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Sunidhi Singh   26 January 2021

Basic structure doctrine

Hello! Please explain the Basic Structure Doctrine of the Indian Constitution. Also, which are the most important case laws pertaining to it?


 2 Replies

Nandini Warrier   29 January 2021

Good evening,

Doctrine of basic structure, or basic structure doctrine refers to the most basic, essential features, characteristics of the Indian Constitution that can NOT be altered. The concept of Basic structure came up in the Kesavananda Bharti case in 1973. To understand this concept, we will need to understand a few other concepts. 

Article 13(2) of the Indian Constitution states that "The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this Part and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void." 

Article 368 of the constitution talked about the power of the Parliament to amend any part of the constitution. There was a confusion among these two articles, and the question was if Article 368 allowed the parliament to amend even the Fundamental rights. 

The first constitutional amendment Act, which brought in amendments to Article 31- Right to Property, which was once a fundamental right. This Amendment Act was challenged in the court of 5 judges, and it was ruled (3:2) that Article 368 gave the Parliament the powers to amend even the fundamental rights. 

In Golaknath v. State of Punjab, it was ruled that Parliament CAN NOT curtail the fundamental rights, which was opposite to the judgements of the previous cases. In order to reverse this judgement, the Parliament introduced various amendments, amending Article 13 and Article 368 itself, giving the parliament all powers to amend ANY part of the constitution.

In the year 1973, the case Kesavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala came up about, where the above mentioned constitutional amendment acts were challenged, asking the same question as always. Whether the Parliament has all the power to amend even the fundamental rights?The Supreme Court, here introduced the Basic Structure Doctrine for the first time, stating that yes, the parliament CAN amend the constitution, PROVIDED that the basic structure of the constitution is not altered or destroyed. The basic features itself are not listed, and it was ruled that any feature that, upon ruling is found as basic, will be added to the list. Hence it is not a set list, yet the few basic features are

  • The fundamental Rights,
  • separation of powers, 
  • The federal character of the constitution, and so.

It was also ruled that in order to find out if you can not comprehend if a feature is basic or not, you can always try to look into the feature from the perspective of the Framers of the Constitution. Looking into their intention while framing the constitution, we can understand if the feature is basic or not. 

Hope this helped!



Ankur Srivastava   02 February 2021

Basic Structure Doctrine-

There is no notice of the expression "Fundamental or Basic Structure" anyplace in the Indian Constitution. The possibility that the Parliament can't present laws that would correct the essential construction of the constitution developed slowly over the long run and numerous cases. The thought is to safeguard the idea of Indian majority rules system and secure the rights and freedoms of individuals. This convention assists with securing and save the soul of the constitution archive. 

It was the Kesavananda Bharati case that carried this teaching into the spotlight. It held that the "fundamental or basic construction of the Constitution couldn't be repealed even by an established change". The judgment recorded some essential constructions of the constitution as:

  1. Supremacy of the Constitution
  2. Unity and sovereignty of India
  3. Democratic and republican form of government
  4. Federal character of the Constitution
  5. Secular character of the Constitution
  6. Separation of power
  7. Individual freedom


Over time, many other features have also been added to this list of basic structural features. Some of them are:

  • Rule of law
  • Judicial review
  • Parliamentary system
  • Rule of equality
  • Harmony and balance between the Fundamental Rights and DPSP
  • Free and fair elections
  • Limited power of the parliament to amend the Constitution
  • Power of the Supreme Court under Articles 32, 136, 142 and 147
  • Power of the High Court under Articles 226 and 227

Any law or amendment that violates these principles can be struck down by the SC on the grounds that they distort the basic structure of the Constitution.

Development of the Basic Structure Concept 

The idea of the essential design of the constitution advanced after some time. In this segment, we will examine this advancement with the assistance of some milestone judgment identified with this convention. 

Shankari Prasad Case (1951) 

For this situation, the SC fought that the Parliament's force of changing the Constitution under Article 368 incorporated the ability to revise the Fundamental Rights ensured in Part III also. 

Sajjan Singh case (1965) 

For this situation likewise, the SC held that the Parliament can alter any piece of the Constitution including the Fundamental Rights. 

It is essential to bring up that two disagreeing judges, for this situation, commented whether the principal privileges of residents could turn into a toy of the lion's share party in Parliament. 

Golaknath case (1967) 

For this situation, the court switched its previous position that the Fundamental Rights can be changed. 

It said that Fundamental Rights are not agreeable to the Parliamentary limitation as expressed in Article 13 and that to correct the Fundamental rights another Constituent Assembly would be required. 

Likewise expressed that Article 368 gives the method to change the Constitution yet doesn't present on Parliament the ability to revise the Constitution. This case gave upon Fundamental Rights a 'supernatural position'. 

The lion's share judgment called upon the idea of suggested restrictions on the force of the Parliament to alter the Constitution. According to this view, the Constitution gives a position of changelessness to the crucial opportunities of the residents. 

In providing for themselves the Constitution, individuals had held these rights for themselves. 

Kesavananda Bharati case (1973) 

This was a milestone case in characterizing the idea of the essential construction convention. 

The SC held that albeit no piece of the Constitution, including Fundamental Rights, was past the Parliament's correcting power, the "essential design of the Constitution couldn't be repealed even by a protected revision." 

The judgment suggested that the parliament can just correct the constitution and not rework it. The ability to alter isn't an ability to wreck. 

This is the premise in Indian law where the legal executive can strike down any correction passed by Parliament that is in clash with the fundamental design of the Constitution. 

Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain case (1975) 

Here, the SC applied the hypothesis of essential design and struck down Clause(4) of Article 329-A, which was embedded by the 39th Amendment in 1975 because it was past the Parliament's revising power as it obliterated the Constitution's fundamental highlights. 

The 39th Amendment Act was passed by the Parliament during the Emergency Period. This Act set the appointment of the President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha past the investigation of the legal executive. 

This was finished by the public authority to smother Indira Gandhi's arraignment by the Allahabad High Court for degenerate constituent practices. 

Minerva Mills case (1980) 

This case again fortifies the Basic Structure regulation. The judgment struck down 2 changes made to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act 1976, proclaiming them to be violative of the fundamental construction. 

The judgment clarifies that the Constitution, and not the Parliament is incomparable. 

For this situation, the Court added two highlights to the rundown of fundamental construction highlights. They were: legal audit and harmony between Fundamental Rights and DPSP. 

The appointed authorities decided that a restricted revising power itself is an essential element of the Constitution. 

Waman Rao Case (1981) 

The SC again repeated the Basic Structure tenet. 

It additionally drew a line of division as April 24th, 1973 i.e., the date of the Kesavananda Bharati judgment, and held that it ought not be applied reflectively to return the legitimacy of any revision to the Constitution which occurred before that date. 

In the Kesavananda Bharati case, the solicitor had tested the Constitution (29th Amendment) Act, 1972, which put the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 and its revising Act into the ninth Schedule of the Constitution. 

The ninth Schedule was added to the Constitution by the First Amendment in 1951 alongside Article 31-B to give a "defensive umbrella" to land changes laws. 

This was done to keep them from being tested in court. 

Article 13(2) says that the state will not make any law conflicting with crucial rights and any law made in repudiation of essential rights will be void. 

Presently, Article 31-B shields laws from the above examination. Laws established under it and put in the ninth Schedule are safe to challenge in a court, regardless of whether they conflict with principal rights. 

The Waman Rao case held that corrections made to the ninth Schedule until the Kesavananda judgment are substantial, and those passed after that date can be dependent upon examination. 

Indra Sawhney and Union of India (1992) 

SC analyzed the degree and degree of Article 16(4), which accommodates the booking of occupations for in reverse classes. It maintained the established legitimacy of 27% booking for the OBCs with specific conditions (like velvety layer prohibition, no reservation in advancement, all out held standard ought not surpass half, and so on) 

Here, 'Rule of Law' was added to the rundown of fundamental highlights of the constitution. 

S.R. Bommai case (1994) 

In this judgment, the SC attempted to control the explicit abuse of Article 356 (with respect to the inconvenience of President's Rule on states). 

For this situation, there was no doubt of established correction except for all things being equal, the idea of fundamental regulation was applied. 

The Supreme Court held that strategies of a state government coordinated against a component of the fundamental construction of the Constitution would be a substantial ground for the activity of the focal force under Article 356.

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