Justice SM Sikri

Edited Excerpt from the Judgment of Justice Sikri (Headings have been added)

It seems to me that reading the Preamble, the fundamental importance of the freedom of the individual, indeed its inalienability, and the importance of the economic, social and political justice mentioned in the Preamble, the importance of directive principles, the non-inclusion in Article 368 of provisions like Articles 52, 53 and various other provisions an irresistible conclusion emerges that it was not the intention to use the word “amendment” in the widest sense.

It was the common understanding that fundamental rights would remain in substance as they are and they would not be amended out of existence. It seems also to have been a common understanding that the fundamental features of the Constitution, namely, secularism, democracy and the freedom of the individual would always subsist in the welfare state.

Implied limitations on the power of Parliament

In view of the above reasons, a necessary implication arises that there are implied limitations on the power of Parliament that the expression “amendment of this Constitution” has consequently a limited meaning in our Constitution.

This conclusion is reinforced if I consider the consequences of the contentions of both sides. The respondents, who appeal fervently to democratic principles, urge that there is no limit to the powers of Parliament to amend the Constitution. Article 368 can itself be amended to make the Constitution completely flexible or extremely rigid and unamendable.

If this is so, a political party with a two-third majority in Parliament for a few years could so amend the Constitution as to debar any other party from functioning, establish totalitarianism, enslave the people, and after having effected these purposes make the Constitution unamendable or extremely rigid.

This would no doubt invite extra- Constitutional revolution. Therefore, the appeal by the respondents to democratic principles and the necessity of having absolute amending power to prevent a revolution to buttress their contention is rather fruitless, because if their contention is accepted the very democratic principles, which they appeal to, would disappear and a revolution would also become a possibility.

However, if the meaning I have suggested is accepted a social and economic revolution can gradually take place while preserving the freedom and dignity of every citizen.

For the aforesaid reasons, I am driven to the conclusion that the expression “amendment of this Constitution” in Article 368 means any addition or change in any of the provisions of the Constitution within the broad contours of the Preamble and the Constitution to carry out the objectives in the Preamble and the Directive Principles. Applied to fundamental rights, it would mean that, while fundamental rights cannot be abrogated reasonable abridgements of fundamental rights can be effected in the public interest.

It is of course for Parliament to decide whether an amendment is necessary. The Courts will not be concerned with wisdom of the amendment.

If this meaning is given it would enable Parliament to adjust fundamental rights in order to secure what the Directive Principles direct to be accomplished, while maintaining the freedom and dignity of every citizen.

Basic Structure should remain same

The learned Attorney-General said that every provision of the Constitution is essential; otherwise it would not have been put in the Constitution. This is true. But this does not place every provision of the Constitution in the same position. The true position is that every provision of the Constitution can be amended provided in the result the basic foundation and structure of the Constitution remains the same. The basic structure may be said to consist of the following features:

(1) Supremacy of the Constitution;

(2) Republican and Democratic form of Government.

(3) Secular character of the Constitution;

(4) Separation of powers between the Legislature, the executive and the judiciary;

(5) Federal character of the Constitution.

The above structure is built on the basic foundation, i.e., the dignity and freedom of the individual. This is of supreme importance. This cannot by any form of amendment be destroyed.

The above foundation and the above basic features are easily discernible not only from the preamble but the whole scheme of the Constitution.


Kesavananda Bharthi v. Union of India (1973)