I.R. Coelho (Dead) By Lrs vs State Of Tamil Nadu & Ors

By – Kaifi Khan

In The Supreme Court of India

NAME OF THE CASEI.R. Coelho (Dead) By Lrs vs State of Tamil Nadu & Ors
CITATION(2007) 2 SCC 1: AIR 2007 SC 861
JURISDICTIONThe Supreme Court of India
DATE OF THE CASE11th January 2007
APPELLANTI.R. Coelho (Dead) By LRs
RESPONDENTState of Tamil Nadu & Ors.
BENCH/JUDGEY.K. Sabharwal, Ashok Bhan, Arijit Pasayat, B.P. Singh, S.H. Kapadia, C.K. Thakker, P.K. Balasubramanyan, Altamas Kabir and D.K. Jain
IMPORTANT SECTIONS/ARTICLESArticle 14, 19, 21, 32, 31-A, 31-B and 368


Regarding the judicial review, the I.R Coelho case played a vital role in determining the judiciary. This case uses Article 368 as a way to clarify the limits and restrict the arbitrary actions of the legislature. This case is also known as the 9th Schedule Case. In this case, the court ruled that any law or behaviour that violates basic rights or violates the basic structure of the Constitution of our country cannot be exempt from judicial review. This decision uses the ‘basic structure theory’ proposed in the Kesavananda Bharti case as a precedent.

This case arose out of the Gudalur Janmam Estate (Abolition and Conversion to Ryotwari) Act i.e. (Janmam Act) of 1969. The forest concession to Janmam Manor in Tamil Nadu was revoked by Balmadies Plantations Ltd. & Anr. v/s Tamil Nadu. It was abolished by the court because it did not consider land reforms that could be protected by Article 31A of the Constitution. However, through the Constitution Law (Thirty-Fourth Amendment), the full text of the “Janmam Law” was added to the Ninth Schedule. The issue before the Constitutional Court is that regulations that have been repealed in the past cannot be included in the ninth schedule.

Nine judge seats presided over by Judge Y.K. Sabharwal, then C.J.I., made a unanimous judgment on January 11, 2007, in I.R. Coelho (deceased) by L.Rs. v. Tamil Nadu and others, defending the “basic structure doctrine” and the power of the judiciary to review any laws that destroy or damage the basic structure, as described in Article 21, and Article 14, Article 19 and Basic Principles read it together, even if they were included in the Ninth Schedule after April 14, 1973. Because of the policies involved and the extensive discussion of the validity of Article 31(B) of the Indian Constitution, this case is called the Ninth Schedule Case.

In the Indira Gandhi case, Judge Matthew enthusiastically noted: “Except for the specific provisions of the Constitution, the basic structure as a concept of omnipresent contemplation in the sky is too vague and uncertain to provide a measure of the efficacy of the standard laws “. The I.R Coelho case is the latest historical judgment on the interpretation of the basic structure of the constitution stipulated in the Kesavananda Bharti case. In this case, the court further clarified the difference between the so-called “correct essence test” and the “correct test”, which corresponds to the difference between the basic value of the express right and the stipulated express right. More importantly, IR Coelho was decided by a 9-judge bench headed by CJI Y.K. Sabharwal after being referred by five judges.


In 1951, the First Amendment inserted the Ninth Schedule into the Constitution. It was created by Article 31B and Article 31A to protect laws related to land reform and abolish the Zamindari system. Under the provisions of Article 368, the Parliament has promulgated some arbitrary laws and bills that violate fundamental rights. These laws are placed under the protection of the 9th schedule supported by Article 31B, allowing them to leave the judicial realm. Initially, the purpose of Article 31B was to eliminate difficulties in the Constitution. However, this power was abused to enact laws based on the 9th Schedule and cannot be challenged in court. For example, the Government of Tamil Nadu passed Law [Amendment of Article 76] Article 45 in 1994, which amends the 9th schedule and inserts 257A. Requires 69% of government service reserves. This amendment violates the 50% withholding limit determined in the Indira Sawhney case. However, under the protection of the ninth calendar, no legal action can be taken. The court has taken a variety of positions in defending the legitimacy of Parliament’s amending power in its decisions.

The current lawsuit stems from a Supreme Court of India ruling issued in 1999 by a five-judge constitution bench. The Supreme Court of India, in Balmadies Plantations Ltd. & Anr. v. State of Tamil Nadu, struck down the Gudalur Janmam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1969, which conferred forest patches in Tamil Nadu’s Janmam estates, finding it to be outside the scope of agrarian reforms under Article 31-A of the Indian Constitution. The Janam Act was added in the ninth schedule by the Constitution (Thirty-fourth Amendment) Act, which was disputed. The constitution bench noted in its referral order that, according to Waman Rao & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., amendments to the Constitution made on or after April 24, 1973, inserting various laws in the ninth schedule, were open to challenge because such amendments are beyond the power of legislature because they alter the fundamental structure of the Constitution. The referral order also stated that the Waman Rao decision should be reconsidered by a larger bench so that it is clear “whether an Act or regulation can be included in the ninth schedule if it is or has been found by the courts of law to violate one or more of the fundamental rights granted to citizens by Articles 14, 19, or 31 of the Indian constitution.”


Several agrarian and land reform laws were passed after the Constitution was enacted. These were challenged in state high courts, claiming that they infringed on fundamental rights. The Patna High Court ruled that many land reform laws were unconstitutional because they violated fundamental rights. The Allahabad and Nagpur High Courts supported similar legislation, and appeals from these decisions were pending in the Supreme Court. The Union Government approved the Constitution [First Amendment] Act, 1951, in Parliament to put an end to all of this litigation. Article 31-B and the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution were enacted as a result of this change. The objective and effect were that any law in the Ninth Schedule could not be challenged based on a violation of a fundamental right. It’s worth noting that the Ninth Schedule originally contained only thirteen Acts, all of which dealt with agrarian reform. Over time, that number increased to 284. Many Acts that had little to do with agrarian or socio-economic reforms were haphazardly thrown into the Ninth Schedule.

The conflict emerged shortly after the first amending Act, which included Article 31-B and the ninth schedule. The Supreme Court ruled in Sri Sankari Prasad Singh Deo vs. Union of India and State of Bihar that Article 13(2) does not apply to constitutional amendments made under Article 368 since they are made in the exercise of constituent power. A bench of 11 judges considered the validity of the view adopted in the Sankari Prasad and Sajjan Singh case in Golak Nath & ors. Vs. State of Punjab & Anr, which was a breakthrough. These verdicts were overturned by a six-to-five margin. It was decided that the constitutional amendment is a “law” within the meaning of Article 13 of the Constitution and that it is void if it takes away or restricts the rights granted by Part III of the Constitution. It was declared that, as of the date of the decision (February 27, 1967), the Parliament would have no power to change any of the articles of Part III of the Constitution to take away or abridge the fundamental rights established therein.

The Constitution (24th Amendment) Act, 1971, the Constitution (25th Amendment) Act, 1971, the Constitution (26th Amendment) Act, 1971, and the Constitution (29th Amendment) Act, 1972 were all passed shortly after the Golak Nath case. These adjustments were questioned in the case of Kesavananda Bharti. The legitimacy of the 29th Amendment, which modified the Constitution’s Ninth Schedule by inserting two Kerala Amendment Acts in support of land reforms, was challenged in this case. Golak Nath’s case was overruled by a vote of seven to six. Although the Parliament’s amending power extends to all Articles, the majority decision found that Article 368 did not allow the Parliament to change the Constitution’s core structure or framework. Article 368 imposes implied or inherent constraints on the power of amendment. Every article can be changed within these parameters.

Subclauses (4) and (5) of Article 329A, which attempted to keep election considerations out of the purview of the courts, were struck down by the court in the case of Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain since they were considered to violate the constitution’s essential framework. It was considered that even after a statute was added to the 9th Schedule, its provisions might be challenged because they violated or destroyed a Basic Structure by taking away or abrogating all or any of the fundamental rights. The conclusion expressed by Justice Mathew in the Indira Gandhi case that legislation listed in the Schedule is subject to the fundamental structure test received unanimous support in Waman Rao v. Union of India. Article 32 was recognized by the court as being part of the fundamental framework. The court next cited the Minerva Mills case, in which provisions (4) and (5) of Article 368, which allowed for the exclusion of judicial review and unrestricted amending power to the Parliament, respectively, were knocked down by a majority of 4 to 1. Judicial review is seen as a fundamental aspect of the constitution. L. Chandra Kumar V. Union of India & Ors echoed similar sentiments. It was stated in S.R Bommai & Ors. V. Union of India & Ors., that judicial review is a fundamental component of the Constitution and that the power of judicial review is a constituent function that cannot be repealed by judicial interpretation.

In the case of I.R. Coelho (Dead) By Lrs vs State of Tamil Nadu & Ors, the court went a step further and delineated a distinction between the “essence of the rights test” and the “rights test,” which corresponds to the distinction between the basic value underlying an express right and the express right provided for in the constitutional text. In this case, the Basic Structure Doctrine was upheld as was the judiciary’s right to audit any laws that violated the Basic Structure, regardless of whether they were addressed in the Ninth Schedule after April 14, 1973.


In Balmadies Plantations Ltd and Anr. v. State of Tamil Nadu, the Court struck down the Gudalur Janmam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari), Act, 1969, to the extent that it vested forest grounds in Janmam homes in the State of Tamil Nadu because it was not seen as a proportion of agrarian change guaranteed by Article 31-A of the Constitution. The Calcutta High Court knocked down Section 2(c) of the West Bengal Land Holding Revenue Act, 1979 as being subjective and, thus, invalid, and the State of West Bengal’s one-of-a-kind leave plea against the verdict was excused.

The Ninth Schedule was completely incorporated by the Constitution (Thirty-Fourth 34th Amendment) Act, the Constitution (Sixty-Sixth 66th Amendment) Act, the Janmam Act, and the West Bengal Land Holding Revenue, Act. 1979. Under the watchful eye of a five-judge bench, these inclusions were challenged.

The case stemmed from a 1999 order of reference issued by a five-judge constitution bench. The referral order also stated that the Waman Rao decision should be reconsidered by a larger bench to determine “whether an Act or regulation that is or has been found by the courts to violate of one or more of the fundamental rights conferred by articles 14, 19, or 31 can be included in the ninth schedule or whether it is only a constitutional amendment.”

The central question is whether, on and after April 24, 1973, when the basic structures doctrine was proposed, it is permissible for the Parliament to immunize legislation from fundamental rights by inserting it into the Ninth Schedule under Article 31-B, and, if so, what effect does this have on the Court’s judicial review power.


Several issues were raised before the court during the proceedings of the current case which are as follows:

  • It is permissible for the Parliament to immunize legislations and Fundamental Rights by placing them into the Ninth Schedule on and after April 24, 1973, when the Basic Structure Doctrine was promulgated.
  • Is it possible to exempt the 9th Schedule from judicial review?
  • Whether judicial review of Ninth Schedule laws on the basis of fundamental rights would be included in the basic structural test?
  • To what degree and in what form can Article 31-B grant genuine immunity?


  1. The Gudalur Janmam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1969, and the West Bengal Land Holding Revenue Act, 1979, respectively, which are inserted in the 9th Schedule by the 34th Amendment Act and the 66th Amendment Act, should be struck down, according to the petitioner, because some provisions in both of these mentioned Acts have been declared void.
  2. It is argued that, following the notion of fundamental structure established in the Kesavananda Bharati decision, only those types of judicial review that would undermine or harm the Constitution’s essential structure are outside the constituent authority. The fundamental structure of the Constitution is not jeopardised in any circumstance where the constituent power precludes judicial review.
  3. The petitioners argued that constitutional immunity of the type guaranteed by Article 31-B cannot be granted to Ninth Schedule laws, and that if it is, it should be based on the direct influence and effect test. This means that the form of the change would be irrelevant, but the outcome would be decisive.
  4. It was argued that the authority to make any law at will, violates Part III and is incompatible with the Constitution’s essential framework. If accepted, the result of such arbitrary will would be the repeal of Article 32 and a violation of the Constitution’s core structure.
  5. It was also argued that the power of the Constituent under Article 368 does not include judicial power. The ability to establish judicial remedies differs significantly from the ability to execute judicial power.


  1. It was contended from the respondent’s side that none of the laws in the 9th Schedule should be exempted from judicial review, as judicial review is an integral aspect of the constitution’s basic structure, and such immunity would be a violation of that framework.
  2. The respondents argued that the majority ruling in Kesavananda Bharati’s case covers the issue at hand. Article 31B, or the Ninth Schedule, is a lawful constitutional mechanism, according to that perspective, for providing a protective umbrella to Ninth Schedule statutes.
  3. The respondents argued that the validity of Ninth Schedule laws can only be determined by applying the basic structure theory, as decided by a majority in the Kesavananda Bharati case. It was contended that judicial review on the basis of a violation of fundamental rights was out of the question because the decision upheld the 29th Amendment.
  4. Furthermore, it was argued that, while the existence of the judiciary is a fundamental structure of the constitution that cannot be abolished, this power could be limited in certain circumstances.
  5. It was argued that Article 31B and the revisions to the Ninth Schedule made by such laws form a method that would ‘cure the flaw’ in legislation.


  1. ARTICLE 14 OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: Article 14 of the constitution of India guarantees its citizens equality before law further as equal protection of the law to all or any people within the territory of India. This includes the equal subjugation of every individual to the authority of law, yet as equal treatment of people in similar situations. The latter empowers the state to classify people for legal purposes, provided that there is a reasonable basis for doing so, which means that the classification should be non-arbitrary and supported by a technique of intelligible differentiation among those who seek to be classified, as well as those who have a rational relevance to the goal of the classification.
  2. ARTICLE 13 OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: This article discusses the legality of pre-constitutional and post-constitutional laws in layman’s terms. According to this article, any law that contradicts the provision of fundamental rights is void to the extent of the violation. This Article is crucial in ensuring that parliament and state legislatures are bound by fundamental rights when using their legislative authority. All laws that are inconsistent with or in violation of any of the Fundamental Rights are declared void by Article 13 of the Indian Constitution. If any of the Fundamental Rights are violated, the laws will be declared invalid. Article 13 expressly grants the Supreme Court (Article 32) and the High Court (Article 226) the right to declare a statute unconstitutional and unlawful if it infringes on Fundamental Rights.
  3. ARTICLE 19 OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: Article 19 of the constitution of India guarantees six freedoms within the nature of civil rights only to the citizens of India. The six freedom includes the liberty of speech and expressionfreedom of assembly without arms, freedom of associationfreedom of movement throughout the territory of our country, freedom to reside and settle in any a part of the country of India and therefore the freedom to practice any profession. All the above mention freedoms are subject to reasonable restrictions that may be imposed by the State, listed under Article 19 itself. The grounds for imposing these restrictions may vary according to the freedom sought to be restricted and include national security, public order, decency and morality, contempt of court, incitement to offences and defamation. The State is additionally empowered, within the interests of the overall public to nationalize any trade, industry or service to the exclusion of the citizens.
  4. ARTICLE 21 OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: Article 21 of the constitution of India is regarded as the heart and soul of the fundamental rights. According to Article 21, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” Right to life is elemental to our very existence without which we cannot live as a human being and which has all those aspects of life which contribute to make a man’s life meaningful, complete, and worth living. It’s the sole article within the Constitution of our country that has received the widest possible interpretation. Too many rights gets shelter, growth and nourishment from Article 21.
  5. ARTICLE 32 OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: Individuals have the right under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution to petition the Supreme Court for justice if they believe their rights have been “unduly deprived.” As the “protector and guarantor of Fundamental Rights,” the Supreme Court has the ability to issue directions or orders for the implementation of any of the rights conferred by the constitution. Article 32 of the Constitution allows the parliament to entrust any other court with the power of the Supreme Court, as long as it is within its jurisdiction. The rights protected by this Article cannot be suspended unless the Constitution is amended. As a result, we can conclude that this article provides individuals with an assured right to enforce fundamental rights, as the law allows an individual to directly approach the Supreme Court without first going through the lengthy process of going through the lower courts, as the main purpose of Writ Jurisdiction under Article 32 is to enforce fundamental rights.
  6. ARTICLE 31-A OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: Reservation of laws that provide for the acquisition of inheritances, etc. (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 13, there is no law that provides that

 (a) the State acquires an inheritance or any right over it or cancels or modifies said inheritance. rights, or

(b) The state takes over the management of any property for a limited time, either in the public interest or to ensure proper management of the property, or

(c) The merger of two or more companies for the public interest or to ensure the proper management of any company, or

(d) Repeal or modify any rights of the management agents, secretaries and treasurers, general directors, directors or managers of companies, or any voting rights of its shareholders, or

(e) Any extinguishment or modification of any rights arising from any agreement, lease, or license to search for, or win, any mineral or mineral oil, or the premature termination or cancellation of any such agreement, lease, or license shall be deemed void on the ground that it is inconsistent with, or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by Artic. Provided, however, that where such law is enacted by the Legislature of a State, the provisions of this article shall not apply unless such law has gained the President’s assent after being reserved for his consideration: Furthermore, where any law provides for the acquisition by the State of any estate, and any land contained therein is held by a person under his personal cultivation, it shall not be lawful for the State to acquire any portion of such land or any building or structure standing thereon that is within the ceiling limit applicable to him under any law currently in force

  • ARTICLE 31-B OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: The entry into force of certain laws and regulations without prejudice to the generality of Article 31A, none of the laws and regulations or any of its provisions specified in the ninth schedule shall be deemed invalid, or will become invalid at some point. According to the laws, regulations or regulations incompatible with any provision of this part, or cancel or reduce any rights granted by it, and does not affect any court or tribunal’s judgment, decree or order on this part. On the contrary, according to any competent legislature the above-mentioned laws and regulations will continue to be effective.
  • ARTICLE 368 OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: Part-xx Article 368 of the Indian Constitution grants constituent power to make formal amendments and empowers Parliament to amend the Constitution by adding, modifying, or repealing any provision in accordance with the procedure outlined therein, which differs from that for ordinary legislation.


In the case of I.R. Coelho (Dead) By Lrs vs State of Tamil Nadu & Ors, the Court stated that it was the job of the judiciary to preserve citizens’ basic rights. Article 368’s insertion of the term “constituent power” prevents the Parliament from acting as the original Constituent Assembly. The basic structure of doctrine restrictions would still apply to the Parliament even after the term “constituent authority” was added to Article 368. Any modification that is incompatible with the basic structure theory and undermines the Constitution’s identity or tampers with the vital parts that make up the Constitution’s core will be rejected. The court in the wake of hearing the contentions by both the gatherings and considering current realities of the case held that after 24th April 1973 laws going under the Ninth Schedule of the constitution would not appreciate cover resistance yet the court will look at the nature and degree of infraction of a central right by a rule, tried to be intrinsically secured, and on the standard of the essential design convention as reflected in Article 21 read with Article 14 and Article 19 by utilization of the rights test and the embodiment of the right test. Applying these standards to the laws of the ninth schedule, if the violation affects the essential structure of our constitution, the legislation or laws in question will not be protected by the ninth schedule, according to the judgement. In the case of a law declared by a court to violate fundamental rights and subsequently inserted into the Ninth Schedule after April 24, 1973, the Court ruled that such a violation/infraction shall be a welcoming challenge on the basis that it destroys or damages the essential structure as indicated in Article 21 read with Article 14, Article 19, and the principles underlying thereunder.

In its ‘ratio decided, the court concluded that using Article 31-B to shield the 9th Schedule from judicial review by making Part III inapplicable to such statutes would render the basic structure theory obsolete. It would alter the Constitution’s identity while also altering Parliament’s limited capacity to amend it. ‘The goal of Article 31-B is to ease problems, not to delete Part III in its entirety or judicial review,’ the court stated. Furthermore, the court stated that the legitimacy of the Part III limitation on rights may only be determined by the courts. In such cases, the court stated that the “impact and effect” test must be employed. ‘First, the violation of Part III rights must be determined, then its impact must be analyzed, and if it demonstrates that it destroys the core structure of the Constitution in effect and substance, invalidation must follow’. If a law in the 9th Schedule is found to be in breach of Part III, it must be examined further to see if it undermines the basic structural hypothesis. If the answer is yes, the law in the 9th Schedule will be ruled unconstitutional.

According to the court’s majority judgment, any statute included in the 9th Schedule that abridges the rights provided in Part III of the Constitution would be invalidated by judicial review. It further stated that judicial review is a fundamental feature of the Constitution, and no statute can be exempted from it by adding a clause to the 9th Schedule.

Ratio Decidendi: The goal of Article 31B is to eliminate obstacles, not to eliminate Part III or judicial review. The basic structure theory is advocated to preserve the fundamental characteristics. The basic structure theory, whose goal is to protect core aspects of the Constitution, would be nullified if fundamental rights were excluded. As a result, even if putting laws and regulations in the 9th Schedule is permissible, it does not make them immune from judicial review.


The decision in I.R. Coelho confirms the basic structure concept in a big way. Without a doubt, it has gone further and held that a constitutional modification that infringes on any fundamental rights that the Court considers as forming part of the Constitution’s basic structure can be struck down depending on the effect and outcomes. The legal executive cannot be denied the intensity of judicial scrutiny or the standard of law can be revoked according to the basic structure precept. Because of this principle, federalism cannot be destroyed and states cannot be rendered vassals of the central government. The horrible events of the crisis period have also increased the importance of judicial review, which is the most effective remedy against governmental mediation and the protection of fundamental rights. Significant increases are occurring in India as a result of the basic structure concept, which serves as a barrier against further erosion of core fundamental rights.

“The verdict plainly imposes more constraints on the constituent power of Parliament for the principles underpinning some fundamental rights,” said Soli Sorabjee, India’s former Attorney General, at a lecture at Oslo University in October 2008. He further stated “The ruling, with all due respect, is not conducive to clarity. It has introduced hazy ideas such as the rights test’s essence. What, aside from the specific words of Articles 21, 14, and 19 are the principles that underpin them? It doesn’t take a prophet to see more lawsuits to explain the Coelho decision, which will just add to the current confusion.” As a result, there is no consensus or agreement about what comprises the Constitution’s essential or basic aspects.

The fundamental structural doctrine is upheld by the court’s decision. It serves as a check on Parliament’s amending power if it is judged to be encroaching on citizens’ fundamental rights. The court made a clear distinction in its decision, holding that provisions in the 9th Schedule are subject to judicial scrutiny not only if they threaten the Constitution’s core structure, but also if they are deemed to violate the Fundamental Rights. As a result, a clear line was drawn between the scope of parliament’s amending powers and the courts’ judicial review power

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