February 13, 2024
symbolizing justice and order

In Indian legal history, one of the most significant cases is Golaknath v State of Punjab. In this particular case, several questions were brought up. The primary concern was the parliament’s authority to modify the fundamental rights protected by Part III of the Indian Constitution.

The Golaknath Case increased the power of the court and introduced the judicial review principle in India.

golaknath case summary

Golaknath Case Facts:

  • Golaknath v State of Punjab (1967), is one of the key cases in the development of Indian constitutional law. The main question in this case was whether or not the Indian Parliament may amend the Indian Constitution in whatever manner that it saw fit.
  • A challenge to the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956, which was approved by the Indian Parliament to change the Constitution, gave the case’s growth further impetus.
  • The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution should be read as a living document that can only be amended in conformity with its “basic structure” and cannot be changed in any way by the Indian Parliament.
  • It was decided that the fundamental principles of the Constitution are democracy, the rule of law, national unity, integrity, and citizen rights.
  • The verdict of the Supreme Court in this case is still seen as having a major impact on Indian constitutional law with regard to the aforementioned Indian Parliament’s ability to modify the Constitution.
  • It was also regarded as a major victory for the Indian Constitution since it prevented the Indian Parliament from introducing arbitrary modifications to the text. Subsequent Supreme Court rulings have upheld and clarified this decision.

Golaknath Case Issues:

  • Do the Indian Constitution’s Part III guarantees of fundamental rights could be changed by the Parliament?

Contentions by the Petitioner:

  • The constitutional assembly established the fundamental assertions made by the petitioner regarding the permanence of the constitution, and they are false. They maintained that no one should be able to alter or try to alter the Indian constitution.
  • They argue that the word “amendment” does not refer to a totally new idea, but rather to minor changes that are entirely consistent with the fundamental principles of the constitution.
  • The petitioner further asserted the inalienability of fundamental rights. The government should revoke them as they were made public pursuant to Part III of the Indian Constitution.

Contentions by the Respondents:

  • In court, the respondent argued that the use of its sovereign power is what led to the constitutional amendment. The legislative authority that the parliament uses to enact laws is not the same as this exercise of sovereign power.
  • The authors of our Constitution never intended for it to be inflexible. They have always favoured the inherent flexibility of our Constitution.
  • The purpose of the amendment is to alter national laws in a way that best serves society. They contended that the absence of any amending provisions would render the Constitution inflexible and unworkable.
  • They went on to claim that basic structure and non-basic structure are non-existent.

golaknath case judgment:

  • The golaknath case year in which it was decided was 27th February, 1967.
  • The golaknath case bench size consisting of eleven judges changed their opinions. delivering its majority decision of 6:5 indicating a conclusion that is majority supported by them. The majority decision was written at the time by J.C. Shah, S.M. Sikri, J.M. Shelat, and C.A. Vaidiyalingam in collaboration with other justices.
  • Justice Hidayatullah filed a separate opinion since he concurred with CJI Subba Rao. Justices R.S. Bachawat and V. Ramaswami filed separate minority opinions, while Justices K.N. Wanchoo, Vishistha Bhargava, and G.K. Mitter wrote a single minority opinion.
  • The majority’s stance on Golaknath is indicative of their mistrust of the legislature’s current direction. Since 1950, the parliament has passed numerous laws that in some way contravene the fundamental liberties protected by Part III of the Constitution by using Article 368.
  • The majority of those who agreed with this ruling believed that the government should not have any authority or privilege to alter the Constitution.
  • The vast majority of speakers concurred that the Constitution’s fundamental rights are an essential component, saying that without them, it would be like a “body without a soul.”

The Golaknath court’s decision is not flawless. The judge’s decision to give the constitution rigor was one of the main errors. The court ruled that a constituent assembly must be used to make any necessary amendments. Second, although the court might have safeguarded every essential component of the constitution, it only shielded the fundamental rights from the parliament’s total power. They wasted the chance by not making the most of it.

Owing to these kinds of issues, the Kesavananda Bharati v Union of India (1973) landmark judgment partially reversed the original ruling.

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