doctrine of eclipse

The Doctrine of Eclipse states that any law which is inconsistent with fundamental rights is not invalid. It is not totally dead but overshadowed by the fundamental right. The inconsistency (conflict) can be removed by constitutional amendment.

  • Behram Khurshid Pesikaka v. State of Bombay 

  • This is one of the earliest cases that discussed the reasonable nexus between Article 13 (1) and the Pre Constitutional Laws. The appellant, in this case, was an alleged accused under Section 66(b) of the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949. PreviouslyPreviously the Section 13(b) of the same act was found violative of Art 19(1)(f) and was declared void in the F.N. Balsara case so the appellant contended the case to be taken as a precedent. The Court held a specific part of the provision unconstitutional and void, not the whole law.

    Elements of Doctrine of Eclipse

    • It should be Pre-constitutional law
    • Must be in conflict with fundamental right
    • the law doesn’t become a dead letter but only inoperative
    • if there is an amendment to the Fundamental Right in future it will automatically make the impugned law operative.

    Post constitutional law
    Article 13(3) prohibits State to make any law which takes away or abridges rights conferred by part III i.e., fundamental right of the constitution. If state makes such a law which in inconsistent or infringes Part 3 of the constitution then it will be declared ultra vires and void to the extent of its contravention with fundamental rights.

  • Exception to post Constitutional law
    A post-constitution law which takes away, abridges or infringes the right conferred by Article 19 of the Indian Constitution will be operated as regards to non-citizens because fundamental rights are not available to non-citizens. Such a law will become void or non-existent only against citizens because fundamental rights are available only for citizens. The voidness stated under Article 13(2) can only be stated void as against the persons whose fundamental rights are taken away or abridges by law. Non-citizens cannot take advantage of it.Conclusion
    Thus the doctrine of eclipse provides for the validation of pre- constitution laws which violates the fundamental rights provided undert Part III of the Indian Constitution on the premise that such laws are not null and void ab initio but remains unforceable and in moribund condition only to the extent of such inconsistency with the fundamental rights. If any subsequent amendment made by the Parliament to the constitution which removes the inconsistency or the conflict of the existing law with the fundamental rights, then the eclipse disappears and that particular law becomes active again.

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