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Shankari Prasad vs Union of India

TITLE OF THE CASE– Shankari Prasad vs Union of India

CITATION– 1951 SCR 89: AIR 1951 SC 458

DATE OF JUDGEMENT– October 5, 1951

PETITIONER– Sri Shankari Prasad Singh Deo

RESPONDENTS– Union of India and State of Bihar

BENCH– Hiralal Kania CJ and M. Patanjali Sastri, B.K. Mukherjee and S.R. Das and Chandrasekhara Aiyar, JJ.


After Independence, Constitution of India came in to force and it became applicable, but during that time Zamindari system was quite prevalent in India where big zamindars owned big areas of lands and properties. During that time Right to property was included as a Fundamental Right under Article 19. The 1st Constitutional Amendment Act, 1951 was argued in this case.

Zamindari system was very prevalent all over India. In the view to abolish the Zamindari system, some state legislatures took certain measures particularly in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh by enacting Zamindari Abolition Act.

In this case, the petitioner i.e., Shankari Prasad, who was a Zamindar from Bihar, his land was taken by the government under the Zamindari Abolition Act, 1951. But, because Right to property was inserted as a Fundamental Right all the Zamindars who were affected by the legislations, they approached the Court of law to challenge the validity of these legislations. They argued that, it is violating their Fundamental Right i.e. Right to property granted them by Part III of the Constitution.

During this time, 1st Constitutional Amendment Act was passed the government to put an end to this litigation challenging the validity of these Zamindari Abolition Act. The first Amendment Act secured the validity of the Acts enacted by the various states in order to end the Zamindari practice. By the 1st Constitutional Amendment, the Parliament inserted Article 31A and Article 31B. Article 31A made it possible for a state to acquire a property without having violated any fundamental rights. And Article 31B created a protective shield around certain acts and regulations. This amendment also included 9th Schedule which contained lists of 13 acts or regulations.

The Counsel for the petitioner argued that the 1st Constitutional Amendment Act was an attack on the Fundamental Rights as mentioned in the Constitution of India and it was abrogating

Article 13[2] of the Constitution of India which read ‘The State shall not make any laws that are not in consonance with the Constitution. And if the law drafted intervened with an individual’s fundamental rights, the said law will become void to the extent of the contravention’.

The Patna High Court held that the Act passed in Bihar was unlawful, unconstitutional and the High Court at Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh and the High Court at Nagpur in Madhya Pradesh maintained the legitimacy of the enactments in the states.

By the 1st Constitutional Amendment Act, the government ensured that even if state governments are passing Zamindari Abolition Acts, people cannot challenge the validity of these legislations.

The High Courts of different States had different opinion about this, so the matter was taken to the Supreme Court of India.


1] Whether the 1st Constitutional Amendment Act, 1951 passed by the Parliament which inserted Article 31A and Article 31B is valid or not?

2] Under Article 13[2] the word ‘law’ includes the amendments made by the parliament or not?

3] Article 31A and Article 31B, inserted by the 1st Constitutional Amendment Act, are ultra vires of the Constitution of India?


Article 368 of the Constitution of India

Article 13[2] of the Constitution of India

Article 31 A and Article 31 B of the Indian Constitution

Article 132 of the Constitution of India

Article 226 of the Constitution of India


1] The 1st Amendment Act, 1951 which inserted Article 31A and Article 31B violates the fundamental rights granted through part III of the constitution. It falls within the restriction of Article 13[2] and hence it is invalid.

2] They contended that the provisional parliament was incompetent to amend the constitution under Article 368 since this power is granted on the two houses of the parliament as a nominated body.

3] It was argued that it was the state legislatures and not the parliament which can make laws in the matter that fall within list II of the Seventh Schedule.


1] It was argued that if the petitioner’s argument, that the reference to the two houses mentioned in Article 368 makes it irrelevant to provisional parliament, if accepted, can take away the very purpose of Article 379.

2] They stated that the word ‘law’ in Article 13[2] includes only ordinary law and not the constitutional amendments. By drawing a clear line of distinction between the law, it becomes evident that Article 13[2] does not affect the amendment made under Article 368.


The case was heard by a five judge Bench before the Supreme Court.

The Judgement was communicated by Hon’ble Judge M Patanjali Sastri.

The Supreme Court of India in this case held that the power of the Parliament, under Article 368, has the power to amend part III of the Constitution of India, Fundamental Rights that are guaranteed to the people. Also, it was held that Article 31A and Article 31B, which was first inserted by the 1st Constitutional Amendment Act, were deemed to be valid, and, therefore not ultra vires of the Constitution of India.

It was also stated by the Supreme Court of India that the term ‘law’ will include only ordinary laws, but it will not include any Constitutional Amendment that are made in the exercise of certain Constitutional power.

The Supreme Court applied the principle of harmonic construction as there is a disagreement between Article 368 and Article 13. The provisions of constitution should be interpreted in a manner that they must agree with each other and there must be harmony among them.

Hence, the power of amendment given under Article 368 of the Constitution of India are unlimited. However, the power of Judicial review guaranteed under article 13 is not unlimited. It can be applied only on normal legislations, but it cannot be applied in Constitutional Amendments.

This article is written by Manasi Khadilkar of Gopaldas Jhamatmal Advani Law College.

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