Ashutosh Tiwari, Mumbai University Thane Campus


The Supreme Court of India provided the judgment on this case


Writ Petition (Civil)  135 of 1970


His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru and Others


The state of Kerala and Anr.


  1. (1973) 4 SCC 225
  2. AIR 1973 SC 1461


Thirteen judges’ bench of Supreme Court that decided this case comprised:

S.M. Sikri (Chief Justice of India at the time of judgment)

  1. A.N. Grover
  2. A.N. Ray
  3. D.G. Palekar
  4. H.R. Khanna
  5. J.M. Shelat
  6. K.K. Mathew
  7. K.S. Hegde
  8. M.H. Beg
  9. P. Jaganmohan Reddy
  10. S.N. Dwivedi
  11. Y.V.Chandrachud


In 1967, the background of Kesavanandana Bharati’s Case was formed because of the case of Golaknath Vs State of Punjab in which the Supreme Court gave the verdict that “state cannot amend the fundamental rights”. In this verdict by “state” court means “the Government of India”. In Golaknath’s Case Article 368 and Article 13 of the Constitution of India and a proper explanation of these articles was given by the Supreme Court. After this case, there started a power struggle between the Government of India and the Supreme Court. Then there came some amendments by the then Government of India. The first one was the twenty-fourth amendment. The twenty-fourth Amendment in the Constitution gave the provisions that the Government of India (State) can amend any part of the Indian Constitution including the fundamental rights defined in Part-III of the Constitution of India. Then came the twenty-fifth Amendment in which there were provisions that Government can acquire anyone’s property compulsorily and it was also stated in this Amendment that the Government can decide to even the price of the property. Earlier, in 1951 when the First Amendment of the Constitution was introduced, there were restrictions and limitations imposed on the “Right to Property” mentioned in Article 31. Now, during this war of power between the Government of India and the Supreme Court of India, there also came the Bank Nationalization case in 1970 which also became a topic of dispute between the Government and the Supreme Court. They both were operating in their directions. All of this was important, and it leads to Kesavananda Bharati’s case.


Swami H.H Sri Kesavanandana Bharati was the senior head of the Edneer Mutt, in the Kasaragod district of Kerala. Kerala Government passed a law in which they attempted to control religiously owned property, including Edneer Mutt under two-state land reform acts. Kerala Government tried to put restrictions on Article 26 of the Constitution of India. Nanabhoy Palkhivala, who was a senior advocate, convinced Kesavanandana Bharati to file a petition under Article 26. So, they filed a Public Interest Litigation. First, this case went to be decided by the Kerala High Court, and then it went to be decided by the Supreme Court. In Supreme Court, the hearing reached up to sixty-eight days.


  • Article 25 that talks about the Right to practice and propagate religion
  • Article 26 that talks about the Right to manage religious affairs
  • Article 14 that talks about the Right to equality
  • Article 19(1)(f) that talks about the freedom to acquire property
  • Article 31 that talks about the Compulsory Acquisition of Property
  • Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1971.


The largest bench ever, which was of thirteen judges, was constituted for this case, and out of thirteen judges, seven were in favor and decided something else and six were in against and decided something else. In this case, Supreme Court stated that “Parliament could amend any part of the constitution”. This judgment was the complete opposite of the judgment given in the Golaknath Case and it gave Parliament the power to amend any part of the constitution, but there was one restriction imposed on the Parliament by that majority bench of seven judges that the amendment brought by the Parliament cannot alter the “basic structure” of the Constitution of India. If the amendment of Parliament violates the basic structure of the Constitution, then it won’t be regarded as a valid amendment. This was one limitation provided by the Supreme Court to the Parliament in this case. In this case, Supreme Court also stated that the preamble is a part of the Constitution and not just a mere part, but an integral part of the Constitution. This was the Judgment given by the Supreme Court and its thirteen judges’ bench in this case.


The biggest question after reading this judgment arises that what exactly is the Basic Structure. So, it can be well explained by looking at some things that come under the doctrine of basic structure and that any amendment introduced by the Parliament can’t change. Some of these things are:

  • Independent Judiciary
  • Parliamentary System
  • Free and fair election
  • Supremacy of the Constitution
  • Secular character of the Constitution

This Kesavanandana Bharati Case is very important as it turned to be very beneficial for all the common citizens as it protected fundamental rights like:

  • Right to express yourself
  • Right to trade and profession
  • Right to personal liberty
  • Right to manage religious affairs
  • Right to constitutional remedies

The Government can not take away from us these fundamental rights.

The government of India introduced the thirty-ninth and forty-first amendments in the Constitution of India. In these amendments, it was said that if someone is a Prime Minister of India or has been a Prime Minister of India, then there cannot be any civil or criminal proceedings on him/her even if that person has been a Prime Minister for only one day. Also, it was stated that the President of India can only be nominated for six months to one year and not longer than that. These amendments were turned to be invalid because of the rules and restrictions laid down in Kesavanandana Bharati’s Case. It forbids to impart this amount of power to the parliament. If the Prime Minister has broken the law, then any proceedings can be brought against him/her.

In 1975, Justice A. N. Ray, a part of the thirteen judge bench in the Kesavanandana Bharati case and who was not on the majority side of the judgment, was promoted to be the Chief Justice of India. After his promotion, Kesavananda Bharati’s case was reopened and a further judgment was tried to be imparted on this case but Nanabhoy Palkhivala convinced the court that this case cannot be reopened as nobody filed a review petition for this case and the earlier judgment that was provided by the Supreme Court was completely valid and should be regarded as valid.

In this way, Kesavanandana Bharati and Nanabhoy Palkhivala succeeded in putting restrictions on the Government to not amend the “basic structure” of the Constitution.