Kesavananda Bharati: Petitioner in landmark SC judgement protecting democracy passes away

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Kesavananda Bharati, the seer of Edneer Mutt, whose case ‘Kesavananda Bharti vs State of Kerala,1973’, delivered on 24th April 1973 laid foundation of Doctrine of Basic Structure and is considered one of the most important Supreme Court judgements in Independent India died on Sunday at the age of 80.

The seer’s original case was challenging Kerala government’s land reforms under Right to Property (amended by Parliament) which impacted the mutt’s property, its main source of income.

It was only under the guidance of jurist Nani Palkhivala, the seer moved to the Supreme Court for enforcement of his rights guaranteed under Article 25 (Right to practice and propagate religion), Article 26 (Right to manage religious affairs), Article 14 (Right to equality), Article 19(1) (f) (freedom to acquire property), Article 31 (Compulsory Acquisition of Property) bringing in the larger question of amending power of Parliament.

Since Shankari Prasad case (1951) to Golak Nath case (1967), there was an ongoing debate of whether or not the Constitution Amendment comes under ‘Law’ as defined by Article 13. It was only in Kesavananda Bharati case, the Supreme Court settled this debate by stating that the Parliament has the power to amend, alter or abrogate any article of the Constitution subject to ‘Doctrine of Basic Structure’.

This judgement involved the sitting of largest Supreme Court bench in Indian judicial history of 13 judges, which went on for 69 days (31st Oct 1972 to 23 March 1973), where comparative analysis of the constitution of 71 countries was done and the final judgment was 703 pages long. The judgement was given in split verdict of 7:6.
Using Keshavananda Bharati case, Supreme Court in, India Nehru Gandhi Case (1975), Minerva Mills Case (1980), S.R. Bommai Case (1994) declared Secularism, Judicial Review and Federalism respectively as part of Basic Structure.

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