The Constitution of India provides for Parliament to have the power to amend the Constitution. However, this power is limited, and cannot be expanded into an absolute power. This statement was put to the test in the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, where the Supreme Court of India established the “Basic Structure Doctrine”.
Basic Structure Doctrine:
- The “basic features” principle was first expounded in the case of Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan.
- The Supreme Court established that Fundamental Rights cannot be amended by Parliament in the case of Golaknath v. State of Punjab.
- The case of Kesavananda Bharati recognized the “basic structure” concept and established the Supreme Court’s right to review and interpret constitutional amendments.
- The doctrine has evolved over the years and has come to include various principles such as democracy, rule of law, secularism, federalism, freedom under Article 19, judicial independence, and judicial primacy in the appointment process.
Parliament’s Power to Destroy the Basic Structure:
- In Minerva Mills v. Union of India, the Parliament attempted to bypass the Kesavananda Bharati decision by making its power unlimited. However, the Supreme Court struck down the amendment on the grounds that the limitation of Parliamentary power and judicial review were themselves a part of the basic structure.
- In I. Coelho v State of Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court held that all laws, including constitutional amendments, are subject to the test of consistency with fundamental rights, which are a part of the basic structure.
- Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is not absolute, and the Supreme Court is the final arbiter over and interpreter of all constitutional amendments.
Conclusion: Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is limited and cannot damage or destroy the basic structure of the Constitution. The procedure prescribed for amendment is mandatory, and non-compliance with it will result in invalidity. The Supreme Court has the final say over all constitutional amendments, and laws that transgress the basic structure can be struck down by the Court. Despite objections, the doctrine of the basic structure has established the importance of preserving the essential features of the Constitution.