Doctrine of Eclipse in Indian Constitution – Application, Article 13, Case Law

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Doctrine of Eclipse is a principle that states that any law which is inconsistent with fundamental rights is not invalid. The conflict or inconsistency in the situation can be exempted through a constitutional amendment. Thus, the amendment will terminate the eclipse, making the law completely valid. In the Indian Constitution, the Doctrine of Eclipse is contented in Article 13 (1). Article 13 states that any law made before the Constitution ought to be consistent with the Part III of the Constitution.

Therefore, with the introduction of the Doctrine of Eclipse, any law inconsistent with the Part III of the Indian Constitution will not be entirely void. Only the section that infringes on the Fundamental right will be considered invalid. Here we have mentioned elements and crucial cases related to the Doctrine of Eclipse.

What is the Doctrine of Eclipse?

When the Indian Constitution was adopted, there were already several existing laws. Some of these laws had a direct conflict with fundamental rights. So, to determine the validity of these laws, the Supreme Court came up with certain doctrines, and the Doctrine of Eclipse was one of them.

Doctrine of Eclipse Notes 

  • Doctrine emerges directly from Article 13(1) of the Indian constitution, which is a part of Fundamental rights. And it states, “all laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Part, i.e., Part III, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.”
  • The Doctrine of Eclipse forecasts fundamental rights as prospective in nature.
  • The Doctrine of Eclipse states that the pre-constitutional law is inconsistent with fundamental rights and is not void but only stays unenforceable.
  • They exist for all past transactions, which means the liabilities and rights acquired before the Constitution came into existence.
  • These laws are applicable to individuals who have not benefited from fundamental rights.

Crucial Court Cases Related to the Doctrine of Eclipse

Several critical court case rulings are related to this Doctrine. It is recommended that one does an in-depth study on each of them. To name a few:

  • Bhikaji Narain Dhakras v. State of Madhya Pradesh: The C.P. and Berar Motor Vehicles Amendment Act of 1947 was challenged in court for violating Article 19 (1) (g) of the Indian Constitution.
  • Keshav Madhav Menon v. the State of Bombay: The case was not resolved when the Constitution was implemented. This raised issues about the retrospective nature of Article 13 (1) and the usage of the term invalid.
  • Behram Khurshid Pesikaka V State of Bombay: The appellant used another case- State of Bombay and Another v. F. N. Balsara to declare section 13 (b) of the Act void. The appellant drove under the influence and used a prior case to get a favoured judgment.
  • Sagir Ahmed v. State of Uttar Pradesh: The Supreme Court ruled out that the Doctrine of Eclipse was only applicable to laws made before the commencement of the Constitution and not after.

Apart from the court rulings mentioned above, there are several other landmark cases that showcase the applicability and importance of the Doctrine of Eclipse. Its introduction to the Indian Constitution has helped several citizens to protect their rights.

Elements of Doctrine of Eclipse

The elements of the Doctrine of Eclipse are given below:

  • It should be a law formulated before the commencement of the Indian Constitution.
  • The law is not dead; it is only overshadowed by fundamental rights.
  • The law in question should have infringements or conflict with fundamental constitutional rights.
  • If any Indian constitution amendment is made to the fundamental right, it will make the impugned law fully operative.

Salient Features of Doctrine of Eclipse

The salient features of the Doctrine of Eclipse are as follows:

  • The Doctrine of Eclipse only applies to the pre-constitutional laws and not post-constitutional laws
  • The law must be a violation of fundamental rights. Then only it can be eclipsed.
  • However, if the fundamental right that is violated by the impugned law is amended in the future, then the law becomes operative automatically.
  • The law comes out to violate Part III doesn’t become a nullity but remains defective and unenforceable.

Doctrine of Eclipse UPSC

The inclusion of the “Doctrine of Eclipse” in the UPSC GS-2 syllabus holds immense significance as it unravels a crucial legal principle that has shaped India’s constitutional jurisprudence. The Doctrine of Eclipse refers to the notion that any pre-constitutional law that is inconsistent with the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution is not void but only in a dormant or eclipsed state.

Exploring this topic allows aspirants to delve into the dynamic relationship between pre-constitutional laws and the fundamental rights guaranteed to Indian citizens.  By covering this topic thoroughly with the help of UPSC study materials and notes, aspirants can gain insights into the evolution of constitutional law in India and the process of harmonizing conflicting legal provisions.

Doctrine of Eclipse MCQs

Question: The Doctrine of Eclipse in the Indian Constitution refers to a) The temporary suspension of certain fundamental rights during a state of emergency, b) The subordination of state laws to the central laws in case of a conflict c) The limited applicability of certain constitutional provisions to specific regions or communities d) The validity of pre-constitutional laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution

Answer: d) The validity of pre-constitutional laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution

Question: According to the Doctrine of Eclipse, pre-constitutional laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution: a) Are entirely null and void b) Are rendered void to the extent of the inconsistency c) Can be amended to align with the Constitution d) Are automatically repealed upon the adoption of the Constitution

Answer: b) Are rendered void to the extent of the inconsistency

Question: The Doctrine of Eclipse is based on the principle that: a) Fundamental rights are inviolable and cannot be compromised, b) The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, c) Pre-constitutional laws should be given priority over the Constitution, d) Judicial review is essential to uphold the constitutional validity

Answer: b) The Constitution is the supreme law of the land

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