Golaknath Case – Judgement, Summary, Golaknath V State of Punjab

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

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. This article facilitates the complete details pertaining to the Golaknath case, its history, issue, decision, and aftermath.

The Golaknath case is an essential topic for UPSC aspirants. The verdict ruled by the courts, in the Golaknath case, stated that the Parliament cannot modify the provisions of the constitution. The fundamental rights of the citizens must be safeguarded. However, this verdict was overruled in the Keshavananda Bharti case. Walk through this article to know more about the Golaknath case and other pertinents.

Historical Background of Golaknath Case

500 acres of farmland in Jalandhar, Punjab was possessed and owned by William Golaknath and Henry. As specified by the Punjab Security and Land Tenures Act that they could only possess thirty acres of land.

  • A few acres would be provided to the tenants and the rest would be marked as surplus.
  • The family engaged in the Golaknath case approached and questioned this in court. The case was moved to the highest court, 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.

Issue of Golaknath Vs State of Punjab

The big issue in the Golaknath case was whether or not the Parliament had absolute power and power to change 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.

The Golaknath case is in deep association with these articles and proper knowledge of this will enable the aspirants to prepare well for the upcoming exam.

  • Article 368– It states that the Parliament possesses the right to modify or alter any provision of the Constitution
  • Article 13– It prescribes that any law that puts violation to the fundamental rights of the citizens would be nullified.

Golaknath Case Judgement

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.

  • Henceforth, to safeguard the country’s democracy from the dictatorial activity of the Parliament.
  • The court presented the desicion that the Parliament does not possess the authority to alter the fundamental rights ingrained in Part III of Indian Constitution.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that Parliament cannot change fundamental rights, but this decision was overturned in the 1973 Kesvananda Bharati case.

Aftermath of Golaknath V State of Punjab

The judges in the Gokalnath case delivered the minority judgment. They disagreed that the doctrine of prospective overruling 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.

  • 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.

Golaknath Case Summary

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.

  • The basis of the Golaknath case was formed when the 500 acres of land in Jalandhar possessed by William Golaknath and Henry was reduced to 30 acres. The few acres were decided to provide to the tenants and the rest was marked as surplus. The family opposed the act and questioned the court.
  • The major ordeal surrounding the Golaknath case was whether the rights possessed by the Parliament has the authority to alter the Fundamental Rights.
  • Ultimately, it was decided that the court did not possess such authority, and the Fundamental rights of the citizens need to be safeguarded. The decision was overruled in the 1973 Kesvananda Bharati Case.

Golaknath Case For UPSC Exam

The aspirants preparing for the UPSC exam must have an in-depth knowledge of the Golaknath case to be able to score well in the upcoming exam. You can expect questions from this topic in the Prelims and Mains exam. The articles related to the Golaknath case can be asked in the exam.

The candidates must solve the questions asked in the previous year papers to keep a track of their preparation. The detailed and comprehensive knowledge of the topics covered can lead them in accomplishing their dreams.

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