42nd Amendment of the Indian Constitution: A Landmark in Indian Polity
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42nd Amendment of the Indian Constitution: A Landmark in Indian Polity

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The 42nd Amendment Act of the Indian Constitution, also known as the "Mini-Constitution," holds a significant place in Indian constitutional history. Enacted in 1976 by the Indian National Congress led by Indira Gandhi, this amendment brought about numerous changes to the Constitution, shaping the course of Indian democracy. In this article, we will delve into the key provisions and implications of the 42nd Amendment Act, shedding light on its historical context and the subsequent 44th Amendment Act of 1978.

Historical Background and Context

Prior to the 42nd Amendment Act, India witnessed a period of political turmoil and constitutional crisis. The country had recently emerged from the state of emergency imposed in 1975, during which civil liberties were curtailed, leading to widespread criticism. The ruling government, led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, sought to consolidate its power and strengthen the authority of the central government. The 42nd Amendment Act was seen as a means to achieve these objectives.

Key Provisions of the 42nd Amendment Act

1. Preamble Modification

The 42nd Amendment Act introduced significant changes to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution. The words "Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, and Democratic Republic" were added to emphasize the core values of the Indian state. Additionally, the term "Unity of the Nation" was replaced with "Unity and Integrity of the Nation," further highlighting the government's commitment to national unity.

2. Fundamental Duties

The amendment introduced a new chapter on Fundamental Duties under Article 51A of the Constitution. These duties, inspired by the Constitution of the erstwhile Soviet Union, aimed to promote a sense of civic responsibility among citizens. The Fundamental Duties included respecting the national flag and anthem, promoting harmony, safeguarding public property, and striving for excellence in all spheres of life.

3. Expansion of Directive Principles of State Policy

The amendment expanded the scope of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs) by adding several new principles. These included provisions for securing opportunities for education and justice, promoting international peace and security, protecting the environment, and working towards the welfare of backward classes.

4. Curtailment of Judicial Review

The 42nd Amendment Act sought to limit the power of the judiciary by introducing the controversial Article 368(4). This provision stated that constitutional amendments could not be challenged in any court on the grounds of violating fundamental rights. It aimed to prevent judicial scrutiny of constitutional amendments, thereby ensuring the supremacy of Parliament.

5. Extension of Emergency Provisions

The amendment prolonged the period of emergency provisions under Article 352. It allowed the President to proclaim a state of emergency not only due to external aggression or armed rebellion but also on the grounds of "internal disturbance." This provision expanded the scope of emergency powers, raising concerns about potential misuse of authority.

Impact and Criticism

The 42nd Amendment Act had a far-reaching impact on Indian democracy. On one hand, it sought to centralize power, strengthen national unity, and emphasize the responsibilities of citizens. On the other hand, it faced severe criticism for diluting the principles of federalism, limiting judicial review, and compromising individual freedoms.

1. Centralization of Power

Critics argue that the amendment led to an excessive concentration of power in the central government, undermining the principles of federalism. The expansion of the central government's authority at the expense of state governments raised concerns about the erosion of regional autonomy and the potential for authoritarianism.

2. Limiting Judicial Review

The curtailment of judicial review through Article 368(4) was widely condemned as a violation of the basic structure of the Constitution. It was seen as an attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary and concentrate power in the executive and legislative branches.

3. Fundamental Rights vs. Fundamental Duties

The addition of Fundamental Duties was seen by some as an attempt to prioritize civic responsibilities over individual rights. Critics argue that this undermined the balance between individual freedoms and societal obligations, potentially allowing the state to suppress dissent and curtail civil liberties.

4. Subsequent Revisions: The 44th Amendment Act

In response to the widespread criticism and concerns raised by the 42nd Amendment Act, the Indian government introduced the 44th Amendment Act in 1978. This amendment aimed to rectify some of the perceived flaws and restore the balance between individual rights and government power. It curtailed the emergency provisions, expanded judicial review, and restored certain fundamental rights that were curtailed by the previous amendment.


The 42nd Amendment Act of the Indian Constitution remains a landmark in Indian constitutional history. While it aimed to strengthen the central government and promote national unity, it faced significant criticism for its impact on federalism, judicial review, and individual rights. The subsequent 44th Amendment Act sought to address some of these concerns, highlighting the dynamic nature of the Indian Constitution and the ongoing process of constitutional evolution.

The 42nd Amendment Act serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between governmental authority and individual liberties in a vibrant democracy like India. As the country continues to navigate its constitutional journey, it is crucial to reflect on the lessons learned from this significant amendment and strive for a more inclusive and rights-based approach to governance.

Note: The information presented in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice.

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