January 19, 2023

Synthesis of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy: The Indian Constitution

This article has been written by Vishwas Agarwal, a final-year law student at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata.


The Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy concepts are diametrically opposed to one another, and the Indian Constitution sought to find a middle ground between the two. As of 2011, the Constitution has been subjected to 104 modifications as a result of the tremendous support it has received. With the exception of the Golak Nath case, the Supreme Court has, for the most part, upheld the modifications to the Constitution that Parliament has proposed (1967). However, the Supreme Court’s “basic structure” approach, which was established in the Keshavananda Bharati case, put a restriction on Parliament’s unrestricted ability to change the Constitution. The argument put out by Parliament is that in light of our democratic form of government, it is within its purview to amend any and all aspects of the Constitution so long as the alterations are in accordance with the preferences of the general populace. Since it is the ultimate judge and defender of the Constitution, the Supreme Court maintains that it has the authority to decide whether or not a piece of legislation passed by Parliament is in accordance with the Constitution. This is despite the fact that Parliament is the body that enacts laws. The debate between Parliament and the courts over which body has the highest level of power has become more contentious as a result of the judicial process. Because of this, the research is quite significant. 


This agreement establishes the essential ties between Parliament and the Supreme Court, which helps to reinforce the constitutional democracy in the country and ensures that it will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. The framers of the Indian Constitution granted the Judiciary the power of Judicial Review and granted Parliament the Sovereign power of amending the Constitution, albeit with restrictions, in an effort to find a balance between the American system of Judicial Supremacy and the British principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty. The American system of Judicial Supremacy is modelled after the British principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty. Basu extols the framers of the Constitution for their “wonderful feat” of “harmonising which our Constitution has done between Parliamentary Sovereignty and a written Constitution with a provision for Judicial Review,” which he says “has been done by our Constitution.”

The Supreme Court of India, which is the highest court in the nation, is responsible for upholding and interpreting the Indian Constitution. As a result, the Supreme Court of India has the authority to evaluate and pass judgement on the constitutionality of any law that has been passed by Parliament in order to ensure that it is in accordance with the Constitution of India. According to Hardgrave and Kochanek’s argument, “a major component of judicial review in India” is the Supreme Court’s ability to declare a constitutional amendment unlawful on the grounds that it violates the “fundamental structure” of the Constitution. They base this claim on the fact that the Supreme Court has the authority to do so. It is important that the American constitutional doctrine of “due process of law” was rejected by the framers of the Indian Constitution in favour of the concept of “procedure defined by law.” It was believed that by alluding to a “process established by law,” this would assist in helping to anchor the judicial tug of war in a particular piece of legislation that had previously been accepted by legislators.


The above suggests that the highest court in India, the Indian Supreme Court, is required to issue rulings that are in line with the law that was approved by Parliament. We have a lot of wiggle room because to the Indian Constitution, which gives us a lot of freedom. Between the years 1950 and 2011, the Constitution was subject to 104 different amendments. The power of the Supreme Court and Parliament, as well as the preservation of individual rights, are both impacted by the modifications that are made to the Constitution by the 1, 4, 25, 29, 70, 74, and 86th amendments, respectively. Any conclusion that the Supreme Court comes to regarding a PIL will be legally binding and will be in the best interest of the public. Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and judicial activism, according to Justice (Retired) V.R. Krishna Iyer, are necessary for the continuation of democracies because they give priority to the interests of regular people while protecting their fundamental liberties. This is essential for the survival of democracies. In his view, abdicating responsibility for one’s actions before the legal system was analogous to committing suicide. 21 In the year 1998, the Supreme Court of India ordered a composite floor test to be held in the state of Uttar Pradesh between a leader of the BJP named Kalyan Singh and a candidate endorsed by the Parliament party named Jagdambica Pal. A decision quite similar to this one was handed down by the Supreme Court of Jharkhand in 2005, which ordered an extraordinary session to choose a new speaker. At the very least, with regard to the legislative process, which the Constitution protects from judicial scrutiny, legislators are attempting to take back some of the territory that has been ceded to the judicial branch. In the case of Divisional Manager Aravali Golf Club v. Chander (2007), two justices named A.K. Mathur and Markendey Katju expressed their disapproval of the activism of the Supreme Court and high courts by stating that the judiciary “cannot arrogate” to the roles of the government and the legislative branch. They said that the judiciary “cannot arrogate” to the roles of the government and the legislative branch. The Supreme Court of India did not agree to hear any of the issues that concerned the use of floor testing in the states of Uttar Pradesh (1998) and Jharkhand (2001). (2005). When this occurs, the debate will shift to whether or not judges are allowed to flout the Constitution’s separation of powers and make policy decisions. 

The court must have a well-balanced constitutional government in which all branches carry out their obligations in line with the Constitution in order to maintain the Constitution. This is necessary in order to preserve the Constitution. Voters will be able to hold parliamentarians accountable for their conduct if the Supreme Court and the department do not attempt to impose their own social and economic opinions on the legislative branch. Nevertheless, the Court cannot function as a supra legislative body in order to decide whether or not legislation are in accordance with the Constitution. 


There is no debate over the fact that India has a written Constitution or that its law is founded on the Constitution. This is because all three branches of the Indian government acknowledge that the Constitution places limits on the powers that are available to them. This investigation came to the conclusion that the Constitution of India is India’s supreme legal document, ranking above both Parliament and the Supreme Court in terms of precedence. We the people of India proclaim that Parliament shall have the authority to adopt such laws and amend such sections of this Constitution as may be judged necessary and expedient for the benefit of the people of India. This declaration is made on behalf of the whole population of India. The preamble to the Constitution states that the elected representatives of the people have the power to enact any law and amend any provision of the Constitution to reflect the needs of the people and the changing nature of the country, so long as those laws and amendments are consistent with the Constitution. However, the preamble does not state who has the power to enact laws and who has the power to amend provisions of the Constitution. It is the responsibility of the Supreme Court to defend both the Constitution and the rights of the people it serves against any dictatorial laws or amendments to the Constitution that may be approved by Parliament. Clarification of the situation should be achieved by the issuance of a majority judgement by the Supreme Court that defines all of the essential articles of the Constitution; however, the Supreme Court should avoid interfering with the power of Parliament in the process. It is imperative that both Parliament and the Supreme Court avoid from going beyond the bounds of their constitutional jurisdiction if they want to preserve the balance of power that the Constitution establishes among the three organs of government. The success of India’s democracy and its ability to run an efficient government is contingent on the country’s ability to preserve the ideal proportions among the democratic system’s three fundamental institutions.



Barkow, Rachel E. “More Supreme than Court-The Fall of the Political Question Doctrine and the Rise of Judicial Supremacy.” Colum. L. Rev. 102 (2002): 237.

Dahiya, Shashank. “Rise of Judicial Supremacy: A Threat or a Necessity.” Issue 3 Int’l JL Mgmt. & Human. 4 (2021): 10.

Elliot, Robin. “Rethinking Manner and Form: From Parliamentary Sovereignty to Constitutional Values.” Osgoode Hall LJ 29 (1991): 215.


Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain, AIR 1975 SC 2299.

Keshvananda Bharati v. Stare of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461.

Kihoto HoUohan v. Zachilhu, AIR 1993 SC 412.

S.R. Bommai v. Union of India. AIR 1994 SC.

Sajjan Singh v: State of Rajas than, AIR 1965 SCR 933.

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