A Doctrine is a principle, theory, or position that is usually applied and upheld by Courts of Law. See a Doctrine can either be a rule, theory or tent of law. In Indian Constitutional law, there are different judicial doctrines that develop over time as per the interpretation given by the judiciary. Some of the important judicial doctrines are discussed here.


Actually, There is no mention of the term Basic Structure in the Constitution of India. Then ask why should Basic Structure be called a Doctrine?, Because it was given through the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973) of the Constitution Bench of Supreme court. Though the bench didn't clearly mention what Basic structure really consists of, it gave us an idea. Infact it turned to become a bedrock of our constitution, protecting it from parliament changing some core features of the constitution like Secular nature, Federal character etc through amendments. For starters Parliamentary Democracy, Fundamental Rights, Secularism, Federalism, judicial review, etc., are all held by courts as the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. This doctrine actually helps to protect and preserve the spirit of the Constitution Document.


  • The origins of this basic structure are found in the German Constitution, which after the Nazi regime, was amended to protect some basic laws.


  1. In Kesavananda Bharati case 1973, the Supreme Court of India held for the first time that the parliament has the power to amend any part of the constitution but it cannot alter the "basic structure of the constitution". 
  2. It was reaffirmed by the Indira Nehru Gandhi vs Raj Narain case (1975).The SC struck down the 39th Amendment Act as it was against the principle of separation of powers. It placed the disputes relating to the president, Vice President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Lok Sabha beyond the jurisdiction of all Courts. 
       3. This Basic structure Doctrine was strengthened by Minerva Mills case, 1980 and later in the Waman Rao case,1981. In this case the SC looked into the validity of Article 31A and Article 31B of the Constitution of India with respect to the doctrine of basic structure.


It mainly signifies the division of powers between various organs of the state, i.e., the executive, legislature and judiciary. This Doctrine is based on the philosophy of trias politica. The three principles of this philosophy are:
  1. One organ should not form part of the other 2 organ (Judiciary cannot be a part with executive and legislature).
  2. One organ should not interfere in working of the other organ (Executive cannot interfere in legislative work).
  3. One organ should not exercise the function of the other organ. (Legislature cannot perform duties of judiciary).
  4. Article-50 of the Directive Principles of the State Policy (DPSP) puts an obligation over the state to separate the judiciary from executive. This article says,
          "The State shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the State."


  1. In Ram Jawaya v. State of Punjab the SC held that the Doctrine of Separation of Power was not fully accepted in India.
  2. In Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain (1975), the SC held that the separation of powers is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. None of the three separate organs of the Republic can take over the functions assigned to the other.


Pith means "True Nature" and Substance means "the most important or essential part of something". There can be circumstances in which subject matter of list 1 (state legislature) clashes with the subject matter of list 2 (union legislature). Hence, this doctrine is applied in this kind of situation. "The Doctrine of Pith and Substance" is applied to determine whether a particular law relates to a particular subject mentioned in one list or the other. 

Apart from its applicability in cases related to the competency of the legislature (Article 246), this doctrine is also applied in cases related to Repugnancy in laws made by Parliament and laws made by the State Legislature (Article 254). (Repugnancy is basically when two pieces of legislation have a conflict between and when are applied to the same facts but they produce different outcomes or results). This doctrine is employed in such cases to resolve the inconsistency between laws made by the Centre and the Legislature.


  • The origin of this doctrine lies in Canada and in India it came to be adopted in the pre-independence period, under the Government of India Act, 1935. This Doctrine is firmly supported by Article 246 of the Constitution and the Seventh Schedule.


  1. In State of Bombay Vs. F.N. Balsara, was a case in which Bombay Prohibition Act was challenged on the grounds that the prohibition of liquor on the borders was a matter of Central Government. The act was held valid by the court, it fell under the State list though it was impacting the liquor.
  2. Another important case for this Doctrine in Prafulla Kumar Mukherjee v. Bank of Khulna. 


It is also known as "Doctrine of Separability" and protects the fundamental rights of the citizens. As per clause (1) of the Article 13 of the Constitution, if any of the laws enforced in India are inconsistent with the provisions of fundamental rights, they shall be made void. 

The whole law/act would not be held invalid, but only the provisions which are not in consistency with the Fundamental Rights. According to this Doctrine, if there is any offending part in the statute, then the offending part can be declared as void, not the entire statute and the valid part can be kept. 

If the valid and invalid part are so closely mixed up with each other that it cannot be separated then the whole law or act will be held invalid.


  • This Doctrine found its roots in England in the case of Nordenfelt v. Maxim Guns and Ammunition Company Ltd., here the issue was related to a Trade clause. Here the disputed clause was severable; and hence only a part of it become void. In this case, however, it was not exactly the doctrine of severability; it was "doctrine of blue pencil".


  1. In the case of RMDC vs. UOI, SC stated that doctrine of severability is a matter of substance and not of form.
  2. In A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950), the SC held that in case of inconsistency to the Constitution, only the disputed provision of the Act will be void and not the whole of it. The Court found that Section 14 of the Preventive Detention Act to be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. Hence, the Section 14 of the Act was severed and held void, while the other provisions remain to be valid within the Statute.
  3. In State of Bombay v. F.N. Balsara(1951), the disputed statute here was Bombay Prohibition Act, where the unconstitutional provision was held void and inoperative while the other part was not damaged and the Statue was stille be remaining in the force.


It is applied when any law/act violates the Fundamental Rights. This means the law becomes dormant and makes it unenforceable but not void ab initio (Having no legal effect from the origin).

If the said fundamental right is amended, in that case, the dormant law becomes active. It is only against the citizens that these laws/acts remain in a dormant condition but remain in operation as against non-citizens who are not entitled to fundamental rights. Doctrine of eclipse is contained in Article 13(1) of the Indian Constitution. The Doctrine of eclipse does not apply to post-constitutional laws.


  1. The first case in which this doctrine was applied was Bhikaji vs. State of Madhya Pradesh(It was applied to pre-constitutional laws).  
  2. The extension to the post-constitutional law was stated in the case of DulareLodh vs ADJ Kanpur.