By Charisma Guggilam (DSNLU, Vizag)
This is one of the most prominent cases in Indian Legal History which was overturned in another major case, Keshavananda Bharati vs UOI (1973).
Henry and William Golaknath’s family was the owner of nearly 500 acres of land and accordingly to the Land Tenures Act, The Government of Punjab stated that they can only hold 30 acres each. Both brothers could hold only 30 acres of land in their possession, some part of the remaining would be given to the tenants and the remaining of it would be declared as surplus.
The family challenged this in the courts. They filled a writ petition under Article 32, stating that the Land Tenure Act, has seized their article 19(f) and (g) which states that they have the right to hold the property and practice any profession. This act was put in the 9th schedule of the Constitution, ultra vires and also called for the seventeenth Amendment.
Arguments from Both the Parties
The petitioner stated that parliament has no right to amend the constituent Assembly and is permanent. They also placed an argument stating that ‘amendment’ should be brought when there is a change keeping in mind /considering the basic structure but not wholly bringing a new idea. Fundamental rights are the soul to the body named Constitution of India and that cannot be taken away. They also argued the Article 368 gives the process for amending the constitution but doesn’t give parliament to change/amend the constitution.
The petitioner also argued that Act13(2), states that any constitutional amendment that takes away the Fundamental Rights is invalid.
The respondent’s putting forward their argument said that there is nothing of that sort like the basic structure in the constitutions and the constitution cannot be rigid but has to be amended to fit in the changing society. All provisions in the constitution should be given equal importance.
In 1967, the eleven judge bench, the largest bench that ever sat. The judgement was in favour of the petitioner’s (6:5), where many of them minority separate opinions. But the majority of them agreed to the argument that the parliament cannot be given the right to amend the constitution and treated the Fundamental rights to be equal to the natural rights and fearing the changing of the democratic rule into an autocratic rule, they kept the amending the fundamental rights above the reach of Parliament.
Fundamental rights play an important role in the growth of a person. It was the right decision to limit the parliament’s role. It stopped the government’s autocratic rule, but there are flaws in this judgement as well. This judgement left the fundamental rights to be rigid and unamendable.