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
 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
Later there was a change in the idea of the court during Golak Nath vs State of
 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
 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
. 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,1975 the doctrine was reaffirmed and rule of law was
listed in the basic features of constitution. Minerva Mills Vs. Union of
, 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.
- Shankari Prasad Singh Deo v. Union of India, AIR. 1951 SC 458.
- Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan,1965 AIR 845, 1965 SCR (1) 933.
- Golak Nath vs State of Punjab,1967 AIR 1643, 1967 SCR (2) 762.
- Kesavananda Bharti vs. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461.
- Indira Gandhi vs. raj narain, 1975 AIR 1590, 1975 SCC (2) 159.
- Minerva Mills v. Union of India, AIR 1981 SC 271.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Thota Sai Srinija
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