ARTICLE 31(C) (Syllabus GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     2nd May 2024        
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Context: Recently, a nine-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India, while deliberating on the government's authority to acquire and redistribute private property, opted to address the "radical constitutional consequence" of whether Article 31C remains in force.

Article 31C

  • About: It protects laws enacted to ensure the “material resources of the community” are distributed to serve the common good (Article 39(b)) and that wealth and the means of production are not “concentrated” to the “common detriment” (Article 39(c)).

oAs per Article 31C, these particular directive principles (Articles 39(b) and 39(c)) cannot be challenged by invoking the right to equality (Article 14) or the rights under Article 19 (freedom of speech, right to assemble peacefully, etc).

  • Introduced by: The Constitution (Twenty-fifth) Amendment Act, 1971.
  • The "Bank Nationalisation Case": The Statement of Objects and Reasons for the amendment referenced the Rustom Cavasjee Cooper vs Union Of India, 1970 case, commonly known as the "Bank Nationalisation Case".
  • Supreme Court's Decision: In the Bank Nationalisation Case, an eleven-judge Bench struck down The Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Act, 1969, citing Article 31(2) which required compensation for acquired property.
  • Criticism of the Banking Act: The court found the 'right to compensation' insufficiently addressed in the Banking Act.

The Journey of Article 31C

  • Challenges to 25CAA: The Kesavananda Bharati case (1973) asserted the concept of the "basic structure" of the Constitution. It invalidated the latter part of Article 31C, allowing judicial review of laws aimed at implementing certain directive principles.
  • The Constitution (Forty-second) Amendment Act: Enacted in 1976, this amendment broadened the scope of protection under Article 31C to include all directive principles. It aimed to prioritize directive principles over fundamental rights, aiming to prevent the latter from impeding socio-economic reforms.
  • Minerva Mills v. Union of India,1980: This case saw the Supreme Court invalidate clauses 4 and 5 of the amendment. The court affirmed that Parliament's amending power couldn't be used to bypass limitations and acquire unlimited authority.
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