The Basic Structure Doctrine of The Indian Constitution

When discussing the basic structure of our Indian Constitution two very important articles come up one that is article 13 and article 368 of the Indian Constitution. Now, article 13 serves as the protector of the fundamental rights whereas article 368 holds the power to amend the constitution. When we clash both the articles some very important question arises like can the constitution be amended by the parliament? Can the preamble be amended? Can the fundamental rights be amended? And the most important one of them all is can the amending power of the parliament exercised under article 368 absolute or are there any restrictions on it? But in the end, the whole discussion is a tussle for power.

Ever since the nation got independent, we had been having the debate over the basic structure of our constitution. It all started with the infamous Shankari Prasad Case of 1951 which talked about the right to property and our fundamental rights. In this case, it was said by the learned court that article 368 has the power to amend the fundamental rights. Then our country came across the well-known Golak Nath Case of  1967 an 11 judges bench in which the court reversed everything they had said before in the above-mentioned case. The court held that the power to amend the constitution is not an unlimited power and it is subject to judicial review. Now, judicial review is a process under which legislative or executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary. This case is a landmark in the Indian Legal History as it was the first time it was mentioned after the Shankari Prasad and Sajjan Singh Case in the Golak Nath Case that Judiciary has more power than the Parliament but this was all about to seem ineffective after the 24th Amendment Act. The 24th Amendment basically excluded the applicability of article 13 onto article 368 and therefore, everything that was held in the Golak Nath Case holds no value after this amendment.

Now after all this, the Kesavananda Bharti Case of 1973 came into being and in this again the 24th Amendment Act was challenged and the question arose ‘what is the scope of the amendment?’ that the parliament reserves. And a very balanced judgment was provided by the learned bench which stated that “the whole constitution can be amended but it should never amend the basic features of our constitution”. Finally, in the Minerva Mills Case, the validity of the 42nd Amendment Act was questioned and it was stated by the court that the Clauses 4 & 5 which were added by the aforementioned amendment violated the basic features of the constitution and therefore, it was held unconstitutional.

In the end, it was said that the constitution is supreme and till date holds it’s position. I mean, the Constitution of India provides it’s people a voice and thus making the people of the nation supreme.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

– Dalai Lama

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