Kesavananda Bharati Judgment
SC Releases Videos On ‘Kesavananda Bharati’ Judgment
A five-minute video produced by the Supreme Court in 10 Indian languages gives a concise history of the Kesavananda Bharati judgment.
The Kesavananda Bharati judgment, delivered on 24 April 1973, was a verdict in a case filed by Sri Kesavananda Bharati.He challenged the constitutional validity of the 24th, 25th and 29th Amendments to the Indian Constitution, which sought to curtail the powers of the judiciary and the fundamental rights of citizens.The case was heard by a bench of 13 judges of the Supreme Court of India, making it the largest benches in Indian legal history to date. The bench was set up to hear the case as it involved important constitutional questions regarding the powers of the Parliament to amend the Constitution.
About the Judgement
The Supreme Court, in a historic 7:6 majority decision, propounded the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution.It holds that certain fundamental features of the Constitution, such as democracy, secularism, federalism, and the rule of law, cannot be amended by parliament. The court also held that the power of judicial review is an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution, and cannot be taken away by Parliament through constitutional amendments.
Significance of the Judgement
The significance of the case lies in the fact that the verdict has stood sentinel to the basic features of the Constitution such as secularism, religious freedom and federalism for 50 long years.This doctrine has served as a check on the power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution.It has ensured that the Constitution remains a living document that is responsive to changing times while preserving its fundamental values and principles. Proponents of the basic structure doctrine consider it to be a safety valve against majoritarian authoritarianism. It is plausible that the 1975 Emergency could have had far more deleterious effects on the health of Indian democracy if the basic structure doctrine was not there.
Basic structure of the constitution consists of following principles
- Supremacy of the Constitution
- Republican and Democratic forms of Government
- Secular character of the Constitution
- Separation of powers between the Legislature, the executive and the judiciary
- Federal character of the Constitution
- Rule of law
- Judicial review
- Parliamentary system
- Harmony and balance between the Fundamental Rights and DPSP
- Free and fair elections
- Limited power of the parliament to amend the Constitution,etc.
Vague and uncertain:
The judgment does not provide a clear definition of what constitutes the basic structure of the Constitution, which has led to a great deal of debate about which amendments are valid and which are not.
Dilutes Parliamentary Sovereignty:
The judgment gave the Supreme Court the power to strike down amendments passed by Parliament, which has been seen by many as a violation of the principle of parliamentary sovereignty. Judicial overreach: The doctrine amounts to judicial overreach over the legislature, which is itself undemocratic .Government has time and again criticized the orders of the judiciary. For instance, the Supreme Court declaring the NJAC Act unconstitutional.
The doctrine of basic structure has been seen as a barrier to necessary reforms of the Constitution. For example, changes the collegium system of judiciary.