Important Judgements In News

Understanding the significance of Kesavananda Bharati case


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Basic Structure doctrine

Mains level : Paper 2- Basic Structure and essential feature doctrine

The article revisits the impact and significance of the case for the democracy in India.

Understanding the Basic Structure doctrine

  • Basic Structure and essential features doctrine was expounded in the Kesavananda Bharati case.
  • In the case, the validity of the 29th amendment which immunised, in the Ninth Schedule Kerala’s takeover of the religious mutt’s property was challenged.
  • Basic structure is the power of judicial review and essential features are what the Court identifies as such in the exercise of that power.
  • Justice Bhagwati remarkably enunciated as an essential feature the “harmony” between fundamental rights and directive principles.
  • The crucial message though is that the apex court has, in the rarest of rare cases, the constituent power to pronounce a constitutional amendment invalid.

Limits on the powers of Supreme Court

  • The Court is bound by the “golden triangle” of rights created by Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.
  • Court must derive the “spirit” of the Constitution by reference to the provisions of the Constitution.
  • Since 1973, the evidence shows the Apex Court has shown utmost democratic responsibility and rectitude in interpreting the doctrine of BSEF.

Consider the question asked by the UPSC in 2019 “Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is limited power and it cannot be enlarged into absolute power”. In light of this statement explain whether parliament under article 368 of the constitution can destroy the Basic Structure of the Constitution by expanding its amending power? “


The ultimate message of BSEF doctrine is not merely to set limits to the power of the managers of people, but to make little by little the tasks of emancipation less onerous.

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