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I.R Coelho and State of Tamil Nadu 2007

I.R Coelho and State of Tamil Nadu 2007


  • IR Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu case is one of the landmark judgement for the interpretation of the doctrine of basic structure decided by a nine-judge bench, with regard to conflict of power between the Parliament and Supreme Court. The politico-legal controversy continuing from decades has been brought to an end by this judgement, holding Parliaments amending power subject to Judicial Review. This judgement is based on the Doctrine of Basic Structure as propounded in Kesavananda Bharati Case.


  • IR Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu arose when The Gudalur Janmam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari), Act, 1969 (the Janman Act), that endowed forest lands in the Janman estates in the State of Tamil Nadu, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in Balmadies Plantations Ltd and Anr. v. State of Tamil Nadu “as the same was not Found to be a measure of agrarian reform protected under Article 31-A of the Constitution.” The Janman Act was inserted in the Ninth Schedule through Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.


  • Whether after 24.04.1973 during which the Basic Structure Doctrine was propounded in the landmark judgment of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, can the Parliament make legislations immune by inserting them in the Ninth Schedule and thereby restraining it from the purview of judicial review under Article 31-B and, provided that, what would be its impact on court’s power for judicial review.

Historical Background of the Ninth Schedule

  • After the Constitution was enacted, several agrarian and land reforms legislations were passed. These were challenged in State High Courts on the ground of violation of fundamental rights. The Patna High Court struck down certain land reform legislation as being violative of fundamental rights. Similar legislation was upheld by the Allahabad and Nagpur High Courts and appeals from these judgments were pending in the Supreme Court. The Union Government, with a view to put an end to all this litigation, passed in Parliament the Constitution [First Amendment] Act, 1951. By this amendment Article 31-B and Ninth Schedule were enacted in the Constitution. The intent and effect was that any legislation placed in the Ninth Schedule could not be challenged on the ground that it was violative of any fundamental right. It is interesting to note that only thirteen Acts, all dealing with agrarian reforms, were initially placed in the Ninth Schedule. In course of time that number swelled to 284. Many of the Acts, which had no relation with agrarian or socio-economic reforms, were indiscriminately placed in the Ninth Schedule.

Relevant Case Laws | I.R Coelho and State of Tamil Nadu 2007

  • Shankari Prasad Case (1951)
    • This case dealt with the amendability of Fundamental Rights (the First Amendment’s validity was challenged).
    • The SC contended that the Parliament’s power to amend under Article 368 also includes the power to amend the Fundamental Rights guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution.
  • Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan
    • In Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court again upheld the Constitutionality of the acts that ‘were added under the Ninth Schedule Constitution (Seventeenth Amendment) Act, 1964 was challenged. The law as laid down in Shankari Prasad was reiterated by the Supreme Court, upholding the Constitutionality of the Act.
    • The Court also observed that Article 31-A and Article 31-B have been inserted for realising the State Legislative measures adopted by the various State Legislature with regards to the agrarian reforms as challenging them on the grounds of being in contravention to the Fundamental Rights would only delay their implementation.
    • Further, on the application of the Doctrine of Pith and Substance, it would become clear that the was seeking to amend the Fundamental Rights 5o as to remove any obstacle that may come in way of the implementation of the socio-economic policies.
  • C.Golak Nath v. State of Punjab
    • In the I.C.Golak Nath v. State of Punjab, the Eleven Judge Bench of the Supreme Court took into consideration the correctness of the view laid down in the Shankari Prasad and Sajjan Singh Case.
    • With a majority of six to five, the decision in the above cases were overruled and it was further held that Constitutional Amendment was law within the meaning of Article 13 of the Constitution and in case it took away or abridged any rights as conferred by Part II of the Constitution, then such amendment would be void.
    • It was further held that after 27/02/1967 the Parliament could not amend any provision of Part II so as to abridge the Fundamental Rights as enshrined by them.
  • Chandra Kumar v. Union of India & Others
    • Further in the case of L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India & Others “ it was held that power of judicial review by the courts is an integral and essential feature of the constitution and was also one of doctrines of Basic Structure of Constitution and hence the jurisdiction conferred on the High Courts and the Supreme Court is a part of inviolable basic structure of Constitution of India.”

Judgement | I.R Coelho and State of Tamil Nadu 2007

  • Taking the reference of the above mentioned cases and in view of the judicial mandate laid down by doctrine of basic structure and the power of judicial review, it was concluded that after 24th April 1973 ( the date of the decision in Kesavananda Bharati), there would be no blanket immunity given to the laws which were placed in the Ninth Schedule. And the Court would have the power to “examine the nature and extent of infraction of fundamental right by such statute, which is being sought to be constitutionally protected, and also on the touchstone of the basic structure doctrine as reflected in Article 21 read with Article 14 and Article 19 by application of the rights test and the essence of the right test. After application of the above-mentioned tests to the ninth schedule law if the infractions abridge the basic structure, then such law would not be given the protection of the ninth schedule.”
  • Further, a law which was judicially pronounced as violative of fundamental rights and which was subsequently inserted in the Ninth Schedule after the 24th April 1973, the Court held that such a violation could be challenged on the ground of firstly being in contravention to the basic structure doctrine as indicated in Article 21 read with Article 14, Article 19 and secondly the principles underlying there under.
  • The role of the court as to the “determination by the court whether the invasion was necessary and if so to what extent” shifts the determination of the need for the law from the Parliament to the courts for decision. This gives the courts the Flexibility of applying both the tests and thereby helping in determining the validity of such cases. The determination whether the law is infringing the basic structure doctrine will be determined by the courts which would eventually serve as the sum and substance of the judgment.

Conclusion | I.R Coelho and State of Tamil Nadu 2007

  • The judgment in I.R. Coelho vigorously reaffirms the doctrine of basic structure. Indeed it has gone further and held that a constitutional amendment which entails violation of any fundamental rights which the Court regards as forming part of the basic structure of the Constitution then the same can be struck down depending upon its impact and consequences.
  • Thanks to the basic structure doctrine the judiciary cannot be deprived of the power of judicial review nor can the rule of law be abrogated. Again thanks to this doctrine, federalism cannot be obliterated and States made vassals of the Centre.
  • The bad experiences of the emergency period have further added the significance to the power of the judicial review, which is the most powerful remedy against the state arbitrariness and protection of fundamental rights.
  • In the Indian context and experience substantial gains resulting from the basic structure doctrine and a bulwark against further erosion of basic fundamental rights.




Indian Polity

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