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Working a Democratic ConstitutionA History of the Indian Experience$
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Granville Austin

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195656107

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195656107.001.0001

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Redeeming the Web: The Kesavananda Bharati Case

Redeeming the Web: The Kesavananda Bharati Case

(p.258) Chapter 11 Redeeming the Web: The Kesavananda Bharati Case
Working a Democratic Constitution

Granville Austin

Oxford University Press

Eleven days before the pledge-taking, His Holiness Swami Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru lodged a case in the Supreme Court whose outcome would profoundly affect the country's democratic processes. The majority judgement overturned the anti-Parliament, anti-amendment rigidity of the Golak Nath decision; upheld the constitutionality of the Twenty-fourth and the Twenty-fifth Amendments; but it also ruled that an amendment could not alter the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. This ‘basic structure doctrine’, this chapter argues, is said to have become the bedrock of constitutional interpretation in India. Because the doctrine reduced the government's freedom to employ the two amendments, it treated the ruling as a defeat, despite the amendments having been upheld. The case's outcome confirmed for the government its distrust of the Court. The Court won the confrontation against the parliament of Indira Gandhi.

Keywords:   Swami Kesavananda Bharati, Indian Constitution, Supreme Court, Golak Nath, Indira Gandhi, constitutional interpretation

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