July 30, 2021: In India it is a commonplace that the so-called God men of our nation are labeled with allegations and controversies and in a maximum of cases for the worse of the causes. But in a very few cases the people who are almost the religious mascots regardless of their religion have revolted against the tide of the government and other sources which endanger the basic requisites of a man as granted by the constitution of our nation. One such was the Kesavananda Bharati case.
Kesavananda Bharati case: Who was he?
He was an Indian Monk who took sanyasa (adopted monkhood) at the age of 19 and was appointed the religious head of the Edneer Mutt, in Kasaragod district of Kerala in 1961, a post which he served till his demise in 2020.
The honorific title that he was bestowed with was Srimad Jagadguru Sri Sri Sankaracharya Thotakacharya Keshavananda Bharathi Sripadangalavaru. He headed the mutt as its Peethadhipati till 2020.
The concerns of the Keshavananda Bharati case
Such was the landmark judgment of the case entitled Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Anr. (Writ Petition (Civil) 135 of 1970) which resulted as the Kerala Government’s Land Reforms Act of 1969 which aimed to restrict the temple authorities from imposing their rights on the lands recorded under the ownership of the temple.
With the guidance and suggestion of famed jurist Nanibhoy Palkhiwala, Kesavananda the then religious head of the Edneer Muth, in Kasaragod district of Kerala, filed his petition.
He filed his petition under the Article 26 of the constitution which provides the freedom of religion under whose purview it grants the citizens to manage the properties of religious institutions without any actions coming in from the government’s behalf.
This was a consequence of the Kerala Government heading efforts to acquire the property of the temple under the Land Reforms Act of 1963 which was again amended in 1969.
The judgment and why it is distinct from other cases
This judgment which brought into light the fact that no matter the power of amendment exists and empowers the parliament to formulate and edit laws but it cannot alter the Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution.
With this case the Supreme Court of India has pronounced the Basic Structure Doctrine in view of the sanctity of the Indian Constitution.
Owing to the fact that the load on the Indian Judiciary being cumbersome the judgment hearings amounted to a five months time initiating on October 31, 1972, and wrapping up on March 23,1973 with a bulky judgment of about 200 pages.
The unique fact pertaining to the landmark Keshavananda Judgment is that it had been heard by a bench of as many as 13 judges and holds the record of being the longest hearing with such numbers of judges that is for about 68 days.
The fundamental rights that were violated as per the petition:
- Article 25- The right to freedom of religion
- Article 26- The freedom of religious denomination
- Article 31- The right to property
What did the judgment bring about?
The judgment witnessed the birth of basic structure doctrineof the constitution which states that there are certain features of the Indian constitution that cannot be altered by the article 368 which empowers the Parliament to make amendments to the existing set of rules.
In this case, such uncompromising features were the fundamental rights provided by the constitution of India to its citizens and cannot be altered at the whims of majority. In the Kesavananda judgment, Justice Hans Raj Khanna propounded that the Constitution of India has certain basic features that cannot be altered or destroyed through amendments by the Parliament of India.