Monday, April 10, 2017

Article 31a, 31b & 31c of Indian Constitution: Property Rights In Indian Constitution

The Preamble of our constitution states that the India will work towards providing social, economic and political justice to its citizens.

This simple statement has a wide meaning.

For example, to provide economic justice to the population at large, there first needs to be economic growth, which means growth of the three sectors- primary, secondary and tertiary.

In other words, growth must be there in agricultural sector, industrial sector and services.

Now, the tertiary sector doesn’t demand too much land but the primary and secondary sectors require huge areas of land.

The Indian government justified that land should never be an obstacle or a hindrance in the path of development of the country.

Therefore, under the provisions of “Eminent Domain’, the Government of India has the right to acquire any property belonging to an individual or organisation which is to be used in the interest of public development.

Public Interests may regard to the requirements of land for housing projects, removal of slums, land for foreign consulates, settlement or government employees, land for agrarian reforms, technical education and industrial labors.

This power of the government created a huge number of disputes and is responsible for a size-able number of property related cases in various courts of law.

These disputes can be basically grouped in two categories, the Adequate Compensation Disputes and the Amendment related disputes.


Article 31, 31(a), 31(b) and 31(c) of Indian Constitution describe the rights of an Indian citizen to property.

To understand these better and permanently, we first need to look at its background and the important events and amendments that have led this section of Part 3 of Indian Constitution(Fundamental Rights) to its current state.

Article 19 (1) (f) of Indian Constitution states that every person has the right to hold and dispose of their personal property as they see fit and as long as it’s within the concurrent laws.

But this article also had some general restrictions or exceptions for example, the property can be acquisition-ed for the general welfare of the public, or protection of the interests of the scheduled tribes.

Article 31 of Indian Constitution states that no person can be deprived of his property without the consent of a proper authority.

Both of these articles were repealed by the 44th Amendment Act of the Indian Constitution.

This amendment was challenged in the RC Cooper vs Union of India case.

This case is more popularly known as the Nationalization case.

At that time, Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of our country and the union government planned to promote the growth of the nation by providing loans to the farmers and small businesses.

To achieve this, the government acquisition-ed the private banks.

This led to a number of disputes regarding inadequate compensation.

The banks reasoned that although they were compensated for their properties, they were not compensated for their reputation.

According to the Supreme Court judgement, following important points were made -

1. The compensation provided to the banks under Article 31 of the constitution can’t be illusory or arbitrary.
2. The non-tangible assets of the banks should also be compensated for.
3. The compensation can’t be a fixed amount or based upon an arbitrary principle.

Then in the 25th Amendment Act, the Parliament replaced the word ‘compensation’ in the Article 31 of Indian Constitution with ‘amount’.

Following this, in Keshavananda Bharti case of 1973, Supreme Court ruled that the amount cannot be arbitrary.

Articles 31a, 31b, and 31c of Indian Constitution put restrictions on the fundamental right to property in the welfare of the public.

Article 31a of Indian Constitution

Article 31 of Indian Constitution gave the people of India the right to hold and dispose of their property as they see fit.

By the 1st Constitutional Amendment of 1951, the Parliament added Article 31a to the Indian Constitution.

According to this, the government can acquire the property of the people and by doing so, the fundamental rights mentioned in Article 14 and 19 of Indian Constitution shall not be violated.

In other words, Article 31a of Indian Constitution was immune to Article 14 and 19 of Indian Constitution that provide for right to equality and the right to freedom respectively.

This amendment allowed the government to enhance the growth of the nation in the following manner:

1. It helped in the abolition of the Zamindari system as the government took the land from the Zamindars and used it for public welfare by either redistribution or agriculture.

2. The government took control of different private companies in order to use them for enhanced growth. However, this could be done for a fixed amount of time after which, the control had to be returned.

3. The government redistributed the mining rights from mine lords.

4. The government took control of the production and distribution of various other resources like oil.

Article 31b of Indian Constitution

This article is also the result of the 1st Amendment Act of 1951.

It is in reference with the acts and laws mentioned in the IX Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

The IX Schedule of Indian Constitution is a list of acts and laws which cannot be challenged in the court of law.

In other words, any such acts mentioned in this schedule are out of the reach of the Indian judiciary.

Article 31b of Indian Constitution states that the provisions mentioned in Article 31a are immune from Indian judiciary and cannot be nulled on the basis that they might violate the fundamental rights mentioned in Articles 14, 19 and 31 of Indian Constitution.

This was challenged in the Waman Rao case.

On 24th April 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that the acts and laws mentioned in the IX schedule till date, shall not be changed or challenged, but any attempt to amend or add more acts to that schedule, will suffer close inspection and examination by the judiciary system.

This was done to protect the ‘Basic structure’ of the Indian Constitution.

The acts already mentioned in the 9th Schedule of Indian Constitution were exempted because of the complexity.

Article 31c of Indian Constitution

Article 31c of Indian Constitution was included through the 25th amendment act of 1971 through which the government tried to give primacy to some Directive Principles of State Policy over the Fundamental Rights.

Article 31c of Indian Constitution aims for two main objectives -

1. Any law made in order to give effect to Article 39b and Article 39c of Indian Constitution will avoid the scrutiny of courts even if it violates Article 14 and Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.

2. Courts will not have the jurisdiction to decide whether the law enabled really gives effect to the principles mentioned in Article 39cand 39b of Indian Constitution.

Now it's important to read the text of Article 39c and 39b of Indian Constitution

Article 39b of Indian Constitution reads -

that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good;

Article 39c of Indian Constitution reads -

that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;


The right to property has been a complex and complicated subject right from 1951.

There have been numerous amendments and Supreme Court rulings over the years.

On the one hand, the parliament has tried its best keep the balance of power in its favor, all in the name of development, while on the other hand, the judiciary bodies have tried its best to make sure that in this process, the fundamental rights of the common people are not violated, which is the utmost responsibility of the Supreme Court.


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