IS 105TH CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROSPECTIVE IN NATURE?

INTRODUCTION

Amendments to the Constitution of India are brought by the parliament to refine the provisions of the Constitution as per the changing societal needs and objectives of the citizens. This delineates the essence of our Constitution i.e., the adaptable and dynamic nature of the Constitution. However, at certain times a clear interpretation of the amendments or the provisions of the Constitution becomes an indispensable part. Similarly, the objective of the 105th Amendment Act, 2021 was ambiguous. Therefore, in a recent judgment,  the Supreme Court of India provided a precise interpretation of the same and removed all the ambiguities shrouding it. The sole reason behind the confusion is the 102nd Amendment Act, 2018.

RELATION BETWEEN 102ND AND 105TH AMENDMENT ACT

The 102nd Amendment Act of 2018[1] brought about three important changes; they are:

  1. Insertion of Art. 338B— It provides for the set-up of the National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC). The main function of the commission is to regulate and monitor the safeguards provided to the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) [hereinafter referred to as ‘SEBCs’]; to advise and participate in the development of these people and so on.
  2. Insertion of Art. 342A— It grants the President the exclusive right to determine who are deemed to be or not to be the SEBCs.
  3. Insertion of clause (26C) in Art. 366— This clause defines SEBCs.

The 105th Amendment Act of 2021[2] brought about three important changes; they are:

  1. Insertion of clause (9) in Art. 338B— The said clause states that the whole of the Art. 338B shall not affect clause (3) of Art. 342A.
  2. Changes in Art. 342A— The 105th Amendment changes the purpose of this Art. from the ‘Constitution’ to the ‘Central Government’. It also grants the states and union territories to prepare and maintain a separate list of SEBCs for their purposes.
  3. Substitution of clause (26C) in Art. 366— The definition of SEBCs was substituted by the said amendment. It now includes the phrase “State or Union Territory”.

From a literal perspective, it is clear that the main distinction is the right of the States or Union Territories in determining the SEBCs. In Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil vs The Chief Minister and Ors.[3](also known as the Maratha Quota case), the Supreme Court applied the rule of literal interpretation to interpret the 102nd Amendment Act of 2018. It was held by the court that the 102nd Amendment Act repudiates the States’ right to determine the SEBCs, as Art. 342A grants the President the exclusive right to do so[4]. Hence, the Maharashtra law dealing with the reservation of the Maratha community was declared unconstitutional; and the 102nd Amendment Act was held constitutionally valid[5]. The above-mentioned judgment of the apex court made the purpose of the said amendment clear. However, it stirred up the national interest, as the said amendment stripped the States or Union Territories of their rights to determine SEBCs. To mitigate the problem, the Parliament passed the 105th Amendment Act of 2021[6]. It reinstated the States’ position as the determiner of SEBCs. The government clarified that the 102nd Amendment Act never stripped off the rights of the States, but the court cannot override the text of the Constitution[7].  

WHETHER THE 105TH AMENDMENT ACT IS RETROSPECTIVE OR PROSPECTIVE?

Though the 105th Amendment Act solved the existing problem created by the 102nd Amendment Act, it created a new problem. Now, the bone of contention is whether the 105th Amendment validates the 102nd Amendment or not. If it is a validating one, then the amendment should come into effect from the date the 102nd amendment came into effect i.e., it is retrospective. If it is not a validating one then it will be effective from the original effective date of the 105th Amendment i.e., it is perspective.

Pattali Makkal Katchi vs A. Mayilerumperumal and Ors.[8] (also known as the Vanniyar quota case) plays a decisive role in determining the intention of the legislature for bringing the 105th Amendment Act.

 Pattali Makkal Katchi vs A. Mayilerumperumal and Ors., 2022

  1. The Tamil Nadu State Assembly passed an act on 26.02.2021, which deals with the internal reservation of 10.5% of the Vanniakula Kshatriyas within the 20% reservation of MBCs and By the 2021 act, reservations in educational institutions, including reservations in private educational institutions, and reservations in appointments or posts in the service under the state were provided to the SEBCs[9].10.5% is the proposed quota for the Vanniyar community in part MBCs (V) community. However, the Madras High Court held that the State legislature is not competent to enact such laws on SEBCs[10].
  2. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal against the ruling of the Madras High Court. The Supreme Court held that the act of 2021 contravened the 102nd Amendment Act of 2018, as the said Act was enacted before the 105th Amendment Act of 19.08.2021 i.e., on 26.02.2021[11].

The question of law in the case is whether the State legislature can enact the impugned act after 102nd Amendment and before the 105th Amendment[12]. The apex court held that the State legislature is not competent to do the same. The apex court in Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil vs The Chief Minister and Ors.[13] had already held that the 102nd Amendment Act is constitutionally valid. Therefore, the question of the 105th Amendment being a validating act of the 102nd Amendment Act is out of bounds, as the legislature cannot rectify an amendment that was never vague.

A question might arise when validating legislation is enacted. Validating legislation is enacted when certain previous enactments are found to be unlawful. To severe or rectify such a law validating legislation is enacted. It always has a retrospective effect. However, 105th Amendment is not clarificatory to the 102nd Amendment. The reason behind this: first, that the 102nd Amendment is not unlawful; secondly, the 105th Amendment only includes the States’ rights in the substantive process of identifying the SEBCs, and the procedural aspect which is continuing and lawful is not changed[14]. Moreover, if we analyze previous amendments, it can be noticed that whenever the legislature intended to provide retrospective effect to an amendment it explicitly mentioned it. So, the question of interpreting the intention of the legislature on providing retrospective effect to the amendment is not rational. For instance, if we flip through the pages of the history of constitutional amendments, we can find such examples. The very First Amendment of 1951[15], by which changes to Art, 19(2) were introduced, a retrospective effect was given to it i.e., it will be applicable from the date of commencement of the Constitution of India. Another such example is the eighty-fifth Amendment Act of 2001[16], where the amendment to Art. 16(4-A) was given a retrospective effect from 17.06.1995.

CONCLUSION

Through the Vanniyar quota case, the apex court has logically and legally deciphered the intention, purpose, and nature of the 105th Amendment Act of 2021. The amendment is prospective, and its purpose is to provide the States and Union Territories the authority to identify the SEBCs. Interpretation of any Statute is the key to ascertaining the purpose or objective of that statute. In the case of Constitutional amendments, it becomes much more crucial because if the intention of the same is not captured it might fail to adapt to the changing nature of societal needs as well as to protect the needs of the citizens. It is a well-known fact that the provision of Art. 368 was incorporated to make our Constitution a flexible and dynamic one. Thus, grasping the purpose and objective of the amendments is quintessential.

Author(s) Name: Souvik Shaw (Department of Law, University of Calcutta)\

References:

[1] Constitution (One Hundred and Second Amendment) Act 2018

[2] Constitution (One Hundred and Fifth Amendment) Act 2021

[3] Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil vs The Chief Minister and Ors. 2021, (2021) 8 SCC 1

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Supreme Court Observer, https://www.scobserver.in/journal/why-did-parliament-have-to-pass-the-105th-constitutional-amendment/ (last visited April 9, 2022)

[7] Ibid.

[8] Pattali Makkal Katchi vs A. Mayilerumperumal and Ors., Civil Appeal No. 2600 of 2022

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Supra note 3

[14] Supra note 8

[15] Constitution (First Amendment) Act 1951

[16] Constitution (Eighty Fifth Amendment) Act 2001

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