Kesavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala: Understanding The Landmark Case That Shaped the India's Constitution


Kesavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala is a watershed moment in Indian legal history. It is regarded as one of the Supreme Court of India's most significant judgments, upholding the supremacy of the Indian Constitution and establishing the basic structure doctrine.

This article will investigate the case's background, legal issues, and implications, as well as its impact on the Indian legal system and democracy.

Kesavananda Bharati & Others (Petitioners) v. State of Kerala (Respondents): Case Summaries

The Kesavananda Bharati & Others Versus State of Kerala case, also known as the Fundamental Rights case, is undoubtedly one of the most significant rulings in Indian constitutional history, if not the most significant of the country's post-independence.

The majority ruling in the case was given by S.M. Sikri C. J., Hegde J, Mukherjea J, Shehlat J, Grover J, Jaganmohan Reddy J, and Khanna J; Ray J, Palekar J, Mathew J, Beg J, Dwivedi J, and Chandrachud J dissented.

It is true to say that the decision in the current case ended the struggle between the executive and the judiciary and saved the nation's democratic system and framework.

The outcome of the case's legal battle, fought by two constitutional heavyweights and legal giants, N.A. Palkhivala (who represented the petitioners) and H.M. Seervai (who represented the State of Kerala), was the hard-won judgment.

The case's sixty-eight daylong hearing came to a conclusion on April 24, 1973, with a lengthy 703-page judgment.

Facts Regarding the Case

The Kasaragod district of Kerala's Edneer Mutt, a monastic community, employed Kesavananda Bharati as its head priest. Some property in the Mutt belonged to Bharati. The Land Reforms Amendment Act was passed by the Kerala state legislature in 1969.

This Act authorized the government to purchase some of the Mutt's lands. In March 1970, Bharati petitioned the Supreme Court under Section 32 of the Constitution to uphold the following rights:

Article 25 Right to practice religion
Article 26 Right to manage religious affairs
Article 14 Right to equality
Article 19(1)(f) Freedom to buy property
Article 31 Compulsory acquisition of property

The Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act was passed by the Kerala state government in 1971, while the court was still debating the petition.

The arguments put forth by the petitioners highlighted the legitimacy of several amendments that the Parliament introduced to overturn the results of Golaknath v. State of Punjab.

The validity of three constitutional amendments—the 24th, 25th, and 29th Amendments—was specifically contested by the petitioners.

Issues Faced by the Court

  • Whether the following is legal under the Constitution?

    • Constitutional Amendment Act of 1971, Section 24

    • 1972's 25th Constitutional (Amendment) Act

  • The scope of the Parliament's ability to use its constitutional amendment authority.

  • The issue that was at issue in the case also included: Was Parliament's ability to change the Constitution unrestricted? In other words, could Parliament change, amend, or even repeal any part of the Constitution to the point where all fundamental rights were eliminated?

Contentions in The Case


Petitioners claim that Parliament's limited authority to amend the Constitution hinders their desired actions.

In accordance with the ruling made by Justice Mudholkar in the case of Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan, the Parliament is not permitted to amend the Constitution in order to alter its fundamental design.

They claimed that the Fundamental Right outlined in Article 19(1)(f) was violated by the 24th and 25th Constitutional Amendments.


According to the State, the supremacy of the Parliament is the fundamental tenet of the Indian legal system, and as such, it has unrestricted authority to amend the Constitution.

The respondents emphasized that the Parliament's unrestricted ability to amend the Constitution must be upheld if it is to fulfill its socioeconomic obligations.

Decision in the Kesavananda Bharati Case

On April 24, 1973, Parliament passed a historic ruling by a narrow majority of 7:6 that Parliament could amend any part of the Indian Constitution to fulfil socioeconomic duties outlined in the Preamble without changing its fundamental structure.

The minority's dissenting viewpoint issued a warning against giving the Parliament unrestricted amending authority.

The 24th Amendment to the Constitution was completely valid, according to the court.

What Is the Doctrine Basic Structure?

According to the basic structure doctrine, the Parliament may amend the Constitution at any time, with the restriction that the basic structure of the Constitution may not be altered.

The bench made no mention of the fundamental structure of the Constitution, leaving it up to the courts to interpret. The SC later elaborated on this in a number of other judgements.

The court argued that alterations that could fundamentally alter the Constitution are not covered by the term "amend" as used in Article 368. The "basic structure" test must be passed in order for the Parliament to amend a constitutional provision.


Q1. What is the summary of the Kesavananda Bharati case?

Ans: The Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala case was heard over the course of 68 days, from October 31, 1972, to March 23, 1973. A 13-judge Constitution Bench decided that the fundamental framework of the Constitution is unquestionable and could not be changed by Parliament by a 7-6 vote.

Q2. What case is referred to as the "habeas corpus case"?

Ans: The ruling in the ADM Jabalpur vs. Shivakant case, more commonly known as the Habeas Corpus case, set the precedent for countless arrests made in accordance with the preventive detention law, which forbade defendants from claiming their freedom in the event of exceptional circumstances.

Q3. Who won in Kesavananda Bharati case?

Ans: Kesavananda Bharati lost the case and the court held that any provision of the Indian Constitution may be amended by the Parliament to carry out its socio-economic obligations that were guaranteed to the citizens as stated in the Preamble, so long as the amendment did not alter the Constitution's fundamental structure.

Q 4. Which case is known as the fundamental rights case?

Ans: The Kesavananda Bharati case, also known as the serious conflict between the Government and the Judiciary, was also known as the fundamental rights case.

Updated on: 05-May-2023


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