Kesavananda Bharati, a saviour of Constitution - The Hindu-07-09-2020

Kesavananda Bharati was the chief pontiff of the Edneer Mutt, a monastic religious institution located in Kasaragod district, Kerala. Bharati had some land in the Mutt which he owned. The Kerala state government passed the Land Reforms Amendment Act in 1969. As per this Act, the government could acquire some of the lands that belonged to the Mutt. In March 1970, Bharati moved the Supreme Court (under Section 32 of the Constitution) to enforce the rights that were guaranteed to him under:

Article 25: Right to practice & 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

The Kerala state government enacted another law, the Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1971 even as the petition was under the court’s consideration.

The contentions made by the petitioners brought to the fore the validity of various amendments that were brought in by the Parliament to nullify the effects of Golaknath v State of Punjab. The petitioners challenged, in particular, three constitutional amendments – 24th Amendment, 25th Amendment and 29th Amendment and their validity.

Issues before the Court

Whether the following are constitutionally valid?
24th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1971
25th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1972
The extent to which the Parliament can exercise its power to amend the Constitution.

Contentions of the petitioners:

Petitioners contended that the Parliament can’t amend the Constitution in a manner they want as their power to do this is limited. The Parliament cannot make an amendment to the Constitution to change its basic structure as was set forth by Justice Mudholkar in the Sajjan Singh v State of Rajasthan case.
They argued that the 24th & 25th Constitutional Amendments were violative of the Fundamental Right provided in Article 19(1)(f).

Contentions of the respondents:

The State said that the Parliament’s supremacy is the Indian legal system’s basic structure and hence, it has boundless power to amend the Constitution. The respondents stressed that in order to fulfil its socio-economic obligations the unlimited power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution must be upheld.

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