Golaknath Case

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 27, 2022, 13:47

The Golaknath Case was a significant decision in the history of the Indian Constitution. Several questions were presented in this case, but the most crucial one was whether the Indian Parliament had the vested ability to change the fundamental rights provided by Part III of the Indian Constitution of 1950.

Historical Background of the Golaknath Case

Henry and William Golaknath owned over 500 acres of farmland located in Jalandhar, Punjab. The Punjab security and Land Tenures Act stipulated that the brothers could only keep thirty acres. A few acres would be given to tenants, and the remainder would be declared surplus.

The family involved in the Golaknath case challenged this in court. The case was also referred to the Supreme Court in 1965.

The Golaknath family challenged the 1953 Punjab Act based on Article 32. They claimed that it violated their constitutional rights to own property and practice any profession (Article 19, (f) and (g), and equality before the law protection (Article 14). They wanted the Seventeenth Amendment, which placed the Punjab Act on the ninth Schedule, to be declared ultra vires.

Golaknath Case - The Issue

The big issue in the Golaknath case was whether or not the Parliament had the absolute power and power to change the Fundamental Rights. While the petitioners argued that the Parliament does not have such authority, the respondents argued that the founders of the Indian Constitution never meant it to be inflexible or non-flexible.

Golaknath Case - The Decision

The court ultimately decided that the Parliament does not have the authority to modify basic rights. Fundamental rights, which are citizens' most basic rights as human beings, must be protected from parliamentary legislation.

As a result, to preserve the country's democracy from the Parliament's dictatorial activities, the court ruled that Parliament cannot modify the fundamental rights entrenched in Part III of the Indian Constitution.

The Supreme Court ruled that Parliament cannot change fundamental rights, but this decision was overturned in the 1973 Kesvananda Bharati case.

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Golaknath Case - A Minority view

The judges in the Gokalnath case delivered the minority judgment. They disagreed that the doctrine of prospective ruling should be invoked. Their argument was based on the Blackstonian theory, which states that courts declare the law, and a declaration is the law of the land.

The Golaknath case is critical in protecting the relevance of constitutionally protected fundamental rights. However, the current verdict is not without flaws. One of the most serious objections to the case is that the majority bench accorded rigidity to the Indian Constitution.

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To begin with, the court believed that if a constitutional modification were to be made, it would have to be done through a constituent assembly. Second, in this decision, the Supreme Court only protected fundamental rights from possible abuse of the Parliament's absolute power; it could have protected all of the Constitution's essential elements in that context.

Due to the complexities of the Golaknath Case, the verdict was partially overturned in 1973 with another critical case, Kesavananda Bharati v. Union of India. The court ruled in this case that the Parliament had the authority to change the Constitution, including by enacting new laws.

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FAQs on Golaknath Case

Q1. What was the Golaknath case?

In the I.C. Golaknath case, the court ruled that constitutional amendments are ordinary law and must pass the Article 13 test and that no amendment can limit individuals' fundamental rights. As a result, any such alteration was ruled null and void.

Q2. What happened in the aftermath of the Golaknath case?

In summary, the Supreme Court concluded in the Golaknath Case that Parliament could not change Fundamental Rights. In contrast, in the Kesavanada Bharti case, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the 24th Amendment, ruling that amendments to Fundamental Rights are constitutional.

Q3. What was the verdict in the Golaknath vs Punjab State case or the Golaknath case?

The decision for the Golaknath case was granted in a 6:5 ratio, with the majority of the bench siding with the petitioners' arguments. The majority opinion in the case was written by Subba Rao, the Chief Justice of India, and other judges (J.C. Shah, S.M. Sikri, J.M. Shelat, and C.A. Vaidiyalingam).

Q4. Which Act did the family challenge in the Golaknath case?

The family in the Golaknath case challenged the 1953 Punjab Act based on Article 32. They claimed that it violated their constitutional rights to own property and practice any profession (Article 19, (f) and (g), and equality before the law protection (Article 14).