ARTICLE 39 (B) OF INDIAN CONSTITUTION (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     25th April 2024        
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Context: The Supreme Court recently announced its departure from Justice V R Krishna Iyer's 1977 Marxian interpretation of Article 39(b) of the Constitution, which included private properties for redistribution to serve the common good.

Article 39 (b) and (c) of Social and Economic Justice

  • Distribution of Material Resources: Article 39 (b) emphasizes the importance of distributing the ownership and control of material resources in a community in a manner that serves the common good.
  • Common Good Subserving Principle: This principle suggests that the arrangement of ownership and control should benefit society as a whole rather than a select few.
  • Preventing Wealth Concentration: Article 39 (c) focuses on preventing the concentration of wealth and means of production, ensuring that economic systems operate in a way that benefits everyone and avoids common detriment.
  • Charter of Social and Economic Justice: Together, these provisions form what is sometimes referred to as the charter of social and economic justice, highlighting their crucial role in creating fair and equitable societies.

Affirmation of Justice Iyer's Opinion by SC

  • About: The Supreme Court affirmed Justice Iyer's interpretation of Article 39(b).
  • Reference to Sanjeev Coke Manufacturing Case (1983): In this case, a five-judge Bench upheld central legislation nationalizing coal mines and coke oven plants, relying on Justice Iyer's ruling.
  • Scope of Article 39(b): The SC held that Article 39(b) encompasses the transformation of wealth from private to public ownership, not just what is already publicly owned.
  • Absence of Minority Mention: The judgment did not explicitly state that Justice Iyer's opinion was in the minority.
  • Influence on Subsequent Cases: nine-judge Bench case’s opinion in Mafatlal Industries Ltd v Union of India (1996) also relied on Justice Iyer's interpretation, extending the scope of "material resources" beyond public possessions to include all sources meeting material needs.

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