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  • AIR 1973 SC 1461

  • His Holiness Swami Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru was the head of Edneer math30 in Kerala.

  • The Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 had affected the property of his religious institution, leading him to challenge state land reform legislation in Kerala in 1970.

  • the Parliament passed the Constitution (Twenty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1972, which inserted certain land reform laws32 to the Ninth Schedule and adversely affected Swami Kesavananda.

  • Nani Palkhivala, the petitioner’s counsel, seized the opportunity and challenged the constitutional validity of the Twenty-fourth, Twenty-fifth and Twenty-ninth Amendments to the Constitution


  • According to the Twenty-fourth Amendment (enacted in 1971 to nullify Golak Nath), constitutional amendments were not ‘law’ under Article 13, and the Parliament had the power to amend, vary or repeal any provision of the Constitution.

  • The Twenty-fifth Amendment (enacted in 1971) gave Articles 39(b) and 39(c)34—described by Granville Austin as the most ‘classically socialist’35 provisions in the directive principles of state policy—precedence over the fundamental rights to equality, the seven freedoms36 and property.37 It also took away the power of the courts to decide whether a law was actually passed to further the policy laid down in these Articles.

  • The Twenty-ninth Amendment (enacted in 1972) added two land reform statutes to the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.


  • The Twenty-fourth Amendment to the Constitution was valid.

  •  The Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution was   valid, except for the clause ousting the courts’ jurisdiction.

  •  The Twenty-ninth Amendment to the Constitution was valid.

  • The Golak Nath judgment, which had asserted that fundamental rights could not be taken away or nullified by the Parliament,was overruled.

  • There were no implied limitations on the Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution under Article 368.

  • However, the court’s most significant decision, made by a thin majority of 7:6, was that although the Parliament had the power to amend any part of the Constitution, it could not use this power to alter or destroy the ‘basic structure’—or framework—of the Constitution.

  • Coming to the judgment of the Supreme Court, there was no unanimity of opinion on what the basic structure was. Each judge in the majority prepared a list of what (according to them) comprised the basic structure—

  • In delineating the basic structure of the Constitution, most judges relied upon the Preamble, the fundamental rights and the directive principles of state policy.45 It is very difficult to say what these lofty principles constituting the basic structure really mean.


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