Article 368 in Part XX of the Constitution deals with the powers of Parliament to amend the Constitution and its procedure. It states that the Parliament may, in exercise of its constituent power, amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of the Constitution in accordance with the procedure laid down for the purpose.
The procedure for the amendment of the Constitution as laid down in Article 368 is as follows:
1. An amendment of the Constitution can be initiated only by the introduction of a bill for the purpose in either House of Parliament and not in the state legislatures.
2. The bill can be introduced either by a minister or by a private member and does not require prior permission of the president.
3. The bill must be passed in each House by a special majority, that is, a majority (that is, more than 50 per cent) of the total membership of the House and a majority of two-thirds of the members of the House present and voting.
4. Each House must pass the bill separately. In case of a disagreement between the two Houses, there is no provision for holding a joint sitting of the two Houses for the purpose of deliberation and passage of the bill.
5. If the bill seeks to amend the federal provisions of the Constitution, it must also be ratified by the legislatures of half of the states by a simple majority, that is, a majority of the members of the House present and voting.
6. After duly passed by both the Houses of Parliament and ratified by the state legislatures, where necessary, the bill is presented to the president for assent.
7. The president must give his assent to the bill. He can neither withhold his assent to the bill nor return the bill for reconsideration of the Parliament.2
8. After the president’s assent, the bill becomes an Act (i.e., a constitutional amendment act) and the Constitution stands amended in accordance with the terms of the Act.
The constitution can be amended through the following methods:
1. Amendments by Simple Majority (ordinary legislative process): A large number of provisions contained in the constitution are open to change by a simple majority. These may be divided into two classes.
(a) Where the text of the constitution is not altered but the law is changed. Article 11 confers on the Parliament power to enact a law regarding citizenship. An Act made in pursuance of that power will change the law relating to citizenship without altering the text of Article 5 to 10. Article 124 still refers to the Supreme Court as consisting of the Chief justice and 7 judges. But in exercise of its power the Parliament has increased the strength of the judges from 7 to 25.
(b) Where the text of the constitution is changed:
1. Formation of new state.
2. Creation or abolition of legislative council
3. Creation of council of ministers for Union territories
4. Extending the period of 15 years fixed for the use of English in Article 343.
5. Defining Parliamentary privileges [Article 105(3)]
6. Salaries and allowances of President, Vice-President, Judges, etc.
2. Amendments requiring special majority only: Except those provisions which are amendable by an ordinary majority, the rest of the provisions require a special majority for amendment. The Amendment Bill must be passed by a majority of two-thirds of the members of each House present and voting and such majority must exceed 50% of the total membership of the House.
3. Amendments requiring special majority and ratification by States: Those provisions which relate to the federal structure of the constitution require special majority in Parliament as well as ratification by at least half of the state legislatures. This procedure is required in the following provisions:
(a) Manner of election of President
(b) Executive power of the Union and the State
(c) The Supreme Court and the High Courts
(d) Distribution of legislative power between the Union and the States
(e) Representation of states in Parliament
(f) Article 368 itself
Apart from these provisions for formal amendments of the constitution, the constitution also gets amended through constitutional practices, conventions and by judicial interpretation. Judicial interpretation has played especially important role in our constitution insofar as the Supreme Court has held that the basic structure or framework of the constitution cannot be changed by an amendment and court’s power to examine whether that limit has been exceeded have been held to be part of the basic structure of the Constitution.