Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala – Analysis

Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala Analysis

Kesavananda Bharati judgement, is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of India that outlined the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution.

Full case name Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Anr.
Decided 24 April 1973
Citation(s) (1973) 4 SCC 225: AIR 1973 SC 1461

Judges Involved

  1. Chief Justice S M Sikri
  2. J. M. Shelat
  3. K.S. Hegde
  4. A.N. Grover
  5. B. Jaganmohan Reddy
  6. D.G. Palekar
  7. H R Khanna
  8. A.K. Mukherjee
  9. Y.V. Chandrachud.
  10. A.N. Ray,
  11. K.K. Mathew
  12. M.H. Beg
  13. S.N. Dwivedi.

Introduction

Kesavananda Bharati’s case is a landmark case and the decision taken by the Supreme Court outlined the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution. The decision which was given by the bench in Kesavananda Bharati’s case was very unique and thoughtful. The judgment was of 700 pages which included a solution for both parliament’s right to amend laws and citizen’s right to protect their fundamental rights. It happened in 1973. This case is known as the case that saved our democracy.

The bench came up with the doctrine of basic structure in order to protect the interests of both citizens of India and parliament. The bench through this solution solved the questions which were left unanswered in the Golaknath case. The case overruled the decision given in the case of the GOLAKNATH V. STATE OF PUNJAB case by putting the restriction on the parliament’s right to amend the Constitution. The doctrine of basic structure was introduced to ensure that the amendments do not take away the rights of the citizens which were guaranteed to them by the fundamental rights.

The 24th amendment was the first to gain supremacy in this case. 24th amendment is the time of Indira Gandhi and if we compare the amending power of the Constitution or of parliament of the amending rate of it, we have in a time span of 27 years, we have almost 30+ amendments. During this time, the Indira Gandhi era, the rate increases sharply. The in 39th amendment, the Election of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Speakers are beyond scrutiny. So, here the Supreme Court cannot review their election or scrutiny. Indira Gandhi was increasing her power to establish a one-party rule, instead of having democratic value we are leading to a one-party system.

Issues Involved

  • Whether Constitutional amendment as per Article 368 applicable to Fundamental Rights also?
  • Whether 24th amendment act 1971 is valid?
  • Whether section-2(a), 2(b) and 3 of 25th amendment are valid?
  • Whether 29th amendment act 1971 is valid?

Judgment

Kesavananda Bharati involved six writ petitions by a number of petitioners who represented their propertied class, propertied land opposed to land ceiling laws, sugar companies in Maharashtra, coal mining companies, and former princes seeking to preserve their earlier privileges. The writ petitions questioned whether there were limitations on the power of parliament to amend the Constitution, particularly the Fundamental Rights, as decided in the case of Golaknath.

In February 1970, Kesavananda Bharati, head of Hindu matt challenged Kerala Government attempts under 2 state land reforms act to impose the restrictions.

This case has the highest number of judge bench on till date and that is 13 judge benches. This case outlined the doctrine of the basic structure. It says that no limitation on the power of parliament to amend, but no violation of the basic structure. Now, this particular case talks about the Article- 368 of the Constitution of India which is on the amending power of the Constitution, and again the article just mentions the word amendment in it and don’t put restrictions up to what extent you can amend the Constitution or at what rate you can amend the Constitution doesn’t talk about any such things.

This particular case saves our democracy because it puts a restriction on the amending power of the parliament and it says that you can amend the Constitution but you cannot violate the basic structure. The first had stuck down bank nationalization, the second had annulled the abolition of privy purses of former rulers and the third had held that the amending power could not touch Fundamental Rights. Therefore, this case overruled the previous decision on Golaknath.

The effect of the 29th amendment of the Constitution was that it inserted the following acts in the ninth-schedule to the Constitution:

  1. The Kerala land reforms (amendment) act, 1969 (Kerala act 35 of 1969).
  2. The Kerala land reforms (amendment) act, 1971 (Kerala act 25 of 1971).
  3. The petitioner then moved an application for urging grounds and for amendment of the writ petition in order to challenge the above Constitutional amendments.

The judgment refused to consider the right to property as Fundamental Right under basic structure doctrine. It was later deleted in the 44th amendment. This case held the recognition of the supremacy of the Constitution and it was also held that judicial review cannot be stopped by any provision.

As a reaction to this judgment of this case, Indira Gandhi elevated A.N. RAY to CJI despite there being three more judges, who were senior to him, on the bench at that time, and during an emergency, he set up a bench to review the Kesavananda Bharati case and after that, this case got dissolved.

Conclusion

Debates and discussions on the limits on a legislative body to amend a Constitution are neither novel nor unique. THOMAS JEFFERSON strongly believed that however great a written Constitution may be, experiences and changes in society would necessitate corresponding changes to the written text, with each generation having the right to determine the law under which they may live. Justices HEDGE and MUKHERJEE accepted the thought that no generation should bind the course of generations to come. Yet, opinion shave differed on what values and principles should constitute the basic structure, and therefore, whether value judgments formed in an era of unbridled socialism can be imposed upon future generations.

The CHIEF JUSTICE came to the conclusion that “as a matter of construction, there is no escape from the conclusion that Article-368 of the Constitution of India provides for the amendment of the provisions contained in part III without imposing on parliament an obligation to adopt the procedure prescribed by the proviso.

 

ALSO READ : IMPORTANT LEGAL CONCEPTS AND DEFINITIONS 

Leave a Comment

close