A 13-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, the largest so far, decided the Kesavananda Bharati case after hearing arguments by eminent lawyers spread over 66 days. The judgment, delivered by a majority of 7:6 on April 24, 1973, held that Parliament could not alter the basic structure of the Constitution by an amendment.
Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia will release a book dealing with this case at a function here on October 18. The senior advocate and former Solicitor- General, T.R. Andhyarujina, has written the book, explaining the culmination of a struggle for supremacy over the power to amend the Constitution between Parliament and the government on the one hand, and the Supreme Court on the other.
Mr. Andhyarujina says: “This book is a gripping story of the conflict and tensions in the Kesavananda Bharati case and its aftermath, which has not been disclosed so far. It is based on the author's recollection and [the] detailed notes maintained by him as counsel in the case, and on later interviews by him with some of the judges in the case.”
The book reveals that prior to the hearing, the government attempted to influence the court by appointing judges who it expected would decide in its favour. It shows the preconceived views of some of the judges on Parliament's power to amend the Constitution, the internal conflicts and factions among the judges, and the charged atmosphere in the court till the delivery of their judgments.
In the words of Mr. Andhyarujina, the battle began when the Supreme Court, in the Golak Nath case in 1967, held that fundamental rights could not be amended by Parliament. Parliament and the government were not reconciled to the ‘view by majority' in the Kesavananda case and were determined to get it overruled. On the day of the judgment (April 24, 1973), the government superseded three senior-most judges, who had decided against the government and appointed Justice A.N. Ray as the next Chief Justice on the retirement of Chief Justice S.M. Sikri. In 1975, with the help of Mr. Ray, the government tried in vain to reverse the majority view in the Kesavananda case by another Bench of 13 judges.
However, during the emergency, the government nullified the Kesavananda case judgment by the 42nd amendment, but this was overruled in the Minerva Mills case in 1980, when Y.V. Chandrachud was the Chief Justice.
Mr. Andhyarujina says the purpose of the book, coming as it does after 38 years of the event, was “an interaction of constitutional law with the politics of the day; the story of the Kesavananda case requires to be widely known.” Though such an exercise is being done in the United States, it has not been done in respect of any leading case in India, hence his attempt.