What is parliamentary sovereignty in India

What is parliamentary sovereignty in India

Parliamentary sovereignty in India is a constitutional precept that gives the Indian Parliament ultimate legislative power. This idea, which comes from the British parliamentary system, emphasizes the Indian Parliament's unrestricted legislative authority to enact, amend, or repeal laws without facing court scrutiny. 

What is parliamentary sovereignty in India

The Indian Constitution does not use the term "parliamentary sovereignty" specifically, but it is implied by a number of its clauses and judicial rulings. According to the doctrine, any law passed by Parliament has the power to become operative immediately upon its enactment, superseding any conflicting provisions in other laws as well as past legislation and court rulings.

What is parliamentary sovereignty in India-When the Indian Constitution was being drafted in the middle of the 20th century, British constitutional principles had a significant influence. This is where India's parliamentary sovereignty originated. The British parliamentary system served as an inspiration for the Constitution's drafters, who aimed to establish a strong and functional parliamentary democracy in India. 

As a result, the Indian Parliament became the main body responsible for enacting laws in the nation when the Constitution gave it broad legislative authority. The Constitution's Article 245 expressly gives Parliament the authority to enact laws for the entirety of India's territory or any specific region.

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Furthermore, the Seventh Schedule, which is outlined in Article 246 of the Constitution, establishes the division of legislative authority between the State Legislatures and the Parliament. Only Parliament can enact laws on the subjects listed in the Union List; State Legislatures can only enact laws on the subjects listed in the State List; and both houses can enact laws on the subjects listed in the Concurrent List. Although the Concurrent List suggests shared legislative authority, the central law takes precedence over state laws when they clash over concurrent subjects.

What is parliamentary sovereignty in India-The concept of parliamentary sovereignty in India is also evident in Article 13, which outlines the doctrine of judicial review. However, it comes with a crucial limitation – Article 13, Clause (2), asserts that the state shall not make any law that takes away or abridges the rights conferred by Part III (Fundamental Rights) and any law made in contravention of this clause shall be void. The Supreme Court of India, in the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973), established the basic structure doctrine, asserting that while Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution, it cannot alter its basic structure. This judicially imposed limitation represents a unique Indian adaptation of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, recognizing the supremacy of the Constitution.

Despite the absence of an explicit provision articulating the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, its application is evident in the constitutional scheme. The Parliament's legislative authority is extensive, and its powers are broad, enabling it to legislate on a wide array of subjects. However, the framers of the Constitution also incorporated checks and balances to prevent potential abuse of power. The judicial review, the fundamental rights chapter, and the basic structure doctrine are mechanisms that ensure that parliamentary sovereignty does not undermine the core principles and values enshrined in the Constitution.

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While parliamentary sovereignty is a fundamental feature of the Indian constitutional framework, it is crucial to recognize the coexistence of other constitutional principles that temper its absoluteness. India's federal structure, as reflected in the distribution of powers between the Union and the States, introduces an element of decentralization that limits the reach of parliamentary sovereignty. Additionally, the Constitution establishes an independent judiciary entrusted with the authority of judicial review, ensuring that parliamentary enactments do not violate the constitutional framework.

What is parliamentary sovereignty in India-In the intricate balance between parliamentary sovereignty and constitutional limitations, the judiciary plays a pivotal role in interpreting and safeguarding the constitutional principles. The Supreme Court's power of judicial review allows it to scrutinize the constitutionality of legislative acts, ensuring that they conform to the principles enshrined in the Constitution. Through a series of landmark judgments, the judiciary has asserted its authority to strike down laws that violate fundamental rights or undermine the basic structure of the Constitution, thereby affirming its role as a check on parliamentary sovereignty.

One notable example of judicial intervention to uphold constitutional principles is the Golak Nath v. State of Punjab case (1967), where the Supreme Court held that Parliament cannot amend fundamental rights. This decision, however, was subsequently overruled by the court in the Kesavananda Bharati case, which introduced the concept of the basic structure doctrine. The judiciary, while acknowledging the supremacy of Parliament, established certain inviolable principles that form the bedrock of the constitutional order. The basic structure doctrine implies that parliamentary sovereignty is not absolute and must operate within the bounds of the essential features of the Constitution.

The tension between parliamentary sovereignty and constitutional limitations is an inherent characteristic of the Indian constitutional system. The Constitution, as the supreme law of the land, shapes the contours of parliamentary authority and establishes the framework within which legislation must operate. While Parliament has the primary role in law-making, its powers are circumscribed by the principles articulated in the Constitution, particularly those related to fundamental rights and the basic structure.

In recent years, debates surrounding parliamentary sovereignty in India have gained renewed significance, particularly in the context of constitutional amendments and legislative initiatives that impact the rights and autonomy of states. The application of Article 370 in the abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and the farm laws have sparked discussions on the extent of parliamentary authority and the need to balance it with constitutional principles.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, for example, prompted concerns about its conformity with the constitutional guarantee of equality and secularism. Proponents argued that Parliament has the authority to make laws concerning citizenship, while critics raised questions about its potential impact on the basic structure, particularly the principle of secularism. The judicial review of such legislation becomes crucial in determining whether parliamentary sovereignty has been exercised within the constitutional framework.

Similarly, the farm laws led to protests from farmers and raised questions about the federal structure of India's polity. The contention between the central government's laws and the concerns raised by state governments highlighted the need to reconcile parliamentary authority with the principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution. Judicial review becomes instrumental in adjudicating these conflicts and ensuring that the exercise of parliamentary sovereignty is consistent with constitutional values.


The concept of parliamentary sovereignty in India represents a fundamental aspect of the country's constitutional framework, granting the Parliament supreme legislative authority. Rooted in the British parliamentary system, this principle is implicit in the Indian Constitution, conferring extensive powers upon the Parliament to enact laws. However, the exercise of parliamentary sovereignty is not absolute, and it operates within the constitutional constraints and safeguards established by the framers of the Constitution.

The delicate balance between parliamentary sovereignty and constitutional limitations is a defining characteristic of the Indian constitutional system. While the Parliament holds primary authority in law-making, this authority is circumscribed by the principles articulated in the Constitution. The judiciary, through the power of judicial review and the assertion of the basic structure doctrine, acts as a check on potential excesses of parliamentary authority, ensuring that legislative actions align with the core values and principles enshrined in the Constitution.

The evolution of parliamentary sovereignty in India has been marked by key legal precedents, constitutional amendments, and ongoing debates on the scope of legislative powers. Recent legislative initiatives, such as the Citizenship Amendment Act and the farm laws, have brought these debates to the forefront, emphasizing the need for a nuanced understanding of the interplay between parliamentary authority and constitutional principles.

As India continues to grapple with diverse challenges and navigate its dynamic political landscape, the relationship between parliamentary sovereignty and constitutional limitations will remain a central theme. The judiciary's role in interpreting the Constitution and safeguarding its fundamental tenets becomes crucial in ensuring that the exercise of parliamentary authority aligns with democratic values, individual rights, and the foundational principles that underpin the Indian constitutional order.

In the years to come, the concept of parliamentary sovereignty in India will likely be subject to continued scrutiny, adaptation, and interpretation. The evolving nature of constitutional jurisprudence, societal changes, and emerging legal issues will contribute to shaping the contours of parliamentary authority within the broader constitutional framework. The delicate balance between the autonomy of the Parliament and the protection of constitutional principles will remain a dynamic and essential aspect of India's democratic governance. As the nation progresses, the ongoing dialogue and engagement between the legislative and judicial branches will be instrumental in defining the parameters within which parliamentary sovereignty operates, ensuring that it remains a force for positive democratic governance and constitutional integrity.



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