Explained:Ninth Schedule

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News:Recently,a Lok Sabha member has said that reservation should be put under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

Facts:

About Ninth Schedule:

  • The Ninth Schedule contains a list of central and state laws which cannot be challenged in courts.Currently,284 such laws are shielded from judicial review.
  • The Schedule was added to the Constitution by the First Amendment in 1951 along with Article 31-B with a view to provide a protective umbrella to land reforms laws to save them from being challenged in courts on the ground of violation of fundamental rights.

About Article 31B:

  • Article 31B says that no legislation or provision of any law in the Ninth Schedule shall be deemed to be void by the court of law for being inconsistent with or takes away or abridges any of the Fundamental Rights.

Supreme Court on Ninth Schedule:

In IR Coelho versus State of Tamil Nadu, various laws placed in the Ninth Schedule were challenged in the Supreme court on the grounds that it violates fundamental rights:

  • The SC upheld the validity of Article 31-B and Parliament’s power to place a particular law in the Ninth Schedule.
  • But it said laws placed in the Ninth Schedule are open to judicial scrutiny and that such laws do not enjoy a blanket protection.
  • It laid down a dual test to examine the validity of a law placed in the Ninth Schedule.Whether it violates any fundamental right and if yes whether the violation also damages or destroys the basic structure.If the answer to both the questions is in the affirmative, then only a law placed in the Ninth Schedule can be declared unconstitutional.

Additional information:

Basic Structure of the Constitution:

  • In the Keshwanand Bharati case,a 13-judge constitution bench of the SC propounded the basic structure doctrine in 1973. 
  • While upholding Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution under Article 368, the SC said it was a limited power subject to judicial review.
  • The court also said that by using the power to amend the Constitution, Parliament cannot alter its basic or essential features like federal structure, separation of power between the three organs of the states, judicial review, secularism among others.