Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru, the Kerala seer (a person of supposed supernatural insight who sees visions of the future) passes away at the age of 79 in Septemeber, 2020.
For legal enthusiasts, this name is very important as the property rights of Edneer Mutt case before Honorable Supreme court of India helped define the basic structure of Indian Constitution.
All this effort was to answer just one main question.
Was the power of Parliament to amend the Constitution unlimited? In other words, could Parliament alter, amend, abrogate any part of the Constitution even to the extent of taking away all fundamental rights?
It was in the landmark Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala after which it was ruled that the basic structure of the Indian Constitution cannot be amended. In fact, he did not file case to get this verdict. How ever, his case (along with several other similar cases – out of which his was the first – lead to a famous verdict)
Brief of the case
Kesavananda Bharati challenged the Constitution (29th Amendment) Act, 1972, questioning the Kerala government’s attempts, under two-state land reform acts, to impose restrictions on the management of its (mutt) property.
The principal question that was raised in the case was about the
(i) Power of Parliament to amend the Constitution in totality especially with respect to fundamental rights.
(ii) To simply put, the basic question that the Supreme Court had to decide was whether Parliament could alter, amend, abrogate any part of the Constitution even to the extent of taking away all fundamental rights?
Senior lawyers Nani Palkhivala, Fali Nariman, and Soli Sorabjee fought the case for Kesavananda Bharati. A 13-judge bench was formed to preside over the case, heard over 68 days. In which, 11 different judgments were delivered in what is said to be a 7:6 majority.
The Constitutional Bench-led by Chief Justice SM Sikri — ruled by a 7-6 wafer thin majority verdict held that Parliament can amend every Article in the Constitution but should be restrained from altering the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. This means, basic structure of the Constitution was inviolable, and could not be amended by Parliament. The basic structure doctrine has since been regarded as a tenet of Indian constitutional law.
The court held that under Article 368, which provides Parliament amending powers, something must remain of the original Constitution that the new amendment would change.
The court did not define the ‘basic structure’, and only listed a few principles — federalism, secularism, democracy — as being its part. Since then, the court has been adding new features to this concept.
Read more details in below mentioned link