A complete ecosystem for UPSC Civils and State PSC Preparation

Basic Structure of Constitution

What is the Basic Structure of Constitution? 

Basic Structure of Constitution

The concept of ‘Basic Structure of Constitution’ derives its origin from the Basic Structure Doctrine given by Supreme Court of India in the landmark judgment of Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala case (1973). 

In Kesavananda Bharati Case, the Constitutional bench of SC held that “Although Parliament can amend any part of the Constitution including Fundamental Rightsit cannot alter/ abrogate the Basic structure of the Constitution even by a constitutional amendment.” 

It also implied that the judiciary can strike down any amendment passed by Parliament if it is in conflict with the basic structure of the Constitution. 

Although Supreme Court did not define the term ‘Basic Structure’ in 1973, it has listed many principles/provisions from time to time which are to be considered as the part of basic structure of the Constitution. 

Since 1973, following provisions have been interpreted by SC through various judgements to be the part of Basic structure of Constitution: 

  • The supremacy of the Constitution 
  • Rule of law 
  • Independence of the judiciary and Judicial review 
  • Doctrine of separation of powers 
  • Sovereign republic nature of India State 
  • Parliamentary form of government 
  • Principle of free and fair elections 
  • Core values such as federalism, secularism, democracy 
  • Balance between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles 
  • India to be a welfare state 

Important point to note about the Basic Structure doctrine is that the word ‘Basic Structure’ is nowhere mentioned in the constitution.  It was Justice Mudholkar who used the phrase ‘Basic structure/feature’ of the Constitution for the first time in the  Sajjan Singh case of 1965.

History/Background of Basic structure doctrine :

Doctrine of basic structure was the outcome of serious of judgments given by Supreme court to strike a balance between the Amending power of parliament(Art. 368) and Fundamental rights of Citizens.

Shankari Prasad Case (1951) – Supreme Court held that the  power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution under Article 368 also includes the power to amend Fundamental Rights. 

Golaknath case (1967) – Supreme Court reversed its earlier stanceIt ruled that the Parliament cannot abridge or take away the Fundamental Rights.   constitutional amendment act is also a law within the preview of Article 13 and hence, it would be null and void if it violates any of the Fundamental Rights. 

 24th Amendment Act (1971) – It declared that Under Article 368, the Parliament has the power to abridge or take away any of the Fundamental Rights. 

 Kesavananda Bharati case (1973) – Supreme Court reversed its judgement in the Golak Nath case (1967) and upheld the validity of 24th Amendment Act (1971).  

 In its landmark judgement, SC ruled that Parliament has the power under Article 368 to abridge or take away any of the Fundamental Rights however it cannot alter/destroy the ‘Basic structure of the Constitution.   This was for the first time when Basic structure doctrine was introduced in the Indian legal arena. 

 This judgement implied that the power to amend does not empower the parliament to destroy the constitution. 

Critical Analysis of Basic structure doctrine:

Argument in favour of Basic structure doctrine:  

 Political scientists consider the concept of Basic structure acts as a safety valve against majoritarianism and authoritarianism. 

Argument in against of Basic structure doctrine: 

Many Political scientists are of the opinion that since un-elected judges can strike down a constitutional amendment which is brought by the chosen representatives of people, it is against the core democratic values. 

With this, we complete our study of Basic Structure of Constitution.

You can read complete Indian Polity Notes in Chapterwise format here – Indian Polity Notes

You can solve Indian Polity chapterwise MCQs here – Indian Polity Chapterwise MCQs

Also Read in Indian Polity Short Notes :