Kesavananda Bharati Passes Away
The most well-known petitioner in the country, Kesavananda Bharati passed away on September 6, 2020. He was 79 years old.
Photo Credit : Kesavananda Bharati (centre) | Wikimedia Commons,
His Holiness, Kesavananda Bharati, was known for his petition in the landmark Supreme Court case that dealt with the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution.
Kesavananda Bharati was the head of Jagadguru Shankaracharya Samsthanam Edneer Mutt
Kesavananda Bharati was a seer and was the head of Jagadguru Shankaracharya Samsthanam Edneer Mutt, that belongs to the parampara of Sri Thotakacharya. Sri Thotakacharya was one of the first four disciples of Sri Adi Shankaracharya. The mutt belongs to the Sankaracharya tradition and is known as a seat of art and Vedic learning.
The case, His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru and Ors. Vs. State of Kerala and Others is the most important constitutional case in the Indian Legal System. The verdict in the case laid down the basic structure doctrine.
His petition challenging Kerala Government's takeover of land became the basis for the landmark ruling in Constitutional law
Swami Kesavananda Bharati petitioned the Supreme Court on March 21, 1970. He challenged the Kerala government’s takeover of land owned by the mutt. Bharati knew that it would be difficult to run the mutt once the land is acquired by the government. When the law came into force, the mutt lost its property. Bharati had to face reduced income and increased expenses. This forced him to take the legal recourse. Kesavananda Bharati petitioned the Supreme Court for enforcement of his rights guaranteed under Article 25 (Right to practice and propagate religion), Article 26 (Right to manage religious affairs), Article 14 (Right to equality), Article 19(1) (f) (freedom to acquire property), Article 31 (Compulsory Acquisition of Property).
He prayed that the provisions of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 (Act 1 of 1964), as amended by the Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act 1969 (Act 35 of 1969), be declared unconstitutional, ultra vires and void.
The Supreme Court's verdict on April 24, 1973, stated, “The basic structure of the Constitution is inviolable, and cannot be amended by Parliament”. The verdict defined the powers of the Parliament and held that though Parliament holds the power to amend under Article 368 of the Constitution, it does not have the power to modify its basic features.
The longest hearing in Supreme Court’s history was God’s Verdict
The hearing in the case commenced on October 31, 1972, and concluded on March 23, 1973.
A 13 member Bench heard the case for 68 days making it the longest hearing to have taken place in the top Court.
Although the verdict marked his name in legal history, Bharati was dispassionate about his victory. He always felt that it was the win for his mutt. In 2012, Bharati told in an interview that he believed the SC verdict was God’s decision. He was of the opinion that he was successful in protecting the property of the mutt. He was happy that many persons benefited from the verdict in their fight for justice.
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