The Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 inserted the Ninth Schedule in the Indian Constitution during the prime ministership of Shri Jawaharlal Nehru. The 9th Schedule incorporates an index of Central laws and State Laws that cannot be challenged in the courts. Hence, in this context, the laws under the same have impunity from being struck down on grounds of being unconstitutional.
The objective of the enactment of the Ninth Schedule was to abolish Zamindari System and usher in agrarian reforms. The need of doing so was felt to make a social construct that is inclusive for all. The then government had set the tone to achieve a spirit of equality in the rural domain but had to face several challenges. There were several lawsuits opposing the compensation pattern decided for the Zamindars. Against this backdrop, the government considered it important to enact the 9th schedule and thereby make the laws immune from any judicial interventions. Hence, the idea was to ensure the smooth application of the land reform processes.
The Constitution(First Amendment) Act, of 1951 also added Article 31A and Article 31B to the Indian Constitution. Article 31 A saves five classifications of laws from being challenged on grounds of violating Article 14 and Article 19.
On the other hand, Article 31 B provides that no acts mentioned in the ninth schedule shall be deemed invalid on grounds of being inconsistent with the provisions in Part 3 I.e. the fundamental rights and there is no scope for judicial review. In that respect, the ambit of Article 31B is much wider than that of Article 31A. Moreover, Article 31 B also has retrospective applicability I.e. if a law is declared unconstitutional and then is added to the ninth schedule, they are taken as part of it from the beginning and therefore saves it from being unconstitutional. This provision provided a blanket ban to all the regulations in this schedule.
Some of the laws included under the ninth schedule are as follows
- The Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950.
- The Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948.
- The Bombay Maleki Tenure Abolition Act, 1949.
- The Bombay Taluqdari Tenure Abolition Act, 1949.
- The Panch Mahals Mehwassi Tenure Abolition Act, 1949
- The Bombay Khoti Abolition Act, 1950
- The Coking Coal Mines (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1971
The above list is not exhaustive but only indicative as to what reforms the 9th schedule aspires to bring in.
Originally, the motive for including the Ninth Schedule and Article 31B was to protect the laws related to land and property rights from judicial intervention. However, laws other than the said domain have also been included in this list.
The ninth schedule in the beginning had only 13 laws and it has now enlarged to include around 284 laws. Hence, it has been alleged by several experts that the Ninth Schedule is being used wrongly to provide impunity to laws that were not even destined to be contained in it.
The Ninth schedule also faces criticism for its context of being non-challengeable by the courts. The Supreme Court in the Kesavanada Bharati case pronounced on the 24th of April 1973 brought up the concept of Basic Structure. It signifies the provisions that are fundamental to the Constitution and cannot be amended by parliamentary laws.
Later in the Waman Rao case of 1981, the apex court ruled that laws made after 24th April 1973 can be challenged in the courts.
Hence, the present situation is such that the 9th schedule is open to judicial review by the Supreme Court of India.