Government of India Act, 1935
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This article is written by Shubhangi Upmanya, a student of Vivekanand Institute of professional studies, Indraprastha university. In this article, she discusses the Articles 31A to 31C of the constitution.

Introduction

From no person, the property belonging to him will be stripped off until there is an authority of law and if it has been taken into possession, then compensation will be provided, says Article 31 which went through a lot of amendments before it was annulled along with Article 19(1)(g). Article 19(1)(g) gave the right to property, however, restrictions can be imposed in the matter of public interest.

The annulment was made by the 44th Amendment Act in the year 1978 after which the Right to property elapsed and was left vulnerable.

Constitution 44th Amendment Act, 1978

One of the most vexed rights is the right to poverty. This right was given by the constitution in order to let the people enjoy their property in a smooth manner. But Article 31 enabled the government to take away the property when there lies a legal authority. Also, the term compensation provided in Article 31(2) was very arbitrary as there was no adjective given to it and it gave authority to the government to decide the amount.

To end up all kinds of debate regarding this right, the 44th amendment knocked on the door. By this amendment article 19(1)(g) and Article 31 was repealed and Article 31(1) was moved to Article 300A in the IX Schedule. 

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The Doctrine of Eminent Domain and Right to Property

The Doctrine of Eminent Domain, a concept taken from America, allows the sovereign to capture any private land and make it a public land that may benefit the public at large. The need is to just give compensation for it and this was done without taking into account the owner’s opinion.

Let’s put it this way, Manish owns private land in Madras and the government of Madras takes away his land without his consent and in return gives him a monetary compensation which is less than the market value which he would have got, if he had sold it.  

Maharao Sahib Sri Bhim Singhji V. Union of India

The land which was vacant in urban agglomerations was taken by the government to be used for public purposes.

The court ruled out that the land in urban agglomeration can’t be used for giving any kind of benefit to the public and it has nowhere been mentioned in that Act.

Now this article will be dealing will the following three provisions in-depth.

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  Article 31A                               Article 31B                            Article 31C

Saving of Laws providing for the acquisition of estates, etc: Art. 31A

Let us talk about the emergence of article 31(1) which contains 5 sub-clauses. During pre-independence time, the zamindari system was prevalent. This system made the zamindars very wealthy with a large number of landholdings whereas, the peasants were left in financially deteriorating conditions. Congress in power, decided to abolish it by taking the property from the zamindars and giving it to poor people but the dilemma before them was to provide compensation because of the arbitrariness of the term “compensation” given in Article 31(2)( as mentioned before in this article).

Thereafter, this motion was taken back by the government and Article 31A walked in the Indian constitution by the First Amendment, in the year 1951.

This law in its 5 clauses states that any law,

  • made regarding the acquisition of any estate or right by the government or management of any property, or
  • creates a merger of any two or more companies 
  • receives the benefit of any agreement or lease or license;

 will not be void or null until it has received the assent of the President.

Ambika Mishra v. the State of U.P.

Uttar Pradesh government put a ceiling on a large number of permissible landholdings under the Land Holdings Act, 1960

Also under Section 3(17) of the land acquisition act, only the ‘male’ was considered as the landholder and owner whereas ‘unmarried female’ or ‘woman whose husband is the landowner’, wasn’t considered as the owner of the land. Apart from the acquisition part, many people have also looked at this discriminatory side of the Act.

The court upheld the constitutional validity of Article 31(1)(a).

Validation of certain Acts and Regulations: Art. 31B

After the introduction of Article 31A in the Constitution, many problems arising out of the violation of fundamental rights contained in Part III of the Constitution were eradicated.

Article 31B states that the acts which are present in the ninth schedule and are inconsistent with the provisions laid down by the constitution or resist any decree or order will be left on the competent legislature to amend, revoke or to let it be in force. Anything contained in this Article does not undermine any provision contained in Article 31A.

Article 31B did not allow the government to make provisions blatantly against the provisions of the constitution but only which were fair with the provision of the constitution and which are inconsistent should be made void. This article stood as a shield for the laws contained in the Ninth Schedule as it makes certain that no question arises on any law contained in that schedule.

Suppose there is an Act, call it XYZ, which is not included in the ninth schedule and as a result, it can be made void but gradually it gets included in the ninth schedule, then, it will come under the blanket protection of Article 31B. This is what the retrospective effect is all about, which this Article carries with itself. 

Waman Rao v. Union of India, AIR 1981 SC 71

On 24th April 1973, a famous case judgment laid down the Doctrine of the basic structure, Kesvananda Bharati v. the State of Kerala. In reference to that judgment, this case ruled out that any amendment made in the IX Schedule before the Kesvananda Bharti case will not be challenged in the court but any amendments made after that, will.

Saving of laws giving effect to certain directive principles: Art. 31C

Back in the year 1971, the 25th amendment showed its face. 

From this amendment, Article 31C set its foot in. Previous articles were concerned with fundamental rights but this Article talks about the DPSP, the rights contained in Part IV of the Constitution. It says that any law made by the state that secures the rights contained in Part IV of the constitution can not be declared void or challenged on the grounds of Article 14, Article 19 or Article 31. 

Putting it the other way, it was basically kept out of the judicial review.

It also stated that if such law is made by the legislature or state, then that law should be sent for the assent of the president. Now, in any case, the president certifies the law by giving his assent and the law is passed which is still violating Article 14, 19, and 31, in that case, we are left with nothing as an option because it is secured from any kind of judicial perusal. 

Under this article, no law which gives effect to the provisions contained in Article 39B and Article 39C can be challenged under Article 14, Article 19, or Article 31.

Kesavananda Bharati v. the State of Kerala

This famous case decided by a nine-judge bench is one of the most praised landmark judgments. It laid down the doctrine of the basic structure, which stated that any law made should not be violative of the fundamental rights and if amendments are to be made then it should be made as such that they do not destroy the basic structure. 

Fundamental rights are of utmost importance and they should be preserved with all due respect by the state and provisions should be made to protect them and abrogate them. With this thought, this case raised questions on the constitutionality of the 25th amendment and therefore, declared that the basic structure of the fundamental rights should not be violated by the state or legislature under the provisions of Article 368 and the second part of the Article gave the jurisdiction of the court, a boot. Hence, the question on the validity of Article 31C ended with its demise, thereafter. 

Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union of India

As we all know fundamental rights are the basic feature of the constitution and under Article 368 they need to be preserved. Well, in this, the extended portion of Article 31C was eradicated completely with the rationale that it attacked the fundamental rights under Article 368. It was amazingly pointed out by the eminent judge that by this Article the DPSP was secured which added to the weight of DPSP which went up against the weight of the fundamental rights but fundamental rights being paramount should not be curtailed by any law whatsoever. The judgment also stood up for the concept of judicial review which was not made available to the people in case of infringement of their fundamental rights.

Sanjeev Coke Mfg. Co v. Bharat Coking Coal Ltd., (1983) 1 SCC 147

The court pointed out in this case, that the fundamental rights and the directive principles of state policy should be companions and amplify each other.

Further, Article 31(C) was stated as unconstitutional and against the fundamental rights. There should be no conflict arising out of the issue involving the DPSP and the fundamental rights.

9th Schedule Laws not beyond judicial review

The 9th schedule finds its relations with the famous Keshvananda Bharti case of 1973.

It can be said that when the government wants to keep any law unchallenged then it can put it in the 9th Schedule as it is kept out of the judicial review. Let’s talk about the right to property, many reforms for the property rights and the acquisition of property and the rights along with it have been seen setting their feet in the constitution while they were all included in the ninth schedule. Hiding behind this schedule, the fundamental rights were getting infringed and still were left without a judicial review but now they stand repealed. The query before the law was whether the act or any of its part is declared to be unconstitutional then will it find its way in the ninth schedule? It is just not limited to the property Act but extends to all kinds of acts as arbitrary in nature as possible. For instance, the Mandal case Indra Sawhney V. Union of India, where the reservation was 69% which was more than the allowed bracket of 50%. 

This percentage can be increased manifoldly to 90% or 95%, the need is just to keep this Article in the ninth schedule. 

This was the situation before the ruling of the case mentioned below where it was ruled out that that the laws contained in the IX Schedule have to follow the Doctrine of Basic Structure.

IR Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu, 2007 (1) SC 137

Fundamental rights can be amended but as far as it does not curtail the basic structure. Balancing should be done between fundamental rights and DPSP. This case was passed on to the higher bench constitution bench of five judges.

In this case, two questions were raised which were:

  • If an Act as a whole or any part of that Act is against the fundamental right in Article 14, 19 and 21, then will it be included in the ninth amendment? 
  • Whether the amendment which has been done in the IX Schedule destroys the basic structure?

The court stated the if the constitutionality of any part has already been upheld by the court then it will not be challenged but if it has been incorporated after 24th April 1973 then it can be open up to challenge in the court. All the articles incorporated in the ninth schedule have to pass the test of basic structure which determines if the particular provision violates the basic structure.

Conclusion 

 “Amend your procedures and your doings, to improve in the future”.

Well, this is what our constitution believes. From the very 1st Amendment in 1951 to the 124th Amendment in 2019, the Constitution has been amending its way to the doorway of betterment. It wasn’t all sunshine and rain, in fact, it had its own thunderstorm. 

The property right turned out to be the most controversial right with lots of reforms and criticism along with it. With Article 31, 19(1)(g) and Article 31C being stated as unconstitutional and its second part been shifted to Article 300A for making the fundamental right only a constitutional right, the property law kept diminishing. 

Let us put another issue this way that there has to be security given to Part IV of the Constitution but not by infringing Part III of the constitution, they have to be balanced. Still, there is a lot of change to be made and a long way to go because the Constitution is constant.

 

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