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The Kesavananda Bharti Case

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    5th May, 2020

India is celebrating 47 years of the decision in Kesavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala, wherein the Supreme Court of India laid down the ‘Basic Structure Doctrine’.

Context

India is celebrating 47 years of the decision in Kesavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala, wherein the Supreme Court of India laid down the ‘Basic Structure Doctrine’.

Background:

  • Exactly 47 years ago, the Supreme Court passed its landmark judgment in Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala, considered among the most significant constitutional cases in India’s judicial history.
  • By a 7-6 verdict, a 13-judge Constitution Bench ruled that the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution is inviolable, and could not be amended by Parliament.
  • The basic structure doctrine has since been regarded as a tenet of Indian constitutional law.
  • The Constitution of a country is the fundamental law of the land. It is based on this document that all other laws are made and enforced.
  • Under some Constitutions, certain parts are immune from amendments, and are given a special status compared to other provisions.
  • Since the Indian Constitution was first adopted, debates have raged as to the extent of power that Parliament should have to amend key provisions.
  • In the early years of Independence, the Supreme Court conceded absolute power to Parliament in amending the Constitution, as was seen in the verdicts in Shankari Prasad (1951) and Sajjan Singh (1965).
  • The reason for this is believed to be that in those initial years, the apex court had reposed faith in the wisdom of the then political leadership, when leading freedom fighters were serving as Members of Parliament.
  • In subsequent years, as the Constitution kept being amended at will to suit the interests of the ruling dispensation, the Supreme Court in Golaknath (1967) held that Parliament’s amending power could not touch Fundamental Rights, and this power would be only with a Constituent Assembly.
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