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Landowner Rights Upheld by Supreme Court Verdict

Context:

In a significant decision aimed at safeguarding the rights of landowners, the Supreme Court of India has ruled that all government acquisitions must adhere to the provisions outlined in Article 300A. This landmark verdict was delivered in response to a case involving the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s attempt to acquire private land for the construction of a public park, a move deemed unlawful by the court. The ruling underscores the importance of upholding constitutional protections against arbitrary land acquisitions by government entities.

Relevance

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Observations Made by the Supreme Court in the Recent Case
  2. The Evolution of the Right to Property in India

Observations Made by the Supreme Court in the Recent Case:

Protection of Right to Property:

  • The right to property is protected as a constitutional right and interpreted as a human right under the current constitutional scheme.
Seven Basic Rights Under Article 300A:
  • Article 300A confers seven basic procedural rights to landowners and corresponding duties upon the state for any valid acquisition:
    • Right to notice: Duty of the State to inform owners about its intention to acquire their property.
    • Right to be heard: Duty of the State to hear objections from landowners.
    • Right to a reasoned decision: Duty of the State to inform its decision on acquisition.
    • Acquisition only for public purpose: Duty of the State to demonstrate that acquisition serves a public cause.
    • Right to fair compensation: Duty of the State to provide restitution and rehabilitation, ensuring fair compensation.
    • Right to efficient conduct: Duty of the State to conduct the acquisition process efficiently and within prescribed timelines.
    • Right of conclusion: Landowners have the right to a final conclusion of the acquisition proceedings.
Significance of Procedural Justice:
  • Procedural safeguards mandated by Article 300A are crucial for protecting the right to property as they ensure fairness, transparency, natural justice, and prevent arbitrary exercise of power in the acquisition process.

The Evolution of the Right to Property in India:

Pre-44th Constitutional Amendment (Before 1978):

  • Article 19(1)(f) and Article 31 of Part III of the Indian Constitution guaranteed the right to purchase, possess, and dispose of property, and safeguarded against deprivation of property.
  • Article 31 provided an absolute right against deprivation of property, limiting the state’s ability to acquire movable property in the public interest due to its status as a fundamental right.

The 44th Constitutional Amendment:

  • Abolished Article 19(1)(f) and Article 31, replacing them with a modified version, Article 300-A.
  • This transformed the right to property from a fundamental right to a legal/constitutional right.

Provisions of Article 300-A:

  • Article 300-A states that “no person shall be deprived of his property except by authority of law,” granting the government authority to seize property for the general welfare.

Court Interpretations of Article 300-A:

  • The Madhya Pradesh High Court (2022) emphasized that property acquisition laws must be legitimate, and state acquisition must benefit the public.
  • In Vidya Devi v. the State of Himachal Pradesh (2022), the Supreme Court ruled that even government authorities in a welfare state cannot seize property without following legal procedures.
  • In Vimlaben Ajitbhai Patel vs. Vatslaben Ashokbhai Patel, the Supreme Court affirmed that while no longer a fundamental right, the right to property remains a human right.

-Source: Times of India


June 2024
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