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The Doctrine Of Basic Structure - Developed Gradually And Been The Strong Base

The Basic structure of the Indian constitution was never defined properly, as the concept of Basic structure is meant to be an unwritten law. But as we look in to several case laws, debates made on this point we would surely get an idea about the basic structure. The basic structure doctrine is an Indian judicial principle, most notably propounded by Justice H.R. Khanna, that the Constitution of India has certain basic features that cannot be altered or destroyed through amendments by the parliament.

The constitution empowers the Parliament and the Legislatures to make laws within their jurisdiction. Bills to amend the constitution can only be introduced in the Parliament, but this power is not absolute. If the Supreme Court finds any law made by the Parliament violating the constitution, it has the power to declare that law to be invalid/void. Thus, to preserve the ideals and philosophy of the original constitution, the Supreme Court has laid down the basic structure doctrine. According to the doctrine, the Parliament cannot destroy or alter the basic structure of the doctrine.

The concept of basic structure is neither mentioned nor written, as it has developed gradually through the challenges made on basic rights under constitution. It has a very wide view and have control on very basic parts of the constitution such as, Supremacy of the constitution, Republican and democratic form of government, Secular character of the constitution, Federal character of the constitution, Separation of power, Unity and Sovereignty of India, Individual freedom.

As we observe from the first amendment of constitution of Article 19(6) was challenged in Shankari Prasad vs. Union of India[1] 1951, The amendment was challenged on the ground that it violates the Part-III i.e. Fundamental Rights of the constitution and therefore, should be considered to be void. The Supreme Court held that the Parliament, under Article 368, has the power to amend any part of the constitution including fundamental rights. The Court gave the same ruling in Sajjan Singh Vs State of Rajasthan [2] 1965.

Later there was a change in the idea of the court during Golak Nath vs State of Punjab [3] 1967, the Supreme Court overruled its earlier decision. The Supreme Court held that the Parliament has no power to amend Part III of the constitution as the fundamental rights are transcendental and immutable. According to the Supreme Court, Article 368 only discusses about the procedure to amend the constitution and does not give absolute powers to the parliament to amend any part of the constitution. The Parliament, in 1971, passed the 24th Constitution Amendment Act.

The act gave the absolute power to the parliament to make any changes in the constitution including the fundamental rights. It also made it obligatory for the President to give his assent on all the Constitution Amendment bills sent to him. In 1973, in Kesavananda Bharti vs. State of Kerala[4] case, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the 24th Constitution Amendment Act by reviewing its decision in Golaknath case.

The Supreme Court held that the Parliament has power to amend any provision of the constitution, but doing so, the basic structure of the constitution is to be maintained. But the Apex Court did not any clear definition of the basic structure. It held that the basic structure of the Constitution could not be abrogated even by a constitutional amendment. In the judgement, some of the basic features of the Constitution, which were listed by the judges.

Later, in the case of Indira Gandhi vs. raj narain[5],1975 the doctrine was reaffirmed and rule of law was listed in the basic features of constitution. Minerva Mills Vs. Union of India[6], 1980 The concept of basic structure was further developed by adding 'judicial review' and the 'balance between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles' to the basic features.

Hence it is understood from the above that the development concept of basic structure is no where fast or hard, rather it is gradually with in the time of need for change. Though it is unwritten it has wider scope as it has the control over very basic, sensible parts of constitution.

And the doctrine of basic structure is very helpful or useful as the constitution needs amendments for time being but we must have check upon it, in order to maintain the framework of the constitution and protect the basic rights of any person. It is concluded by saying that this doctrine of basic structure is nothing but controlled governance of constitution.

  1. Shankari Prasad Singh Deo v. Union of India, AIR. 1951 SC 458.
  2. Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan,1965 AIR 845, 1965 SCR (1) 933.
  3. Golak Nath vs State of Punjab,1967 AIR 1643, 1967 SCR (2) 762.
  4. Kesavananda Bharti vs. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461.
  5. Indira Gandhi vs. raj narain, 1975 AIR 1590, 1975 SCC (2) 159.
  6. Minerva Mills v. Union of India, AIR 1981 SC 271.

    Award Winning Article Is Written By:�Ms.Thota Sai Srinija

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