[Answered] What is the Doctrine of Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution? What is its significance?

Introduction: Contextual introduction.

Body: Explain Doctrine of Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution. Also write its significance. Conclusion: Write a way forward.

The “Basic Structure” doctrine is a doctrine made from judicial innovation specific to Indian context. The doctrine prescribes that certain features of the constitution are beyond the limits of the amending powers of the Parliament. The word “Basic Structure” is not mentioned in the Constitution of India.

Doctrine of Basic Structure:

  • The doctrine was evolved by the Supreme Court in the 1973 landmark ruling inKesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala. A 13-judge Constitution Bench ruled that the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution is inviolable, and could not be amended by Parliament.
  • If a law is found to “damage or destroy” the “basic features of the Constitution”, the Court declares it unconstitutional.
  • The test is applied to constitutional amendments to ensure the amendment does not dilute the fundamentals of the Constitutional itself.
  • The test is widely regarded as a check on majoritarian impulses of the Parliament since it places substantive limits on the power to amend the Constitution.
  • In the Kesavanandaruling, the Supreme Court cited several aspects of the Constitution that could be identified as “basic features” of the document. For example, judicial review, rule of law, federalism, and democratic republic structure are identified as basic features.

Significance of Basic Structure:

  • The basic structure doctrine grants the fine balance between flexibility and rigidity that should be present in the amending powers of any Constitution.
  • The basic structure doctrine is a testimony to the theory of Constitutionalism to prevent the damage to essence of COI by brute majority of the ruling majority.
  • The basic doctrine saved the Indian democracy as it acts as a limitation of constituent power or else unlimited power of parliament might have turned India into a totalitarian.
  • It strengthens our democracy by delineating a true separation of power where Judiciary is independent of other two organs. It has also given immense untold unbridled power to Supreme Court and made it the most powerful court in the world.
  • By restraining the amending powers of legislative organ of State, it provides basic Rights to Citizens which no organ of State can overrule.
  • Being dynamic in nature, it is more progressive and open to changes in time unlike the rigid nature of earlier judgements.

The basic structure doctrine though subject to intense debate from the date of its inception and lack of textual basis of the same still continues to hold forte to hold up delicate constitutional balance of powers.


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