“Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is a limited power and it cannot be enlarged into absolute power.” In the light of this statement explain whether Parliament under Article 368 of the Constitution can destroy the Basic Structure of the Constitution by expanding its amending power?
The doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution was evolved by the Supreme Court in the case of Keshavananda Bharati as a way out to address the tussle between the power of parliament to amend the constitution and the scope of judicial review.
Article 368 of the Constitution
Article 368 of the Indian Constitution empowers the Parliament to amend the constitution by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of this Constitution in accordance with the procedure laid down in the article 368.
Article 368 and Basic Structure
The basic structure came into being after a long-drawn tussle between the judiciary and the parliament over the power of the parliament to amend the constitution.
In the case of Keshavananda Bharati where the doctrine of basic structure was propounded the Supreme Court held that the constituent power of the parliament to amend the constitution does not enable it to alter the basic structure of the constitution.
Minerva Mills Case
Regarding the power of parliament to amend the constitution in the Minerva Mills case, the Supreme Court held that the constitution has conferred a limited amending power on the constitution. The parliament under this limited power cannot bestow itself an absolute power to amend the constitution. The limited amending power is the basic structure of the constitution and limitations cannot be destroyed .i.e Parliament under Article 368 cannot expand its amending power to acquire for itself the right to repeal or abrogate the constitution or to destroy its basic features.
The Supreme Court while proposing the doctrine of basic structure did not clarify on what constitutes the basic structure. Maybe it was the wisdom of judiciary that it did not want to confine the ambit of the basic structure.
Drawing from the various judgments the components of basic structure can be defined to include Supremacy of the constitution, Federalism, Secularism, judicial review, independence of judiciary etc among others.
Synthesis of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy
Synthesis of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy is the characteristic feature of the Indian constitution. The doctrine of basic structure is a classic example of this and it upholds the supremacy of the constitution.
While Parliament can amend the constitution within the confines of basic structure, it cannot destroy the basic structure to expand its amending power.