March 6, 2024
symbolizing the legal focus

Under Indian law, any existing law that conflicts with fundamental rights does not automatically become invalid. It is known as the doctrine of eclipse. If the Indian Constitution of 1950 is amended appropriately to bring the contested law into compliance with the fundamental rights, it may become enforceable.

The underlying tenet of this doctrine is the prospective nature of fundamental rights. Because the fundamental rights outlined in the Indian Constitution of 1950 did not exist at the time the law was created, any pre-constitutional law that violated those rights would not be declared unconstitutional.

What is the doctrine of eclipse?

  • The doctrine of eclipse applies to that laws that are in conflict with fundamental rights do not automatically become null and void.
  • The underlying tenet of this doctrine is the prospective nature of fundamental rights.
  • Article 13(1) of the Constitution, which is a part of the fundamental rights, states that all laws in force in the territory of India immediately prior to the commencement of this Constitution insofar as they are in contradiction to the provisions of this Part, i.e. To the degree of such inconsistency, Part III will be null and void.
  • It declares that a pre-constitutional law that infringes on fundamental rights is not immediately void but rather remains inactive or unenforceable.
  • They are in place for all previous transactions, meaning that they cover rights and obligations obtained before the Constitution was ratified.
  • Those who have not been granted basic rights, such as non-citizens, are still subject to these laws.
  • Because of this, the contested law remains hidden behind the fundamental rights and is subject to reinstatement should the inconsistency be resolved.

doctrine of eclipse example

  • In the event that a court modifies its interpretation of a statute, for example, judgments rendered earlier based on the prior interpretation remain intact, but cases decided in the future must follow the revised interpretation.

doctrine of eclipse in indian constitution: Elements

The following are some of the main components of the Eclipse Doctrine:

  • Pre-Constitutional Law: Laws passed prior to the start of the Constitution are covered by this theory.
  • Conflict with Fundamental Rights: The relevant legislation must be in clear opposition to the fundamental liberties that the Constitution protects.
  • Not Nullity but Inoperativeness: The law does not become completely void or invalid. Rather, it stops working or cannot be applied to people whose basic rights are being violated by the law.
  • Possibility of Future Operativeness: The previously challenged law will automatically become operative again if the pertinent fundamental right is amended in the future. This implies that after a constitutional amendment resolves the conflict with fundamental rights, the law can be implemented and enforced.

doctrine of eclipse in indian constitution: Case Rulings

  • In the case of Keshav Madhav Menon v State of Bombay, the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act, 1931’s provisions were being used to prosecute the appellant for publishing a pamphlet titled “Railway Mazdooran ke Khilaf Nai Zazish” without authorization. The Indian Constitution came into force during the case. As a result, concerns were expressed about the word “void” and the prospective and retroactive nature of Article 13(1).

The primary question was whether Article 19(1)(a) was violated by the contested Act, and if so, should it be ruled invalid. The Court held that the Act was only void to the extent of the violation and that Article 13’s use of the word “void” does not imply the complete repeal of any laws or provisions.

  • In the case of State of Gujarat v Ambica Mills, the Court decided that Ambica Mills could not use Article 13(2) to declare the law unconstitutional because she was not a citizen.

The Court reasoned that a law is only void to the extent that it violates the rights granted to citizens, and non-citizens have no rights under Article 19, so if a law violates the fundamental rights of citizens under article 19(1)(f), it is void against citizens who have been granted such rights. However, the law is operative with regard to non-citizens.

Part III of the Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights, and the doctrine upholds pre-constitutional laws that breach these rights. Rather than being deemed void from the start, these laws are only deemed unenforceable and dormant to the extent that they conflict with fundamental rights.

The eclipse, however, vanishes if the Parliament amends the Constitution later on to eliminate any contradiction or conflict between the current legal framework and the fundamental rights. After the discrepancy is fixed, the specific law is operational and enforceable.

Essentially, the eclipse doctrine offers a way to allow pre-constitutional laws that violate fundamental rights to be temporarily suspended, and then later on, through constitutional amendments that eliminate the inconsistency, the laws can be revived and made valid.

For any latest news, legal topics, judiciary exams notifications, patterns, etc watch Jyoti Judiciary’s YouTube channel for legal videos for any updates at

Leave a Comment