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Right or Limitation: Article 31A, 31B & 31C of the Indian Constitution


Part III of the Indian Constitution provides for Fundamental rights which is in cognizance to the human rights of first generation as contained in International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, 1966. These rights are enforceable in nature. Out of all the then existing rights, right to property has been one of the most incensed one. As per Indian Constitution Article 19(1)(f) and Article 31 were two provisions specifically related to this right (for private properties). While Article 19(1)(f) provided for right to property subject to limitations for matters concerning public interests, Article 31 provided that other than by authority of law, one cannot be deprived of his property thereby enabling legal authority to take away property. The provision of Article 31 bears semblance to V U.S. Constitutional Amendment whereby it was said that a person could not be deprived of his life, liberty and property unless there is some due process of law involved.

While the other fundamental rights enjoyed a comparatively rigid status, the right to property since enactment saw various amendments and changes. There existed several controversies related to the right; these controversies significantly centred the question of the instalment of pay for the property rights gained. Significant constitutional discussions have been battled around this question and the constitution has been amended a few times to get over some troublesome legal decisions.

Even after many amendments, the Article 31 couldn’t achieve a meaning fulfilling and beneficial to scope of Part III and was then repealed along with Article 19(1)(f) in 1978 by 44th Amendment Act of Indian Constitution. Article 31(1) was then envisaged in Article 300A, which was a new entry to Chapter IV in part XII of the Constitution of India, thereby making it a statutory right. In case of Indore Vikas Pradhikaran v. Pure Industrial Coke & Chemicals Ltd. and others, the court held that the right as vested by Article 19(1)(f) to acquire, hold and dispose off property even though is no longer a fundamental right, but its existences survives by means of a legal or constitutional right and accordingly no deprivation of such nature be there except by and in accordance with law. This was done in view that no person be arbitrarily be deprived of his/her property unless there existed a due process of law.

While prior to 1978, there existed provisions like Article 19(1)(f), 31, 31A, 31B, 31C; After the said amendment in year 1978 there remained only 3 provisions along with the newly added Article 300A.

While Article 31A, 31B & 31C remained a part of fundamental rights, they are not fundamental rights in the genuine sense for they do not present fundamental right rather force certain limitation on right to property. The principle object of these arrangements was to give resistance to different laws diminishing property rights.

For origination of Article 31A, 31B & 31C, Doctrine of Eminent Domain plays a crucial role. This word “Eminent domain” derives its origin from Latin term “Dominium Eminens”. The concept emerged in 17th Century and was initiated by Hugo Grotius. According to it, it was within the means of power of King or the government to deny the property to a person this likewise incorporates the private property of a person at the enthusiasm of overall public interest. All things considered, the King or the Government can procure the property simply subsequent to paying a sensible (reasonable) compensation to the influenced families.

The doctrine is based on two Latin maxims:

  1. Salus populi est suprema lex (the welfare of the common people is the supreme law).

  2. Necessita pubic major est quam (public necessity is greater than private necessity).

Thus, the essentials of Doctrine of Eminent Domain could be derived as:

  • Property is taken for public use

  • Reasonable Compensation is to be paid for the taken property

This doctrine is observed in most civilisations. As per this doctrine state is authorised to acquire private property of a person, if it is to be done for welfare of common public at large and for the same reasonable compensation has to be paid. Seventh Schedule in its List III i.e. Concurrent list’s 42nd Entry reads ‘acquisitioning and requisitioning of property’ making it a subject over which both Union and State government have power to make legislations generally.

In case of State of Bihar v. Kameshwar Singh, the honourable Supreme Court of India defined eminent domain to be the “the ability of a sovereign to take property for use of common masses without the proprietor's assent after making just(sensible) compensation.”

In Maharao Sahib Sri Bhim Singhji v. Union of India, the question was related to land which was empty in urban assemblage and was taken by the administration to be utilized for welfare purposes of public. The court precluded that the land in urban assemblage can't be utilized for giving any sort helpful for the general population and it has no place been referenced in the Act of 1976, Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act.

Article 31A & Article 31B were added to the Indian Constitution in 1951 by the First Amendment while Article 31C was added by the Twenty Fifth Constitutional Amendment in 1971.

Article 31A

The zamindari system was pervasive before independence. This system made the zamindars exceptionally affluent with an enormous number of landholdings while, the workers were left in monetarily weakening conditions. Congress came in power and chose to nullify it by taking the property from the zamindars and offering it to needy individuals yet the quandary before them was to give compensation due to the discretion of the expression "compensation" given in Article 31(2).

Article 31A strolled in the Indian constitution by the First Amendment, in the year 1951 and from that point, this movement was reclaimed by the administration.

This law in its 5 provisos expresses that any law,

  • made in regards to the securing of any estate or right by the government or the executives of any property, or

  • makes a merger of any at least two organizations

  • gets the advantage of any agreement or rent or permit;

won't be void or invalid until it has gotten the consent of the President. The categories of laws protected under Article 31A from being challenged on grounds of contravention of Article 14 & 19 are as under:

  • Acquistion of estates and related rights by state;

  • Taking over the managment of properties by the state;

  • Amalgamation of corporations;

  • Extinguishment or modification of rights of directors or shareholders of corporation; and

  • Extinguishment or modification of mining leases.

In Ambika Mishra v. the State of U.P. , Uttar Pradesh government put a bar on countless reasonable landholdings under the Land Holdings Act, 1960. Additionally, under Section 3(17) of the land obtaining act, just the 'male' was considered as the landholder and proprietor while 'unmarried female' or 'lady whose spouse is the landowner', wasn't considered as the proprietor of the land. Aside from the acquisition part, numerous individuals have likewise taken a gander at this oppressive side of the Act. The court maintained the protected legitimacy of Article 31(1)(a).

In Minerva Mills v. Union of India, the Court held that the entire of Article 31A is unassailable based on stare decisis, an end that ought not to be permitted to be disturbed. The Supreme Court maintained the defendability of clause (a) of Article 31A (1) on the trial of fundamental basic structure.

In Waman Rao and I R Coelho case, the First Amendment where the Article 31A was presented and Fourth Amendment which subbed new provisos to this Article has been held protected.

In view of the judgment of Minerva Mills, I R Coelho and Waman Rao we can underline the protected legitimacy of Article 31A of the Constitution

Article 31B

All acts and regulations that are part of IX Schedule are protected under this provision from being challenged. By the virtue of this Article once a regulation or act is included in IX Schedule, it gains immunity from challenges on ground of violation of any right enforceable as under Part III. Also, if before such inclusion if declared invalid (the act or regulation) by court, the defect is removed retrospectively by such inclusion from date of enactment.

Example of it was seen in State of Maharashtra v. Man Singh, High court struck West Khandest Mehwassi Estate (Proprietary Right Abolition etc) Regulation, 1961 down, but its appeal was pending before the Indian Apex court. The same act was by 40th Amendment added as fifteenth item of IX Schedule. It was held that this amendment revived the regulation from date of enactment retrospectively.

The case of Minerva Mills v. Union of India and Waman Rao v. Union of India challenged the constitutional validity of Article 31B and IX Schedule. The major basic issue raised in both cases was that these legislations were destroying the basic structure of constitution. The basic structure came from Basic Structure Doctrine as propounded in the Keshavanand Bharti v. State of Kerala in 1973. The court held in Waman Rao’s case that revisions in the Ninth Schedule settled on before the decision of Keshavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala that is before 24 April 1973 were past challenge however the revisions made after the date could be tried on the grounds of affecting basic structure. Likewise perspectives were held 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 consistently concluded that as held in Keshavananda Bharti case and later explained in Waman Rao case while the laws remembered for the Ninth calendar before the choice in Keshavananda Bharti case are safe from any test on the grounds of infringement of crucial rights or fundamental structure and the Acts included after the decision will be available to challenge. The Court reaffirmed that Article 31B didn't decimate or harm the fundamental basic structure of the Constitution.

Article 31C

The Article raised the significance of Article 39(b) and 39(c), providing that no challenge could be brought against laws made for the purpose of securing the listed clauses of Article 39 for violation of rights as vested by Article 14, 19 or 31to give effect to state policy by state legislature, but for application of the same the law has to have assent of President.

42nd Amendment inserted the words “all or any principles laid down in Part IV” where clause (b) or (c) of Article 39 was mentioned, thereby making all laws under Directive Principles of state policy as given in Part IV of Indian Constitution beyond the ambit of challenge on grounds of infringement of Article 14, 19 & 31. The ambit of Article 31C was enlarged by the 42nd Amendment.

In Keshavanand Bharati's case, the legitimacy of Article 31C of the Constitution was addressed under the steady gaze of the Supreme Court. The Court for this situation maintained the constitution legitimacy of the said Article aside from the "declaration part" and furthermore offered supremacy to Directive Principle of State Policy over Article 14, 19 under the Fundamental Rights.

A repudiating decision in regards to the legitimacy of some extended portion of Article 31C was addressed in Minerva Mills' case, the Supreme Court for this situation stuck down the legitimacy of that segment of Article 31C by holding that the Parliament has ordered the arrangement past the powers vested in it under Article 368 of the Constitution. Furthermore, it held that by offering power to Directive Principle than the Fundamental right would influence the essential basic structure of the Constitution.

While in Waman Rao v. Union of India, the Supreme Court maintained the constitutional legitimacy of Article 31C as given in the Keshavanand Bharti case. But in case of, Sanjeev Coke Manufacturing Company v. Bharat Coking Coal Company Ltd, the Supreme Court struck down article 31C as unconstitutional (Amended segment in 42nd Amendment Act) on the ground that it annihilates the "basic features" of the Constitution. The objective set out in Part IV must be accomplished without repealing the methods accommodated by Part III. Along these lines there ought to be no contention between the mandate standards as in Part IV and the major rights i.e. Fundamental Rights as in Part III. These are intended to enhance each other. The Court has maintained that Article 31C as initially presented by the 25th Amendment is unavoidably substantial.

In Bhim Singhji v. Association of India, the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976 was held to be secured and ensured by Article 31C, as much as the reason for the that law was to repress focus urban land to sub serve the benefit of all, and that said Act was planned to accomplish and actualize the motivation behind the Article 39(b) and (c).


In spite of the fact that Article 31A, B and C are under Part III of the Constitution as a Fundamental Right they don't give Right to property as a Fundamental Right to each resident of India.

Indian Constitution has adopted a means of flexi-rigidity implying it allows flexibility and changes to its legislation by rigid means all for the purpose of improving future developments. These amendments allow the law to bend with the changing need of society in accordance to changing time. Contentions between Part III and Part IV have always been there, questions as to supremacy of one over other are always raised, but the need is to strike balance between them. An insecurity in terms of unenforceability exists for the Part IV which has been time and again major bone of contention. An assurance must be given with Part IV but it should not be at risk with Part III. Many rulings of the supreme court have opined for a balance between the two parts but there still exists a long road ahead for India to have a steady constitution with Balanced laws.

(Kratika Joshi,

B.A. LL.B.(H) VIII Semester

Amity Law School, Amity University, Jaipur)

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