Golaknath vs State of Punjab – 1967: Case Summary
In the Golaknath vs State of Punjab landmark case, the Supreme court held that parliament cannot amend fundamental rights even in implementing directive principles of state policy.
The Golaknath vs State of Punjab case invalidated the decision of the court given in the Sajjan Singh and Sankari Prasad Singh case. Although the amendments which were challenged in the above cases remain operative due to the doctrine of prospective overruling. In this case, the Supreme court for the first time used the doctrine of prospective overruling.
The farmland of 500 acres was held by two families Henry and William Golaknath in Jalandhar and Punjab. In 1953 under Punjab Security and Land Tenures Act, the state government held that both the Golaknath brothers could keep only thirty acres each, a few acres would go to tenants and the rest was declared ‘surplus’.
This decision was challenged by the Golaknath family in the courts, and the case was referred to the Supreme Court in 1965.
Golaknath under Article 32 challenged the Punjab land tenures act 1953 and the Mysore land reform act. The validity of the constitution 17th amendment was also challenged.
It was urged by Golaknath that the Sankari prasad case in which the constitution first amendment and the Sajjan Singh case in which the 17th amendment was challenged were not rightly decided. He submitted that Parliament had no right to take fundamental rights.
This case overturned the interpretation of word law in Article 13. It was held that an amendment to the constitution is law within the meaning of Article 13(2). Prior it was held that law includes ordinary legislative power and not constitutional law.
Judgment of Golaknath vs State of Punjab Case
Chief Justice Subba Rao, Shah, Sikri, Vaidyialingam Idyilingam, Shelat held article 368 only prescribes various steps in the matter of the amendment. The power to amend the constitution is derived from articles 245, 246, and 248 read with item 97 in list 1. The residuary power of parliament can take in power to amend the constitution.
Fundamental rights are primordial rights necessary for the development of human personality. These are the rights which enable men to the chalk of his life in the manner he likes best. Part 3 and part 4 of the constitution constituted an integrated scheme forming a self-contained code.
The incapacity of Parliament therefore in exercise of its amending power to restrict, modify, or impose fundamental freedoms in part arises from the scheme of the and nature of the freedoms.
They held that Article 13 is not the source of fundamental rights but an expression of reservation.
Justice Hidayatullah concurring with the majority said, “A narrow view should be given to the word amendment. By narrow he meant new matter may be added, old matter removed or altered.”
Our constitution has given a guaranteed right to the person whose fundamental rights are affected to move the court.
He further said, “If parliament is desired to abridge fundamental rights, the legal method is that the state must reproduce the constituent assembly, it is the only legal method. Any other method must be regarded as revolutionary.”
On the issue related to amending the power of parliament he did not agree with the majority and in his separate judgment said the power is in article 368.
Justice Wanchoo, Mitter, and Bhargava disagreeing with the majority held power to amend the constitution must be found in article 368 of the constitution. According to them, doctrine prospective overruling cannot be applied in India.
They further said, “There is no express limitation in the power of amendment in article 368 and no limitation can or should be implied. If there is implied limitation it should be stated.”
It is open to doubt whether the power amendment contained in article 368 goes to the extent of completely changing the constitution and substituting a new one. But the power to amend includes the power to add any provision to the constitution to alter to substitute any other provision units place or to delete any provision.
Justice Ramaswami said that “The language of article 368 is perfectly general and empowers parliament to amend the constitution. The addition of word fundamental to describe the rights under part three and word guaranteed in article 32 cannot lift the fundamental rights over the constitution.”
Justice Bachwat while rejecting argued that, “Fundamental rights cannot be taken. The word fundamental used in regard to right and guaranteed in article 32 does not mean that the said rights cannot be amended. The constitution is never at rest it changes with the progress of time. The scale of values in parts 3 and 4 is not immortal and these parts being part of the constitution is not immune from the amendment.”
All the five judges in minority held power to amend the constitution is not provided in article 245, 246, and 248 read with item 97 in the list 1. It is provided in article 368.