The constitution of INDIA declares INDIA to be a federal nation and India being a federal State, is enshrined with the policy of division of power where the three organs of the government are distinguished from one another. The legislature, the executive, and the judiciary are all independent bodies functioning individually.
The Indian Constitution is the document that lays down all the powers and functions of all three organs. Part III of the constitution deals with the fundamental rights of a citizen and hence, any infringement of the same can entitle a person to move the Supreme Court and different High Courts under Article 32 and 226 of the Constitution respectively.
However, the Kesavananda Bharati case brought in a new transition in the basic principles such as the rights of a citizen towards the fundamental right and the right of the legislature to amend laws.
Edneer mutt is a religious place located in the Kasaragod district of Kerala. The petitioner happened to be the chief of such mutt. He claimed that certain parts of the mutt were owned by him, which the government tried to acquire based on the provisions of the land reforms amendment Act, 1969.
On 21st March 1970, the petitioner moved the Supreme Court under Article 32 for the infringement of his fundamental rights enshrined under part III of the constitution of India.
The petitioner took recourse to the following provisions: ARTICLE 25, ARTICLE 26, ARTICLE 14, ARTICLE 19(1)(f), ARTICLE 31. While the petition was under review, the government of Kerala initiated another Act, the Kerala land reforms amendment Act, 1971.
The petitioner felt that there was arbitrary framing of laws on the part of the state legislature. The very famous case of Golaknath vs the State of Punjab initiated the 24th, 25th and 29th amendments which were later challenged through this case.
24th amendment: amendments made under Article 368 was regarded to be an exception to Article 13 and hence Article 368(3) was inserted.
25th amendment: Article 31(c) was inserted to empower state governments to deal with Article 39(b) and (c) which talks about directive principles of state policy.
26th amendment: the Kerala land reforms Act was inserted into the 9th schedule and hence was kept out of the purview of the judiciary.
The issues raised before the court were as follows:
- Extent of the power that the parliament can exercise in regard to amendment.
- Constitutional validity of the 24th and 25th amendments in the year 1971 and 1971 respectively.
Contentions of the petitioner (kesavananda Bharati) :
The petitioner taking recourse to the doctrine of basic structure pleaded that the legislature has a very limited scope in amending the laws in their favour.
The basic structure doctrine was upheld in the case of Sajjan Singh vs State of Maharashtra by Justice Mudhokar. The same was pointed out by the petitioner in this case.
Also, concerning the amendment Acts initiated by the legislature, the petitioner pleaded that it led to violation of his fundamental right enshrined under Article 19(1)(f).
Contention of the respondent (State of Kerala) :
The State claimed that India being a parliamentary form of government has the sole right to uphold the virtues of the parliament and to do the same, the parliament can exercise unlimited powers on its part.
Also, concerning implementing the directive principles of state policy enshrined under part IV of the constitution of India, the state can take any such measures deemed fit to maintain greater good and welfare in the society.
The case was decided by a 13-judge bench. The ratio was that of 7:6 with the majority judgement claiming that the parliament has the right to ensure socio-economic welfare of the country and thus can amend laws for the same purpose, but for that, the basic structure cannot be manipulated.
The case was finally adjudged on 24th April 1973.
The minority judgement too did not intend to empower the parliament completely. Concerning the constitutional validity of the 24th and 25th amendments, the Supreme Court laid down that the 24th amendment was as a whole constitutionally valid but the bench raised questions on the 1st and 2nd part of the 25th amend and ultimately it was decided to be intra vires and ultra vires respectively.
In all, the basic structure is the principle that needs to be highly looked into in case of making any amendments to the Constitution.