A nearly five-minute video produced by the Supreme Court in 10 different Indian languages gives a concise history of the Kesavananda Bharati judgment, a verdict that has stood sentinel to the basic features of the Constitution such as secularism, religious freedom and federalism for 50 long years.
The historic judgment delivered on April 24, 1973 by a Supreme Court Bench of 13 judges, the largest in the court’s history till date, propounded the Basic Structure doctrine. The judges, on a wafer-thin majority of 7:6, had declared that the Parliament cannot amend or abrogate the fundamental features or the “soul” of the Constitution, including the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.
The 1973 judgment became a focal point of debate in 2023 when Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankar criticised the Basic Structure doctrine for diluting parliamentary sovereignty. The Kesavananda Bharati judgment had also cropped up during the government’s recent criticism of the collegium system of judicial appointments.
The Supreme Court had reacted to the barbs with the Chief Justice terming the judgment a “North Star”, an unfailing guide which lit the way for the court whenever the path appeared convoluted. The court also opened a dedicated webpage on its official site to commemorate the completion of 50 years of the landmark judgment on April 24, 2023.
The video on the judgment is available not only in Hindi but also Telugu, Tamil, Odia, Malayalam, Gujarati, Kannada, Bengali, Assamese and Marathi.
“This is 50 years of the Kesavananda Bharati judgment… We want the judgment to reach a wider section of the people. Language barriers should not prevent people from knowing or understanding the work of this court. Earlier, we had the video in English and Hindi. Now we have translated to other Indian languages,” Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud announced in open court.
The Chief Justice said the publication of the video in multiple Indian languages was similar to an ongoing project of translating Supreme Court judgments to all scheduled Indian languages.
“We know that business in district courts are done mostly in the regional language of the area,” Chief Justice said. The translated judgments would help district court lawyers to access, understand and cite Supreme Court verdicts in their own regional language.
In his Constitution Day speech recently, the Chief Justice said 21,388 judgments had been translated into Hindi, vetted, and uploaded on the e-SCR portal.
The CJI further said that 9,276 judgments had been translated into other Indian languages, which include Punjabi, Tamil, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, Odia, Malayalam, Bengali, Kannada, Assamese, Nepali, Urdu, Garo, Khasi, and Konkani. These judgments are uploaded to the e-SCR portal in the court website.