I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu

Bench: Sabharwal, Pasayat, B.P. Singh, Kapadia, Thakker, Balasubramanyan, Altamas Kabir, D.K. Jain

Citation: AIR 2007 SC 861


This case challenged the Gudalur Janmam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari Act), which was struck down by the Court. As a result, the legislature re-enacted the law, and placed it within the 9th Schedule. This act of the legislature was challenged. Given that the Waman Rao decision had held that all amendments to the 9th Schedule could be questioned on the grounds that they violated the basic structure of the Constitution, the question was as to whether it was permissible for Parliament to immunize legislations under Article 31-B by inserting them into the 9th Schedule. If so, what would be the impact on the power of Judicial Review of the Court


Whether the basic structure principle applied only to constitutional amendments, or whether it would also apply to the laws that are added to the ninth schedule on the touchstone of fundamental rights?


The Supreme Court unanimously held that amendments adding new laws in 9th Schedule after Keshavnanda judgment in 1973 were subject to basic structure requirement but fundamental rights especially Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 are parts of basic structure and the effect of inclusion of a law in 9th Schedule results in abrogation of Article 32 as such laws cannot be challenged on the ground of violation of Part III rights. Therefore, addition of any law in 9th can be tested on the touchstone of basic structure doctrine.

On the extent of judicial review, the court observed that Judicial Review is an essential feature of the Constitution as it gives practical content to the objectives of the Constitution embodied in Part III and other parts of the Constitution. It may be noted that the mere fact that equality which is a part of the basic structure can be excluded for a limited purpose, to protect certain kinds of laws, does not prevent it from being part of the basic structure.”