Kesavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala AIR 1973 SC 1461

Case Name: Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala

Citation: AIR 1973 SC 1461

Jurisdiction: Supreme Court of India

Judgement: Landmark judgment that established the doctrine of the “basic structure” of the Constitution, ruling that while the Parliament can amend the Constitution, it cannot alter its basic structure or essential features.

Abstract

Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala is a significant case in India that went to the Supreme Court in 1973. It’s all about the power of the government to amend the Constitution. Kesavananda Bharati, a religious leader, challenged the government’s ability to make any changes that could harm the basic structure of the Constitution. This case was a turning point in Indian constitutional history, setting a limit on the power to amend the Constitution and safeguarding its fundamental principles.

Facts:

In the case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, Kesavananda Bharati, a religious leader from Kerala, challenged the government’s power to make changes to the Constitution. He argued that the Constitution could be amended, but not in a way that would damage its fundamental principles. This case involved a dispute over the Kerala Land Reforms Act and the 29th Amendment, which sought to limit the power of the courts to review certain laws. The Supreme Court heard the case in 1973 and made a landmark decision on the scope of amending the Indian Constitution.

Issues:

  1. Could the Government Amend the Constitution without Limits?
    • Article 368 of the Indian Constitution allows amendments, but can they be done without any restrictions?
  2. Are There Essential Features in the Constitution That Cannot Be Changed?
    • Does the Constitution have fundamental aspects, a “basic structure,” that cannot be altered through amendments?
  3. Should Certain Principles Remain Untouched to Protect the Constitution’s Essence?
    • Are there vital principles that need to be preserved to maintain the fundamental integrity and strength of the Constitution?

Judgement:

In the Kesavananda Bharati case, the Supreme Court made a historic judgment. They said that the government can amend the Constitution, but they cannot change its “basic structure” or essential features. This is to protect the fundamental principles that form the backbone of our Constitution.

The court referred to Article 368, which allows amendments to the Constitution. However, it clarified that this power is not absolute. The 24th Amendment, which was challenged in this case, added that Parliament could amend any part of the Constitution, including fundamental rights.

The Supreme Court disagreed with this idea. They stated that while Parliament can amend the Constitution, it cannot alter its core principles, often called the “basic structure.” This decision ensures that the heart and soul of our Constitution, which protects democracy, fundamental rights, and more, remains unchanged even as amendments are made. It was a significant win for safeguarding the fundamental essence of our Constitution.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Kesavananda Bharati case taught us an important lesson about our Constitution. The Supreme Court said that while our government can make changes to the Constitution, it can’t mess with its vital parts, also known as the “basic structure.” This is to ensure that the important principles and values that our Constitution stands for always stay the same, even if some small changes are made. This case showed us how crucial it is to protect the heart of our Constitution, which is what makes our country fair and just.

How did the Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala case reshape the understanding of constitutional amendments, ensuring a delicate balance between governance needs and preserving the essence of the Indian Constitution?

The Kesavananda Bharati case redefined the scope of constitutional amendments by introducing the concept of the “basic structure” of the Constitution. The judgment emphasized that while amendments are crucial to adapt to changing times and needs, they should not violate the fundamental and essential features of the Constitution, ensuring that the core principles of democracy, justice, liberty, and equality are safeguarded. This delicate balance prevents undue alterations, preserving the Constitution’s soul while allowing for necessary changes to keep it relevant and effective.

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