November 25, 2020


Parliament has no power to alter the basic structure of the Constitution of India in Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala.

Case Name: Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala

Citation: AIR 1973 SC 1461: (1973) 4 SCC 225: (1973) Supp SCR 1

Judges : Justice S.M Sikri, Justice A.N Grover, Justice A.N Ray, Justice D.G Palekar, Justice H.R Khanna, Justice J.M Shelat, Justice K.K Mathew, Justice K.S Hegde, Justice M.H Beg, Justice P. Jagamohan Reddy, Justice S.N Dwivedi, Justice A.K Mukherjea and Justice Y.V Chandrachud.

DATE OF DECISION: 24/04/1973.


The validity of the 24th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1971 was challenged. Parliament enacted the 24th Amendment Act which amended Art 368 making it explicit that Parliament would have the constituent power under the Article to amend by the way of addition, variation or repeal, any provision of the Constitution and that Art 13 would be inapplicable to such amendments. This was further done to nullify the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in Golak Nath case.

So, the petitioners have challenged the validity of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963. But during the pendency of the petition the Kerala Act was amended in 1971 and was placed in the Ninth Schedule by the 29th Amendment Act. The petitioners were also permitted to challenge the validity of 24th, 25th and 29th Constitutional Amendment Acts.

Issue of Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala

The principal issue was the validity of the 24th Constitutional Amendment Act on which the validity of the 25th , 26th and 29th Constitutional Amendmens would depend and determining the extent of the amending power conferred by Art 368 of the Constitution of India?

Judgement of Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala

The petitioner contended that the amending power was wide but not unlimited under Art 368.

The Supreme Court of India outlined the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution. The Supreme Court rejected the earlier option of Golaknath Case and held that Preamble is a part of the Constitution. The majority of the 13 Judges Constitutional bench in the ratio of 7:6, after 68 strenous days of hearing, while upholding the amending power under the 24th Constitutional Amendment Act by relying on the principles of implied limitations of amending power, decided that the amending power of the parliament is distinct from legislative power and this power is wide enough to reach each and every part of the Constitution and the parliament has no power to alter the basic structure of the Constitution.

Decision of Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala

‘BASIC STRUCTURE’ was interpreted to include the Supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law, Independence of the Judiciary, Doctrine of Separation of Powers, Federalism, Secularism, Sovereign, Democratic, the parliamentary system of Government, the principle of free and fair elections and Welfare State. The judgement of this case must be considered the greatest contribution of Supreme Court to Constitutional Jurisprudence. The doctrine of basic structure which though not mentioned in the Constitution, implies the concept on the power of parliament to amend the Constitution. Justice Sikri observed that:

· Preamble is the source of the Constitution viz the people of India.

· It declares Fundamental Rights and Freedom which the people of India intended to secure.

· Preamble is a part of Indian Constitution but it is neither a source of any power nor a limitation there on. Later on some more features are added by Supreme Court –

· Power to review by Courts.

· Dignity of Individual and Right to Livelihood.

· Right to Freedom of Religion.

However, it was held that the Preamble is an integral part of the Indian Constitution. The Preamble was relied on for imposing implied limitations on amendment under Article 368. The Preamble may be amended but the basic feature of the Constitution cannot be amended. Amending power cannot change the Constitution. All the thirteen Judges held that 24th, 25th and 29th Amendment Acts were valid.




Author Details: Upasana Borah is a 4th year B.B.A LL. B (Hons) student at N.E.F LAW COLLEGE GUWAHATI.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *