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EXPLAINED: WHAT WAS THE KESAVANANDA BHARATI CASE, THE LANDMARK SC JUDGMENT THAT ESTABLISHED ‘BASIC STRUCTURE’ OF THE CONSTITUTION?

EXPLAINED: WHAT WAS THE KESAVANANDA BHARATI CASE, THE LANDMARK SC JUDGMENT THAT ESTABLISHED ‘BASIC STRUCTURE’ OF THE CONSTITUTION?

Definition of Basic Structure

  • The present position is that the Parliament under Article 368 can amend any part of the Constitution including the Fundamental Rights but without affecting the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution.
  • ‘Basic structure’ is today widely interpreted to include the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, doctrine of separation of powers, federalism, secularism, sovereign democratic republic, the parliamentary system of government, the principle of free and fair elections, welfare state, etc.

Emergence of Basic Structure Case

  • In the Shankari Prasad case (1951), the constitutional validity of the First Amendment Act (1951), which curtailed the right to property, was challenged.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that the power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution under Article 368 also includes the power to amend Fundamental Rights.
  • But in the GolakNath case (1967), the Supreme Court reversed its earlier stand.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that the Fundamental Rights are given a ‘transcendental and immutable’ position and hence, the Parliament cannot abridge or take away any of these rights.
  • The Parliament reacted to the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Golak Nath case (1967) by enacting the 24th Amendment Act (1971). This Act amended Articles 13 and 368.
  • It declared that the Parliament has the power to abridge or take away any of the Fundamental Rights under Article 368 and such an act will not be a law under the meaning of Article 13.

What the judgment said?

  • Under Article 368 of the Constitution, provided Parliament amending powers, something must remain of the original Constitution that the new amendment would not change.
  • But while the judgment established the doctrine of basic structure and ruled that Parliament had no power to alter it, the court did not define basic structure itself.

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