Explainer: How is the Constitution amended?

SAS Kirmani
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New Delhi: During the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the political discourse was dominated by slogans such as "Abki baar 400 paar," and "Save Constitution".

While the first one was given by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to push for over 400 seats, the Congress-led Opposition countered it with the second one after some BJP leaders appealed to voters during rallies to ensure that the ruling party gets over 400 seats to change the Constitution.

Post-election, many of these issues have faded and some are in the process of fading away but the topic of constitutional amendments remains active. This issue continues to be a subject of debate on TV channels and in academic discussions.

Let us delve into the various provisions, procedures, and processes involved in amending the Constitution.

The Indian Constitution is a living document that has been amended numerous times to address evolving needs and circumstances.

How is the Constitution amended

Types of Amendments:

Simple Majority - Certain provisions of the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority in Parliament. These amendments are not deemed as amendments under Article 368. Examples include the creation of new states, changes in the boundaries of states, and changes related to the quorum in Parliament and others.

Following are the details

1) Admission or Establishment of New States: Articles 2 and 3 deal with the admission or establishment of new states and the formation of new states by altering the boundaries or names of existing states.

2) Quorum in Parliament: Changes in the rules regarding the quorum (minimum number of members required to be present) in Parliament.

3)  Salaries and Allowances: Changes in the salaries and allowances of members of Parliament, the President, Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

4) Rules of Procedure in Parliament: Amendments related to the rules of procedure and conduct of business in Parliament.

5) Use of Official Languages: Changes in the provisions regarding the official languages of the Union and the states.

6) Fifth and Sixth Schedules: Amendments related to the administration and control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes under the Fifth Schedule.

Amendments related to the administration of tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram under the Sixth Schedule.

7) Second Schedule: Amendments related to the emoluments, allowances, and privileges of the President, Governors, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.

8) Citizenship Provisions: Changes in laws pertaining to citizenship, acquisition, and termination of citizenship (Article 11).

Special Majority: Most provisions of the Constitution can be amended by a special majority, as specified in Article 368. This requires a two-thirds majority of members present and voting, which should also constitute more than 50% of the total strength of the House.

Following are the details:

1) Fundamental Rights (Part III): Articles that encompass the basic rights guaranteed to all citizens, such as the right to equality, freedom, and protection from discrimination.

2) Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV): Articles outlining the principles that are to guide the state in making policies and laws, aimed at promoting social and economic welfare.

3) Union and State Relations: Provisions concerning the distribution of powers between the Union and the States, including the Seventh Schedule which lists the Union, State, and Concurrent Lists.

4) Electoral Matters: Provisions related to the conduct of elections and the Election Commission.

5) Parliamentary Procedures and Functioning: Rules concerning the functioning of the Parliament, its privileges, and procedures.

6) The President and Executive Powers: Provisions regarding the powers, functions, and election of the President, and the structure of the Executive.

7) Judiciary: Articles related to the powers, structure, and functioning of the Supreme Court and High Courts.

8) Emergency Provisions (Part XVIII): Provisions dealing with the proclamation and effects of national emergencies, President's Rule in states, and financial emergencies.

9) Special Provisions for Certain States (Part XXI): Provisions related to the special status and autonomy granted to certain states.

10) Schedule: Changes to the Schedules in the Constitution, such as the allocation of seats in Parliament and the Union and State Lists.

Procedure for Amendment by Special Majority:

Introduction - A bill to amend the Constitution can be introduced in either House of Parliament. It must be introduced with the prior permission of the President.

Consideration and Approval - The bill must be passed by each House of Parliament by a special majority of the total membership of the House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting.

Hence, the government of the day or the ruling party will have to follow a certain laid out process and procedure to amend the Constitution.