top of page

Theory of Basic Structure

Theory of Basic Structure
Theory of Basic Structure


The Kesavananda Bharati case has entrenched itself as a pivotal moment in the annals of Indian constitutional jurisprudence.

Its significance reverberates through the corridors of legal academia and political discourse alike. 

At the heart of this landmark judgement lies the articulation of the doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution—a principle that fundamentally altered the landscape of constitutional interpretation in India. 

In traversing the intricacies of this doctrine, the case delved into multifaceted dimensions, ranging from the interpretation of constitutional provisions to the delineation of judicial boundaries vis-à-vis the legislative and executive branches.


Justice H.R. Khanna's Mono-Provisional Model

Within the judicial deliberations of Kesavananda Bharati, Justice H.R. Khanna's jurisprudential stance emerges as a beacon of insight. Khanna's adoption of the mono-provisional model of inherent limitations on the amending power diverged markedly from Chief Justice Sikri's multi-provisional approach. 

Khanna's meticulous examination of the term "amendment" itself unravelled a tapestry of inherent limitations, intricately woven into the fabric of constitutional governance.

His assertion that Parliament's power to amend did not extend to altering the basic structure of the Constitution laid the groundwork for a paradigm shift in constitutional interpretation.

Fundamental Rights and the Basic Structure

The discourse within Kesavananda Bharati regarding the incorporation of Fundamental Rights into the basic structure elicited nuanced deliberations.

Initially clouded by ambiguity, the clarification provided by Justice Khanna in subsequent cases, notably Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain, underscored the integral role of certain rights, such as secularism and Article 15, in preserving the constitutional ethos. 

Khanna's elucidation that while fundamental rights were amenable to amendment, they remained entrenched within the overarching framework of the Constitution, underscores the delicate balance between adaptability and preservation.

The Preamble's Limited Impact

The treatment of the Preamble within the confines of the basic structure doctrine reflected the nuanced approach adopted by the judiciary.

While acknowledging its significance as a constituent element of the Constitution, the court's pronouncements delineated the extent of its impact on limiting the amending power.

Justice Khanna's assertion that the Preamble's restrictive influence extended solely to aspects germane to the basic structure underscored the judicious calibration of judicial oversight.

The Emergence of the Basic Structure Doctrine

The genesis of the basic structure doctrine can be traced to the crucible of constitutional challenges, particularly those pertaining to land reform measures.

Shankari Prasad and Sajjan Singh laid the groundwork for the assertion of Parliament's broad amending power, albeit with certain caveats. 

However, Golak Nath precipitated a seismic shift by placing substantive limitations on Parliament's authority, a decision subsequently consolidated by Kesavananda Bharati.

Through a judicious blend of textual interpretation and constitutional philosophy, the court enunciated the principle that while Parliament wielded plenary power, it remained circumscribed by the immutable contours of the basic structure.

Imprecision and Inventiveness

Justice Khanna's articulation of the basic structure doctrine encapsulated both the essence of judicial activism and the inherent imprecision therein.

The amorphous nature of the basic structure necessitated an imaginative interpretation rooted in abstract principles rather than rigid textualism.

While specific elements such as democracy and federalism found mention, the absence of an exhaustive enumeration underscored the fluidity inherent in constitutional interpretation.

Kesavananda Bharati case stands not merely as a judicial pronouncement but as a testament to the enduring resilience of constitutional democracy.

Its legacy reverberates through the corridors of power, shaping the contours of governance and institutional integrity.

Through the prism of the basic structure doctrine, the judiciary affirmed its role as the guardian of constitutional values, etching an indelible mark on India's democratic fabric.


2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page