The process of amendment of the constitution of a state depends upon the nature and character of its constitution. If the constitution of a state is flexible it may be amended in the ordinary legislative process by the ordinary legislature of the country.
The best example of a flexible constitution is the British constitution, which can be passed, amended or repealed by a simple majority of the Parliament.
A rigid constitution cannot be amended in an ordinary law-making process. There is always a special machinery for effecting amendment in the constitution. Generally speaking, there are four different methods of constitutional amendment in the case of a rigid constitution.
Firstly, a rigid constitution may be amended through popular referendum. A proposal for constitutional amendment in this case is first of all passed by the legislature and is then referred to the vote of the people. It is deemed to be passed only when majority of the voters have approved of it.
This method of constitutional amendment is applicable in Switzerland, Australia and some states of the U.S.A. In Switzerland voters also have the right to propose an amendment. Fifty thousand voters or more may make such proposal.
Secondly, federal constitutions may be amended by an agreement of suitable majority in the federal legislature and the legislatures of the federating units. The method prevails in the U.S.A. where the constitution can be amended with the approval of two-thirds majority of the Congress and three-fourth of the states.
Certain parts of the Indian Constitution can be amended only when a proposal for constitutional amendment is passed in each House of the Parliament by a majority of the total membership of each House and by a majority of not less than two- thirds of members present and voting and when the same is ratified by the legislatures of not less than half the states.
Thirdly, constitutional amendment may be affected by a different organ created for this purpose.
The U.S.A. is a typical example. The constitution of U. S. A. provides that an amendment may be proposed by the Congress by two thirds majority voting separately or by a convention called by the Congress at a request made by at least two-third of legislatures of States.
The amendment proposed thus must be ratified either by three-fourths of the legislatures of the states or by conventions if three-fourths of the states, elected specially for this purpose.
Lastly, a rigid constitution may be amended by ordinary legislature under certain prescribed conditions. As for example, most parts of the Indian constitution can be amended by two thirds majority of the members present and voting coupled with absolute majority of each House.
In France, a proposal for constitutional amendment is to be made and passed by the two Houses of the legislature, i.e., the Senate and Chamber of Deputies sitting separately. An amendment thus proposed and passed is to be ratified by an absolute majority of the members of the two Houses in a joint session sitting at the National Assembly.
Points to Remember
A flexible constitution can be amended in the manner in which ordinary laws are amended. There is always a special procedure for the amendment of a rigid constitution. The following methods are generally employed:
1. A proposal for constitutional amendment passed by the legislature ‘nay be referred to the popular vote.
2. A federal constitution may be amended by an agreement of suitable majority in the federal legislature of the federating units.
3. The constitutional amendments may be effected by a special organ constituted for this purpose.
4. The constitution may be amended by a suitable majority in the legislature.