DECIDED ON April 24, 1973

Equivalent Citation: (1973) 4 SCC 225: AIR 1973 SC 1461

Bench: Chief Justice S M Sikri, J. M. Shelat, K.S. Hegde, A.N. Grover, B. Jaganmohan Reddy, D.G. Palekar, H R Khanna, A.K. Mukherjee, Y.V. Chandrachud, A.N. Ray, K.K. Mathew, M.H. Beg,
S.N. Dwivedi

This judgement is considered to be a landmark ruling since this has given rise to the basic structure of the Constitution. This judgement had categorized the amendments by mentioning that any amendment which goes against the basic structure cannot be amended.


The Supreme Court stated that theParliament can amend the whole Constitution of India(“Constitution”) inclusive of the fundamental rights.

According to this theory, some of the provisions of the Constitution form its basic structure and are considered to be the backbone of the Constitution. According to the basic structure doctrine, any amendment which goes against the basic structure can be declared invalid. Further, such laws which are against the basic structure are not amenable by the Parliament by exercise of its constituent power under Article 368 of the Constitution, which provides for the process by which the Parliament can amend the Constitution.

The validity of the 24th,25thand 29thAmendments to the Constitution were challenged.

This case overruled the long standing precedent set in Golaknath v State of Punjab(1967 AIR 1643),where it washeld that fundamental rights were beyond the amending powers of the Parliament.

A 13-judge bench was set up by the Supreme Court to hear the case.


In February 1970, Swami KesavanandaBarathi, the chief of a Hindu Muttsituated in the district of Kerala, challenged the Kerala Government’s Land Reform Act, 1969to impose restrictions on the management of its property.

As per the Act, the Government could acquire some of the lands belonging to the Mutt.

In March 1970, KesavanandaBharati filed a writ-petition under Article 32 of the Constitution to enforce the rights that were guaranteed to him under Articles 14, 19(1)(f), 25, 26 of the Constitution.

Laws applicable:

Article 14 of the Constitution of India:

Equality before law- The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution of India:


Guaranteed a right to acquire, hold and dispose off the property (omitted by the 44th Amendment Act, 1978).

Article 25 of the Constitution of India:

Freedom of conscience and the right to practice free profession, practice and
propagation of religion.

Article 26 of the Constitution of India:


Freedom to manage religious affairs subject to public order, morality and health,
every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right:
(a) To establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes
(b) To manage its own affairs in matters of religion
(c) To own and acquire movable and immovable property
(d) To administer such property in accordance with law

Article 31(C) of the Constitution of India:


Any law which gives effect to the policy of the State towards securing the principles specified under Part IV of the Constitution (Directive Principles of State Policy) shall not be deemed to be void on the ground of its inconsistency with fundamental rights conferred by Article 14 or 19. If a policy aims to secure the principles enumerated under Part IV of the Constitution, such laws shall not be called in question by any courts. However, the provisions of this Article is not applicable unless such laws have been reserved for the consideration of the President, or has received his assent Right to Constitutional remedies.


Whether the 24th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1971 which vests complete powers on the Parliament to amend any part of the Constitution including the fundamental rights is constitutionally valid?

Whether the 25th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1972 which specifies that any law which specifies the compulsory acquisition of property or the principles in determining the amount of compensation cannot be questioned in any court is constitutionally valid?

The extent of Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution.


Petitioner’s Arguments:

The petitioners contended that the 24th and 25th constitutional amendment is violative of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

The Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is finite and restricted.

The reference was made from the case of Sajjan Singh v State of Rajasthan(1965 AIR 845)set forth by Justice Mudholkar.

Respondent’s Arguments:

The respondents urge that there is no limit to the powers of Parliament to amend the Constitution

The socio-economic obligations of Parliament can be upheld only through the power provided to Parliament for amending.

Impact of the Judgment:

The judgment restored the differences between the executive and the judiciary. The Court in this judgment had recognised the basic structure which includes parliamentary democracy, fundamental rights, judicial review and secularism in the Constitution. The court had also guaranteed that the doctrine of basic structure is the bedrock of judicial review.


The Constitution (24th Amendment) Act, 1971 which gives power to Parliament to amend any part of the constitution is valid.

Article 368 as amended was valid but it did not confer power on the Parliament to alter the basic structure or framework of the Constitution.

The Court however did not spell out in any exhaustive manner as to what the Basic structure is. Basic structure of the Constitution provides that the Parliament does not have the power to amend the fundamental rights and certain other important aspects of the Constitution. If any law goes against the basic structure of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has the power to declare such laws as unconstitutional and void.

The first part of Article 31C was upheld chiefly on the basis that it identified a limited class of legislation and exempted it from the operation of Articles 14,19 and 31 which provided that no person shall be deprived of his right to property. Hence no delegation of amending power was required.

But the second part of article 31C was held to be invalid under the Constitution (25th Amendment) Act, 1972.

The Court regarded some of the following features as fundamental and, thus, nonamendable:

i. Supremacy of the Constitution
ii. Republican and democratic form of Government
iii. Secular character of the Constitution
iv. Separation of powers between legislative, executive and judiciary
v. Federal character of the Constitution

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