What was the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India?

The 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India: A Controversial Milestone

The 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India, enacted in 1976, is a pivotal chapter in India’s constitutional history. This amendment, passed during a period of internal emergency, introduced significant changes to the Indian Constitution. It remains both celebrated and criticized for the alterations it made to the nation’s fundamental document. In this article, we will delve into the key provisions and the historical context of the 42nd Amendment.

The original text of the Preamble before 42nd Amendment

Historical Background

To understand the 42nd Amendment fully, it’s essential to appreciate the historical context in which it was passed. The early 1970s marked a period of political turmoil and crisis in India. The government led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared an internal emergency in 1975, citing the need for a strong response to economic and political challenges. During this time, several fundamental rights were suspended, and dissent was curtailed.

Key Provisions of the 42nd Amendment

Preamble Changes

One of the most notable changes brought by the 42nd Amendment was the alteration of the Preamble. It added the words “socialist,” “secular,” and “integrity” to the Preamble, emphasizing the government’s commitment to these principles. This modification sought to reflect the changing social and political landscape in India, with a focus on a secular and unified nation.

Fundamental Duties

The 42nd Amendment introduced the concept of Fundamental Duties for citizens. These duties were intended to instill a sense of responsibility and duty towards the nation. While fundamental rights specify what the state must do for the citizens, fundamental duties highlight what citizens should do for the nation.

Restrictions on the Judiciary

Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of this amendment was the attempt to limit the powers of the judiciary. Article 31-C was added, which gave precedence to Directive Principles of State Policy over Fundamental Rights in certain situations. This provision aimed to curtail the judiciary’s ability to invalidate laws on the grounds that they violated fundamental rights.

Election of the President and Vice President

The 42nd Amendment altered the method of election of the President and Vice President. It made them indirectly elected through an Electoral College. This change aimed to consolidate power in the hands of the central government, limiting the influence of individual states in the selection of these key officeholders.

Anti-Defection Law

Another significant change introduced by this amendment was the Anti-Defection Law. This law sought to address the problem of legislators frequently changing their political loyalties. It mandated that a legislator who defected from their party would lose their seat unless they could prove that they did so due to a split within the party.

State of Jammu and Kashmir

The 42nd Amendment also made changes related to the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. This region’s autonomy was significantly reduced, eventually leading to the reorganization of the state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, in 2019.

Emergency Powers

This amendment was primarily enacted during a period of internal emergency. It granted the government broad powers, including the authority to restrict fundamental rights. Critics argued that these powers were used to suppress dissent and opposition.

Constitutional Review

The 42nd Amendment was met with considerable controversy and criticism. It was perceived by many as an attempt to concentrate power in the central government and curtail individual rights. After the emergency was lifted, there was a call for revisiting and rectifying some of its provisions.

In the years that followed, the Indian government undertook efforts to amend or repeal some of the controversial elements introduced by the 42nd Amendment. This was seen as a reaffirmation of India’s commitment to democratic principles and individual freedoms.


The 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India remains a complex and historically significant chapter in the nation’s constitutional evolution. Its provisions continue to shape the Indian legal and political landscape, reflecting the challenges and aspirations of a vibrant democracy. While some aspects of the amendment were aimed at strengthening the democratic framework, others were seen as authoritarian and led to significant controversy. The historical context of the internal emergency during which it was passed adds layers of complexity to its legacy.

In summary, the 42nd Amendment stands as a testament to the ever-evolving nature of India’s constitutional framework and its unwavering commitment to the protection of individual rights, even in the face of significant challenges.

Other Sources

India.gov.in – https://www.india.gov.in/my-government/constitution-india/amendments/constitution-india-forty-second-amendment-act-1976

Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forty-second_Amendment_of_the_Constitution_of_India

CCRD – 42nd Amendment, Was it India’s or Indira’s Constitution?

Indian Polity Notes – 42nd Amendment of Indian Constitution

IPleaders – A critical analysis of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976

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