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The Most Powerful Safeguard

  • Published
    24th Jan, 2024

Context:

Basic Structure doctrine is one of the strongest safeguards for Indian democracy.

Evolution of Basic Structure Doctrine

  • Shankari Prasad and Sajjan Singh (1951, 1964): Validated parliamentary amendments, upheld legislature's authority to amend without limitations.
  • Seeds of Basic Structure Doctrine in Sajjan Singh (1964): Judges questioned majority's approach, indicating concerns about fundamental rights as the "plaything of the majority."
  • Golaknath Case (1967): Challenged Parliament's power to amend Part 3, hinted at inherent limitations; birthed the Basic Structure theory.

Kesavananda Bharati (1971)

  • Legal Battle Origins: Challenged 24th-26th amendments; KB, head of a mutt, represented by Nani Palkhivala, brought implied limitations doctrine.
  • Implied Limitations Accepted: Six judges acknowledged implied limitations on Parliament's amending powers, rejecting alteration of Basic Structure.
  • Justice H R Khanna's Decisive Role: Dissenting from implied limitations, he held fundamental rights amendable but protected Basic Structure, endorsing Conrad's core doctrine.

Legacy of Basic Structure Doctrine

  • Enduring Principle: KB judgment entrenched Basic Structure, establishing that even a constitutional amendment could be unconstitutional if it violated the Basic Structure.
  • Impact on Jurisprudence: Applied in subsequent cases, it became a powerful safeguard against constitutional aberrations and tyranny.
  • Significance Beyond Borders: Other Commonwealth countries, like Bangladesh, adopted the Indian judicial invention, highlighting its global influence and admiration.
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