I.C.Golaknath &Ors. V. State of Punjab & Anrs.
Author: Abhay Saxena, Bharati Vidyapeeth New Law College, Pune.
Bench: Justice Subba Rao, Justice K.N.Wanchoo, Justice M.Hidayatuallah, Justice J.C.Shah, Justice S.M.Sikri, Justice R.S.Bachawat, Justice V.Ramaswami, Justice J.M.Shelat, Justice Vihishtha Bhargava, Justice G.K.Mitter and Justice C.A.Vaidiyalingam
Petitioner/Appellant: I.C.Golaknath & Ors.
Respondent: State of Punjab & Anrs.
Date of Judgement: 27th February, 1967
There was a family of one William Golak Nath who had over 500 acres of property in Punjab. Under the Punjab Security and Land Tenures Act, 1953 which was inserted in 9th schedule by the 17th Constitutional Amendment Act 1964, the state government informed the petitioner that from now on he can only possess only 30 acres of land and the remaining land will be treated as surplus. The petitioner was aggrieved by this intimation of the state government that he filed a writ petition under article 32 (Right to Constitutional Remedies) of the Indian Constitution and pleaded its violation of his Fundamental Rights mentioned under article 19 (1) (f) i.e. Right to hold and acquire property, 19 (1) (g) i.e. Right to practice any profession and 14 (Equality before law and Equal protection of law).
The issues which came before the court were (1) whether the Parliament of India has the absolute power and the power to amend the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution of India?
(2) Whether Amendment is a law under the meaning of Article 13 (2)?
In this particular case, the Supreme Court with the largest bench which had ever sat on an issue held that the Fundamental Rights can’t be abridged by the Parliament under the procedure established by Article 368. The court also clarified that an Amendment to the Constitution is law within the meaning of Article 13 (2) and is therefore subject to Part III of the Indian Constitution.
The Golak Nath Case led to the passing of the 24th Constitutional Amendment Act. However, this ruling was overturned in the landmark case of Keshvananda Bharati V. Union of India 1973. In this, the court held that the parliament can amend the constitution including fundamental rights except it can’t amend the basic structure of the Constitution.
The Fundamental Rights are an integral part for the development of human personality. These are the rights which helps a man/woman to figure out his/her own life in a manner he/she wants. Thus, if they are violated by someone, a person has the freedom to approach the apex court anytime and seek remedy. Thus, the constitution rests with the judiciary and the power to adjudicate upon the validity of law also rests with the judiciary.
The Parliament had the power to amend the constitution under Article 368 which gives an impression that the parliament has absolute powers to amend the document but the Judiciary with the Supreme Court at the apex has always acted as a brake to curb the legislative enthusiasm and conserve the original ideals of the constitution makers which are envisioned in the Indian Constitution. For this, The ‘Basic Structure Doctrine’ was recognised in the historic Keshvananda Bharati Case. This provided that the parliament can amend any part of the Constitution except the basic structure.
The Golak Nath judgment is one of the most important cases in the Indian history and it has helped to stop the parliament from showcasing its autocracy and thus preventing the deterioration of the ideologies of the Constitution makers. The judgement’s main focus was on the protection of the fundamental provisions which are equal to the fundamental Rights or Natural Rights of mankind and no government can take it.
This Judgement has been a “victory of the law” and has made it clear that even the lawmakers aren’t above the law and has reinforced faith in the citizens of India. Thus, the law is supreme, not the one that makes the laws, implements them or interprets them.