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Case Brief on Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala(1973)

KESAVANANDA BHARATI CASE /LEGAL LOCK

Introduction

Kesavananda Bharati vs State Of Kerala (1973) also known as the fundamental right case. it is considered one of the most significant cases in the history of the constitution. It defines the doctrine of the basic structure of the constitution to protect the interest of both citizens and the parliament of India.

A 13-judge bench was set up by the Supreme Court, the biggest so far(1), and the case was heard over 68 working days spread over six months.

History of the Kesavananda Bharati case

In the verdict of Shankari Prasad vs Union of India (1951) and Sajjan Singh vs the State of Rajasthan (1965) case Supreme Court conceded the absolute power to parliament in amending the constitution including fundamental rights.

But article 13(2) state-The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the right conferred by this Part (i.e. Part-III) and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void.”

In the case of Golaknath vs the State Of Punjab (1967) -The Supreme Court held that parliament could not amend fundamental rights mentioned in Part III of the Indian Constitution.’ and the power to amend the Constitution would be only with a Constituent Assembly.

To dis-effect the judgments of the Supreme Court in the case of Golaknath vs State of Punjab (1967), RC Cooper case (1970), and Madhavrao Scindia case (1970), the government passed the 24th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1971, and 25th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1972.

24th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1971– Parliament had also given itself the power to amend any part of the Constitution.

25th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1972– The property right had been removed as a fundamental right.

Facts of the case

To improve the social and economic condition of the state. Government introduce Kerala Land Reform Act 1963. The act restricts the management of its property. It restricts the property right of the citizen. By using this act government acquire the land of edneer mutt in the Kasaragod district.

On 21 March 1970 The petitioner Kesavananda Bharati. The head of the denier mutt community. Move to the supreme court under article 32 of the constitution for the enforcement of fundamental right Article 14(Right to equality), Article 19(1)(f)(freedom to acquire property), Article 25 (Right to practice and propagate religion), Article 26 (Right to manage religious affairs), and Article 31 (Compulsory Acquisition of Property).

But during the pendency of the petition, the Kerala Land act amended in 1971 and was placed in the Ninth Schedule by the constitution 29th amendment act 1971.

The petitioner was permitted to challenge the validity of the twenty-four, twenty-fifth and Twenty-Ninth amendment act to the constitution

Issue Raised

  1. Whether the Parliament has unlimited power to amend the Constitution?
  2. Whether the 24th Constitutional Amendment Act 1971 is constitutionally valid or not?
  3. Whether the 25th Constitutional Amendment Act 1972 is constitutionally valid or not?
  4. Whether the 29th Constitutional Amendment Act 1972 is constitutionally valid or not?

Arguments

Arguments of petitioners:

• Petitioners argued that the Parliament cannot amend the Constitution in a manner they want as their power to do this is restricted. Justice Mudholkar in the Sajjan Singh v State of Rajasthan case that Parliament cannot amend the basic structure of the constitution.

They argued that the 24th & 25th Constitutional Amendments infringed the Fundamental Right provided in Article 19(1)(f).

Arguments of respondent

Respondent argued that the Parliament’s has unlimited and absolute power to amend the Indian constitution. The respondent argument was based on the basic principle of India’s legal system, which states that the Parliament shall be supreme.

The respondents emphasised that the Parliament’s unlimited power to amend the Constitution must be preserved to meet its socio-economic obligations of the country.

Judgment

The landmark judgement was delivered on April 24, 1973, by a razor-thin majority of 7:6, holding that the Parliament can amend any provision of the Indian Constitution to fulfil its socio-economic obligations to citizens as stated in the Preamble, as long as the amendment did not change the basic structure of Constitution. The minority, on the other hand, was leery about giving the Parliament unrestricted amending powers.

The court held that the 24th amendment merely made explicit what was implicit in unamended article 368(1). The amendment does not enlarge the amending power of the parliament. The 24th Amendment is declaratory.it only declares the true legal position as it was before that amendment hence it is valid

• It was held that the first section of the 25th Constitutional Amendment, was ruled to be intra vires, while the second half was ruled to be extra vires. The Twenty-Ninth Amendment was also held to be valid,

The basic structure doctrine says that the Parliament has unrestricted power to amend the Constitution, provided that such revisions do not alter the basic structure of the constitution The bench made no reference to the basic structure of the Constitution and leaving it to courts to interpret.

This was later confirmed by the Supreme Court in several other decisions. The court argued that the term “amend” used in Article 368 does not refer to changes to the Constitution’s basic structure. If Parliament wants to change a constitutional provision, it must pass the “basic structure” test.

WHAT CHANGED AFTER IT?

In the case of Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain case (1975) The Supreme Court used the basic structure theory to strike down Clause(4) of Article 329-A, which was added by the 39th Amendment in 1975 because it was beyond Parliament’s amending power as it destroyed the Constitution’s basic features.

During the Emergency Period, Parliament passed the 39th Amendment Act. This Act exempted the election of the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of the Lok Sabha from judicial review.

The administration did this to prevent Indira Gandhi from being prosecuted by the Allahabad High Court for corrupt electoral practices.

In this case of Minerva Mills v. union of India, the 42nd amendment act was challenged and it was said that the clause 4 and 5 of Article 368, destroy the basic structure of the Constitution. So, Supreme Court declares it Unconstitutional.

After this case it was finally settled that no one is Supreme, only Constitution is Supreme and it was said that parliament can’t exercise unlimited amending powers, hence can’t disturb the basic structure of the constitution.

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