In this case study, we examine two key provisions of the Indian Constitution:
firstly, Article 14, which protects the right to equality, and secondly,
Article 31(2), which addresses the right to property. As to understand the
intricate details and ramifications of these constitutional provisions via
through the lenses of specific judicial decisions under the given case law.
The project investigates the precarious equilibrium between freedoms for
individuals and social interests by looking at how the judiciary has interpreted
and enforced Article 14 to ensure fairness and non-discrimination, as well as
how Article 31(2) interacts with the idea of property rights.
The following case analysis aims to shed light on the changing ideas of equality
and property rights within the framework of the Indian Constitution and offer an
understanding of the wider context of constitutional interpretation.
Preliminary Details of the case
Case no.: AIR 1968 SC 1425, 1969(1) AnWR21,  1 SCR 90
Date of Judgement: 23.04.1968
Appellants: Balammal and Ors.
Respondent: State of Madras and Ors.
Hon'ble Justice (s) Bench:
- Justice J.C Shah
- Justice Vaidynathier Ramaswami
Issues of the case:
- The Madras City Improvement Trust Act 16 of 1945 was enacted by the
Indian government of the Madras province (now known as Tamil Nadu) in 1945.
This rule was created to improve the city of Madras (now Chennai) by
decreasing congestion and enhancing its general state.
In accordance with this law, they established a body named the "Board of
Trustees." This body was granted the authority to enforce the law. Making a
"Town Expansion Scheme" was one of the crucial things this board could
perform. This plan mainly talked about improving the city by altering the
layout of things like buildings and roadways.
- The board had to inform everyone about this plan as soon as it was
created. They executed this by recording it in writing and publishing it in
a government publication known as the "Government Gazette." They then
listened to people's perspectives on the plan. People possessed a say in
what they liked and didn't like about the idea.
The government considered the comments after receiving input from the public
and might alter the plan if necessary. The idea would then be given official
approval by the government, if approved. They could alter it or leave it
unchanged. Once they arrived at their decision, they would send out another
notice to let everyone know.
- The decision-making committee (the "Board") then began to put the
strategy into action. They started to carry out the improvements for the
city they had envisioned. The Board was granted a specific power under the
"Section 71." They were able to purchase land as per this, but only with
the approval of the government. They utilised this authority to acquire the
land that they need in order to carry out the plan's improvements.
- The Madras City Improvement Trust Act's "Schedule" detailed
modifications to the "Land Acquisition Act, 1894," which governs the
purchase of property for public purpose. In one section of the Schedule,
especially "clause 6(2)," it was stated that the government was exempt from
paying an additional 15% of the property's worth on top of the standard
payment if it was taking land for certain purposes.
If the land they are seizing is in a region the government has designated as
"slum," and the owner of the land doesn't really reside there or utilise the
property, then this particular regulation applies.
But the land here being talked about didn't meet the terms of the specific
rule therefore the government had to pay extra 15% on top of the regular
value they were bound to pay.
- In addition to using the Land Acquisition Act, the government planned to
seize the land for a "Town Expansion Scheme". Landowners claimed that the
Land Acquisition Act still required them to receive the additional 15%
However, Act 37 of 1950, another statute, prohibited landowners from
receiving this additional payment if their property was being acquired for a
Town Expansion Scheme.
Some questions that were posed to the Hon'ble court based on the submissions
- Whether or not the owners are eligible for a 15% solatium bonus ahead of the
land's market value for forcible acquisition; and
- Whether the evidence supports the amount of compensation given to the
claimants for the forced seizure of the land.
Rules Of law applied:
- Article 14 of The Constitution of India, 1949 � "Equality before law
The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal
protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of
discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth"
- Article 31(2) of The Constitution of India, 1949 � "When the State
acquires property, it must pay compensation to the owner. The compensation
must be a fair and just amount, determined in accordance with the principles
laid down in the law. The law must provide for the determination of the
amount of compensation, and the principles on which it is based.
- As for under The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 the sections that are
applied are Section 4, Section 6, Section 23, Section 47, Section 53.
To make Madras a better city, the administration had two plans. The first one
was referred to as the "Mandavalli Scheme," and the second as the "Mowbrays Road
Scheme." They made their plans public and began the procedure for acquiring the
necessary land. They settled on remuneration for the affected landowners. The
previous legal proceedings they had taken were still regarded as lawful even
after a new statute went into force.
The government must pay the landowner the
worth of the property on the day they formally declared that they were seizing
it, according to a provision of this new law. Alternatively, if the average land
value for the five years just prior to that day was less, they might pay a
lesser sum. The landowner would furthermore get a five percent "solatium"
payment, according to this statute.
In the case of Vajravelu Mudaliar v. Special Deputy Collector, Madras
court examined a brand-new statute.This law changed the terms under which the
government might appropriate land for public projects.
Based on the tenets of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, the court found a
specific flaw in this statute. As a basic right, Article 14 ensures protection
against discrimination and equality before the law. It guarantees that everyone
is treated equally and sensibly, without making any unfair or unjustifiable
differences. Different treatment was given to people whose property was seized
for housing developments as opposed to those who's land had been taken for other
forms of public uses. The basis for this differentiation was the kind of
enterprise for which the property was being purchased.
The court then considered whether this distinction had a feasible and logical
justification. They discovered that treating these two groups differently lacked
an important rationale. There was no apparent distinction between land
appropriated for housing plans and property appropriated for other public uses
that would support such discriminatory treatment.
In "State of West Bengal v. Mrs. Bela Banerjee
," a legal controversy centred
upon the "West Bengal Land Development and Planning Act 21 of 1948." The main
goal of the passing of this law was to help those who had moved to the state of
West Bengal from other places. However, there was a restriction on how much
compensation the government could give to the landowners. The value of the land
on a specified date-December 31, 1946-was what was used to calculate the maximum
compensation sum. To put it another way, the government would not spend more
than the property was worth on that specific day.
The fairness of this clause was questioned by the court after it thoroughly
analysed it. They thought it was unfair since the compensation was determined by
the worth of the property on a certain period in time. In essence, the court
decided that it was unfair to base the compensation on the worth of the land as
of a certain time in the past. They came to the conclusion that the values
contained in Article 31(2) of the Indian Constitution were violated by this
Article 31(2) lays down guidelines for how the government might seize
people's property while making sure that just compensation is given. The statute
was judged to violate constitutional principles that protect property rights and
provide just compensation by tying payments to a predetermined date without
taking into account the current situation.
It was held that the law was unjust since it treated people in different ways
for no justifiable reason. It's akin to the practise of punishing two
individuals differently for the same offence when there isn't any justification
for doing so. This section of the statute was ruled invalid by the court. It
violated the equality beliefs outlined in Article 14 of the Constitution. Due to
the court's ruling, the government was no longer permitted to treat these two
categories of landowners differently in accordance with this particular legal
As for under Article 31(2), in the light of it the decision was taken and
understood from the view of the landowners equally incorporating the facts in
As a result, the State's appeals were unsuccessful and were dismissed with
costs. In addition to the compensation granted to them, the Land Acquisition
Act's Section 23(2) granted the owners' appeals a 15% solatium on the laud's
- Legal databases for judgement
- SCC Online
- M.P Jain Indian Constitutional Law, 8th edition, Lexis Nexis.
- Internet Sources- www.lawplanet.in
- SCC, Balammal V. State of Madras, 1968
- The Constitution of India, Bare Act, 2023 ver
- The Constitution of India, Bare Act, 2023 ver
- Known Public newspaper in that period, source: google
- The land acquisition act, 1894
- The Constitution of India, 1949
- Via: https://www.adda247.com/upsc-exam/article-31-indian-constitution/
- SCC Online
- SCC Online