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Case Analysis of L.C. Golak Nath and Others v. State of Punjab and another

Facts of the Case
The son, daughter and grand-daughters of Late Henry Golak Nath hold around 500 acres farmland in the state of Punjab but through Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953, the government declared ΒΌ units of the land possessed by the petitioners as surplus. In consequence of this action a writ petition has been filed by the family of one Henry Golak Nath under Article. 32[1] of the Indian Constitution whereby the petitioners had challenged the constitutional validity of the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953 and Seventeenth Constitutional Amendment on grounds of violating their fundamental rights enumerated under Article. 19(1)(f)[2], 19(1)(g)[3] and 14[4] of the Indian Constitution. The mainly argued that the Constituent Assembly has drafted the constitution which is permanent in nature.

It was further contended that the word amendment implies only some alteration in consonance with the basic structure of the Constitution and part III of the constitution cannot be amended It was also contended that Article 368[5] defines the procedure to amend the Constitution and not empowered the Parliament to amend the constitutional provisions. Lastly, the petitioner contended that under Article 13(3)(a)[6] of the Constitution the word law has a wider ambit to include all kinds of laws such as constitutional, statutory, etc.

In response to the petitioners' contentions the respondent contended that the makers of the constitution never intended to make our constitution rigid in nature and if there is no scope for amendment in our constitution then our constitution will become inflexible and rigid. Secondly, respondent contended that no distinction has been made in the constitution regarding the basic structure and non-basic structure and all provisions shall be treated equally.

Citation: 1967 Lawpack (SC) 2672: 1967 AIR (SC) 1643: 1967(2) SCR 762: 2012(4) SLT 369: 1967 SLR 301
Bench Strength: 11 Judges Bench which includes Justice Rao, K. Subba (Cji), Wanchoo K.N, Hidayatullah. M, Shah J.C, Sikri S.M, Bachawat R.S, Ramaswami V, Shelat, J.M, Bhargava, Vashishth, Mitter, G.K, Vaidyalingam C.A.
Decision Ratio: 6:5
Majority Ruling: The Parliament is not empowered to amend Part III of the Constitution.

The main issue before the court was whether or not the Parliament possessed with an absolute power to amend or legislate any law?

Operative Part of the Judgment
The judgment was pronounced in the ratio of 6:5, which was the largest bench at that time. The majority judgment fovoured the view of the petitioner and overrule the previous judgment whereby the Parliament has put restrictions on the fundamental rights enumerated in part III of the Constitution but this ruling has only prospective effect therefore, the earlier decision of judiciary regarding this issue cannot be overruled after this judgment.

To protect the autocratic acts of the Parliament in a country which is said to be the largest democracy in the world it was observed by the court that as per Article 13(2)[7] of the Constitution, Parliament is not entitled to amend any fundamental right enumerated in part III of the Constitution and even the constitutional amendments should also be in consonance with part III of the Constitution.

Impact of the Judgment on the Democratic Nature of India

Ensuring fundamental rights of the citizens of a country is the basic necessity for the establishment of democracy and this judgment protected the fundamental rights of the citizens by acknowledging the fact that Parliament does not possessed with an absolute power to amend and legislate any law as there are certain restriction on the Parliament as well like the one enumerated in Article 13[8] of the Constitution which puts restriction on the Parliament to legislate any law in contravention to Part III of the Constitution. It is the duty of judiciary to ensure check and balance on Parliament b rectifying the wrong doings of the Parliament.

Ever since the independence, it was the first case where the judiciary took their stand and stop the Parliament from being autocratic and retained the ideals envisioned by the makers of the constitution and judiciary also laid down the basic structure doctrine and restrain the Parliament from damaging, twisting or altering the basic structure of the constitution without which the soul of the constitution will be lost. Therefore, it is pivotal to stop harming the basic structure of the constitution. The basic structure includes democratic and republic character of the government, constitution as supreme law of the land, secularism, sovereignty, etc.

How this Judgment is relevant for Election Law

The concept of basic which was introduced in this judgment was though in its primitive stage but remarkable as it opens the gates for judiciary to evolve the doctrine of basic structure which was later in Kesavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala[9] case established formally as a doctrine by Justice Hans Raj Khanna with proper legal reasoning and Kesavananda Bharati case[10] was used by judiciary in many cases which gave the doctrine of basic structure a popularity and it became widely accepted principle of law.

Thereafter, this doctrine has been used in a landmark judgment titled as Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain and Another[11] whereby Indira Nehru Gandhi tried hard to prove her elections to be fair and as per the law and for that: 39th amendment was taken place in the constitution which the Supreme Court struck down the amendment by using the doctrine of basic structure.

Thus, we can see the importance of Golak Nath's case as it was a stepping stone for the development of the doctrine of basic structure. This case allows judiciary to keep check on the laws enacted or amended by the Parliament by filtering such enactment or amendment through the doctrine of basic structure. It disallowed such amendment which could ultimately lead to unfair practices by the politicians to win the elections because these acts could lead to a lawless and undemocratic society.

Conclusion
This judgment is considered as the stepping stone of the judicial intervention in protecting the democratic character of the country. This judgment came during the darkest decade for the democracy of the nation. This judgment is considered as the victory of the rule of law as it sets up a bench mark for the judiciary to make the lawmakers aware that they are not supreme and does not possessed absolute powers. It creates stability in the minds of the citizens of India regarding their fundamental rights by putting hindrance in the clear road of autocracy of Parliament.

But this judgment is also not flawless as it advocates a very rigid constitution which is not healthy for the adaptability of the laws with the changing times which is an essential requirement for a law to be relevant according the changing scenario of the society. Second drawback of the judgment was that it only protected Part III of the Constitution leaves out other basic features of the Constitution. Such drawbacks in the judgment do not allow it to survive for long and it has been overruled by Kesavananda Bharati case[12] which came in the year 1973.

End-Notes:
  1. The Constitution of India, 1950
  2. Supra 1
  3. Supra 1
  4. Supra 1
  5. Supra 1
  6. Supra 1
  7. Supra 1
  8. Supra 1
  9. AIR 1973 SC 1461
  10. Supra 9
  11. 1975 SCC (2) 159
  12. Supra 9

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