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The Supreme Court's ruling in the landmark case Keshvananda Bharati articulated the Constitution's basic structure theory. The court's conclusion in the matter of Keshavananda Bharati was extremely original and well-considered. The 700-page verdict provided a resolution for both the right of Parliament to alter legislation and the right of citizens to safeguard their Basic Rights.

To safeguard the interests of both Indian citizens and the Parliament, the Bench developed the Theory of Fundamental Structure. The Bench addressed the issues raised in Golaknath's case by its resolution. By restricting the Parliament's ability to change the Constitution, this case overturned the ruling made in the Golaknath v. State of Punjab case. The Theory of Fundamental Structure was established to make sure that the modifications did not revoke the rights that citizens have under the Fundamental Rights.

Facts of the Case

The leader of the religious cult Edneer Mutt in Kerala's Kasaragod district was Keshvananda Bharati. In the sect, Keshvananda Bharti possessed a number of properties under his name. The Land Reforms Amendment Act, 1969, was introduced by the Kerala state government. A portion of the land owned by the sect, whose leader was Keshvananda Bharti, might be taken by the government under the terms of the legislation.

Keshvananda Bharti filed a petition with the Supreme Court on March 21, 1970, pursuant to Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, to have his rights, which are protected by Articles 25 (Right to practise and propagate religion), 26 (Right to manage religious affairs), 14, (Right to equality), 19(1)(f) (Right to own property), and 31, enforced (Compulsory Acquisition of Property). The Kerala Government passed another law in 1971 called the Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act while the court was still considering the petition.

Contentions of the Petitioner

The petitioner said that because the Parliament only has a small amount of power, they are unable to change the Constitution in the way they would like. As was stated by Justice Mudhokar in the case of Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan, the Parliament cannot use its authority to amend the constitution by altering its fundamental design. The petitioner requested that his property be protected in accordance with Article 19(1)(f) of the Indian Constitution.

He maintained that the Fundamental Right guaranteed by Article 19(1)(f) of the Indian Constitution was breached by the 24th and 25th Constitutional Amendments. Basic rights are those that Indian citizens can use to ensure their freedom, and if the Constitution is amended to remove these rights, it will be deemed that the freedom that the Constitution guarantees its citizens has been removed.

Contentions of the respondent

The State was the respondent. The State maintained that Supremacy of Parliament is the basic foundation of the Indian Law System and hence the Parliament has the ability to modify the Constitution unlimitedly. The State further argued that the Parliament should exercise its right to change the constitution without any restrictions in order to meet its socioeconomic commitments that have been provided to Indian citizens under the Preamble.

Effects of the Kesavanada Bharti case

The historic ruling was handed down on April 24, 1973, by a narrow majority of 7:6, holding that any provision of the Indian Constitution may be amended by the Parliament in order to fulfil its socioeconomic obligations, which are guaranteed to citizens and mentioned in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, so long as the amendment does not alter the fundamental framework of the constitution.

According to the Supreme Court's ruling, the 24th Constitutional Amendment of 1971 is legitimate, while the second portion of the 25th Amendment of 1971 is extra vires.

According to the Supreme Court, Article 31C is unconstitutional since judicial review is a fundamental component of the judiciary and cannot be removed. The legislation that eliminated the fundamental right to property was maintained by the court, despite the court's judgement that Parliament cannot violate fundamental rights. The court decided that the "fundamental structure" would not be violated in spirit by the constitutional change.

  • The Fundamental Structural Doctrine

The doctrine holds that the Parliament may update the Constitution at any time, with the sole restriction that such revisions not alter the Constitution's fundamental design. The fundamental elements of the Constitution should not be altered by the Parliament in any way since doing so would render them spiritless and rob them of their own character. The bench made no reference of the Constitution's fundamental design and left it up to the courts to interpret it. The courts must determine if a certain change breaches the fundamental principles of our Indian Constitution.

The court determined that there is a distinction between ordinary law and an amendment, contrary to what the respondents claimed. Golaknath's case was somewhat overridden by Keshvananda Bharti's. The Golaknath case left open the issue of whether Parliament has the authority to change constitutional provisions, and the court addressed it in this case.

The court determined that the word "amend," which was used in Article 368, does not apply to amendments that can alter the constitution's fundamental structure. Whenever Parliament wishes to change a specific clause in the Constitution, the proposed change must pass the basic structural test.

It was also ruled that as the Parliament has the unrestricted ability to alter the Constitution subject to its fundamental framework, it may also amend fundamental rights to the extent that they are not covered by the basic framework. The bench affirmed the 24th Amendment while invalidating the second half of the 25th Amendment. Validation of the 25th Amendment was contingent upon the following two factors:

  • The court acknowledged that the terms "amount" and "compensation" are not interchangeable, but insisted that the amount granted by the government to landlords should not be excessive. The sum should be realistic and substantially related to the current market worth, however it need not be exactly the same as the market value.
  • The first section of the 25th Amendment was affirmed, but only under the condition that the restriction on the reach of the court would be overturned.

Because of the decision, the judiciary's political standing against the government was put to the ultimate test. They disregarded the contention that the administration trumped three judges. A ailing industrial company, Minerva Mills Owners (Bangalore), which was nationalised by the government in 1974, challenged the 42nd amendment before the Supreme Court less than two years after Parliament's amending powers were restored to nearly absolute terms. The Basic Structure theory was reiterated in Minerva Mills, which was later done in the Waman Rao case, in 1981.


Let's reach a conclusion. The supremacy of the Constitution in the Indian constitutional order was made explicit. Additionally, it was clarified that the judiciary is powerful enough to conduct judicial reviews while simultaneously having the ability to alter laws. Nonetheless, the Indian Constitution's fundamental framework cannot be altered. By restricting the legislature's ability to modify the constitution, the ruling worked to preserve both the "Constitutionalism" and the constitutional democracy in our nation. The choice also made popular and powerful political leaders more aware of the dangers of becoming autocrats.

Professor Conrad, illustrious attorney Mr. Palkiwala, and Justice Khanna had already ascended to heaven when Swami Kesavananda ultimately passed away in the year 2020. It goes without saying that the erstwhile triumvirate must have given Swami Kesavanada a warm welcome and congratulated him for his role in helping to preserve constitutional democracy and constitutionalism. Sincere welcomes to the four veterans for their wise and indisputable contributions to global constitutional law and for illuminating the precise route needed to ensure the concept of constitutionalism's long-term viability.

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