This article is written by Sahil Mehta.
“The fundamental rights are not an end in themselves but are the means to an end. The end is specified in the directive principles.” -Justice YV Chandrachud
The Preamble in the Indian Constitution sets the path for Indian government and states the objectives to be achieved. Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) were added in the Constitution for achieving those objectives. Part III of the Constitution embodies Fundamental Rights from Article 12–35. Part IV of the Constitution embodies Directive Principles of State Policy from Article 36–51.
Fundamental Rights are the basic rights provided to every individual in a civilized society. They consist of civil and political rights and assure a dignified survival of an individual. They provide for equality before the law, liberty, and freedom for various purposes. Fundamental Rights imposes a negative obligation on the State and prevent the State from encroaching liberty of an individual. Importantly, Fundamental Rights are justiciable, i.e. the State would be liable for their infringement.
Directive Principles of State Policy are the positive obligation on the State. DPSP consists of socio-economic and community welfare policies. They guide the State in which direction it should frame its policies. The State should take them into account while making laws for the country. They are fundamental in the governance of the country. However, unlike Fundamental Rights, DPSP are non-justiciable, i.e. the State would not be liable for their non-implementation.
I restrict the scope of the paper and do not delve deep into the concepts of or differentiation between Fundamental Rights and DPSP. In the first part, I analyze the harmonious construction between Fundamental Right and DPSP w.r.t Article 31C of the Constitution and its unconstitutional nature in the case of Minerva Mills. In the second part, I would apply the ratio of Minerva Mills to the case of State of Gujrat v Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat, which deals with ban on the slaughter of cattle of all ages. Finally, I argue that the holding in Mirzapur Moti is inconsistent with the ratio in Minerva Mills.
Harmonious Construction Between Fundamental Rights and DPSP
- Introduction Of Article 31C:
Through the 25th Amendment Act, 1971, Article 31C was inserted in Part III of the Constitution of India. The heading of Article 31C states its purpose, i.e., “Saving of laws giving effect to certain directive principles.” It gives authority to the parliament to enact laws for implementing provisions of Articles 39(b) and 39(c), which constitutes part of the DPSP. The first part of Article 31C states that while enacting laws for the said provisions, such laws would not be questioned for violation of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution. The second part restricts the scrutiny of laws made under Article 31C by the courts.
This amendment gave supremacy to two provisions of DPSP, Article 39(b) and 39(c), over the Fundamental Rights. The constitutionality of the amendment was challenged in Keshavananda Bharti v State of Kerala where the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the first part, which authorizes the parliament to make laws that would not be questioned for violation of Articles 14 and 19. However, the second part, which restricts the judicial scrutiny of such laws, has been declared unconstitutional, as it violates the basic structure of the Constitution.
- Increasing The Scope Of 31C:
Through Section 4 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, the scope of Article 31C was further broadened. It has increased the scope of Article 31C to frame laws from merely Article 39(b) and 39(c) to ‘all the DPSP.’ It authorized the parliament to enact any law for the fulfillment of any DPSP and such law could not be questioned for the violation of Articles 14 and 19.
- Invalidation Of Amended Article 31C:
The same was challenged in Minerva Mills v Union of India. The main issue before the court was ‘whether the provisions of DPSP can have primacy over the Fundamental Rights’ since Article 31C provided supremacy to all DPSP over Articles 14 and 19. The SC in Minerva Mills looked to the previous judgments to decide on the validity of article 31C, after the 42nd Amendment.
In Champakam Dorairajan v State of Madras, the SC held that DPSP could not override the provisions of Fundamental Rights. DPSP should be constructed in such a way so that it confirms and runs in subsidiary to the Fundamental Rights. In In re Kerala Education Bill, 1957, the SC evolved the Doctrine of Harmonious Construction further. It held that Fundamental Rights and DPSP should go hand-in-hand. The DPSP provisions should be interpreted/construed in such a way that they do not come in conflict with the Fundamental Rights.
Eventually, the SC in Minerva Mills held that Part III and Part IV constitute the core of the Constitution. They are the conscience of the Constitution. Fundamental Rights and DPSP should be construed and harmoniously constructed. The balance between both forms the basic structure of the Constitution. The majority held that it is necessary to achieve the goals mentioned in Part IV. However, such goals cannot be achieved by abrogating the Fundamental Rights under Part III. The objective of Article 31C, after the amendment, was to save the validity of laws that would not have been protected under reasonable restrictions of Articles 14 and 19. The parliament had a clear intention to grant itself unlimited power through Article 31C. Under the garb of amended Article 31C, the parliament could have made any law implementing any of the DPSP and abridging the Fundamental Rights without any examination under Articles 14 and 19. It could have easily classified any law fulfilling any one of the DPSP and thus qualifies for the abridgement or abrogation of the Fundamental Rights. Therefore, the court declared the amended Article 31C unconstitutional and brought back Article 31C as it stood before the 42nd Amendment. Finally, it held that the Fundamental Rights could be abridged for implementing DPSP through reasonable restriction under Articles 19(2) to 19(6) only when they are in ‘larger public interest.’
Application Of ‘Minerva Mills’ In ‘Mirzapur Moti’
The Gujrat government passed the Bombay Animal Preservation (Gujrat Amendment) Act in 1994. The amendment increased the scope of the ban and prohibited the slaughtering of bulls and bullocks of all ages. Previously, the ban was only on the slaughter of bulls and bullocks below 16 years of age.
The amendment was challenged by petitioners contending that it imposed unreasonable restrictions on their Fundamental Rights of freedom to trade under Article 19(1)(g). The amendment unreasonably restricted their right to trade. The State, however, contended that the law was in furtherance of the DPSPs, particularly those under Articles 47 and 48.
The court rejected the contention of the petitioners and held that the amendment was constitutionally valid. The court opined that the ban was in furtherance of DPSP and therefore meant for ‘larger public interest.’ Therefore, it is a reasonable restriction on the right to freedom of trade.
However, I submit that the judgment, in this case, does not follow the ratio of Minerva Mills for three reasons: first– The court overlooked the purpose of invalidating Article 31C, second– Undue burden on farmers: how could it be in the larger public interest?, third– Ends should not justify means.
Court Overlooked The Purpose Of Invalidating Article 31C:
The court struck down the amended Article 31C in Minerva Mills because the government had granted itself unlimited power. The court had an apprehension that the parliament could make laws under Article 31C giving primacy to DPSP over Fundamental Rights granted under Articles 14 and 19. Therefore, the court struck down the amended Article.
What the Gujrat legislature has done is the banning of the slaughter of certain cattle of all ages. It transgressed its power and gave supremacy to DPSP over fundamental rights. The court in Mirzapur Moti affirmed the restrictions imposed on the fundamental rights through the amendment and gave primacy to DPSP. The court nullified the purpose of striking down Article 31C as it gave undue importance to the DPSP over Fundamental Rights. It went against the reasoning provided in Minerva Mills of harmoniously interpreting both Fundamental Rights and DPSP. Further, it is important to look at the previous decisions delivered by the SC in similar cases.
The SC in Mohd Hanif Quarashi v State of Bihar rightly decided to ban the cattle slaughter in a categorized manner. The court has considered their ages and usefulness and did not allow the blanket ban on slaughter of all the cattle of all ages.
Further, the SC in Hasmattullah v State of MP in 1996 agreed that a large number of useless and unproductive cattle can have a detrimental effect on the agricultural economy. It agreed to the reasoning provided in Hanif Quareshi that there should not be an absolute ban on the slaughter of cattle. It unreasonably restricts the right to trade under the garb of ‘larger public interest’ and gives primacy to DPSP.
However, the court in Mirzapur Moti held that the position is changed now and the Hanif Quareshi judgment is no more applicable in current circumstances. It held that the technology is changed and the cattle are useful till they are alive because they help in the production of dung, biogas, help in the draught, etc. Mirzapur Moti was decided in the year 2005 and Hasmattullah was decided in the year 1996. How could the analysis of ‘matter of fact’ can be changed to such a great extent in less than ten years from Hasmattullah to Mirzapur Moti. The usefulness or the technology cannot be improved to this extent in such a short period of time.
In Hinsa Virodhak Sangh v Mirzapur Moti Kuresh Jamat, the court upheld the resolution for closure of all slaughterhouses for nine days in Ahmedabad during the Paryushan parv of the Jain community. It was contended that this was an unreasonable restriction on Article 19(1)(g). However, the court held that the restriction is in furtherance of DPSP and thus reasonable. ‘It is to be noticed here that the court said it is reasonable since the restriction is only for nine days.’ The court held that nine days is not a considerable period in a year. Further, if a law imposes restriction for a more considerable period, it would be considered in contravention to the right to trade and could be struck down. In Mirzapur Moti, the ban on slaughter was permanent. Even if the ban was on the slaughter of certain cattle only, however, it was permanent. It will lead to displacement of many butchers, kasais, etc., who trade specifically in that category and will throw them out of business. It violates their Fundamental Right to trade under Article 19(1)(g), and the complete ban on slaughter cannot be held as reasonable restriction under Article 19(6).
Undue Burden On Farmers
Article 48 in Part IV of the Constitution states that “the State should take steps to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.” There is no doubt that cows and other milch and draught cattle enhance productivity in the agricultural field and they should be preserved. However, they ceased to be useful and productive after a particular age. Article 48 should be interpreted as preserving cows and other milch cattle until they are potentially useful and productive. Justice AK Mathur, who had the dissent opinion in Mirzapur Moti, affirmed that this contention. He held that, instead of being useful, such over-age cattle might act as a burden on farmer’s head after a particular age. If the farmer is not allowed to sell such cattle, they may negatively impinge farmers’ growth. This contention was also accepted by the court in Hasmattulah.
Further, there is evidence of a shortage in supply of food and fodder for the cattle. Thereby, instead of wasting limited resources on unproductive and burdened cattle, a farmer would prefer to spend the amount on productive and useful cattle. However, due to the ban on cattle slaughter, a farmer is forced to either breed the useless cattle any way or send it to gosadans. If he keeps the cattle himself, he might end up nourishing useless cattle instead of useful cattle. Spending on useless cattle would hurt the potential nourishment of useful cattle, as the resources are limited. If he decides to donate the cattle at gosadans, it might be possible that poor nourishment would deteriorate the upcoming breeds. Either way, the farmer would not be able to make up the money to purchase new and useful cattle, as he could not sell the cattle to the slaughterhouse due to the ban.
Then how could be the ban on the slaughter of cattle is in the larger public interest? The right to trade can only be abridged or restricted when such restriction is in the larger public interest. However, the ban on slaughter cannot be held in the farmer’s interest, thereby not in the ‘general public interest.’
Ends Should Not Justify Means
The DPSP mentioned in Part IV of the Constitution are the end purposes which the state sought to achieve. The ‘end goals’ cannot be confused with or justify any ‘unreasonable means’. There is evidence of instances where the unreasonable or politically motivated means are opted to achieve a legitimate ends. In United States v. Mattta-Ballestros, an infamous criminal was abducted by the US marshals from Honduras after failure of the extradition treaty. Justice Nooman held that international abduction is equal to a crime, even of a notorious criminal. He opined that the motive of kidnappers (marshals) is irrelevant and should not be taken into consideration. Even if they wanted to achieve a legitimate ‘end’ by prosecuting a criminal after abduction, they cannot do so by ‘means’ of violating lawful provision.
Similarly in Mirzapur Moti, even the Gujrat legislature wanted to achieve legitimate end mentioned in the DPSP, however, it cannot achieve it by limiting the Fundamental Rights of the citizens. The motive of the Gujrat legislature behind the ban on the slaughter should not be taken into consideration as a sole reason. What should be seen is whether the means of achieving such an end is unreasonable or contrary to the freedom of trade.
Fundamental Rights and DPSP both form the core of the Constitution. Former are the civil and political rights provided to the individuals and the later provides direction to the state in framing various policies. However, both need to be constructed harmoniously.
Through this paper, I analyzed how the court has rightly struck down the amended Article 31C in Minerva Mills as it gave unlimited power to the parliament and gave supremacy to DPSP over Fundamental Rights. However, the court in Mirzapur Moti did not adhere to the reasoning and conscience of the Minerva Mills and given undue importance to DPSP over the Fundamental Right of freedom to trade. It did not look into the purpose of invalidation of Article 31C, undue burden on farmers due to the ban and how the ends could not justify unreasonable means.
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