Constitution is the supreme law of the land in a country. It is a rule book
of a country which governs the governance of the country. The entire structure
of the government is based on the terms of the constitution. It is an integral
element of a democracy. At present, majority of the countries are having a
constitution. India has the largest constitution in the world and due to this
very fact, it is known as the largest democracy in the world.
Every constitution is driven by some basic philosophy which is the basic ideas
and values keeping which in mind the constitutional makers draft the
constitution. All the provisions of the constitution reflect this basic
philosophy. Like so, Indian constitution also has a core which is embedded deep
in each and every article of it.
Like every book, constitution has a preface in the form of a preamble. It is a
micro form of the constitution containing what a constitution seeks to
establish. It provides us a key to the minds of the constitution makers. Thus,
it contains the basic spirit and soul of the constitution.
The preamble of Indian constitution is patterned after the preamble of the US
constitution. It provides two major things; first, the nature of state and
second, the ideas and objectives which are to be achieved by the Indian society.
The terms 'Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic
the nature of the Indian state that the constitution seeks to be establish.
On the other hands, the terms 'JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY' reflect
the ideas, values and objectives that the constitution seeks to achieve. It
mirrors the basic core of the constitution and that is why, it is referred to as
a guide by the judiciary while interpreting the provisions of the constitution.
In fact, it has become a convention to consider the preamble and interpret the
terms of the constitution in light of the preamble. Thus, it can be glorified as
a helping hand to the constitution.
While discussing the basic philosophy of the constitution, the basic structure
doctrine cannot be ignored which was gifted by the Supreme Court of India in the
case of Kesavananda Bharti V. Union Of India
, 1973. It was held in this
case that it is not only the letters but spirit of the constitution has also to
be respected and preserved.
It is very much true that every constitution can thrive only when its basic
spirit is kept. The above-mentioned case is a remarkable case in the list of
landmark cases of Supreme Court of India. This case dealt with the question
whether parliament can amend anything including fundamental rights in the
constitution by using the amending powers given under Article 368 of the
It was not for the first time that this question had come into debate rather it
had been flagged immediately after the enactment of the constitution in the
Shankari Prasad V. Union Of India
(1951) where the constitutional validity
of the first amendment act, 1951, which curtailed the right to property, was
challenged and the Supreme court ruled that the power to amend the constitution
under Article 368 also includes the power to amend the fundamental rights as the
word 'law' in Article 13 includes only ordinary laws and not the constitutional
amendment acts and are thus not void under Article 13.
In another case Golak Nath V State Of Punjab
, the Supreme Court reversed
its earlier stand. In this case, the constitutional validity of the seventeenth
amendment act, 1964, which inserted certain state acts in the Ninth Schedule,
was challenged. The Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental rights are given a
'transcendental and immutable' position and hence, the parliament cannot abridge
or take away any of these rights.
A constitutional amendment act is also a law within the meaning of Article 13
and hence, would be void for violating any fundamental rights. The parliament
reacted to the Supreme Court`s judgement in the Golak Nath case
enacting the 24th amendment act, 1971. This act amended Articles 13 and 368. It
declared that the parliament has the power to abridge or take away any of the
fundamental rights under Article 368 and such an act will not be a law under the
meaning of Article 13.
Then came the landmark judgement of Kesavananda Bharati Case
overruled the Golak Nath case and laid down the basic structure doctrine and
provided that parliament is empowered to amend any part of the constitution but
it cannot violate the basic structure of the constitution. This basic judgement
to much extent resolved the long-standing conflict between parliament and
It satisfied the parliament as it was given an allowance to amend any part of
the constitution except the basic structure. The basic structure was not
exclusively defined by the Supreme court rather it was left to be evolved with
the demanding circumstances. Take for example, the Minerva Mills Case
which the Supreme Court invalidated the 42nd amendment act,1976, which excluded
judicial review and declared it to be the part of the basic structure. This is
the perfect example of active role played by the Indian judiciary to safeguard
the constitution and its basic spirit.
If any constitution is to mark success, its basic philosophy has to be carried
forward and so is the case with the Indian constitution. Both the letter and
spirit of the constitution have to preserved to make our democracy successful
and to keep the tag of being the largest democracy not just on the basis of the
lengthiest constitution but efficient working constitution. The three organs of
the government; legislature, executive and judiciary should uphold and preserve
the basic philosophy of the constitution from any invasion for the years to
- Indian Polity book by M. Laxmikant
- The Hindu.com (https://www.thehindu.com/)
- Wikipedia.org (https://www.wikipedia.org/)
- Constitution.org (https://www.constitution.org/)
- India Today.in (https://www.indiatoday.in/)