Keshavananda Bharathi vs State of Kerala

Today is the 41st anniversary of one of the most famous cases in the history of independent India, Keshavananda Bharathi vs State of Kerala .

The eminent lawyer, Arvind Datar, wrote about this a year ago. Go read the whole article. One comes across characters such as Alvin Robert Cornelius and the redoubtable Nani Palkhivala. The basic structure doctrine is an immeasurable contribution to the safeguarding of democracy and liberties of the people of India.


The hard work and scholarship that had gone into the preparation of this case was breathtaking. Literally hundreds of cases had been cited and the then Attorney-General had made a comparative chart analysing the provisions of the Constitutions of 71 different countries!


All this effort was to answer just one main question: was the power of Parliament to amend the Constitution unlimited? In other words, could Parliament alter, amend, abrogate any part of the Constitution even to the extent of taking away all fundamental rights?

Article 368, on a plain reading, did not contain any limitation on the power of Parliament to amend any part of the Constitution. There was nothing that prevented Parliament from taking away a citizen’s right to freedom of speech or his religious freedom. But the repeated amendments made to the Constitution raised a doubt: was there any inherent or implied limitation on the amending power of Parliament?

The 703-page judgment revealed a sharply divided court and, by a wafer-thin majority of 7:6, it was held that Parliament could amend any part of the Constitution so long as it did not alter or amend “the basic structure or essential features of the Constitution.” This was the inherent and implied limitation on the amending power of Parliament. This basic structure doctrine, as future events showed, saved Indian democracy and Kesavananda Bharati will always occupy a hallowed place in our constitutional history.

Kamban and SRT

The Tamil poet Kamban used these memorable line to describe Rama breaking the bow in Sita’s syamvaram. He says

Eduthathu kandanar ittrathu kettaar

which roughly translates as

They saw him lift the bow and heard it break ( i.e, so lighting fast was the speed of his movement).

Reading this, if one wonders how this might have been in real time one need go no further than watch these straight drives from SRT :)

Sembula Peyneer Pola Anbudai Nenjam Than Kalanthanave

One of the most beloved and memorable of all Tamil poems on love composed over 2000 years ago in an anthology called Kurunthokai by Sembula Peyaneerar.

யாயும் ஞாயும் யார் ஆகியரோ?

எந்தையும் நுந்தையும் எம் முறைக் கேளிர்?

யானும் நீயும் எவ் வழி அறிதும்?

செம் புலப் பெயல் நீர் போல

அன்புடை நெஞ்சம் தாம் கலந்தனவே.

- செம்புலப்பெயனீரார்

Here is AK Ramanujan’s translation.

Kurunthokai 40 – What He said

What could be my mother be

to yours?what kin is my father

to yours anyway?And how

did you and I meet ever?

But in love our hearts are as red

earth and pouring rain:


beyond parting.

It is impossible to convey in English the beauty and impact of the lines, Sempula Peyal neer pola anbudai nenjam thaan kalanthanave

Mathematics as metaphor

Freeman Dyson, writes in the introduction to Yuri Manin’s book, Mathematics as Metaphor.

Mathematics as Metaphor [...] means that the deepest
concepts in mathematics are those which link one world of ideas with another. In the
seventeenth century, Descartes linked the disparate worlds of algebra and geometry
with his concept of coordinates, and Newton linked the worlds of geometry and
dynamics with his concept of fluxions, nowadays called calculus. In the nineteenth
century, Boole linked the worlds of logic and algebra with his concept of symbolic
logic, and Riemann linked the worlds of geometry and analysis with his concept
of Riemann surfaces. Coordinates, fluxions, symbolic logic and Riemann surfaces
are all metaphors, extending the meanings of words from familiar to unfamiliar
contexts. Manin sees the future of mathematics as an exploration of metaphors
that are already visible but not yet understood. The deepest such metaphor is the
similarity in structure of ideas between number theory and physics. In both fields
he sees tantalizing glimpses of parallel concepts, symmetries linking the continuous
with the discrete. He looks forward to a unification which he calls the quantization
of mathematics.