Relationship between land reforms and article 31-A, 31-B & 31-C”

Relationship between Land Reforms and Art 31-A, Art 31-B, Art 31-C

Property is a bundle of rights, and in the case of tangible property, it would include the right of possession, the right to enjoy, the right to retain, the right to alienate and the right to destroy.

Right to Property was one of the seven Fundamental Rights when our constitution came into being. It was mentioned under Art 19(1) (f) and Art 31. This meant that everyone had the right to approach the Supreme Court in case of violation of any right enjoyed by the person which he obtained through the above mentioned Articles. India got its independence in 1947 and followed a socialist idea of development, which meant the government took the development work into its own hands. Private players were not allowed to participate at a bigger level before the LPG reforms of 1991. Therefore, the government needed to acquire land from the common people for various development purpose but Right to Property being a Fundamental Right, land owners approached the Supreme Court in case of their land being acquired. Supreme Court being a guarantor of Fundamental Rights of people, could not allow the government to acquire the land of the people. The Right to Property is the most controversial right and has caused confrontation between the Supreme Court and the Parliament. Due to a large number of controversies, the government amended the constitution many times. 1st,4th,7th,25th,39th and 42nd amendments were related to land reforms. Through these amendments, Art 31-A, 31-B and 31-C have been added and modified from time to time.

The 44th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1978 removed Right to Property as a Fundamental Right and was made a legal right under Art 300A in Part XII. Right to Property is also not a part of basic structure of the Constitution according to the present position.

This provision provides that no person shall be deprived of his property except by authority of law. According to the present scenario, the state is empowered to acquire or requisite the property under two circumstance :-

  1. It should be for public purpose.
  2. It should provide for payment of compensation to the owner.

According to the 17th Constitutional Amendment Act, when the state acquires the land held by a person under his personal cultivation, he will be provided the guaranteed Right to Compensation in case of acquisition to the private property by the state.

Art 31A, Art 31B and Art 31C were retained as exceptions to Fundamental Rights. This means, if anything is done within the ambit of these Articles and even if it is a violation of Fundamental Rights, even in that circumstance, it will not be considered a violation.

Article 31A :- This Article was added through the 1st Constitutional Amendment Act. This article saves five categories of laws from being challenged and invalidated on the ground of contravention of fundamental rights conferred by Article 14 and Article 19. These grounds are related to agricultural land, industry and commerce and include the following :-

  1. Acquisition of estate by the state
  2. Taking over the management of properties by state.
  3. Amalgamation or merger of corporations
  4. Extinguishment of rights of directors and shareholders of corporations
  5. Extinguishment or modification of mining leases

But the Article 31 A does not immunize a state law from judicial review unless it has been reserved for the consideration of the President and has duly received his assent. Moreover, the compensation to be provided to the land owners for the acquisition of their land must be provided at market value.

Thus, this provision allows the government to acquire the land of the people but for development of the society at large and for the common good of the people. By adding the clause of providing compensation to the land owners, it has also tried to limit the injustice against them.

Article 31 B:- This article saved the acts and laws included in the 9th schedule from being challenged and invalidated on the ground of contravention of any of the fundamental right. This provision widened the scope of Article 31 B in comparision to Article 31 A. Art 31 B immunized any law which was included in the Ninth schedule from all the fundamental right whether or not the law fell under any of the five categories specified in Article 31  A. However, in IR Coelho case, there could not be total immunity from judicial review of laws which are included in the Ninth schedule as judicial review is a ‘basic feature’ of constitution and it could not be taken away by putting a law under the Ninth Schedule.

Dual test was brought in to examine the validity of law placed in the Ninth Schedule.

  1. To check whether the law is violative of fundamental right.
  2. To check whether the law destroys the basic structure.

The Ninth Schedule contained only 13 acts in 1951 which was increased to around 300 in the current scenario. These acts of the state legislature deal with land reforms and abolition of Zamindari system prevalent in those state.

Article 31C :- “Where Article 31C comes in, Article 14 goes out”

This article was added through 25th Constitutional Amendment Act,1971. This Article contains two provisions :-

  1. If any law seeking to implement the socialistic DPSP specified in Article 39(b) or (c) shall not be void on the ground of contravention of the fundamental right conferred by Article 14 or Article 19.
  2. Judicial Review is applicable in all cases under the ambit of this article before the court if any unconstitutional provision is brought by the government.

Thus, this act aimed to reduce inequality among the Indian society as it restricted the rich zamindars to move to the Supreme Court in exercise of their Fundamental Rights and help in equally distributing the resources among all members of the society which will,as a result, help the government in implementing the values of Article 39(b) or (c).

Author: Yatharth Tripathi,
1st year, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi/ Student

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