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( 1973)
• This is the greatest decision in history of Indian constitution which
determined the fabric of Indian constitution and also has highest
number of judges on bench (13).
• On April 24, 1973, Chief Justice Sikri and 12 judges of the Supreme
Court assembled to deliver the most important judgment in its
• The Kesavananda judgment defined the extent to which Parliament
could restrict property rights, in pursuit of land reform and the
redistribution of large landholdings to cultivators, overruling previous
decisions that suggested that the right to property could not be
restricted. The case was a culmination of a series of cases relating to
limitations to the power to amend the Indian constitution.
Background Facts
• Kesavananda Bharati was chief of a religious sect in Kerala. The sect
had certain lands acquired under its name. Some of these lands by
virtue of Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 which was further amended
by Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1969 were to be acquired
by the state government to fulfill their socio-economic obligations.
• Therefore, on 21st March 1970 the petitioner moved to Apex Court
u/a 32 for the enforcement of rights under Articles 25 (Right to
practice and propagate religion), 26(Right to manage religious affairs),
14(Right to Equality), 19(1)(f) (Freedom to acquire property),
31(Compulsory Acquisition of Property). Meanwhile, when the
petition was under consideration by the Court the State Government
of Kerala passed Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1971.
• The petitioner in the landmark case, mainly contended that the
Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is limited and
• There are certain principles within the framework of Indian
Constitution which are inviolable and hence cannot be amended by
the Parliament. These principles were commonly termed as Basic
• The petitioner through his counsel pleaded before the historic 13
judge bench to protect his Fundamental Right to Property {then
article 19(1)(f)} violated by the enactment of 24th& 25th Constitutional
• As it is stated, that the fundamental rights of the constitution can be
amended by the Parliament, but not all the rights of the constitution.
Those fundamental rights which formed the basic structure of the
constitution cannot be abridged
• The petitioners also submitted that it was the Constitution of India
which granted the citizens freedom from tyranny which they have
suffered at the hands of Colonialism
• As a result of which various features of this freedom will gradually
wither away if not protected from the Parliament’s recent course.
• The respondent i.e. the State contended the same arguments which it
has been contending i.e. the power of parliament with respect to
amending the Constitution is absolute, unlimited and unfettered
• Further, the state pleaded that in order to fulfill its socio-economic
obligations guaranteed to the citizens by the union in Preamble, it is
of immense importance that there is no limitation upon the authority
of the Parliament
• The essence of State’s arguments was that if what petitioner is
contending becomes the law then all the social and egalitarian
obligations bestowed on the Parliament by the highest law i.e. the
• Further it added that the Constitution will come in direct serious
conflict with the rights under Part III.
• The Respondents submitted before the courts that even democracy
can be turned into one party rule, if need be, by the Parliament.
Background Facts
• After the unprecedented judgment of Golaknath v. State of Punjab
the desperate Parliament in order to gain its lost supremacy &
autonomy passed series of Amendments to indirectly overrule
whatever was decided in Golaknath.
•The Indira Gandhi govt. returned in lower house with huge majority in
1971 elections and then passed 24th Amendment in 1971,
25th Amendment in 1972 & 29th Amendment in 1972.
13 JUDGES Bench ???
• Authority and influence of a Precedent (Article 141) depends on the
number of judges. Generally, to overrule any verdict of the court
there must be the same number of Judges in a constitutional bench
or more than that number. In GOLAKNATH Case there was 11 Judges,
so to resolve this case, C.J. SIKIRI decided to Constitute 13
Judges Constitutional Bench.
• First Time in the Indian Judiciary, 13 judges forgathered to hear this
case, on 24 April, 1973, a very divided Judgement was passed by the
majority of seven judges, including chief Justice S.M. Sikiri, and was
decided by a thin margin of 7–6 .

• In Kesavananda case, Majority of judges Held,

“Verdict of GOLAKNATH Case was not correct and Government can
Amend the fundamental rights but without changing the basic structure
and nature of the Constitution”.
Basic structure examples:
1) Independent judiciary
2) Parliamentary system
3) Free and fair elections
4) Supremacy of constitution
5) Judiciary has power to review anything
6) Republic and democratic form of government
7) Equality
8) Right to freedom
Was there any attempt made to overrule this
case by Judiciary ???
• Yes , it was, by the then C.J. Ray, who again constituted 13th Judges
Bench and tried to review the case, but he could not succeed, due to
the plea made by Palkhivala, to not disturb the recent verdict. Till
today there is no such verdict, laid down by such a large Bench, it was
first in the history of Indian Judiciary.
• Dictatorship v. Democracy.
• Post judgement, implication of 39th and 41st amendment could not
happen due to the verdict of this case.
• The judgment also refused to consider right to property as its was
violating fundamental right under basic structure.
• This judgment saved us from going into one party rule system.
• A Great salute to the Supreme Court, Kesavananda Bharati, N.A.
Palkhivala and the others Patrons, who played a important role to save
our Democracy, our Supreme Law and our fundamental rights, which
we exercise today.
Thank You
• 18-I-101 – Nishant Bahikar
• 18-I-103 – Jugal Bari
• 18-I-104 – Urvashi Bhatnagar
• 18-I-107 – Kanchan Gawade
• 18-I-112 – Shabina Khan