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Kesavananda Bharati Case

Kesavananda Bharati Case

What is Kesavananda Bharati Case?

  • The Kesavananda Bharati judgement is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of India that outlined the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution.
  • Justice Hans Raj Khanna asserted through this doctrine that the constitution possesses a basic structure of constitutional principles and values.
  • The Court partially cemented the prior precedent Golaknath v. State of Punjab, which held that constitutional amendments pursuant to Article 368 were subject to fundamental rights review, by asserting that only those amendments which tend to affect the ‘basic structure of the Constitution’ are subject to judicial review.
  • At the same time, the Court also upheld the constitutionality of first provision of Article 31-C, which implied that any constitutional amendment seeking to implement the Directive Principles, which does not affect the ‘Basic Structure’, shall not be subjected to judicial review.

What Constitutes The Basic Structure?

  • The Constitutional Bench ruled by a 7-6 verdict that Parliament should be restrained from altering the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution.
  • The court held that under Article 368, which provides Parliament amending powers, something must remain of the original Constitution that the new amendment would change.
  • The court did not define the ‘basic structure’, and only listed a few principles — federalism, secularism, democracy — as being its part. Since then, the court has been adding new features to this concept.      Kesavananda Bharati Case

Series of cases prior to Kesavananda Bharati

1)    Shankari Prasad vs. Union of India (1951)

  • The constitutional validity of first amendment (1951), which curtailed the right to property, was challenged. The SC ruled out that the power to amend the Constitution under Article 368 also included the power to amend fundamental rights and that the word “law” in Article 13 (8) includes only an ordinary law made in exercise of the legislative powers and does not include Constitutional amendment which is made in exercise of constituent power. Therefore, a Constitutional amendment will be valid even if it abridges or takes any of the fundamental rights.

2)    Sajjan Singh V. State of Rajasthan (1965)

  • The validity of the 17th Amendment Act, 1964 (which changed the definition of an “estate” given in article 31A of the Constitution so as to include therein lands held under ryotwari settlement in addition to other lands in respect of which provisions are normally made in land reform enactments. The Amendment also added 44 additional State enactments relating to land reforms to the Ninth Schedule to the Constitution in order to secure their constitutional validity and prevent them from being challenged before the judiciary on the ground that they are inconsistent with any of the provisions of Part III of the Constitution relating to Fundamental Rights. This was challenged on the ground that one of the acts inserted by the amendment in the 9th Schedule affected the petitioner on the basis that the amendment fell within the purview of Article 368.        Kesavananda Bharati Case
  • Supreme Court approved the judgment in Shankari Prasad case and held that on Article 13 (2) the case was rightly decided. Amendment includes amendment to all provisions of the Constitution.

3)    Golaknath V. State of Punjab (1967)

  • The Hon’ble Supreme Court prospectively overruled its decision in Shankari Prasad and Sajjan Singh cases and held that Parliament had no power to amend Part III of the Constitution so as to abridge or take away any of the Fundamental Rights. It also added that Article 368 merely lays down the procedure for the purpose of amendment. Further, the Court said that an amendment is a law under Article 13(2) of the Constitution of India and if it violates any fundamental right, it may be declared void. Therefore, amendments which “take away or abridge” the Fundamental Rights provisions cannot be passed. Article 368 does not contain a power to amend the constitution but only a procedure.      Kesavananda Bharati Case

The judgment in Kesavananda Bharati

  • The Constitutional Bench, whose members shared serious ideological differences, ruled by a 7-6 verdict that Parliament should be restrained from altering the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution.
  • The court held that under Article 368, which provides Parliament amending powers, something must remain of the original Constitution that the new amendment would change.
  • The court did not define the ‘basic structure’, and only listed a few principles — federalism, secularism, democracy — as being its part.
  • Since then, the court has been adding new features to this concept.

Significance | Kesavananda Bharati Case 

  • The most significant contribution by Kesavananda Bharati judgment is the recognition of supremacy of the Constitution of India and its unalterable features.
  • The Kesavananda judgment also defined the extent to which Parliament could restrict property rights, in pursuit of land reform and the redistribution of large landholdings to cultivators, overruling previous decisions that suggested that the right to property could not be restricted.        Kesavananda Bharati Case

 

ALSO READ : https://www.brainyias.com/suspension-of-fundamental-rights/

 

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