Home   »   Indian Polity   »   Basic Structure Doctrine of The Indian...

Basic Structure Doctrine of The Indian Constitution Explanation And Significance

Basic Structure Doctrine of The Indian Constitution

Basic Structure Doctrine of The Indian Constitution: The Su­preme Court explained the Basic Structure Doctrine of The Indian Constitution in its 703­page Ke­savananda Bharati verdict of April 24, 1973.

Context Of Basic Structure Doctrine In News

Recently, the Chief Justice of India, D. Y. Chandrachud compared the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution to the North Star, an unfailing guide that shows the way when the path appears con­voluted.


CJI’s observation came in response to a recent statement made by Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar that the basic structure doctrine introduced by a 13 ­judge Bench 40 years ago, in the Kesavananda Bharati versus State of Kerala through a 7:6 wafer ­thin majority judgment, diluted par­liamentary sovereignty.

About The Basic Structure Doctrine

  • The basic structure doctrine is one of the fundamental judicial principles connected with the Indian Constitution.
  • The doctrine of the basic structure holds that there is a basic structure to the Indian Constitution and the
  • The Parliament of India cannot amend the basic features.

Significance of basic structure doctrine

  • The doctrine of basic structure is nothing but a judicial innovation to ensure that the power of amendment is not misused by Parliament.
  • The idea is that the basic features of the Constitution of India should not be altered to the extent that the identity of the Constitution is lost in the process.

The Basic Structure Doctrine of The Indian Constitution

Different judges on the Kesavananda Bharati Bench gave different examples of what constituted the ‘basic structure.’ Overall, the Kesavananda Bharati judgment(April 24, 1973) held that:

  • Parliament cannot use its constituent power to alter the basic structure or the es­sential features of the Constitution.
  • The Parliament cannot cease to be a creature of the Consti­tution and become its master.
  • The basic structure or framework of the Constitution is its living spirit, holding up the body of its text.
  • Its existence cannot be pin­pointed to any particular provision of the text.
  • It is the “soul” of the Constitution, inextricably linked to the values enshrined in the Preamble, without which the document and the ideas that make it sacred would collapse.
  • A Constitution is a living system. But just as in a living, organic sys­tem, such as the human body, where va­rious organs develop and decay, yet the basic structure or pattern remains the same with each of the organs having its proper function, so also in a Constitutional system the basic institutional pattern re­mains even though the dierent compo­nent parts may undergo significant altera­tions.
  • It is the characteristic of a system that it perishes when one of its essential component parts is destroyed.

Granville Austin On The Basic Structure Doctrine

  • Granville Austin’s ”Working of a Democratic Constitution” said the basic structure doctrine “is fairly said to have become the bedrock of constitutional interpretation in India”.

S.C. On The Basic Structure Doctrine In The NJAC Verdict

  • The Constitution Bench in the NJAC judgment encapsulated the principle behind the basic structure theory when it said “A change in a thing does not involve its destruction”.

What Comes Under Basic Structure Doctrine?

The Constitution, including supremacy; the federal and secular character of the Constitution; separation of powers among the legislature, executive, and judiciary; dignity of the individual; unity and integri­ty of the nation; sovereignty of India; de­mocratic character of our policy; welfare state and egalitarian society; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and wor­ship and equality of status and opportuni­ty among other essential features of the Basic Structure Doctrine.

Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution | A to Z Details for UPSC

Chronology Of The Kesavananda Bharati Case

Smt. Indira Gandhi Back Into Power(1971)

The Kesavananda Bharati case came to the Supreme Court almost immediately after the Indira Gandhi government rode to victory in the 1971 elections on the popular slogan of ‘garibi hatao’ with almost 350 seats out of a total of 540. 

The Golak Nath Judgement

  • The government, smarting primarily under the Su­preme Court’s Golak Nath verdict which upheld the power of judicial review of con­stitutional amendments, introduced several Constitutional Amendments.
  • The 24th Constitutional Amendment changed Arti­cle 13, a provision which mandated that no ‘law’ could take away or abridge funda­mental rights.
  • The Golak Nath judgment had interpreted the term ‘law’ in Article 13 (2) to include ‘constitutional amendments’ too.

24th C.A.A.

  • The Parliament through the 24th Amendment said a constitutional amend­ ment cannot be rendered void merely be­ cause it infringed fundamental rights.
  • It also modified Article 368, a provision that dealt with constitutional amendments, to enable the Parliament to add, vary, or re­peal any Article of the Constitution. 

The 25th C.A.A.

  • The 25th Constitutional Amendment introduced Article 31C into the Constitution to implement the Directive Principles of State Policy under Article 39 (b) and (c) for the distribution of material resources of the community and to prevent the concentration of wealth.
  • The government’s aim was to facilitate the nationalization of industries and socialist measures.
  • The Amendment man­dated that any law enacted with this objective cannot be “deemed” void on the ground that it was inconsistent with funda­mental rights.
  • The latter half of Article 31C added that such a law would be outside judicial review.
  • In fact, even a petition can­ not be filed in court challenging such a law.
  • In short, the Amendment gave Directive Principles primacy over fundamental rights and judicial review of the apex court.

The Ke­savananda Bharati verdict of April 24, 1973

The 13­ judge Bench upheld the Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution as long as it adhered to its basic structure or essential features.

Note: The fourth constitutional amendment, the 26th, on the abolition of privy purses, was not considered by the Court in the Keshvananda Bharati Judgement.

Indira Gandhi versus Raj Narain case

  • The basic structure doctrine had sur­vived an aborted attempt to overrule the Kesavananda Bharati judgment in the Indira Gandhi versus Raj Narain case. It was also a 13 ­member Bench led by Chief Justice Ray.
  • It came in handy when the court, in the Indira Gandhi versus Raj Narain case, re­moved the 39th Constitutional Amend­ment passed during the Emergency period which put the elections of the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, and Lok Sabha Speaker beyond judicial review.

Minerva Mills Case(1980)

  • In 1980, the Supreme Court once again used the basic structure formula, in the Minerva Mills challenge to the 42nd Amendment, to uphold judicial review of constitutional amendments and to protect fundamental rights.

Supreme Court’s Basic Structure Doctrine

Relatable Link 
Hindu Marriage Act 1955 Know all about the Sedition Law in India
What is Communalism Anti-Defection Law Schedule
Swadeshi Movement   Women Reservation Bill 

Basic Structure Doctrine of The Indian Constitution_3.1

Sharing is caring!


Did Supreme court use basic structure formula in the Minerva Mills Case?

In 1980, the Supreme court once again used the basic structure formula, in the Minerva Mills challenge to the 42nd Amendment, to uphold judicial review of constitutional amendments and to protect fundamental rights.

The basic structure doctrine originated from which case of the Supreme Court?

The Su­preme Court explained the Basic Structure Doctrine of The Indian Constitution in its 703­page Ke­savananda Bharati verdict of April 24, 1973.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *