Kesavananda Bharati Case
Kesavananda Bharati Case is marked to be the saviour of Indian democracy. It aimed at analyzing the infamous conflict between the legislature and judiciary and the role of the case in attaining constitutional harmony. Also called the Fundamental Rights Case.
Read About: Indra Sawhney Case
Kesavananda Bharati Case Background
The clash between the supreme democratic institutions has been repeatedly witnessed in India, early 1970s witnessed a face-off between the judiciary and legislature which resulted in the landmark judgement of the Kesavananda Bharati vs the State of Kerala.
Judgements before Kesavananda Bharati Case:
|Name of the Case||Judgements of the Supreme Court|
|A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950)||
|Shankari Prasad and Sajjan Singh||
|Golaknath v. State of Punjab (1967)||
Read About: Mandal Commission
Who was Kesavananda Bharati?
Kesavananda Bharati was a Hindu Monk and a patron of Kannada culture and art. He was also the petitioner in the Keshvananda Bharati vs State of Kerala case. February 1970 Swami Kesavananda Bharati, senior plaintiff and head of the Hindu monastery, Kerala, challenged the Kerala government’s attempts, under two land reform acts, to impose restrictions on the management of its property.
A petition under Article 26, concerning the right to manage religiously owned property without government interference, was filed. A 13-judge Bench was set up by the Supreme Court, to hear the case. To decide the question underlying the case was: Does the power of Parliament to amend the Constitution unlimited?
Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala Case Verdict
The landmark judgement was delivered on 24 April 1973 by a thin majority of 7:6 wherein the majority held that any provision of the Indian Constitution can be amended by the Parliament in order to fulfil its socio-economic obligations which are guaranteed to the citizens as mentioned in the Preamble of Indian Constitution, provided that such amendment should not disturb the basic structure of the constitution.
Under its judgement SC held that the 24th Constitutional Amendment 1971 was is valid, but it also held that the second part of the 25th Constitutional Amendment 1971 was ultra vires.
The Supreme Court declared Article 31C as unconstitutional on the ground that judicial review is the basic structure and hence cannot be taken away from the judiciary. Despite the ruling that Parliament cannot breach fundamental rights, the amendment that removed the fundamental right to property was upheld by the court. The court ruled that in spirit, the amendment of the constitution would not violate the “basic structure”.
Doctrine of the Basic Structure
The origins of the basic structure doctrine can be traced back to the German Constitution which, after the Nazi regime, was amended to protect some basic laws of the country.
German Constitution introduced substantive limitations on the power of the Parliament to amend certain parts of the Constitution which it considered ‘basic law’. In India, the basic structure doctrine has formed the basis of the judicial review of all laws passed by Parliament. No law can violate the basic structure of the constitution.
Implications of Kesavananda Bharati Case Judgement
Politically, as a result of the verdict, the judiciary faced its biggest litmus test against the executive. They ignored the opinion government superseded three judges. Within less than two years of the restoration of Parliament’s amending powers to near absolute terms, the 42nd amendment 1946 was challenged before the Supreme Court by Minerva Mills owners (Bangalore) a sick industrial firm which was nationalised by the government in 1974. Minerva Mills reaffirmed the Basic structure doctrine which was later done in the Waman Rao case, in 1981.