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What is the Doctrine of Basic Structure?

The doctrine of Basic Structure was propounded by the Indian Judiciary on 24th April 1973 in the Keshavananda Bharati.....

The doctrine of Basic Structure was propounded by the Indian Judiciary on 24th April 1973 in the Keshavananda Bharati case. To put a limitation on the amending powers of the Parliament so that the ‘Basic Structure of the Constitution’ cannot be amended in the exercise of its ‘constituent power’ under Article 368 of the Indian constitution. 

  • The judiciary deems certain features of the Indian constitution beyond the scope of parliamentary amending powers.
  • The constitution doesn’t mention the term “Basic Structure,” but it was first acknowledged in the 1973 Kesavananda Bharati case.

Evolution of Basic Structure of Doctrine

A.K. Gopalan Case (1950)SC contented that there was no violation of Fundamental Rights enshrined in Articles 13, 19, 21 and 22 under the provisions of the Preventive Detention Act, if the detention was as per the procedure established by law. Here, the SC took a narrow view of Article 21.
Shankari Prasad Case (1951)This case dealt with the amendability of Fundamental Rights (the First Amendment’s validity was challenged). The SC contended that the Parliament’s power to amend under Article 368 also includes the power to amend the Fundamental Rights guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution.
Berubari Union case (1960)This case was regarding the Parliament’s power to transfer the territory of Berubai to Pakistan. The Supreme Court examined Article 3 in detail. 9th Amendment Act was passed to enforce the agreement.
Golaknath case (1967)SC contented that Fundamental Rights are not amenable to the Parliamentary restriction as stated in Article 13. Also stated that Article 368 gives the procedure to amend the Constitution but does not confer on Parliament the power to amend the Constitution.
Kesavananda Bharati case (1973)This judgement defined the basic structure of the Constitution. The SC held that although no part of the Constitution, including Fundamental Rights, was beyond the Parliament’s amending power, the “basic structure of the Constitution could not be abrogated even by a constitutional amendment.” 
Maneka Gandhi case (1978)The SC held that right to go abroad is included in the Right to Personal Liberty. The SC also ruled that the mere existence of an enabling law was not enough to restrain personal liberty. 
Indra Sawhney and Union of India (1992)SC examined the scope and extent of Article 16(4), and upheld the constitutional validity of 27% reservation for the OBCs with certain conditions (like creamy layer exclusion, no reservation in promotion, total reserved quota should not exceed 50%, etc.)
Minerva Mills case (1980)The judgement struck down 2 changes made to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act 1976, declaring them to be violative of the basic structure. 
Shah Bano Begum case (1985)Milestone case for Muslim women’s fight for rights. The SC upheld the right to alimony for a Muslim woman and said that the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is applicable to all citizens irrespective of their religion. 
S. R. Bommai case (1994)In this judgement, the SC tried to curb the blatant misuse of Article 356 (regarding the imposition of President’s Rule on states).
Vishaka and State of Rajasthan (1997)This case dealt with sexual harassment at the workplace. 
Lily Thomas v Union of India (2000)Here, the SC held that the second marriage of a Hindu man without divorcing the first wife, even if the man had converted to Islam, is void unless the first marriage had been dissolved according to the Hindu Marriage Act.
I.R Coelho and State of Tamil Nadu 2007This judgement held that if a law is included in the 9th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, it can still be examined and confronted in court.
Aruna Shanbaug Case (2011)The SC ruled that individuals had a right to die with dignity, allowing passive euthanasia with guidelines. 
NOTA judgement (2013)This judgement introduced the NOTA (None-Of-The-Above) option for Indian voters.
Triple Talaq Judgement (2016)The SC outlawed the backward practice of instant ‘triple talaq’, which permitted Muslim men to unilaterally end their marriages by uttering the word “talaq” three times without making any provision for maintenance or alimony. 
Right To Privacy (2017)The SC declared the right to privacy as a Fundamental Right protected under the Indian Constitution. 


The judicial principle of the basic structure doctrine is linked to the Indian constitution. It holds the basic structure of the Indian Constitution and ensures that the parliament cannot amend its basic features. Several petitions brought this doctrine into the limelight. One of the most critical petitions is the Kesavananda Bharati case. The case’s judgment established our constitution’s basic structure doctrine, evolving through Supreme Court judgments.

Read Also: About Amendments Of The Constitution

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