Unveiling the ‘Basic Structure’ Theory of the Indian Constitution



Discuss about the ‘Basic Structure’ theory of Indian Constitution. (HPAS Mains Question Paper 2022 – GS 2, Q.4)

The “Basic Structure” theory is an Indian judicial principle that holds that specific provisions of the Constitution are so fundamental and essential to its nature that they cannot be altered or destroyed by any constitutional amendment.

The Basic Structure doctrine can be traced back to a landmark case decided by the Indian Supreme Court in 1973, Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that certain aspects of the Constitution cannot be amended even by Parliament’s amending power because they are essential and fundamental to the Constitution’s framework. According to the Court, the power of amendment cannot be used to harm, alter, or destroy the entire structure of the Constitution.

The Basic Structure doctrine has been used in several cases to overturn constitutional amendments that violate the Constitution’s fundamental features. In the case of Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union of India, for example, the Supreme Court overturned specific provisions of the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976, which gave Parliament unrestricted power to amend the Constitution. The Court ruled that such an amendment would violate the Constitution’s basic structure and thus be unconstitutional.

Some of the features identified as part of the Constitution’s Basic Structure include:

1. Supremacy of the Constitution

2. Republican and democratic governments

3. The Indian State’s sovereign, secular, and socialist nature

4. Separation of powers among the legislature, executive, and judicial branches

5. Judicial Review

6. The rule of law

7. fundamental rights.

8. Free and Fair elections

9. The federal nature of the Constitution

10. Independence of Judiciary

The Basic Structure doctrine has been a valuable tool for the Indian judiciary in defending the fundamental features of the Constitution and ensuring its integrity. It ensures that the Constitution remains a living document that adapts to changing circumstances while preserving its core values and principles.

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