Kesavnanda Bharti Case: Basic Structure Doctrine 

Author :Yamina Malek, GLS Law College.


Kesvananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973) was the first case that established the introductory structure doctrine. It states that the legislative bodies must follow the doctrine of basic structure while exercising their amending powers. Though they’re given the power to amend any part of the Constitution, they aren’t allowed to amend the introductory structure under Composition 368 of the Indian Constitution. It’s one of the most landmark cases, where the Supreme Court formed a bench of thirteen judges to make a decision in this matter. This decision of the judges, till now, has a foremost blow in our society. It’s a unique and thoughtful judgement passed by the Supreme Court. The judgement passed by the bench was  roughly 700  runners long and included a  result for both Parliament’s right to modify laws under Composition 368 and citizens ’ right to  guard their abecedarian rights. The Kesavananda Bharati case is so important because it was the first case that came up with the doctrine of introductory structure in order to guard the interests of both the citizens as well as the Parliament. Through this judgement, the Bench addressed the questions that were unanswered in the case of Golaknath’. This case overruled the verdict given in the Golaknath v. State of Punjab (1967) case by assessing certain limitations on the Parliament’s amending power. Though this case states that any part of the Constitution can be amended under Composition 368 by the Parliament but certain restrictions are assessed on them. They don’t have unlimited power to amend it. The doctrine of introductory structure was introduced to insure that the emendations don’t infringe upon the introductory rights of the citizens, which were guaranteed to them by the abecedarian rights. 


In India, the three main branches of government function autonomously, each fulfilling their distinct places. While the council and superintendent unite nearly, the Indian bar is designedly maintained as an independent reality. The council makes laws, the superintendent enforces those laws, and the bar adjudicates those laws. In the morning of the 1970s, India witnessed a clash between two major powers, the council and the bar. This led to this corner judgement of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala case.   The Supreme Court of India passed a major judgement that’s useful in determining the powers of the three popular government institutions. This case saved the quality and integrity of the Indian Constitution. It set a introductory structure doctrine for all the high court’s and quarter courts in India.   Before the 44th Correction of the Constitution, the right to property was considered an abecedarian right. At that time, the Zamindars filed desires in colorful high courts stating that their abecedarian rights were being violated by the enactment of agricultural land reform laws. The High Court of Patna uphold the Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950. After the enactment of this Act, the Constituent Assembly passed the 1st Correction to the Constitution of India in 1951, which defended land reform laws from judicial review. Composition 31B, which was added to the 9th Schedule, states that laws cannot be challenged on the ground that they violate abecedarian rights. The doctrine of introductory structure surfaced from the following corner cases 

  • Sankari Prasad Judgment 1951
  • Golak Nath Vs State of Punjab 1967
  • Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain
  • Minerva Mills vs. Union of India


The main petitioner, Kesavananda Bharti was the chief of a religious side of Edneer Mutt in Kerala. Kesavananda Bharati had certain land areas of the side in his name. There were some controversies between the state government and the side members over the power of these lands. The state government of Kerala introduced the Land Reforms Amendment Act, 1969 under which the state government had the right to take some corridor of the land which belonged to the case.   Kesavananda Bharati moved to the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian constitution for the  violation of his abecedarian rights under Composition 25( Right to exercise and propagate religion) and Composition 26( Right to manage religious affairs), Composition 14( Right to Equality), Composition 31(  mandatory accession of property) and Composition 19( 1)( f)( freedom to acquire property).   When the matter was still pending in the court the Kerala government passed another act called Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1971. In the case of Golaknath vs the State of Punjab, certain emendations were made like the 24th indigenous (Correction), Act 1971, which states that Parliament has the power to amend the titles of the constitution. The 25th indigenous (Amendment) Act states that if the state government takes private property it’s not the responsibility of the state to compensate the proprietor inversely. 


  1. Whether the indigenous Correction can be applied to abecedarian rights as per Composition 368 of the Constitution?  
  2. Whether the 24th indigenous (Correction) Act, 1971, is naturally valid or not?  
  3. Whether the 25th indigenous (Correction) Act, 1972, is naturally valid or not?  
  4. Whether the 29th indigenous (Correction) Act is valid, and to what extent can Parliament exercise its power to amend the Constitution? 


It was argued by the petitioner that the Parliament cannot amend the Constitution in whatever way they feel like. Unlimited power cannot be granted to them as there are chances of it being misused. The Parliament cannot exercise its power to amend the constitution by changing its introductory structure which was before proffered by Justice Mudhokar in the case of Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan. It was argued by him that the 24th and 25th indigenous emendations violated the Fundamental Right, which was handed under Composition 19(1)(f) of the Indian Constitution. Some of the points of the arguments were:

  1. It was contended that Composition 368 of the Constitution doesn’t grant authority to change, amend, or vacate the introductory frame of the Constitution or the abecedarian rights of the citizens.  
  2. It was also contended that the term ‘correction’ doesn’t mean the abecedarian identity or frame of the Constitution can be altered or destroyed while exercising the amending power.  
  3. It was also argued that this amending power is granted by the Constitution itself and, thus, is subordinated to essential limitations.  It was also contended that the Parliament isn’t given the power to amend the abecedarian rights of the citizens of India. 


The replier was the state in this case. It was contended that the supremacy of Parliament is the introductory principle of the Indian legal system, and thus, Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution without any limitations. Some of the important points of the arguments are as follows:   

  1. The foremost contention made by the replier was that Parliament is vested with unlimited amending power to amend any part of the Constitution without any kind of exception. 
  2. This power is conferred on Parliament in agreement with the Composition 368 of the Constitution.  
  3. It was also contended that the term ‘correction’ means that Composition 368 of the Constitution can be used to add, alter, modify, repeal, or vacate any part of the Constitution.  
  4. Another argument made by the state was that there’s no other essential limitation to the amending power other than the procedural as laid down in Composition 368.  
  5. It was also contended that the Indian Parliament is entrusted with the power to amend the abecedarian rights by rescinding or rescinding them if they suppose it’s necessary to do so by exercising its constituent power.  
  6. It was also stated that the members of the Parliament are tagged by the people of India and thus, can modify the abecedarian laws according to the requirements of the citizens.


The decision of the Kesavananda Bharati case was passed on 24th April, 1973, by a slight maturity of 76, where seven of the judges were in favour of the view that the Indian Constitution is amenable like other Acts and bills. It was permitted by the judges so as to fulfill the socio- profitable scores of the State that are given to the citizens of India. The abecedarian rights are granted to them and those rights can no way  be changed by the Parliament by amending any of them. The introductory structure must remain the same. Six of the judges, the nonage, who were against this judgement were of the opinion that the Parliament mustn’t be vested with the unlimited power of amending the Constitution.   The corner case was decided on 24th April 1973 where the judgement was delivered by the judges, who were still reticent to give unfettered authority to Parliament. The court upheld the constitutionality of the 24th Correction entirely. But in the case of 25th Correction, the 1st and 2nd corridor were set up to be intra vires and ultra vires, independently. The Court, thus, answered all those questions that were preliminarily left unanswered in the case of Golaknath in relation to the powers of the Parliament to amend the Constitution. The answer to the question was set up in this Kesavananda Bharati case, where the court observed that the Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution to the extent that similar correction doesn’t change the introductory structure of the Indian Constitution. It was laid down by the court that the doctrine of introductory structure is to be followed by the Parliament while amending the Constitution.


In Kesavananda Bharati case, the maturity of the bench wanted to save the Indian Constitution by guarding its introductory features. So they decided not to give unlimited power to amend the Constitution as it can be misused by the government in future. It handed stability to the Constitution. Though the petitioner lost his case incompletely, the judgement that was given by the bench in this case worked out to be a rescuer of Indian republic and saved the Constitution from losing its spirit.   This case played an important part in re-evaluating the opinions that were made in the cases of Shankari Prasad v. Union of India, Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan and Golaknath v. State of Punjab. The Supreme Court observed that the Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution under Article 368, including Part III, which deals with the abecedarian rights of citizens. Thus, it was held that any part of the Indian Constitution can be amended, but the introductory frame of the Constitution mustn’t be affected. This upheld the doctrine of introductory structure.   The judges of the Supreme Court gave their opinion regarding that corridor that must be included in the introductory structure and mustn’t be changed while amending any part of the Constitution. Justice Sikri, who was the Chief Justice of India at the time, stated the following features as the introductory structure of the Constitution that mustn’t be changed   The Supremacy of the Constitution, Separation of the three major government institutions; council, superintendent, and bar, The civil nature of the Constitution, The temporal nature of the Constitution, The popular form of government and its democratic form.  The freedom of individualities must be defended.  The sovereignty of the nation must be upheld.  Administrative republic must be saved.  An egalitarian society must be formed.  The quality of individualities must be  saved, which is granted by abecedarian rights, and a  weal state must be  erected in  agreement with the Directive Principles of State Policy.  The judges of the Supreme Court weren’t amicable in bringing forward a fixed introductory structure, but they succeeded in securing the spirit of Indian republic. This case succeeded in extending the compass of judicial review. The Apex Court, after this case, had the authority to both review and refute any correction that’s made in violation of the introductory frame of the Constitution as a drawback to the Parliament’s unhindered right to amend the Constitution. Thus, the Supreme Court of India has the unfettered power to review the Constitution and assert its supremacy in interpreting the Constitution. 


The introductory structure doctrine states that the Parliament has measureless power to amend the Constitution subject to the condition that similar emendations shouldn’t change the Constitution’s introductory structure. The bench didn’t mention the introductory structure of the Constitution and it was left to the court’s interpretation. This was latterly laid down in several other judgements by the SC.   The court contended that the term ‘amend’ mentioned in Composition 368 doesn’t indicate emendations that can alter the Constitution’s introductory structure. However, such an correction would inescapably have to suffer the ‘introductory structure ’ test, If the Parliament intends to amend with respect to a  indigenous provision. 


The case of Kesavananda Bharati vs the State of Kerala as mentioned supra had been heard for 68 days, the assertions embarking on October 31, 1972, and ending on March 23, 1973. The hard work and education that had gone into the medication of this case were stirring. Hundreds of cases had been cited and the also Attorney- General had made a relative map analysing the constitutions of 71 different countries.   The maturity of the bench wished to guard the Constitution by conserving its introductory features.  The judgment was grounded on sound logic and it was given after a careful analysis of manifold aspects. 


Who was the main petitioner in the Kesavnanda Bharti case?

Kesavananda Bharti

Who gave the judgement in the Kesavananda Bharti case?

13 judge bench heard and ruled in the favor of Kesavananda Bharti. It was the largest bench hearing in Indian Legal History,

What was challenged in the case?

Land Reform Act

What is longest Judgement in India?

Kesavananda Bharti Case

Kesavnanda Bharti Case: Basic Structure Doctrine 

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