The Basic Structure Doctrine Case: The Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court of India passed a judgment on 24 April 1973 in which it held that the parliament’s power to amend the constitution is not absolute and unqualified and laid out the basic structure doctrine. This was seen in the case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala ((1973) 4 SCC 225) and the case was presided over by  Justice Y V Chandrachud, Justice S M Sikri, Justice J M Shelat, Justice K S Hegde, Justice A N Grover, Justice A N Ray, Justice P J Reddy, Justice D G Palekar, Justice Hans Raj Khanna, Justice K K Mathew, Justice M H Beg, Justice S N Dwivedi, Justice B K Mukherjea


The Supreme Court ruled in Golaknath vs State of Punjab (1967 AIR 1643) that Parliament does not have the authority to change Part III of the Constitution, which contains the fundamental rights, because those rights are sacrosanct and indelible.

It was decided that any alteration made under Article 368 would be recognized as an exemption under Article 13. As a result, in order to counterbalance this effect, the Parliament inserted clause 4 to Article 13 of the Constitution, ensuring that no alteration would have an effect under Article 13.

Following the landmark case of Golaknath v State of Punjab, Parliament passed a series of modifications to overturn the Golaknath decision. The 24th Constitution Amendment Act of 1971 confirmed Parliament’s authority to change any portion of the Constitution, including Part III, and made the President’s consent to a Constitutional Amendment Bill essential.

Following that, the 25th Constitution Amendment Act of 1972 limited the right to property contained in Articles 19(1) and 31, authorizing the government to acquire private property for public purposes in exchange for compensation determined by Parliament rather than the courts. The Kerala Land Reforms Amendment Act 1969 and the Kerala Land Reforms Amendment Act 1971 were inserted in the Ninth Schedule to the Constitution by Parliament.

Kesavananda Bharati was the leader of a religious group in Edneer Muttt in Kerala’s Kasaragod district. He owned some land that was acquired by the Kerala government as a result of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963, for socioeconomic objectives. Following that, the Petitioner petitioned the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution for the execution of Articles 25, 26, 14, 19, (1) (g), and 31. And recommended that the Kerala Land Reform Act be declared unconstitutional and void.

The court looked into the matter with consideration and formulated the following issues:

  1. Whether the 24th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1971 constitutional?
  2. Whether the 25th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1972 constitutional?
  3. How far may Parliament go in exercising its power to amend the Constitution?


The majority ruled that any article of the Indian Constitution can be altered by Parliament in order to fulfil the Preamble’s socioeconomic obligations to citizens, provided that such revision does not undermine the Constitution’s core framework. The minority, on the other hand, was leery of granting the Parliament unfettered amending power. The court ruled that the 24th Amendment was completely valid. However, it ruled that the second section of the 25th Constitutional Amendment was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court deemed Article 31C illegal and void, reasoning that judicial review is a fundamental framework that cannot be removed. Despite the court’s finding that Parliament cannot violate fundamental rights, the amendment that abolished the fundamental right to property was preserved. Using social engineering and weighing the interests of both parties, the court found that neither Parliament nor the Supreme Court has the ability to corrode the Basic Structure of the Constitution, nor can it revoke the mandate to construct a welfare state and a fair society. In the Kesavananda case, the Basic Structure Doctrine was thus defined, implying that, while Parliament has the ability to alter the entire Constitution, it must do so in a way that does not contradict the features so vital to the Constitution that it would be spiritless without them.

The basic structure theory has served as the foundation for the judicial examination of all laws approved by Parliament in India. No law can change the fundamental structure. What the core structure is, however, is still being debated. Parliamentary democracy, fundamental rights, judicial review, and secularism are all basic structures held by courts; the list is not exhaustive. The Judiciary is in charge of determining what comprises the basic framework.

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