The basic structure doctrine is considered to be one of the fundamental judicial principles that are connected to the constitution. It basically states that there is a basic structure to the constitution and that structure cannot be amended by the parliament like other articles of the constitution. This was referenced by the established bench of the Supreme Court where it was decided that the parliament could make alterations to any piece of the Constitution, under Article 368, as long as it didn’t adjust or revise the fundamental construction or the fundamental highlights of the Constitution for the situation we are in the Kesavananda Bharati versus State of Kerala case. The doctrine is a legal development that guarantees that the force of revision isn’t abused by the parliament. It attempts to ensure that highlights of the Constitution are not modified to a degree that the entire character or motivation behind the Constitution is lost.
The constitution upholds certain principles which are considered to be the rules and procedures that govern the parliament and amendments cannot be made to these principles.
KESAVANANDA BHARATI vs. STATE OF KERALA
This case was initially filed to challenge the validity of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963. But the 29th Amendment of the Constitution placed it under the Ninth Schedule. The petitioner was permitted to not only challenge the 29th Amendment but also the validity of the 24th and 25th Amendments.
The historic judgment was delivered by a 13 judge bench and with the majority of 7:6; they overruled the Golak Nath case. It was held that the power of Parliament to amend the Constitution is far and wide and extends to all the Articles but it is not unlimited to an extent that it destroys certain basic features or framework of the Constitution.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court, however, held that the 24th Amendment was valid as it only states what was present before implicitly. It does not enlarge the powers of Parliament; Article 368 always included the power and procedure to amend the Constitution.
The judges did not provide what constitutes the basic structure but provided an illustrative list of what may constitute the basic structure. As per Sikri, C.J., the basic structure constitutes the following elements:
- The supremacy of the Constitution
- The forms of Government, republican and democratic
- Secular behaviour of the Constitution
- Separation of Powers between the legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary
- Federal Character of the constitution
Shelat and Grover, JJ., added the following to the above list:
- The mandate to build a welfare state contained in the Directive Principles of State Policy
- Maintenance of the unity and integrity of India
- The sovereignty of the country
Hegde and Mukherjee, JJ., had their list of the elements of the basic structure, which included:
- The sovereignty of India
- The democratic character of the polity
- The unity of the country
- Essential features of individual freedom
- The mandate to build a welfare state
Whereas Jaganmohan Redd, J., believed that it was the Preamble that laid down the basic features of the Constitution, which are:
- A sovereign democratic republic
- The provision of social, economic, and political justice
- Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship
- Equality of status and opportunity
After this judgment, the general opinion was that the judiciary is trying to create an overhaul over the Parliament, but soon an opportunity was laid down before the Court to examine the doctrine.
As of now, there is no question in regards to the presence of the doctrine, the solitary issue that emerges over and over is the same matter that arose before. Certain matters have been reaffirmed over and over by the Courts while some of them are as yet in the process of deliberation. The basic structure doctrine awards the fine harmony among adaptability and unbending nature that ought to be available in the altering forces of any Constitution.