Chapter

Redeeming the Web: The Kesavananda Bharati Case

Granville Austin

in Working a Democratic Constitution

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780195656107
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080397 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195656107.003.0013
Redeeming the Web: The Kesavananda Bharati Case

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Eleven days before the pledge-taking, His Holiness Swami Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru lodged a case in the Supreme Court whose outcome would profoundly affect the country's democratic processes. The majority judgement overturned the anti-Parliament, anti-amendment rigidity of the Golak Nath decision; upheld the constitutionality of the Twenty-fourth and the Twenty-fifth Amendments; but it also ruled that an amendment could not alter the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. This ‘basic structure doctrine’, this chapter argues, is said to have become the bedrock of constitutional interpretation in India. Because the doctrine reduced the government's freedom to employ the two amendments, it treated the ruling as a defeat, despite the amendments having been upheld. The case's outcome confirmed for the government its distrust of the Court. The Court won the confrontation against the parliament of Indira Gandhi.

Keywords: Swami Kesavananda Bharati; Indian Constitution; Supreme Court; Golak Nath; Indira Gandhi; constitutional interpretation

Chapter.  8988 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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