Renowned Indian lawyer Fali S Nariman, Senior Advocate, highlighted the enduring significance of the basic structure doctrine within India’s constitutional framework during his keynote address at the 2023 Ram Jethmalani Memorial Lecture. He emphasized that this doctrine has not only achieved constitutional permanence in India but has also been embraced by six other nations worldwide. The basic structure doctrine places restraints on the legislative power of constitutional amendment.
Global Acknowledgment Nariman underscored that several countries globally have acknowledged and embraced the principle of the basic structure doctrine, recognizing its role in safeguarding democratic institutions and serving the nation’s interests. This constitutional principle, intrinsically tied to Article 368 of the Constitution, serves as a critical check on substantive constitutional amendments.
Evolution of the Doctrine Nariman traced the evolution of the basic structure doctrine from its inception in the landmark Kesavananda Bharti judgment by a 13-judge bench of the Supreme Court. He highlighted its continued relevance and how it has played a pivotal role in shaping India’s constitutional jurisprudence.
Parliament’s Recognition Nariman emphasized that the Indian Parliament itself recognized the basic structure doctrine’s importance. After the lifting of the internal emergency in 1975, Parliament expressly declared that certain fundamental rights, including the right to life and liberty, were part of the Constitution’s basic structure. This declaration demonstrated Parliament’s acknowledgment of the doctrine’s significance in preventing the misuse of emergency provisions.
Maintaining Faith in the Judiciary Nariman urged people to maintain faith in the integrity of the higher judiciary, even when concerns arise regarding specific judgments by individual Supreme Court judges. The basic structure doctrine, as a constitutional safeguard, continues to serve the nation’s interests and uphold democratic values.
The event, which featured Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and other prominent legal figures, provided a platform to explore the enduring relevance and impact of the basic structure doctrine in India’s constitutional landscape.