42nd Amendment: Background, Changes

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42nd amendment

The 42nd Constitutional Amendment is considered one of the most revolutionary chapters in India’s constitutional history. Enacted during a time of social and political upheaval, this amendment came with numerous historic changes to the Indian Constitution. In this blog, we will explore what is the 42nd Amendment, its aftermath, significance, and more crucial details. 


Before moving on to the crucial changes introduced by the 42nd Amendment, let us take a look at the background of India at that time. In 1971, general elections were held in India which concluded with Indira Gandhi winning the elections against Mr. Raj Narain and becoming the Prime Minister of India. Upon losing the election, Mr. Raj Narain filed a case against Indira Gandhi for election fraud. It was the first time in history that something like this was happening. 

The case continued for four years and was presided over by Jagmohanlal Sinha. The final judgement was delivered in 1975 which found Indira Gandhi guilty of misusing government officers to win elections. Therefore, the elections were declared null and void and she was thereafter banned from contesting in elections for the next six years.  

The case was then appealed in the apex court of India, the Supreme Court. However, the opposition was not ready to step down. Numerous protests and rallies were organized even by Jaya Prakash Narayan for demanding Mrs. Indira Gandhi to vacate the post. 

In order to bring calm to political chaos and uprising, the government declared a nationwide emergency on 25 June 1975. During this period, numerous amendments were made to the constitution of India out of which numerous were controversial in nature. For instance, the 38th Amendment of 22nd July 1975 extended the State’s authority to infringe on fundamental rights during an emergency. 

What is the 42nd Amendment Act?

The 42nd Amendment Act of the Indian Constitution is considered one of the most controversial and prominent decisions of all time. It was introduced by the Indian National Congress Government in 1976 which was then headed by Indira Gandhi. Considering the number of changes and complexities it brought, it is referred to as a mini-constitution of India. When the Indian Consitution was first amended in the year 1950, certain powers were given to the Supreme Court of India and to the citizens. However, the 42nd Amendment restricted those powers to an extent.

Changes Introduced by the 42nd Amendment Act

Here is an overview of some of the most essential changes introduced by the 42nd Amendment Act. 


  • Earlier, the Preamble included certain terms including “sovereign and democratic republic”. However, the 42nd Amendment replaced it with a sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic.
  • Similarly, the words “unity of the nation” were later replaced by unity and integrity of the Nation.

New Acts  

  • The amendment introduced a new subheading after Article 31 of the Constitution, namely Saving of Certain Laws.
  • It added 31D after 31C and before the Right to Constitutional Remedies. 
  • The amendment also added 32A after Article 32 of the Constitution. 
  • Article 39A was also added after Article 39 of the Constitution after the 42nd Amendment Act.
  • It also introduced Article 43A after Article 43.
  • Article 48A was also introduced after Article 48.
  • The 42nd Amendment introduced a new Part IVA along with the Fundamental Duties of citizens.

7th Schedule 

  • It transferred five state topics including education, forests, weight & measures, protection of wild animals and bird reserves, and administration of justice to the concurrent list. 


  • It made the President of India bound to accept the advice of the cabinet. 
  • The amendment act allowed the Centre to deploy forces in the State while dealing with complex situations of law and order. 
  • The 42nd Amendment gave special powers to the speaker of Lok Sabha and the Prime Minister.

Positive Impact of 42nd Amendment

Although the introduction of the 42nd amendment in the Indian Constitution came with social and political upheaval, there were numerous positive impacts as well. This highly criticized decision of the government was recognized for numerous advantages such as:

  • Stability during an emergency: The 42nd Amendment was introduced during the emergency declared by the Indira government. Despite the unending criticisms and social unrest, it provided a legal framework by fostering effective governance during a demanding period of time. 
  • Empowering the central government: The amendment empowered the central government by impositioning the rule of the President in the case of constitutional breakdown, ensuring stability and governance.  
  • Accountability: It improved accountability by extending the terms of Lok Sabha. This allowed more time for legislatures to work on their long-term agendas and implement the desired policies. 
  • Harmony and peace: By introducing the concept of fundamental duties, this amendment of the Indian constitution aimed at enhancing peace and harmony among the citizens. 

What are the Criticisms of the 42nd Amendment?

The 42nd Amendment in the Indian Constitution was controversial for a bunch of reasons. Here is the negative impact:

  • The undermining of fundamental rights: The 42nd Amendment made certain fundamental rights of citizens subject to government discretion. This caused numerous uprisings to rise among citizens.
  • Consolidating power: This amendment consolidated all the power in the hands of the government and made it authoritative. It also allowed the government the authority to amend the constitution without judicial review.
  • Amendment to the preamble: By adding new words to the preamble, some people argued that this amendment changed the original essence of the Indian constitution. 
  • Undermining federalism: It undermined the principles of federalism by giving more authority to the central government over the states.

This blog was all about the 42nd Amendment. If you want to read more such informative stuff, check out our dedicated page on Indian History.

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