Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru and Ors V. State of Kerala and Anr

BRIEF FACTS His Holiness Keshavananda Bharti (Petitioner) was a leader of a religious sect (Edneer Math) in the district of Kerela and had certain pieces of land, that were acquired under his name. The State government of Kerela introduced Land Reforms Amendment Act in the state and according to the Act, the Government was entitled to acquire some of the sect’s land. Keshvananda Bharti brought the case in Supreme Court u/s 32 of Indian Constitution for the enforcement of Art 14(Right to Equality),19(1)(f)(freedom to acquire property),25( Right to practice and propogate religion),26( Right to manage religious affairs),31 (Compulsary acquisition of Property).During the continuance of the suit the state of kerela passed Kerela Land Reforms (Amendment) Act,1971. Keshvananda Bharti challenged the 24th,25th and 29th amendment along with the Kerela Land Reforms(amendment) Act questioning its constitutional validity. After passing of landmark judgement of Golaknath v. State of Punjab, the parliament passed certain amendments namely 24th ,25th and 29th in order to regain the previous stature and overrule what was decide in the Golaknath’s case. These amendments facilitated the Parliament to recover its autonomy and supremacy which the was lost by the parliament in the above-stated case. 24th Amendment • The Constitution (24th Amendment) Act, 1971 introduced clause (4) in Article 13, protecting Article 368 from the action of Article 13. • Clauses (1) and (3) were also added to Article 368, to both restrict the scope of Article 13, as well as to establish the distinction between the amending power of Parliament and its legislative power.1 25th Amendment • The Constitution (25th Amendment) Act, 1971 modified Article 31 of the Constitution, expanding the power of the Government to acquire private property.2 29th Amendment • According to this amendment, The Kerala Land Reforms Act became a part of 9th Schedule and matter in relation to the Act would be beyond the scope of the judiciary. In some or other way, all the amendments which were made by the Central govt. protected the amendments of State Govt. from being tried in the court of law. ISSUES 1. Whether the 24th Constitutional (Amendment), Act 1971 is Constitutionally valid or not? 2. Whether the 25th Constitutional (Amendment), Act 1972 is Constitutionally valid or not? 3. The extent to which the Parliament can exercise its power to amend the Constitution. Petitioner’s Contentions The Petitioner contended that the Parliament cannot amend the constitution according to their wishes because they have a limited power to do so. The Parliament can make amendments in the constitution without changing its basic structure which was observed in the case of Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajesthan.3 He also contended that the 24th and 25th amendment violated his fundamental rights provided under Art 19(1)(f) and pleade for protection of his property. The petitioners also submitted that it was the Constitution of India which granted the citizens freedom from tyranny which they have suffered at the hands of Colonialism. The various features of this freedom will gradually wither away if not protected from the Parliament’s recent course. Respondent’s Contentions As observed in the case Shankari Prasad v. Union of India, A.I.R. 1951 S.C. 455. The State’s contented that the Parliament’s power to amend the constitution is absolute, unlimted and unfettered. Also, it was stated that the Supremacy of Parliament is the basic principle of the Indian Legal system. State also contended that in order to fulfill its socio-economic obligations which have been guaranteed to the citizens of India under the Preamble, it is important that the Parliament exercises its power to amend the constitution without any limitations. Judgement The Supreme Court by a majority of 7:6 held that the Parliament can amend the provisions of Constitution only upto the extend that such amendment does not change the basic structure of the Constitution. The court also held that the 24th Constitutional Amendment entirely but the 1st and 2nd part of the 25th Constitutional Amendment Act was found to be intra vires and ultra vires respectively. Basic Structure The basic structure doctrine is an Indian judicial principle that the constitution of India has certain basic feature that cannot be altered or destroyed through amendments by the parliament. The doctrine is build upon the principle i.e. the freedom and dignity of an individual, parliament cannot amend the basic structure of the Indian constitution. Main elements of basic structure: • Supremacy of the constitution. • Republic and democratic form of government. • Sovereignty of the country. • Secular and federal character of the constitution. • Separation of powers between 3 pillars of the constitution.5 The court found that there’s a difference between an ordinary law and amendment and also found that the word amend as in Art. 368 doesn’t refer to those amendments that change the basic structure of the constitution rather if the Parliament wants to amend some provisions, then such amendments should undergo the test of basic structure. Parliament can also amend Fundamental Rights as they are not included in the basic structure. Analysis/ Conclusion The Apex court preserved the Indian Constitution by protecting its basic structure. This judgements puts a bar on the Parliament to amend the constitution, preventing the arbitrariness of the Legislature and misuse of power. It came up with a doctrine which preserves the rights of the Cciizens and the Paliament and also provides stability to the constitution. Though the Petitioner partially lost his case, but this judgement plays a remarkable role in protecting the true essence and intend of democracy. 1 2 3 4 5