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State Of Bihar v/s. Kameshwar Singh AIR 1952 Sc 252

The matter of the purchase of property by the Government and the reimbursement given to the claimant has become a source of controversy in modern times. Nevertheless, the concern is not recent. This is pointed out by the frequent changes rendered to the right to property.

The suggested new legislation on ownership of land, which could soon be introduced in the Legislature, would effectively revive the legal dispute on the right to property when the judiciary and the Parliament were in the lurch.

The ability of executive action- the legitimate ability of the Government to seize the personal property of people for the public benefit has been accepted as an integral characteristic of a national entity.

Facts of the Case
  • The legality of the Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950, was questioned, but after the Constitution Act, 1951, the reason for the appeal had vanished.
  • That being said, it was claimed that the legislation was not passed for the people's good and thus Article 31(4) did not safeguard the Law. The public interest criterion was part of the very definition of accession and could not be specified by interpreting entry 36, List II, with entry 42, List III, to Schedule 7. Most held that Article 31(2) laid down two requirements for the purchase of land:
    1. a public motive; and
    2. Remuneration fees and the public intent may not be decided by the definition of procurement or by statutory entries.
  • This case was pursued in Raja Surya Pal Singh v. the State of U.P. In this event, the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1951, was retained. The Justifications that certain clauses of this Act represented deceit of the Constitution and culminated in a non-remittance of reimbursement have been dismissed on the grounds of a study of the clauses.

Issues of the Case
One crucial question posed in Kameshwar Singh was if the exemption to Article 31(2) stipulated in Article 31(4) safeguarded law against infringements of the public intent and/or the provision for reimbursement.

Justice Mahajan's popular sentiment in Kameshwar Singh was neglected by judiciary and researchers when evaluating Article 31. The original regard of the judiciary to the matter of public interest was built on the basis of the property reform schedule. Nevertheless, as in the instance of other accessions, leniency has still been exercised by the courts.

Although it was the first judgment to render it plain that the judiciary might examine even if or not the purchase was done for public reasons as provided by Article 31(2), neither did it establish the conditions of a legitimate check or theory and later, the courts did not carry out a public interest check and therefore reverted to the parliament on the matter of public interest.

  • The Apex Court affirmed the statutory legitimacy of the Bihar Land Reforms Act 1950, but considered two sections of the Act to be discriminatory by a vote of 3:2. Precluded from finding the statute against the conditions of the Fundamental Rights in Part III, the Judiciary noticed, in a specific way, that certain clauses discriminated against:
    1. the intrinsic necessity in an executive action for accession to be for public purposes and
    2. against Entry 42 in the Concurrent List, which related to precepts on restitution for land obtained or recovered.
  • For about a decade since the First Amendment, the High Courts and the Supreme Court have been interested in the settlement of lawsuits surrounding the revocation of zamindari. However, amid its ambiguous decision in the Kameshwar Singh case, in all following proceedings, the Apex Court retained the rule on the revocation of zamindari in its totality.

    Although the Court observed that the grant of reimbursement for the purchase of land was a fundamental right under Article 31(2) of the Constitution, it acknowledged that the legal scrutiny of the legislation violating fundamental right was exempt in the context of the revocation of zamindari, in compliance with the purpose of the Interim Legislature, as stated in the implementation of the first amendment.
  • However, while the matter of the termination of zamindari was reasonably resolved, the issue of what else was protected by the meaning of state in the first amendment was not addressed when the Legislature passed the Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Act, 1955. The fourth amendment rendered a range of modifications to Article 31 and added Article 31(2A)
  • Considerably, the fourth amendment has repealed Article 31A, clause 1 and revised Article 31A, 2(b) to introduce the words raiyats and under raiyats to the database of those, whose property rights have been excluded from the defense of Articles 14, 19(1) (f) and 31.
  • In addition to promoting the termination of intermediate tenancy in non-zamindari, jagirdari, and other various communal land zones, the fourth amendment also aimed to encourage the next level of land reclamation including the enforcement of land thresholds and the allocation of possessions. Thus, it was up to the judiciary to distinguish what sorts of property revenue classifications were property and powers concerning property within the scope of the revised Article 31A(2) (a).
  • On the topic of reimbursement, the Court ruled that Article 31(4) protects law even though it breaches the necessity for reimbursement; and that section means that the judiciary cannot consider the problem of the appropriateness of the remuneration. Furthermore, the statutes which are shielded from judicial scrutiny, by way of Articles 31A and 31B, necessarily preclude the courts from challenging the suitability of the reimbursement.

    While reimbursement for purchase was a constitutional right, as a consequence of the exemptions to Article 31(2), land reform legislation on this subject has been removed from the judicial examination. Nevertheless, this case law has been established very explicitly for agrarian development. However, immediately afterward, reimbursement for some forms of the acquisition was still challenged.

Related Cases
The legality of the West Bengal Land Development and Planning Act, 1948, was questioned in West Bengal v Bela Banerjee. Succeeding the separation of India, this law was introduced to purchase property for the relocation of immigrants. The act further provided for the payment of interest not beyond the market price of the property on 31 December 1946.

In KK Kochuni v State of Madras, the Court ruled that the abolition of the judicial scrutiny amelioration of the inquiry of reimbursement was restricted only to situations where the purchase of the property was meant to advance the land reform plan. In all such non-agricultural policy situations, the incentive would be market value reimbursement.

Statute Changes
Article 31 of the Constitution rendered the right to property a fundamental right which explicitly established that no individual shall be denied of his estate except by the force of legislation and would not be obtained except for a community cause and, most importantly, allowed for the remittance of appropriate reimbursement.

Article 31 has been changed six times since it has been revoked. There have been a variety of Constitutional reforms in effect, ultimately limiting the right to property.
The fourth amendment specified that the purchase of land should not be questioned on the basis of the appropriateness of the remuneration. The goal of the six modifications to Article 31A was to strengthen the control of the Government.

The fourth amendment reiterated more specifically the powers of the Government for the forced purchase and commandeer of personal property and separated it from situations when the Government has induced destitution of land. The 17th amendment also limited the constitutional right to land. The definition of state has been extended to transcend the judgments of the Apex Court and the judgments of the High Court of Kerala.

Ryotwari properties were expressly mentioned in Article 31A, as the Supreme Court ruled in Karimbil Kunhikonam v. the State of Kerala that ryotwari properties did not come under the meaning of Article 31A. At the same period, the Government was prohibited from possessing any self-cultivated property within the limit set down by legislation until reimbursement was given not less than the market rate.

One significant question posed in Kameshwar Singh was if the exemption to Article 31(2) stipulated in Article 31(4) of the law covered against violation of the public intent and/or the provision for reimbursement. On this issue, the court, though respecting the Bihar laws, had differing viewpoints. For example, Chief Justice Sastri found that Article 31(4) shielded the law from being contested on the grounds of both the public interest clause and the provision for reimbursement. In his opinion, the defense accounted for in Article 31(4) would otherwise be useless.

Justice Mahajan, on another side, argued that the terminology alluded to in Article 31(2) implies that the procurement of obligation can be for a public benefit only, and is therefore implicit in that accession. Accordingly, Article 31(4):
does not preclude the authority of the court from asking if the laws pertaining to the mandatory purchase of property is not legitimate because the accession is not for a public benefit.

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