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Doctrine of Eclipse- Silent Feature, Evolution, Major Elements

Doctrine of Eclipse: The Doctrine of Eclipse, a fundamental principle within the Indian constitution, emphasizes the prospective nature of fundamental rights. It pertains to Article 13 of the Constitution of India, stipulating that any legislation conflicting with Part III of the Constitution is considered null and void. This nullity is due to the overshadowing effect of Fundamental Rights, likened to an eclipse. The inconsistency of the eclipsed law can only be rectified when the corresponding fundamental right is amended. Upon the removal of the Eclipse, the law automatically regains validity and becomes operational.

The Doctrine of Eclipse holds significant relevance for the UPSC IAS exam, particularly within the Polity subject of the Mains General Studies Paper-II syllabus and General Studies Paper-1 of the UPSC Prelims Syllabus.

What is Doctrine of Eclipse?

The Doctrine of Eclipse in the Indian constitution is a legal idea about what happens to our important rights if the constitution is changed. It says that if a change to the constitution affects one of our important rights, that right doesn’t go away completely. Instead, it sort of goes to sleep temporarily. But if the change is undone later on, the right wakes up again. So, it’s like our rights take a nap for a while, but they can wake up again if things change back.

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Evolution of Doctrine of Eclipse

After the Indian Constitution was made, lots of old laws have been questioned in court because they go against people’s important rights. The Doctrine of Eclipse was created to keep an eye on this judicial review process. But it was only officially announced by the Supreme Court judges in the Bhikaji Narain Dhakras and Ors v. State of Madhya Pradesh case in 1955. Before that, it had already been used in a few other court cases.

Major Elements of Doctrine of Eclipse

The Doctrine of Eclipse in the Indian constitution has several key points:

  • Not Gone, Just Hidden: This idea says that when the Constitution is changed, it doesn’t erase a fundamental right. Instead, it just hides it for a while.
  • Temporary Cover-Up: The fundamental right stays quiet or “eclipsed” by the change, meaning it can’t be used directly during that time.
  • Back in Action: If the change is cancelled or declared unconstitutional, the fundamental right comes back fully and can be used directly again.
  • Still Influential: Even when eclipsed, the fundamental right can still indirectly affect things not directly impacted by the change.
  • Partly Valid: The doctrine doesn’t completely cancel the change; it may still apply to some situations that don’t clash directly with the fundamental right.
  • Finding a Balance: It helps balance the changes to the constitution with the existing fundamental rights, preventing total removal of rights while allowing changes.
  • Courts Decide: Judges decide whether the doctrine of eclipse applies in specific cases, looking at how well the change and the fundamental rights match up.

Silent Feature of Doctrine of Eclipse in Indian Constitution

The important features and characteristics of the Doctrine of Eclipse in Indian Constitution are as follows:

  • For Laws Before the Constitution: The Doctrine applies to laws that were put into effect when the Indian Constitution was adopted on January 26th, 1950.
  • Not for Laws After the Constitution: The Doctrine doesn’t apply to laws made after the Constitution. They are considered invalid from the start and can’t be made valid by any later changes.
  • Conflict with Fundamental Rights: If a law goes against a fundamental right, it becomes ineffective and cannot be enforced.
  • Ineffectiveness, Not Nullification: The Doctrine doesn’t cancel out a law entirely but just makes it flawed and unable to be enforced.
  • Fundamental Rights and Amendments: If there’s an amendment to a fundamental right, the law becomes valid automatically.

Doctrine of Eclipse and Section 309

The Doctrine’s application expanded to the Indian Penal Code in cases such as Rathinam and Gian Kaur. In Rathinam v. Union of India, Section 309 of the IPC, which criminalizes suicide attempts, was contested. The court declared Section 309 unconstitutional, reasoning that Article 21 includes the right to live, which also encompasses the right not to live. However, a constitutional bench reversed the Rathinam decision and upheld the validity of Section 309 in Gian Kaur v. the State of Punjab, thus removing the Eclipse on Section 309 and reinstating its effectiveness.

Doctrine of Eclipse and Article 368

In the case of I. C. Golaknath v. State of Punjab, the Punjab Security and Land Tenures Act of 1953 came under scrutiny for violating the fundamental right to own property and practice any profession. This case raised questions about the validity and limitations of Article 368. Initially, Article 368 restricted the amending powers of the Parliament Legislature, preventing it from amending fundamental rights. As a result, Article 368 was considered eclipsed.

However, this ruling was overturned in the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati v. Union of India. In this case, the Parliament was granted the authority to amend fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution, removing the Eclipse from Article 368.

Court Cases Associated with Doctrine of Eclipse

Below are some cases associated with the Doctrine of Eclipse:

  • Keshava Madavan Menon v State of Bombay (1951)
    This was the first time the Doctrine of Eclipse was shown. In this case, the person who filed the case was accused under the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act of 1931 for distributing a pamphlet in 1949. The person argued that since the pamphlet was about freedom of speech and expression, which is in Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, they shouldn’t be charged under a law that existed before the Constitution’s fundamental rights. They said they couldn’t ask for these rights to apply to them retroactively. They stressed that fundamental rights only apply to the future, not the past.
  • Behram Khurshid Pesikaka v. State of Bombay (1955)
    The appellant was charged under Section 66(b) of the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, which dealt with drinking and driving issues. They referred to the 1951 case of the State of Bombay and Anr v. F.N. Balsara, where it was decided that Section 13(b) of the Act was not valid when it came to using alcoholic medicinal and toilet products because it violated the fundamental rights in Article 19. Based on this reasoning, the appellant argued that Section 66(b) should also not apply to alcoholic medicines and toilet products.
  • Bhikaji Narain Dhakras v. State of Madhya Pradesh
    The doctrine of eclipse gained its most significant expression in the case of Bhikaji Narain Dhakras and Ors v. State of Madhya Pradesh (1955). Here, the petitioners challenged the constitutionality of the C.P. & Berar Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 1947, which had amended the Motor Vehicles Act of 1939.
    The petitioners argued that the passage of the Indian Constitution made the Amendment Act ineffective because it conflicted with Article 19(1)(g), guaranteeing the freedom to practice any profession or engage in any occupation, trade, or business. The Amendment Act granted the Provincial Government a monopoly over the motor transport industry in the state, a move the petitioners believed violated the fundamental rights established in the newly adopted Indian Constitution of 1950.

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What is the doctrine of eclipse for UPSC?

The Doctrine of Eclipse states that any law which is inconsistent with fundamental rights is not invalid. It is not totally dead but overshadowed by the fundamental right. The inconsistency (conflict) can be removed by constitutional amendment.

What is doctrine of eclipse and severability?

These provisions are directly in consonance with the doctrine of severability. This doctrine states any provision of a statute which is against the Constitution will be severed from that act and will be considered void to that extent only.

What is doctrine of eclipse?

Doctrine of eclipse really means that the inconsistent law not become a dead law but was eclipsed for the time being by fundamental right. The courts apply the doctrine of eclipse so that the shadow casted on that law will be removed and that law would get revived and operative.

What is the doctrine of territorial nexus?

According to the Doctrine of Territorial Nexus, laws made by a state legislature are not applicable outside that state, except when there is a sufficient nexus between the state and the object. This doctrine derives its authority from Article 245 of the Indian Constitution.

What is the doctrine of eminent domain?

The Doctrine of Eminent Domain, an integral cornerstone of administrative law, is a principle that grants the government the right to appropriate private property for public use. This complex legal provision plays an essential role in maintaining public welfare, urban planning, and governmental authority.

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