The doctrine of Basic Structure

The Constitution of a country represents the underside norm comprising of fundamental principles, laying down the inspiration of civil society. While on the face of it, it appears that the Constitution of India 1950 is neither too flexible nor too rigid in practice; it has been amended almost 100 times in 62 years. However, the extent of flexibility embraced by a constitution must be balanced by a necessity to preserve the sanctity of the Constitution as a far better law. The phrase ‘basic structure’ itself cannot be found within the Constitution.

Golak Nath v. State of Punjab

In Golak Nath v. State of Punjab[1]  which challenged Articles 31A and 31B[2], it had been held that the amending power and legislations power of parliament was essentially identical. Therefore, any amendment of the Constitution must be deemed law as understood in Article 13(2). The choice in Golaknath’s case led to a direct conflict of power between the Parliament and Judiciary. Because the Constitution was again challenged in 1973 Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala[3] within which the court overruled Golaknath’s decision as the majority of judges held that judgment in Golaknath’s case was wrong and so the ability to amend was significantly there under Article 368. So, with a majority of 7:6 decided that some parts of the Constitution which provide it meaning cannot be changed or amended and was held that within the elemental rights per se amendable.

However, this judgment wasn’t specified on what forms the basic structure of the constitution. Sikri, C.J. explained that the concept of the basic structure included: Supremacy of the Constitution, Separation of powers between the legislature executive and judiciary, republican and democratic form of government, Federal character of the constitution, and Secular character of the Constitution. Later two more basic features were added to the current list: The mandate to make a state contained within the Directive Principle of the State Policy, Unity, and Integrity of the state.

Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narayan

The matter of the Doctrine of Basic Structure again came up within the Supreme Court in Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narayan[4] popularly mentioned as Election Case. during this case, the Constitutional amendment was challenged with relevance an electoral law to create sure free and fair elections which lie at the concept of a democratic parliamentary form of government and it had been held that free and fair election is a part of basic structure can’t be amended. In response to the selection in Election case the govt. passed an amendment. It declared that there is no limit to parliament’s constituent power.

Since then there are many other cases involving the essential structure doctrine that was decided by the Supreme Court like Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union of India[5], Central Coal Fields Ltd. v. Jaiswal coal co[6]., Bhim Singhji v. Union of India [7]and many more.


In conclusion, the doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution might be a good Constitutional concept. It has been formally engrafted upon the constitution through the interpretative processes. The Supreme Court has done a superb service to the state by declaring that there are certain basic features. This basic structure of the Constitution cannot be amended. It’s necessarily discovered to the Parliament that Constitution is no party’s manifesto which could be changed at their own will. However, it can be a national heritage that could be amended given that a national consensus.

Author(s): Divya Prakash Mishra & Adarsh Rana


[1] Golak Nath v. the State of Punjab (1976) SRC (2) 762: AIR 1643.

[2] I.C. Golak Nath v. the State of Punjab, (1976) SRC (2) 762: AIR 1643.

[3] Kesavananda Bharati v. the State of Kerala (1973) 4 SCC 225: AIR 1973 SC 1461.

[4] Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narayan AIR 1975 SCC 2299.

[5] Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union of India (1980) 3 SCC.

[6] Central Coal Fields Ltd. v. Jaiswal coal co 1980 Supp. SCC 471.

[7]Bhim Singhji v. Union of India (1981) 1 SCC 166; AIR 1981 SC 234, Para 81 & 82.


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