I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu [AIR 2007 SC 861]

Any legislation that infringes on fundamental rights or violates the Basic Structure of the Constitution shall be subjected to judicial review and Schedule 9 does not save it from judicial scrutiny.

Bench – Y.K Sabharwal Singh, Arijit Pasayat, S.H Kapadia, C.H Thakker, P.K Balasubramanyan, D.K Jain, Altamas Kabir, B.P Singh, and Ashok Bhan.

Facts – The foundational stone of this case was the Gudalur Janmann Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari), Act, 1969, which bestowed forest lands in the Janman estates in Tamil Nadu that had been struck down by the Apex Court in Balmadies Plantations Ltd and Anr. v. State of Tamil Nadu, since it was not found to be a measure of agricultural reform guarded under Article 31A of the Constitution. The Constitution’s Thirty-Fourth Amendment included the Janman Act into the Ninth Schedule, which made it out of the scope of judicial review.

Issues –

  • Whether the ninth schedule can be excluded from judicial review or not?
  • Whether a violation of fundamental rights in the ninth schedule be challenged before the court of law or not?
  • Whether the judicial review regarding the ninth schedule legislations based on fundamental rights be included under the basic structure doctrine or not?
  • What is the extent and nature of the immunity granted under Article 31 B?

Judgment – The fundamental structural doctrine is upheld by the court’s decision. It serves as a balance on Parliament’s amending power if it is judged to be encroaching on citizens’ fundamental rights. The court ruled in its majority judgement that any statute contained in the 9th Schedule that enumerates the rights provided in Part III of the Constitution would be overturned by judicial review. The court further ruled that to the question of determining whether a statute violates the Basic Structure Doctrine, it shall be evaluated through the “effect and impact” test.

The hon’ble court further held that every constitutional amendment adopted on or after April 24, 1973 that affect the Ninth Schedule must be judged against the benchmark of the Constitution’s core elements, i.e. the Basic Structure Doctrine as represented in Article 21, 14, and 19, as well as the principles that underpin them.

According to the court of law any legislation introduced to the Ninth Schedule after April 24, 1973 that is placed to be in violation of any rights in Part III can be questioned on the grounds that it disrupts basic structure as indicated in Article 21, 14, and 19. The principles laid out in judicial review are the basic structure of the Constitution, and no law can be exempted from judicial scrutiny. The court made a clear distinction in its decision, holding that provisions in the 9th Schedule are subject to judicial scrutiny not only if they threaten the Constitution’s core structure, but also if they are deemed to be in violation of the Fundamental Rights. As a result, a clear line was drawn between the scope of parliament’s amending powers and the courts’ judicial review power.

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