Exceptions to Fundamental Rights
Saving of Laws Providing for Acquisition of Estates
After independence when the Congress was in power at the Centre, it decided to launched the abolition of Zamindari Programme in which it abolished the Zamindari system and acquired the lands of Zamindars.
But the main difficulty before the government was of paying compensation. In Article 31(2) the word “compensation” was used without any adjective like just or reasonable.
Thus Supreme Court interpreted its meaning as ‘just compensation’. Various land legislations were declared invalid and were challenged under Article 14 and 19(1)(f).
In Kameshwar Singh v State of Bihar, the Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950 was held invalid under Article 14 for it classified the zamindars in a discriminatory manner for the purpose of compensation. Therefore, finding Zamindari Abolition Programme in danger because of these judicial pronouncements, the central government amended the Constitution and a new provision Article 31A was added.
This new article laid down that no law providing for the acquisition by the state of any estate or of any rights therein, or for the extinguishing or modifying any such rights, would be void on the ground of any inconsistency with any of the fundamental rights contained in Article 14, 19 and 31. As Article 31 was the only Constitutional Provision providing for compensation, which means an estate can be acquired or rights can be modified without paying compensation . The only exception was that such law should receive the assent of the President.
After the 44th Amendment Act in which Article 31 was repealed, consequently Article 31 was removed from Article 31A(1).
The word estate in sub clause (a) of Article 31A (1) is defined in clause 2(a) to have the same meaning as that expression or its local equivalent has in the existing law relating to the land tenures in force in that area, and by inclusive definition it takes in any jagir, inam or muafi or other similar grants and in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala any Janman rights.
The object of Article 31A (1)(a) is to bring a change in the agricultural economy and facilitate agrarian reforms and it is applied to legislations affecting the rights of landlords and tenants .
In K.K. Kochuni v State of Madras, it was held that the protection of this clause is not applicable to a law which seeks to modify the rights of the owner without any reference to agrarian reforms.
In State of Kerala v. Gwalior Rayon Silk Mfg. (Wvg) Co. Ltd., the court held that there has to be a direct nexus between the subject matter acquired and its utilisation for agrarian reforms.
The second proviso to Article 31A (1) refers to ceiling limits. This proviso says that the land exempted from acquisition should be within the ceiling limit and must be under personal cultivation. The Supreme Court in the case of Bhagat Ram v State of Punjab, interpreted the object of this proviso. The Court said that a person who is cultivating land personally and it is his source of livelihood, should not be deprived of that land under nay law protected by Article 31A unless the compensation at market rate is given.
Constitutionality of Article 31A
In Ambika Mishra v State of UP, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of clause (a) of Article 31A (1) on the test of basic structure. In Minerva Mills v Union of India , the Court held that the whole of Art. 31A is unassailable on the basis of stare decisis, a quietus that should not allowed to be disturbed.
In Waman Rao and I R Coelho case, the First Amendment in which the Art. 31A was introduced and Fourth Amendment which substituted new clauses to this Article has been held constitutional.
Validation of Certain Acts and Regulations
Emergence of Article 31 B: Validation of certain Laws
Article 31A was added to the Constitution by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. It was added as a constitutional device to protect the specified statutes from any attack on the ground that they infringe Part III of the Constitution . It has retrospective effect which is clear from the words “ever to have become void”.
The introduction of this provision has cure the defects in various acts of the Ninth schedule as regards to the unconstitutionality alleged on the grounds of infringement of Part III of the Constitution, these acts even if void or inoperative at the time, they were inactive by reason of infringement of Article 13(2) of the constitution assumes full force from the respective dates of their enactment after their inclusion in the Ninth schedule read with Article 31B of the Constitution.
The Ninth schedule consists of 284 legislations until the constitution (78th amendment) act, 1995 but Article 31B did not empower the legislatures to amend these acts inconsistently with the provisions of the constitution or to take away the rights conferred by the Constitution.
The amendments must be consistent with the provision of the Constitution or be saved under Article 31A of the Constitution, if not they must be held void.
A question was raised in Prag Ice And Oil Mills v. Union Of India whether article 31B saved the orders and notifications issued under Section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act 1955 which was already included in the Ninth schedule but as was already decided in Godavari Sugar Mills Ltd. v. S.B Kamble that the amendments to ac act subsequent to an inclusion of an act in the Ninth schedule were not entitled to the protection of Article 31B.
The Supreme Court dismissed the petition as the act did not violate the petitioner’s rights under Article 14 and 19, it was explained by the court that when a particular act or regulation is placed in the Ninth schedule, the Parliament may be assumed to have applied its mind to the provisions of the particular act and the desirability, propriety or necessity of placing it in the Ninth schedule and such an assumption cannot in the very nature of things be made in the case of an order issued under an Act or Regulation placed in the Ninth schedule.
Constitutional Validity of Article 31B
In Waman Rao v. Union of India , the court held that amendments in the Ninth schedule made before the decision of Keshavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala that is before 24.04.1973 were beyond challenge but the amendments made afterwards could be tested on the grounds of amendment of basic structure.
Similar views were given by the court in Minerva Mills v. Union of India and Bhim Singhji v. Union of India .
In I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu the nine judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously decided that as held in Keshavananda Bharti case and later clarified in Waman Rao case while the laws included in the Ninth schedule before the decision in Keshavananda Bharti case are immune from any challenge on the grounds of violation of fundamental rights or basic structure and the Acts included after the decision shall be open to challenge. The Court reaffirmed that Article 31B did not destroy or damage the basic structure of the Constitution.
Saving of Laws Giving Effect to Certain Directive Principles
Insertion of Article 31-C by the Twenty-Fifth Amendment
Article 31-C states that “Notwithstanding anything contained in Article 13, no law giving effect to the policy of the state towards securing [all or any of the principles laid down in Part IV] shall be deemed to be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with, or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by [Article 14 or Article 19] and [no law containing a declaration that it is for giving effect to such policy shall be called in question in any court on the ground that it does not give effect to such policy].
Provided that where such law is made by the Legislature of a State, the provisions of this Article shall not apply thereto unless such law, having been reserved for the consideration of the President, has received his assent Right to Constitutional Remedies. ”
The insertion of this article made Articles 14, 19 and 31 inapplicable to certain laws made by Parliament or any legislature. Along with this it was also added that a declaration in the law that is to implement the directive principles enshrined in Articles 39(b) and (c) cannot be questioned in a court of law. Therefore, the insertion of this article granted complete immunity to a law from judicial scrutiny if the President certified that it was enacted to promote the policy laid down in Articles 39(a) and (b). The provisions of this Article would apply only if the law had received the assent of the President.
History behind Article 31C
This article was inserted by the 25th Constitutional Amendment to get over the difficulties placed by judicial decisions in the way of giving effect to the Directive Principles in Part IV. It provided immunity from any challenge on the grounds of violation of Article14, 19 and 31 any law enacted for implementing the directives in clause (b) and (c) of Article 39.
In the 25th amendment it was further provided that such law made to give effect to the policy under Article 39(b) and (c), would not be open to judicial review.
However, this second part was struck down in Keshavananda Bharti v State of Kerala, but rest of the Article was held valid. After this amendment 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act was passed by the Parliament which replaced Article 39(b)-(c) by all Directives contained in Part IV of the Constitution.
The part which was held unconstitutional in the Keshavananda Case was not omitted from the official text of the Constitution, since later cases seems to restrict the scope of judicial review of the statutory declaration only to the narrow question whether there is a reasonable nexus between the act passed and the objects of the directive it seeks to implement.
But in the Minerva mills v Union of India , it was held that extending the immunity of Article 31C to all the Directives of Part IV by the 42nd amendment was unconstitutional, thus, Article 31C is confined to its pre 1976 position, which has not been overruled by any larger bench yet.
Decisions given by court on the constitutionality of Article 31C
The validity of the 25th Constitutional Amendment was questioned in Keshavananda Bharti v State of Kerala , the Sikri C.J. held that since Parliament cannot under article 368 abrogate fundamental rights; equally it cannot enable the legislature to abrogate them. Therefore article 31C must be declared unconstitutional.
The second part of Article 31C was held unconstitutional on the ground that it ousted the jurisdiction of the Courts which is a basic feature of the constitution and which cannot be done away with a amendment under Article 368.
In Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union of India, the extended version of article 31C was struck down by the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that the extension of the shield of article 31C to all the Directive Principles was beyond the amending power of Parliament under article 368 because by giving primacy to all Directive Principles over the Fundamental Rights in articles 14 and 19, the basic or essential features of the constitution viz., judicial review has been destroyed.
In Waman Rao v. Union of India , the Supreme Court maintained that article 31C as it stood prior to the 42nd Amendment Act made in 1978, was valid as its constitutionality had been upheld in Keshavananda Bharti case.
In Sanjeev Coke Manufacturing Company v. M/s. Bharat Coking Coal Ltd., the Supreme Court struck down article 31C as unconstitutional (Amended portion in 42nd Amendment Act) on the ground that it destroys the “basic features” of the Constitution. The goal set out in Part IV has to be achieved without abrogating the means provided for by Part III. Thus there is no conflict between the directive principles and the fundamental rights. These are meant to supplement one another. The Court held that article 31C as originally introduced by the 25th Amendment is constitutionally valid.