ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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50 Years of the ‘Basic Structure’

The Best Compliment to ‘We, the People’?

Forged by the judiciary while it tussled with the executive–legislature combined, the basic structure doctrine marks certain features of the Constitution as incapable of destruction. The criticism often levelled against it is that it allows the unelected to dominate sovereign will. This reasoning disregards that the Constitution is a closer expression of how the people want to be governed.

On 24 April 2023, the landmark judgment Kesavandanda Bharati v State of Kerala completed 50 years.1 It installed the “basic structure doctrine” in Indian jurisprudence to gatekeep radical changes to the Con­stitution. Devised in 1973, the concept regards some features of the Constitution as unalterable. In early 2023, the Vice President sparked a very crucial debate—whether the doctrine developed to preserve the Constitution, in essence, assails the people’s will (Vishwanath and Khan 2023).

The nub of the Vice President’s argument was that Parliament represents the people, and thus, encapsulates the ultimate sovereign power. This sovereign power cannot be smothered by judicial power for it does not represent the people’s will. He cited the last notable usage of the doctrine to assert that the unelected have the last say in directing vital constitutional developments. In the said inst­ance, the Supreme Court toppled the government’s attempt to revise the collegial system of judicial appointments. As such, a government enjoying electoral approval has come to bow before those who do not represent the political will of the day.

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Updated On : 10th Jul, 2023
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