to Article 249, a special majority would require at least 101 votes.
- The Rajya Sabha’s resolution that grants Parliament the power to make laws in a state is valid for one year, but it can be extended multiple times.
Article 368 Special Majority
- Article 368 specifies another type of special majority, requiring two-thirds of the family members to be present and vote, with over 50% of the total strength in support.
- This majority is commonly used for passing constitutional amendment bills in the Rajya Sabha.
Article 368 with State Ratification
- When a constitutional amendment bill aims to change the federal structure, it falls under a special majority category.
- Article 368, combined with state ratification, demands that two-thirds of the family members must vote and be supported by over 50% of the state legislatures in a simple majority.
Article 61 Special Majority
- Article 61 calls for a special majority, requiring two-thirds of the total members in a house to be present.
- Specifically, this means 364 members in the Lok Sabha and 164 members in the Rajya Sabha.
These special majority requirements vary depending on the constitutional article and are crucial for specific legislative processes.
Special Majority of Parliament and Consent of States
In our Constitution, certain aspects related to the federal structure can be changed through a special majority vote in Parliament and the approval of at least half of the state legislatures with a simple majority. Even if some states don’t take any action on the proposed changes, it doesn’t matter. Once half of the states agree, the process is complete. There’s no time limit for states to give their consent.
Here are the key areas that can be amended in this manner:
- The process and rules for electing the President.
- The extent of authority held by the central government and state governments.
- Matters concerning the Supreme Court and high courts.
- How legislative powers are divided between the central government and state governments.
- Any of the lists in the Seventh Schedule, which outline the subjects on which both levels of government can make laws.
- Representation of states in Parliament.
- The power of Parliament to amend the Constitution and the procedure for doing so, as laid out in Article 368.
These are the parts of the Constitution that can be altered using this specific process, ensuring that any changes to the federal structure are made with careful consideration and broad support.
Types of Amendments – Constitutional Amendment Process
The process for amending the Constitution, as defined in Article 368, involves several key steps:
Initiation of Amendment: Amendments can only be proposed in either House of Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha), not in state legislatures.
Introduction of Bill: The bill can be introduced by a minister or a private member and doesn’t need the President’s prior approval.
Special Majority: The bill must pass in each House by a special majority, meaning it requires more than 50% of the total House membership and the support of two-thirds of the members present and voting.
Separate Approval: Each House must separately approve the bill.
No Joint Sitting: If the two Houses disagree on the amendment, there’s no provision for a joint sitting to resolve the differences.
State Ratification: For amendments related to federal aspects, they must be ratified by half of the states’ legislatures with a simple majority.
Presidential Assent: Once passed by both Houses and ratified by states if required, the bill is presented to the President for assent.
Mandatory Assent: The President must provide assent to the bill; there’s no option to withhold it or send it back to Parliament for reconsideration.
Constitutional Amendment Act: After the President’s assent, the bill becomes an Act, known as a Constitutional Amendment Act. The Constitution is then amended according to the Act’s terms.