Kesavananda Bharati- Man Who Saved Democracy But Lost His Case


47 Years Ago, the Landmark Judgement of Kesavananda Bharati affirmed the supremacy of the Constitution and prevented the autocratic rule by a single party. His Holiness Kesavananda Bharti Sripadagalvaru passed away today (6 September 2020, Sunday) and he will be remembered for the legal challenge he initiated against the Kerala Government. Let us revise the happenings that lead to the case and his contribution towards saving the Indian Democracy.

The mutt at Edneer town in the Kasaragod district is believed to be set up by Thotakacharya, one of the initial four supporters of Sri Adi Shankaracharya. Keshavananda Bharathi turned into the head of the mutt at 19 years old in 1960 after the demise of then mutt head Ishwarananda Bharati Swami.

Under Keshavanandan Bharati, the mutt developed as a seat of workmanship and learning. Master was energetic about Carnatic music and was in the bleeding edge of advancing Yakshagana, a venue structure mainstream in Kasaragod and beachfront Karnataka. He had coordinated Yakshagana plays and used to hold melodic shows in mutt. To support Kannada, the mutt had propelled instructive foundations in the Kannada medium.

His Holiness filed a case challenging the Constitution (29th Amendment) Act, 1972, questioning the move of the Kerala Government to take over the property of his mutt. He was represented by Senior Lawyer Nani Palkhiwala in the case which was heard by a 13 Judge Bench. The case was heard over 68 working days from October 1972 to March 1973.

By a 7-6 majority judgment delivered in ‘His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru and Ors. v. The State of Kerala and Anr’, a 13-judge Bench of the Supreme Court ruled on April 24, 1973, that the “basic structure” of the Constitution is inviolable, and cannot be amended by Parliament.

The SC verdict said, “The basic structure of the Constitution is inviolable, and cannot be amended by Parliament”. The Judgment which was of 703 Pages declared that the Parliament can’t alter the basic structure of the Constitution and paved the way for the Basic Structure Doctrine which saved the Indian Democracy. The basic structure doctrine has since been regarded as a fundamental principle of the Indian Constitution.

In spite of the fact that the judgment is a milestone, Swamiji didn’t get any relief in this case. The revisions in the Kerala land laws which he had challenged were maintained by the Supreme Court in 1973. It was Senior Advocate Nani Palkhivala, representing Swamiji, who expanded the ambit of the case. Mr. Palkhivala saw an open door through Swamiji’s case to challenge a progression of constitutional amendments by the Indira Gandhi Government allowing boundless capacity to Parliament to modify the Constitution.

The consequence of the judgment likewise observed the supersession of three appointed authorities of the Supreme Court — J.M. Shelat, A.N. Grover, and K.S. Hegde — for Chief Justiceship. Every one of the three was essential for the greater part decision on the Bench. They resigned as a protest.


  • The Hindu
  • Indian Express


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