Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala [AIR 1973 SC 1461]

Parliament cannot amend Articles enshrining Fundamental Rights as well as Concept of Basic Structure of the Constitution.

Bench – S.M. Sikri, A.K. Mukherjea, A.N. Grover, H.R. Khanna, A.N. Ray, K.K. Mathew, J.M. Shelat, K.S. Hegde, M.H. Beg, S.N. Dwivedi, P. Jaganmohan Reddy and Y.V. Chandrachud..

Facts – The Land Reforms Amendment Act of 1969 empowered the Government of Kerala to acquire a portion of land which was owned by the religious sect whose leader was the petitioner, Kesavananda Bharati.

As a response to this the petitioner approached the apex court under Article 32 of the constitution on the grounds of Article 25, 26, 14, 19 (1) (f) and 31 regarding his right to practice and propagate religion, manage the religious affairs, his right to equality as well as right to acquire property.

When the case was in consideration, the case of Golaknath vs. State of Punjab established that the Parliament cannot amend the fundamental rights. As a response to which, the Government introduced the 24th, 25th as well as the 29th amendment in the Parliament. According to the 24th Amendment, the Government made an attempt to neutralize the Golaknath case verdict by adding Clause 4 to Article 13 as well as adding Clause 3 to Article 368 stating that nothing in the Article 13 shall be applicable to an amendment under Article 368.

Secondly, under the 25th Amendment, the Parliament delinked Article 19 (1) (f) and Article 31 (2) by replacing the word \’compensation\’ with that of \’amount\’. Furthermore, the provisions of Article 39 (b) and (c) were made immune from the act of courts by instating that Articles 14, 19 and 31 shall no longer be applicable to them.

Thirdly, the 29th Amendment aimed at the insertion of the Kerala Land Reforms Act in the ninth schedule of the Constitution making it ultra vires of the scope of judicial review and hence untouchable from interference by the judiciary.

Issues

  • Whether 24th Constitutional Amendment Act stands as constitutionally valid or not?
  • Whether 25th Constitutional Amendment Act stands as constitutionally valid or not?
  • What is the scope of powers of the Parliament regarding its exercise of power to the amendment of the Constitution and can judiciary review it or not?

Judgment – It was adjudged by the Hon\’ble Court with a majority of 7:6 that the Parliament has the authority as well as powers to make amendment to any provision of the Indian Constitution for the purpose of accomplishing its socio-economic goals to its citizens enshrined in the preamble, but is subjected to the circumstance that such an amendment shall not tweak or alter the constitution\’s basic structure.

The court further held the 24th Constitutional Amendment Act to be intra vires entirely. However, the second part of the 25th Amendment Act was found to be ultra vires. It was observed by the court of law that the question of the extent of powers of the Parliament for the purpose of bringing in amendment to the Constitution was not answered in the earlier judgement of Golaknath case. Therefore bringing in answer to this question, the court held that the Parliamentary Power to make amendments in the Constitution are restricted such that the amendments cannot bring change in the Basic Structure of constitutional; hence laying down the famous Theory of Basic Structure. This doctrine is used to keep a check on the powers of the Parliament or any relevant malicious objectives by ways which are aimed by way of amending the fundamental features of the constitution.

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