Basic Structure of the Constitution
- The “basic features” principle was first expounded in 1953, by Justice J.R. Mudholkar in his dissent, in the case of Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan.
- The basic structure doctrine is an Indian judicial principle that the Constitution of India has certain basic features that cannot be altered or destroyed through amendments by the parliament.
- The basic features of the Constitution have not been explicitly defined by the Judiciary, and the claim of any particular feature of the Constitution to be a “basic” feature is determined by the Court in each case that comes before it.
- Key among these “basic features”, are the fundamental rights granted to individuals by the constitution.
- The basic structure doctrine does not apply to ordinary Acts of Parliament, which must itself be in conformity with the Constitution.
- The present position is that the Parliament under Article 368 can amend any part of the Constitution including the Fundamental Rights but without affecting the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution.
From the various judgements, the following have emerged as ‘basic features’ of the Constitution:
1. Supremacy of the Constitution
2. Sovereign, democratic and republican nature of the Indian polity
3. Secular character of the Constitution
4. Separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary
5. Federal character of the Constitution
6. Unity and integrity of the nation
7. Welfare state (socio-economic justice)
8. Judicial review
9. Freedom and dignity of the individual
10. Parliamentary system
11. Rule of law
12. Harmony and balance between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles
13. Principle of equality
14. Free and fair elections
15. Independence of Judiciary
16. Limited power of Parliament to amend the Constitution
17. Effective access to justice
18. Principles (or essence) underlying fundamental rights.
19. Powers of the Supreme Court under Articles 32, 136, 141 and 142
20. Powers of the High Courts under Articles 226 and 227
Landmark cases related to the basic structure of the Constitution:
1. Shankari Prasad Case vs. Union of India, 1951
2. Sajjan Singh vs. State of Rajasthan, 1965
3. Golak Nath vs. the State of Punjab (1967)
4. The Kesavananda case (1973)
5. Indira Gandhi vs. Raj Narain, (1975)
6. Minerva Mill vs. Union of India (1980)
7. Chandra Kumar vs. Union of India (1997)
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