Summary of Keshvananda Bharti Case (Download Judgement)

Author : Yogricha

Updated On : January 29, 2024

SHARE

Overview: The Kesavananda Bharati case (1973) is a historic judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of India. It laid the foundation for the concept of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. In this significant ruling, the Court affirmed that while the Indian Parliament possesses the authority to amend the Constitution, this authority is not boundless.

It emphasized that there exist fundamental elements within the Constitution that remain beyond the scope of parliamentary amendments.

In this blog we will understand everything about the case:

  • Summary of  Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala Case
  • Aftermath of Kesavananda Bharati Case
  • Important dicsussion Pointers
  • Questions for Judiciary Exam from Kesavananda Bharati Case
  • Understanding Basic Structure Doctrine
  • Timeline of Basic Structure Doctrine
  • Download the Complete Judgement of Kesavananda Bharati Case

Case Summary of Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala

Kesavananda Bharati, the head of the Edneer Mutt, owned certain parcels of land. In 1969, the Kerala state government introduced the Land Reforms Amendment Act. This act granted the government the authority to acquire a portion of the sect's land, with Kesavananda Bharati being the chief head.

Challenging this government action, Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala filed a case in February 1970 under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. He opposed the 1969 Land Reforms initiated by the communist C. Achuta Menon government, which adversely affected his Mutt.

These reforms led to the significant loss of Edneer Mutt's property, exacerbating its financial troubles. In response, Kesavananda Bharati and his attorney, Nani Palkhivala, filed a writ petition with the Supreme Court, contending that this action violated his fundamental rights:

  • Freedom of conscience, free profession, practice, and propagation of religion (Article 25).
  • Freedom to manage religious affairs (Article 26).
  • Right to Property (Article 31).

Read About:  Judiciary Exam Preparation Tips

The Supreme Court had previously granted Parliament extensive powers to amend the Constitution in cases such as Shankari Prasad (1951) and Sajjan Singh (1965). In both instances, the Court interpreted "law" in Article 13 to refer to rules or regulations enacted through regular legislative authority rather than amendments to the Constitution made using constituent power under Article 368. This implied that Parliament could amend any provision of the Constitution, including Fundamental Rights.

Article 13(2) stated that the State should not make any law that abridged the rights conferred in Part III of the Constitution. Any law contravening this clause would be void to the extent of the infringement.

Following the landmark Golaknath v. State of Punjab case, Parliament passed several amendments to counter Golaknath's ruling. The 24th Amendment in 1971 declared that Parliament could amend any part of the Constitution. Subsequently, the 25th and 29th Amendments in 1972 removed the right to property as a fundamental right and included the Kerala Land Reforms Act in the 9th Schedule.

Aftermath of Kesavananda Bharati Case

The roots of the Kesavananda Bharati case can be traced back to the land reforms initiated in the Indian state of Kerala during the 1950s and 1960s. These reforms aimed to redistribute land from large landowners to the landless and economically disadvantaged sections of society.

In 1963, the Kerala government enacted the Kerala Land Reforms Act, which imposed limits on the extent of land an individual could own. This legislation also facilitated the acquisition of surplus land from landowners and its subsequent distribution to those without land.

At the time, Sri Kesavananda Bharati served as the head or pontiff of the Edneer Mutt, a Hindu religious institution in Kerala, India. In 1970, the Kerala government imposed restrictions on land ownership by religious institutions, including the Edneer Mutt. Dissatisfied with these restrictions, Sri Kesavananda Bharati and the Edneer Mutt challenged the constitutionality of the Act in the Kerala High Court. Subsequently, the case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the state government.

Don't Miss - How to Write Answers for Judiciary Mains Exam 2024?

During this period, the Parliament of India passed several key amendments to the Constitution. The 24th Amendment aimed to curtail the powers of the judiciary and narrow the scope of judicial review. Additionally, the 25th and 29th Amendments were enacted to restrict fundamental rights of citizens and grant Parliament extensive authority to amend various aspects of the Constitution.

Sri Kesavananda Bharati responded by filing a petition challenging the validity of these amendments, contending that they violated the foundational structure of the Constitution. This landmark legal battle led to the Kesavananda Bharati judgment, which affirmed the doctrine of the basic structure and placed constraints on Parliament's ability to amend the Constitution.

The Kesavananda Bharati case holds a prominent place in Indian constitutional history and Sri Kesavananda Bharati is remembered as a pivotal figure in the struggle to uphold democratic principles and the rule of law in India.

Following the Kesavananda Bharati case, a significant political and constitutional upheaval ensued in India. Indira Gandhi, then the Prime Minister of India, was deeply perturbed by the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati case, which established the doctrine of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. In response, she contemplated taking action to assert her authority and influence over the judiciary.

At the time, there was a long-standing tradition within the Supreme Court that only the senior-most judge would be appointed as the Chief Justice of India (CJI). However, in a move that disregarded this tradition and created shockwaves in the legal and political spheres, Indira Gandhi decided to appoint Justice A. N. Ray as the Chief Justice of India.

Read moreImportant Judgements for Judiciary Exams

What made this appointment particularly controversial was the fact that Justice A. N. Ray had dissented in the Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala case, aligning himself with a viewpoint that was contrary to the majority judgment.

This decision by Indira Gandhi to bypass the three most senior judges of the Supreme Court, namely Justice J. M. Shelat, Justice K. S. Hegde, and Justice A. N. Grover, in favor of appointing Justice A. N. Ray as the CJI, led to a widespread outcry and a sense of constitutional crisis in India. Many perceived this move as an attempt to undermine the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

In response to these developments, Justices J. M. Shelat, K. S. Hegde, and A. N. Grover chose to take a principled stand. They decided to resign from their positions as judges of the Supreme Court, rather than serve under a Chief Justice appointed through what they viewed as a politically motivated and unconstitutional process.

This period in Indian democracy is often characterized as one of the darkest moments, as it marked a significant clash between the executive branch, led by Indira Gandhi, and the judiciary, which was tasked with upholding the Constitution and its principles. The appointment of Justice A. N. Ray as CJI and the subsequent resignations of senior judges set the stage for a tense and protracted battle between the Supreme Court and the government, testing the boundaries of constitutional governance in India.

Matters Presented to the Court

  • The constitutional validity of the 24th Constitutional (Amendment), Act 1971.
  • The constitutional validity of the 25th Constitutional (Amendment), Act 1972.
  • The scope of Parliament's authority to amend the Constitution.

Learn more: Judiciary Exam 2024 Online Coaching

Detailed Verdict

In a landmark judgment delivered on April 24, 1973, in the Kesavananda Bharati case, the Supreme Court of India rendered a majority decision with a ratio of 7:6. This decision fundamentally altered the landscape of constitutional law in India.

The majority judgment, authored by Chief Justice S.M. Sikri and Justices K.S. Hegde, B.K. Mukherjea, J.M. Shelat, A.N. Grover, P. Jagmohan Reddy, and Khanna, held that the Parliament possessed the authority to amend any provision of the Constitution. However, this power was not absolute and came with a crucial caveat: the amendments must not alter or tamper with the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. This landmark ruling essentially introduced the Doctrine of Basic Structure into Indian jurisprudence.

On the other hand, the minority opinions, articulated by Justices A.N. Ray, D.G. Palekar, K.K. Mathew, M.H. Beg, S.N. Dwivedi, and Y.V. Chandrachud, while differing in their expressions, shared the view that the Parliament's authority to amend the Constitution should not be bound by the Doctrine of Basic Structure, although they did not give unbridled power to the Parliament either.

The Kesavananda Bharati case was a culmination of extensive deliberations and considerations regarding the scope of Parliament's authority to amend the Constitution. It sought to provide clarity on an issue that had remained unresolved since the Golaknath case. The verdict unequivocally established that the Parliament could amend the Constitution, but this power was circumscribed by the Doctrine of Basic Structure.

Read moreShort tricks to read the newspaper for Judiciary exams

In its final judgment, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the 24th Constitutional Amendment in its entirety. However, it struck down the first part of the 25th Constitutional Amendment Act as valid (intra vires) and the second part as invalid (ultra vires). This decision ushered in a new era in Indian constitutional law, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding the basic structure of the Constitution while allowing for necessary amendments to fulfill socio-economic obligations outlined in the Preamble.

The Kesavananda Bharati case, with its intricate legal reasoning and the articulation of the Doctrine of Basic Structure, stands as a pivotal moment in the history of Indian constitutional jurisprudence, shaping the principles that continue to guide the interpretation and evolution of the Indian Constitution.

What is Doctrine of Basic Structure?

The Doctrine of Basic Structure, established through the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case, encompasses a pivotal constitutional principle in India. In a narrow 7-6 majority decision, the Constitutional Bench ruled that Parliament possesses the authority to amend any aspect of the Constitution, provided such amendments do not impinge upon or alter the fundamental structure or essential characteristics of the Constitution.

While the Kesavananda Bharati judgment did not provide a comprehensive definition of the term 'basic structure,' it did identify a few core principles that constitute its integral components. These principles include concepts such as federalism, secularism, and democracy, which were recognized as being inherent elements of the basic structure.

Know About: Civil Judge exam preparation.

Over time, the 'basic structure' doctrine has evolved and been interpreted to encompass a broader array of fundamental principles and values. These additional components, considered as part of the basic structure, encompass:

  1. Supremacy of the Constitution: Recognizing the Constitution as the supreme legal document that governs the nation's functioning.
  2. Rule of Law: Ensuring that the rule of law prevails and that no one, including the government, is above the law.
  3. Independence of the Judiciary: Safeguarding the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, which is crucial for upholding the rights of citizens.
  4. Doctrine of Separation of Powers: Maintaining the separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government to prevent any one branch from acquiring excessive authority.
  5. Sovereign Democratic Republic: Preserving India's status as a sovereign nation governed by democratic principles.
  6. Parliamentary System of Government: Upholding the parliamentary system where the executive branch is accountable to the legislature.
  7. Principle of Free and Fair Elections: Ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections as a cornerstone of democratic governance.
  8. Welfare State: Commitment to the welfare of citizens, including social justice, economic equality, and the protection of marginalized communities.

Read More: Judiciary interview preparation.

An illustrative example of the application of the basic structure doctrine is the SR Bommai case (1994). In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the President's dismissal of state governments led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) following the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The Court invoked the basic structure doctrine, emphasizing the threat to secularism posed by these governments as a justification for their dismissal.

The Doctrine of Basic Structure has played a pivotal role in safeguarding the core principles and values enshrined in the Indian Constitution, ensuring their preservation even in the face of constitutional amendments. It remains a cornerstone of constitutional jurisprudence in India, serving as a safeguard against arbitrary changes that could undermine the Constitution's foundational principles.

Timeline of Basic Structure Doctrine

Sankari Prasad Judgment 1951: Initially, the judiciary held the view that the Parliament's amendment power was unrestricted, allowing it to amend any part of the constitution, including Article 368, which grants the power to amend to the Parliament.

Golak Nath Vs State of Punjab 1967: In the Golak Nath case, the Supreme Court introduced a new perspective on the powers of Parliament, asserting that it could not amend Part III of the constitution, which pertains to Fundamental rights. The Court elevated fundamental rights to a "Transcendental Position."

Keshavanada Bharti Vs State of Kerala 1973: This case marked a watershed moment and established the landmark judgment that Parliament could not alter or disrupt the basic structure of the constitution. It clarified that while Parliament possessed the power to amend the constitution, it could not undermine or dilute the basic structure or fundamental features of the constitution, as its authority extended only to amendment, not rewriting.

Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain: In this case, the Supreme Court invalidated a provision of the 39th Amendment Act (1975) that sought to exclude election disputes involving the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Lok Sabha from the jurisdiction of all courts. The Court ruled that this provision exceeded the amending power of Parliament as it impinged upon the basic structure of the constitution.

Also Read: Legal Current Affairs Questions for Judiciary Exams

Minerva Mills vs. Union of India: In the Minerva Mills case, the Supreme Court emphasized that the Indian Constitution is built upon a delicate balance between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles. It held that Parliament could amend Fundamental Rights to implement Directive Principles, provided such amendments did not harm or dismantle the constitution's basic structure.

These cases collectively illustrate the evolving understanding of the limits on Parliament's amendment power and the protection of the constitution's basic structure and fundamental principles.

Conclusion:

The majority faction of the Bench demonstrated a strong commitment to preserving the integrity of the Indian Constitution by safeguarding its fundamental principles. The judgment delivered in the Kesavananda Bharati case was the result of a meticulous examination of various dimensions of constitutional law, marked by robust and well-founded reasoning.

The Bench harbored legitimate concerns that granting boundless power to Parliament for amending the Indian Constitution could potentially lead to misuse and alterations driven solely by the government's discretion and preferences.

The apprehension loomed large that if the Parliament possessed unrestricted authority to amend the Constitution, it might tamper with the Constitution's basic features and the very essence of its principles. This concern was rooted in the fear that the government, if granted unchecked power, could alter the foundational tenets and ethos of the Constitution at will.

To address this impending challenge, there arose a pressing need for a guiding doctrine that could effectively balance the rights of both the Parliament and the citizens. In response to this imperative, the Bench arrived at a middle ground solution, giving rise to the Doctrine of Basic Structure.

Also Read: Judiciary Interview Preparation Strategies & Tricks

Even before the Indian Constitution came into force, a significant number of amendments—approximately 30—had already been introduced. Since the commencement of the Indian Constitution in 1951, an astonishing 150 amendments have been enacted. By contrast, the United States, over a span of 230 years, has seen a mere 27 amendments to its Constitution.

Despite this substantial volume of amendments, the essence and principles envisioned by the framers of the Indian Constitution have remained remarkably intact. The Indian Constitution has retained its distinct identity and spirit, a testament to the wisdom and foresight of the Bench's decision in this case.

The landmark judgment in the Kesavananda Bharati case bestowed stability upon the Indian Constitution. Although the petitioner did not secure an absolute victory, the Bench's verdict emerged as the guardian of Indian democracy, ensuring that the Constitution did not lose its essence and foundational principles. In essence, the case fortified the democratic values enshrined in the Constitution and upheld its enduring spirit.

Click here: Attend MPCJ Mains Free Class on Evidence Act  

Summary of Keshvananda Bharti Case (Download Judgement)

Author : Yogricha

January 29, 2024

SHARE

Overview: The Kesavananda Bharati case (1973) is a historic judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of India. It laid the foundation for the concept of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. In this significant ruling, the Court affirmed that while the Indian Parliament possesses the authority to amend the Constitution, this authority is not boundless.

It emphasized that there exist fundamental elements within the Constitution that remain beyond the scope of parliamentary amendments.

In this blog we will understand everything about the case:

  • Summary of  Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala Case
  • Aftermath of Kesavananda Bharati Case
  • Important dicsussion Pointers
  • Questions for Judiciary Exam from Kesavananda Bharati Case
  • Understanding Basic Structure Doctrine
  • Timeline of Basic Structure Doctrine
  • Download the Complete Judgement of Kesavananda Bharati Case

Case Summary of Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala

Kesavananda Bharati, the head of the Edneer Mutt, owned certain parcels of land. In 1969, the Kerala state government introduced the Land Reforms Amendment Act. This act granted the government the authority to acquire a portion of the sect's land, with Kesavananda Bharati being the chief head.

Challenging this government action, Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala filed a case in February 1970 under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. He opposed the 1969 Land Reforms initiated by the communist C. Achuta Menon government, which adversely affected his Mutt.

These reforms led to the significant loss of Edneer Mutt's property, exacerbating its financial troubles. In response, Kesavananda Bharati and his attorney, Nani Palkhivala, filed a writ petition with the Supreme Court, contending that this action violated his fundamental rights:

  • Freedom of conscience, free profession, practice, and propagation of religion (Article 25).
  • Freedom to manage religious affairs (Article 26).
  • Right to Property (Article 31).

Read About:  Judiciary Exam Preparation Tips

The Supreme Court had previously granted Parliament extensive powers to amend the Constitution in cases such as Shankari Prasad (1951) and Sajjan Singh (1965). In both instances, the Court interpreted "law" in Article 13 to refer to rules or regulations enacted through regular legislative authority rather than amendments to the Constitution made using constituent power under Article 368. This implied that Parliament could amend any provision of the Constitution, including Fundamental Rights.

Article 13(2) stated that the State should not make any law that abridged the rights conferred in Part III of the Constitution. Any law contravening this clause would be void to the extent of the infringement.

Following the landmark Golaknath v. State of Punjab case, Parliament passed several amendments to counter Golaknath's ruling. The 24th Amendment in 1971 declared that Parliament could amend any part of the Constitution. Subsequently, the 25th and 29th Amendments in 1972 removed the right to property as a fundamental right and included the Kerala Land Reforms Act in the 9th Schedule.

Aftermath of Kesavananda Bharati Case

The roots of the Kesavananda Bharati case can be traced back to the land reforms initiated in the Indian state of Kerala during the 1950s and 1960s. These reforms aimed to redistribute land from large landowners to the landless and economically disadvantaged sections of society.

In 1963, the Kerala government enacted the Kerala Land Reforms Act, which imposed limits on the extent of land an individual could own. This legislation also facilitated the acquisition of surplus land from landowners and its subsequent distribution to those without land.

At the time, Sri Kesavananda Bharati served as the head or pontiff of the Edneer Mutt, a Hindu religious institution in Kerala, India. In 1970, the Kerala government imposed restrictions on land ownership by religious institutions, including the Edneer Mutt. Dissatisfied with these restrictions, Sri Kesavananda Bharati and the Edneer Mutt challenged the constitutionality of the Act in the Kerala High Court. Subsequently, the case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the state government.

Don't Miss - How to Write Answers for Judiciary Mains Exam 2024?

During this period, the Parliament of India passed several key amendments to the Constitution. The 24th Amendment aimed to curtail the powers of the judiciary and narrow the scope of judicial review. Additionally, the 25th and 29th Amendments were enacted to restrict fundamental rights of citizens and grant Parliament extensive authority to amend various aspects of the Constitution.

Sri Kesavananda Bharati responded by filing a petition challenging the validity of these amendments, contending that they violated the foundational structure of the Constitution. This landmark legal battle led to the Kesavananda Bharati judgment, which affirmed the doctrine of the basic structure and placed constraints on Parliament's ability to amend the Constitution.

The Kesavananda Bharati case holds a prominent place in Indian constitutional history and Sri Kesavananda Bharati is remembered as a pivotal figure in the struggle to uphold democratic principles and the rule of law in India.

Following the Kesavananda Bharati case, a significant political and constitutional upheaval ensued in India. Indira Gandhi, then the Prime Minister of India, was deeply perturbed by the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati case, which established the doctrine of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. In response, she contemplated taking action to assert her authority and influence over the judiciary.

At the time, there was a long-standing tradition within the Supreme Court that only the senior-most judge would be appointed as the Chief Justice of India (CJI). However, in a move that disregarded this tradition and created shockwaves in the legal and political spheres, Indira Gandhi decided to appoint Justice A. N. Ray as the Chief Justice of India.

Read moreImportant Judgements for Judiciary Exams

What made this appointment particularly controversial was the fact that Justice A. N. Ray had dissented in the Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala case, aligning himself with a viewpoint that was contrary to the majority judgment.

This decision by Indira Gandhi to bypass the three most senior judges of the Supreme Court, namely Justice J. M. Shelat, Justice K. S. Hegde, and Justice A. N. Grover, in favor of appointing Justice A. N. Ray as the CJI, led to a widespread outcry and a sense of constitutional crisis in India. Many perceived this move as an attempt to undermine the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

In response to these developments, Justices J. M. Shelat, K. S. Hegde, and A. N. Grover chose to take a principled stand. They decided to resign from their positions as judges of the Supreme Court, rather than serve under a Chief Justice appointed through what they viewed as a politically motivated and unconstitutional process.

This period in Indian democracy is often characterized as one of the darkest moments, as it marked a significant clash between the executive branch, led by Indira Gandhi, and the judiciary, which was tasked with upholding the Constitution and its principles. The appointment of Justice A. N. Ray as CJI and the subsequent resignations of senior judges set the stage for a tense and protracted battle between the Supreme Court and the government, testing the boundaries of constitutional governance in India.

Matters Presented to the Court

  • The constitutional validity of the 24th Constitutional (Amendment), Act 1971.
  • The constitutional validity of the 25th Constitutional (Amendment), Act 1972.
  • The scope of Parliament's authority to amend the Constitution.

Learn more: Judiciary Exam 2024 Online Coaching

Detailed Verdict

In a landmark judgment delivered on April 24, 1973, in the Kesavananda Bharati case, the Supreme Court of India rendered a majority decision with a ratio of 7:6. This decision fundamentally altered the landscape of constitutional law in India.

The majority judgment, authored by Chief Justice S.M. Sikri and Justices K.S. Hegde, B.K. Mukherjea, J.M. Shelat, A.N. Grover, P. Jagmohan Reddy, and Khanna, held that the Parliament possessed the authority to amend any provision of the Constitution. However, this power was not absolute and came with a crucial caveat: the amendments must not alter or tamper with the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. This landmark ruling essentially introduced the Doctrine of Basic Structure into Indian jurisprudence.

On the other hand, the minority opinions, articulated by Justices A.N. Ray, D.G. Palekar, K.K. Mathew, M.H. Beg, S.N. Dwivedi, and Y.V. Chandrachud, while differing in their expressions, shared the view that the Parliament's authority to amend the Constitution should not be bound by the Doctrine of Basic Structure, although they did not give unbridled power to the Parliament either.

The Kesavananda Bharati case was a culmination of extensive deliberations and considerations regarding the scope of Parliament's authority to amend the Constitution. It sought to provide clarity on an issue that had remained unresolved since the Golaknath case. The verdict unequivocally established that the Parliament could amend the Constitution, but this power was circumscribed by the Doctrine of Basic Structure.

Read moreShort tricks to read the newspaper for Judiciary exams

In its final judgment, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the 24th Constitutional Amendment in its entirety. However, it struck down the first part of the 25th Constitutional Amendment Act as valid (intra vires) and the second part as invalid (ultra vires). This decision ushered in a new era in Indian constitutional law, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding the basic structure of the Constitution while allowing for necessary amendments to fulfill socio-economic obligations outlined in the Preamble.

The Kesavananda Bharati case, with its intricate legal reasoning and the articulation of the Doctrine of Basic Structure, stands as a pivotal moment in the history of Indian constitutional jurisprudence, shaping the principles that continue to guide the interpretation and evolution of the Indian Constitution.

What is Doctrine of Basic Structure?

The Doctrine of Basic Structure, established through the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case, encompasses a pivotal constitutional principle in India. In a narrow 7-6 majority decision, the Constitutional Bench ruled that Parliament possesses the authority to amend any aspect of the Constitution, provided such amendments do not impinge upon or alter the fundamental structure or essential characteristics of the Constitution.

While the Kesavananda Bharati judgment did not provide a comprehensive definition of the term 'basic structure,' it did identify a few core principles that constitute its integral components. These principles include concepts such as federalism, secularism, and democracy, which were recognized as being inherent elements of the basic structure.

Know About: Civil Judge exam preparation.

Over time, the 'basic structure' doctrine has evolved and been interpreted to encompass a broader array of fundamental principles and values. These additional components, considered as part of the basic structure, encompass:

  1. Supremacy of the Constitution: Recognizing the Constitution as the supreme legal document that governs the nation's functioning.
  2. Rule of Law: Ensuring that the rule of law prevails and that no one, including the government, is above the law.
  3. Independence of the Judiciary: Safeguarding the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, which is crucial for upholding the rights of citizens.
  4. Doctrine of Separation of Powers: Maintaining the separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government to prevent any one branch from acquiring excessive authority.
  5. Sovereign Democratic Republic: Preserving India's status as a sovereign nation governed by democratic principles.
  6. Parliamentary System of Government: Upholding the parliamentary system where the executive branch is accountable to the legislature.
  7. Principle of Free and Fair Elections: Ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections as a cornerstone of democratic governance.
  8. Welfare State: Commitment to the welfare of citizens, including social justice, economic equality, and the protection of marginalized communities.

Read More: Judiciary interview preparation.

An illustrative example of the application of the basic structure doctrine is the SR Bommai case (1994). In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the President's dismissal of state governments led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) following the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The Court invoked the basic structure doctrine, emphasizing the threat to secularism posed by these governments as a justification for their dismissal.

The Doctrine of Basic Structure has played a pivotal role in safeguarding the core principles and values enshrined in the Indian Constitution, ensuring their preservation even in the face of constitutional amendments. It remains a cornerstone of constitutional jurisprudence in India, serving as a safeguard against arbitrary changes that could undermine the Constitution's foundational principles.

Timeline of Basic Structure Doctrine

Sankari Prasad Judgment 1951: Initially, the judiciary held the view that the Parliament's amendment power was unrestricted, allowing it to amend any part of the constitution, including Article 368, which grants the power to amend to the Parliament.

Golak Nath Vs State of Punjab 1967: In the Golak Nath case, the Supreme Court introduced a new perspective on the powers of Parliament, asserting that it could not amend Part III of the constitution, which pertains to Fundamental rights. The Court elevated fundamental rights to a "Transcendental Position."

Keshavanada Bharti Vs State of Kerala 1973: This case marked a watershed moment and established the landmark judgment that Parliament could not alter or disrupt the basic structure of the constitution. It clarified that while Parliament possessed the power to amend the constitution, it could not undermine or dilute the basic structure or fundamental features of the constitution, as its authority extended only to amendment, not rewriting.

Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain: In this case, the Supreme Court invalidated a provision of the 39th Amendment Act (1975) that sought to exclude election disputes involving the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Lok Sabha from the jurisdiction of all courts. The Court ruled that this provision exceeded the amending power of Parliament as it impinged upon the basic structure of the constitution.

Also Read: Legal Current Affairs Questions for Judiciary Exams

Minerva Mills vs. Union of India: In the Minerva Mills case, the Supreme Court emphasized that the Indian Constitution is built upon a delicate balance between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles. It held that Parliament could amend Fundamental Rights to implement Directive Principles, provided such amendments did not harm or dismantle the constitution's basic structure.

These cases collectively illustrate the evolving understanding of the limits on Parliament's amendment power and the protection of the constitution's basic structure and fundamental principles.

Conclusion:

The majority faction of the Bench demonstrated a strong commitment to preserving the integrity of the Indian Constitution by safeguarding its fundamental principles. The judgment delivered in the Kesavananda Bharati case was the result of a meticulous examination of various dimensions of constitutional law, marked by robust and well-founded reasoning.

The Bench harbored legitimate concerns that granting boundless power to Parliament for amending the Indian Constitution could potentially lead to misuse and alterations driven solely by the government's discretion and preferences.

The apprehension loomed large that if the Parliament possessed unrestricted authority to amend the Constitution, it might tamper with the Constitution's basic features and the very essence of its principles. This concern was rooted in the fear that the government, if granted unchecked power, could alter the foundational tenets and ethos of the Constitution at will.

To address this impending challenge, there arose a pressing need for a guiding doctrine that could effectively balance the rights of both the Parliament and the citizens. In response to this imperative, the Bench arrived at a middle ground solution, giving rise to the Doctrine of Basic Structure.

Also Read: Judiciary Interview Preparation Strategies & Tricks

Even before the Indian Constitution came into force, a significant number of amendments—approximately 30—had already been introduced. Since the commencement of the Indian Constitution in 1951, an astonishing 150 amendments have been enacted. By contrast, the United States, over a span of 230 years, has seen a mere 27 amendments to its Constitution.

Despite this substantial volume of amendments, the essence and principles envisioned by the framers of the Indian Constitution have remained remarkably intact. The Indian Constitution has retained its distinct identity and spirit, a testament to the wisdom and foresight of the Bench's decision in this case.

The landmark judgment in the Kesavananda Bharati case bestowed stability upon the Indian Constitution. Although the petitioner did not secure an absolute victory, the Bench's verdict emerged as the guardian of Indian democracy, ensuring that the Constitution did not lose its essence and foundational principles. In essence, the case fortified the democratic values enshrined in the Constitution and upheld its enduring spirit.

Click here: Attend MPCJ Mains Free Class on Evidence Act  

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