Scope and Ambit of Article 31C of the Indian Constitution
Updated: Dec 19, 2021
Authored by Kumari Shreya, a 4th year student of PES Modern Law College, Pune.
Article 31C was originally added by the 25th Amendment, 1971. It was introduced against the backdrop of increasing judicial scrutiny of land reforms introduced by the Government to abolish Zamindari; the tussle between the courts and the Government was seen in the Bank Nationalization case where it was held mandatory for the government to give due compensation to those deprived of their property .
Article 31C - Saving of laws giving effect to certain directive principles . Notwithstanding anything contained in Article 13, no law giving effect to the policy of the State towards securing [all or part of ] the principles [ laid down in part IV] shall be deemed to be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with, or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferring by Article 14 or Article 19 and 31, [ and no law containing a declaration that it is for giving effect to such policy shall be called in question in any court on the ground that it does not give effect to such policy.
Scope of Article 31C
Instead of leaving it to judicial interpretation that the Directives in Part IV should be read with the Fundamental Rights, and this Article incorporates into the Fundamental Rights Chapter the Directives in Article 39(b)-(c) and makes them enforceable, even overriding the Fundamental Rights in Article 14, 19.
The first part of Article 31C is similar to Article 31A insofar as it gives protection to a law from challenge under Article 14, 19, - namely, a law giving effect to the Directive Principles in Article 39(b)-(c).
The second part, which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, sought to oust the jurisdiction of the Court to find out whether a law sought to be protected under Article 31C really gives effect to the principles in Article 39(b)-(c). Express legislative declaration is not a condition precedent to attract Article 31C.
This article would make possible the nationalization or the taking under public management and control of all means of production, key, industries, mines, minerals, public supplies, utilities and services. Once it is held that a scheme of nationalization would attract Article 31C, any consequences that might follow from the State monopoly cannot be taken into consideration for invalidating the law.
This article talks about the DPSP, the rights contained in part IV of the constitution. It says that any law made by the state that secures the rights contained in part IV of the constitution cannot be made void or challenged on the grounds of Article 14, Article 19 or Article 31. In other word it was kept out of judicial review.
The famous case which was decided by a nine-judge bench is most praised landmark judgments. It laid down the Doctrine of Basic structure according to which it was stated that any law made should not violate the fundamental rights and if any amendment is made then it should be made in such a way that it should not harm the basic structure of our Constitution.
Constitutionality of Article 31C
Though the judgments in Keshavananda’s case are voluminous divergent, the following conclusions would emerge from the judgments of the majority of judges in relation to Article 31C.
· The first part of Article 31C being valid, if a law fulfills the requirement of Article 31C it would be immune from attack on ground of contravention of Article 31C.
· The second part of Article 31C is invalid because it seeks to take away Court’s power of judicial review, which is an essential feature of the Constitution of India
The result is that when the protection of Article 31C is sought to shield a particular enactment, the Court would be entitled to examine whether the impugned enactment really seeks to give effect to the policy underlying Article 39(b) or (c) – regardless of any declaration having been made by the Legislature which made enactment.
‘And no law containing ………to such policy ’- These words, constituting the second part of Article 31C sought to oust the jurisdiction of the Courts to find out whether the law for the protection of which Article 31C was invoked, really gave effect to the principles in Article 39(b) or (c). But this part has been held to be invalid by the majority of Judges in Keshavananda’s case on the ground that judicial review is a basic feature of the Constitution of India, which cannot be done away with the amendment under Article 368.
Basu, D.,(2012) ShorterConstitutionofIndia. 14th ed.LexisNexis