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Hastings International and Comparative Law Review

Abstract

During the period immediately following India's independence from British rule, the Indian framers promulgated a Constitution which was designed to take account of India's unique circumstances. The Constitution both ensured the legal and social equality of all Indians and afforded the Indian Parliament considerable power to alter the Constitution in order to take account of changed political circumstances. Inevitably, shortly after the Constitution's adoption the Parliament began employing its powers of amendment to limit the effect of those provisions designed to promote equality. The Indian Judiciary responded, however, with various efforts to safeguard the constitutionally-protected liberties from abrogation by Parliament.

This Article describes this ongoing dispute between the Indian Judiciary and Parliament. It focuses on the "basic features limitation," a controversial doctrine employed by the Indian courts to constrain Parliament's ability to amend the Constitution's core attributes. It asserts that despite the seeming tension between amendatory power afforded to Parliament, the Indian Judiciary's efforts to safeguard individual liberties are wholly consistent with the framers' ultimate objective of moving India in a more egalitarian direction.

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