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50 Years of Kesavananda Bharati Case

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April 26, 2023

Why in news?

The Kesavananda Bharati case which limits the power of parliament to amend the constitution completed 50 years.

What is Kesavananda Bharati case?

  • The Kerala government tried to impose restrictions to the management of Edneer mutt property which was headed by Kesavananda Bharati.
  • Kesavananda Bharati filed a case in Kerala high court citing restrictions to property management breached the fundamental right (right to property).
  • The case is known as the Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru & Ors. Vs. State of Kerala & Anr and also called Fundamental Rights Case.
  • The court held that fundamental rights cannot be taken away by parliament by amending the constitution.
  • The court upheld the land ceiling law but it drew the line by observing that certain parts are so inherent and intrinsic to the Constitution that even Parliament cannot touch it.

What are the effects of Kesavananda Bharati case?

  • Limitation to parliament - The case has refined the relation between parliament and constitution by limiting the powers to amend the constitution.
  • Expanding judicial powers - Although the Supreme Court has invoked “basic structure” it has mostly struck down amendments where judicial powers have been curtailed.
  • Doctrine of basic structure - The Supreme Court in its case judgment laid down the basic structure which cannot be amended by the parliament and the provisions in the basic structure cannot be amended.
  • To know more about basic structure click here
  • Judicial review - In cases such as Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu And Others (1992) the portion curtailing the judicial review are struck down citing it as part of basic structure.
  • Dilution of separation of power - The case diluted the separation of powers between the executive and legislative.

What are the cases that have widen the powers of Supreme Court?

  • Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu and Others (1992) - The only part that was struck down was, decisions of the Speaker relating to disqualification cannot be judicially reviewed.
  • Struck down The Constitution Act, 1975, which barred the Supreme Court from hearing a challenge to the election of President, Prime Minister, Vice-President, and Speaker of Lok Sabha.
  • P Sambamurthy v State of Andhra Pradesh (1986) - SC struck down a portion of the 32nd Amendment (1973), which constituted an Administrative Tribunal for Andhra Pradesh for service matters, taking away the jurisdiction of the High Court.
  • L Chandra Kumar v Union of India (1997) - Struck down a portion of the 42nd Amendment, which set up administrative tribunals excluding judicial review by High Court.

Quick facts

  • Since the Kesavananda Bharati judgment (1973), the Constitution has been amended more than 60 times
  • In past 5 decades the Supreme Court has tested constitutional amendments against the doctrine of basic structure in at least 16 cases.
  • Kesavananda Bharati case contained the highest constitutional bench (13 members) and longest hearing (68 days) of Supreme Court.


  1. The Indian Express│ About Kesavananda Bharati Case
  2. The Indian Express│ Effects Of Kesavananda Bharati Case
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