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The Relevance Of Basic Structure Doctrine In India: A Critical Study

Parliament has power to amend the any part of Constitution by the Virtue of the Art 368 of Indian Constitution. this art is not the absolute in nature. The basic structure of the constitution envision the fundamental ideas of the makers of the constitution. The judiciary has power to check the amending power of the parliament by applying the basic structure doctrine.

Introduction
The basic structure doctrine is an Indian judicial principle that the constitution of India has certain basic features that cannot be altered or destroyed through the amendments by the parliament. Thus, it gives extra power to court to review and strike down any constitutional amendments and act enacted by the parliament. Coming to the basic structure doctrine generally question came into our mind was who is Superior. Under article.13 of the constitution supreme court serves as a protector of fundamental rights. Under article 368 of the constitution parliament holds the power to amend the constitution.

In Sankari Prasad v. Union of India [i][1] in this case the question was whether the fundamental rights can be amended under article 368 of the constitution. It is the first amendment to the constitution. In this amendment to the article.31-A and 31-B of the constitution which deals with right to property was challenged. Generally, the question arose was this was abridging the fundamental rights guaranteed under article.13(2) of the constitution.

So it has no right to alter the fundamental rights under article.368 of the constitution. In this the supreme court held that the parliament had power to amend fundamental rights under article.368 of the constitution.

In Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan [2]this case 17th constitutional amendment act was challenged. The supreme court approved the majority judgement given in Sankari Prasad case. In this case it held that the words amendment to the constitution means any part of the constitution means any part of the constitution.

In Golak Nath v. State of Punjab[3] in this case also 17th constitutional amendment act was again challenged. First time 11 judges' bench was constituted and overruled the decision in first two cases and held that parliament had no power to amend the part.III of the constitution. so as to take away the fundamental rights.

So based on this case even the parliament had no power to amend the fundamental rights under article.368 of the constitution. The chief justice applied the rule of prospective operation and therefore the 1st ,4th ,17thamendment will continue to be valid. It means all the cases decided before Golak Naths case shall remain valid.

24th Amendment act of 1971 in order to remove the difficulties created by the decision of supreme court [4]in Golak Naths case. The parliament enacted 24th amendment act
It provides the new clause to article.13 and added new clause(4) to the article 13 .according to it "Nothing in this article shall apply to any amendment of this constitution made under article.368.

It substituted a new marginal heading to article.368 in place of old heading "procedure for amendment of the constitution. "The new heading "power of parliament to amend the constitution and procedure thereof".

It has added a new clause (3) to article 368 which provides that "nothing in article.13 shall apply to any amendment made under this article". By 24th amendment act not only restored the amending power of the parliament but also extended its scope.at the same time which was mentioned in golaknadh case has no value. Under article.368 the parliament had option to amend any part of the constitution.

In Keshava Nanda Bharathi v. state of Kerala 4 In this case they said that what extent the power to amend the constitution under article.368 of the constitution. That mean the parliament's power to amend the constitution was unlimited or limited is the question. In this matter, the court held that without violation of basic structure and framework of the constitution the parliament had a right to amend the constitution under article.368 of the constitution.

They Mentioned Certain Essentials For Basic Structure As Follows

According to chief justice Sikri basic structure of the constitution consists of the following features:
  • Supremacy of the constitution.
  • Republican and democratic form of government & sovereignty of the country.
  • Secular and federal character of the constitution.
  • Separation of powers between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary.
  • Federal character of the constitution.

In Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narayan [5]in this case, they add some basic features to the constitution. It added rule of law, judicial review, democracy which implies free and fair elections.it added clauses (4) and (5) to article 368 of the constitution .it said that even the part.III was amended it cannot be questioned in any court and clearly said no limitation to parliament to amend the constitution. In this case, it clearly mentioned who is supreme Parliament or Supreme court. It says that parliament represents the will of the people. People want to amend the constitution they can exercise through the parliament.

In Minerva mills, v. Union of India [6] by 42nd amendment act added two new clauses to article.368 are clause (4) and (5). According to these clauses the parliament had the power to amend any part of the constitution even the basic features of the constitution can be amended. In this case, the court held it struck down clauses (4) & (5) of article.368. which was inserted by the 42nd amendment on the ground that these clauses destroyed the essential features of the basic structure of the constitution.

Conclusion:
Judicial Review as tool to check the power of Article 368 of the Constitution which gives the an opinion that the Parliament's amending powers are absolute in nature can touch all parts of the Constitution But the Supreme Court has acted as a hindrance to the legislative eagerness of Parliament.

With the aim to protect the basic features of Indian Constitution which inscribed by the constitution-makers, the Supreme court adjudicate that Parliament could not twist,, damage or alter the basic features of the Constitution under the ambit of amending power as the Supreme Court has been the guardian, of the Constitution, interpreter and adjudicator of all amendments made by Parliament. by applying the basic structure doctrine.

End-Notes:
  1. AIR 1951 SC 455
  2. AIR 1965 SC 845
  3. AIR 1971 SC 1643
  4. AIR 1973 SC 1461
  5. AIR 1975 SC 2299
  6. AIR 1980 SC 1789
Written By: Swapna Vuyyuru, Assistant Professor, MG Law College

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