His Holiness Keshvananda Bharti vs State Of Kerala with reference to Agrarian Reforms in India
His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati v. The State of Kerala and Others (AIR 1973 SC 1461) is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of India. It is the basis for the power of the Indian judiciary to review, and strike down, amendments to the Constitution of India passed by the Indian parliament which conflict with or seek to alter the constitution's 'basic structure'. The judgment also defined the extent to which Parliament could restrict the right to property, in pursuit of land reform and the redistribution of large landholdings to cultivators, overruling previous decisions that suggested that the right to property could not be restricted. The case was a culmination of a series of cases relating to limitations to the power to amend the Indian constitution this was the case in which the concept of basic structure was evolved. The basic structure doctrine is the judge-made principle that certain features of the Constitution of India are beyond the limit of the powers of amendment of the Indian parliament. The basic structure doctrine applies only to the constitutionality of amendments and not to ordinary Acts of Parliament, which must conform to the entirety of the constitution and not just to its basic structure.
Case of His Holiness Keshvananda Bharti v. State of Kerala
The case of His Holiness Keshvananda Bharti v. State of Kerala popularly known as the fundamental rights case .In this case the petitioners has challenged the validity of the Kerala Land Reforms Act 1963.But during the pendency of the petition the Kerala Act was amended in 1971and was placed in the Ninth Schedule by the 29th Amendment Act. The petitioners were permitted to challenge the validity of 24th, 25th and 29th amendment to the constitution.
2.2 BRIEF FACTS OF THE CASE
· Writ petition was filed by the petitioner on March 21, 1970 under Art. 32 of the Constitution for enforcement of his fundamental rights under Arts. 25, 26, 14, 19(1) (f) and 31 of the constitution. He prayed that the provisions of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 as amended by the Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1969 to be declared unconstitutional. Ultra Vires and void, on the ground that some of its provisions violated his fundamental rights.
· During the pendency of the writ petitions, Parliament passed the three constitutional amendments, namely, the Constitutions (24th, 25th and 29th Amendments). As the petitioner apprehended that he would not succeed in view of the above amendment he also challenged the validity of these amendments.
· The Constitution (Twenty-fourth Amendment) Act amended Art. 368. It enacted that Parliament may, in exercise of its constituent power, amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of the constitution in accordance with the procedure laid down in that article. The other part of the amendment is that nothing in Arts. 13 shall apply to any amendment under Art. 368.
· The Constitution (Twenty – Fifth Amendment) Act Amended Art. 31(2) and 31(2-A). Section 2 of the Amendment Act substituted the word “Amount for the word “Compensation” and excluded the application of Art. 19(1) to a law under Art. 31(2). It was also made clear that no such law shall be called in question in any court on the ground that the whole or any part of such amount is to be given otherwise than in cash. Section 3 Introduced new Art. 31-C.It the policy of the State towards securing the directive principles in C1. (b) or (c) of Art. 39 and no such law could be questioned on the ground that it took away or abridged any of the rights conferred by Arts. 14, 19 & 31. Further, the amendment laid down that “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. The provisions of the article were not to be applied to a law made by the legislature of a Sate unless such law received the assent of the president.
· The constitution (Twenty-ninth) Amendment Act included the Kerala Land Reforms Acts in the Ninth Schedule to the Constitution making them immune from attack on the ground of violation of the fundamental rights. The petitioner challenged the validity of the three Constitution Amendment Acts.
· Whether land laws challenged by way of writ petition are in consonance with Article 31-C of the constitution.
· The Supreme Court held that the Parliament had wide powers to amend any Article of the Constitution. However, the amending power is not so wide as to enable the Parliament to alter the basic features or to abrogate the entire Constitution.
ARGUMENT BY THE PARTIES
· The counsel for the petitioner urged that though the power is wide but it is not unlimited. Power to amend under Art. 368 does not empower the parliament to destroy the basic features of the Constitution or abrogation of the Constitution.
· On behalf of the Union and the States, it was contended that the power to amend is wide and unlimited. It is not fettered with any kind of the implied or inherent limitation.
DECISION OF THE COURT-
By Majority: The first part of Art 31-C ie (Notwithstanding anything contained in article 13, no law giving effect to the policy of the State towards securing [all or any 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 conferred by article 14 or article 19)is valid. The second part of the article, viz. 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” is invalid. In this case the majority struck down the declaration clause of art 31(C) as unconstitutional on the ground that it was destructive of the basic feature of the constitution , ie. the judicial review The first part of the clause was however held to be valid .The majority judgment clearly held that any law enacted by the parliament for giving effect to the directive principals contained in clauses (b) and (c) of Art.39 cannot be declared void on the ground that it violets any of the rights conferred by the Articles 14,19 or 31.
The effect of declaring second para as void is that the court will have jurisdiction to examine whether there is a direct and reasonable nexus between the laws passed to implement the directive principals contained in Art 31 (b) and (c).
This article was added by the constitution 25th Amendment Act , 1971.The new article empowers the Parliament as well as State Legislatures to enact laws towards securing the directive principles specified in Art. 39(b) and (c) of the Constitution. Article 31 (c) thus gives the directive principles in Art 39(b) and (c) primarily over the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14 and 19 of the constitution.
The object of this amendment as stated in its preamble , was to get over the difficulties placed in the way of giving effect to the directive principles of State policy. It further provided that any which contained a declaration that it was put on the Statue book for giving effect to such policy could not be called into question in any Court on the ground that the new law did not give effect to such policy. The declaration clause of Article 31 (c) thus barred the judicial review of such laws completely. Fortunately In Keshvananda Bharti v. State of Kerala the majority struck down the declaration clause of Art-31 (c) as unconstitutional on the ground that it was destructive of the basic feature of the constitution ,ie, the judicial review .The first part of the clause was however held to be valid. The majority judgment clearly held that any law enacted by the parliament for giving effect to the directive principals contained in clause (b) and (c) of Art 39 cannot be declared on the ground that it violates any of the rights conferred by Article 14,19 or 31.
Judicial Approach regarding Agrarian reforms-
In the case of Waman Rao v. Union of India the validity of Article 31-A , 31-B and 31-C and scheduled 9 was challenged on the ground that they were beyond the constituent power of Parliament as they were beyond the constituent power of Parliament as they damaged the basic feature of the Constitution. It was held that these articles did not destroy the basic feature of the Constitution and were therefore valid and constitutional being within the amending the Parliament Regarding Art 31 B it was held that all the amendments to the Constitution made prior to the decision in Keshvanand Bhati’s case by which the 9th Schedule was amended and several Acts and Regulations were included were valid but amendment made on or after decision are open to challenge on the ground that they are beyond the amending power of Parliament since they damaged the basic structure of the Constitution. The first and the fourth amendment were made with the view to remove social and economic disparities in the agricultural sector in India. Regarding article 31 C it was held that this article stood prior to 42nd amendment does not damage any essential features of the constitution and is therefore valid.
Agrarian Reforms in India-
Agrarian Reform in India had been adopted to reallocate the agricultural resources among all the people directly connected with agriculture. After independence, the Government of India started the process of building equity in rural population and improvement of the employment rate and productivity. So for this reason the Government had started agrarian reform.
System of land tenure in India-
1) Zamindari system-Introduced by East India Company in 1793.Lord Cornwallies entered into permanent settlement with landlords with a view to increasing the revenue of the company.
2) Mahalwari system-This was introduced by William Bentick in Agra and Oudh.Then, extended to Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.A whole village was treated as a unit as far as payment of land revenue is concerned.
3) Ryotwari system-Initially introduced in Tamil Nadu and was later extended to Maharashtra, Bihar, East Punjab, Assam and Coorg.The responsibility of paying land revenue to the government was of the cultivator or individual ryot.
Reasons Behind Agrarian reform:
· Since India had been under several rulers for a long time, i.e right from the beginning of the middle age, that's why it's rural economic policies kept changing. The main focus of those policies was to earn more money by exploiting the poor farmers.
· In the British period the scenario had not changed much. The British Government introduced the "Zamindari" system where the the authority of land had been captured by some big and rich landowners called Zamindar. Moreover they created an intermediate class to collect tax easily.
· This class had no direct relationship with agriculture or land. Those Zamindars could acquire land from the British Government almost free of cost. So the economic security of the poor peasants lost completely. After independence, the Government's main focus was to remove those intermediate classes and secure a proper land management system. Since India is a large country, the redistribution process was a big challenge for the Government.
According to agrarian reform land was declared as a property of State Government.So agrarian reform varied from state to state. But the main objectives of agrarian reform in India were:
· Setting proper land management,
· Abolition of Intermediaries
· Preventing fragmentation of lands
· Tenancy reform.
The land policies of different states faced several controversies . In some state the reform measures were biased in favour of the big land owners who could wield their political influence. However, agrarian reform in India had set a healthy socio-economic structure in the rural areas. Agrarian reforms are measures designed to overcome obstacles hindering economic and social development that are the result of shortcomings in the agrarian structure. Changes in land tenure - i.e.. ownership and tenancy and labour organization - as well as changes in land use (reform of land management) belong to these measures. Agrarian reforms make use of legal force and intervene in the property and land use rights of the people, although with certain compensations. Formerly, the term 'land reform' was common. This term, however, only points out changes in the property rights without referring to changes in cultivation. Owing to the increasing importance within the scope of the struggle for economic development, it is used today less frequently.
Agrarian revolutions are spontaneous, radical changes in the traditional agrarian structure with uncompensated redistribution of all rights and usually a drastic regrouping of the society. The terms 'agrarian reform' and 'agrarian revolution' are frequently not clearly differentiated. They do not differ so much in their goals as in the speed they are forced through and how radical they are. For development planning, agrarian reforms have the most significance since they can be used as an instrument and shaped according to policy goals.
Kerala has followed a course of development which is very different from other states. Agricultural growth in the state showed reasonable acceleration only from the early 1980s to1990sdue to the various agrarian reforms there and the case of His Holiness Keshvanand Bharti has played major role in these reforms. Nevertheless poverty has registered impressive decline, and the state has an outstanding record of social development. Land reforms appear to have contributed most of all to an improvement in the conditions of agricultural labourers, freeing them from personalised obligations, increasing their mobility, and providing the basis for improved social development. Thus, while tracing direct causality remains hazardous, land reforms appear to have made an important contribution to the observed rapid decline in poverty.
Agrarian reforms were on the top of the agenda in India at the time of its independence. The constitution of the Republic made land reforms a state subject. Although similar steps were taken in all parts of the country (abolition of intermediaries, tenancy reform, land ceiling, and land consolidation), the legislations and their implementation varied from region to region. Poverty in rural areas is strongly associated with landlessness and comparatively successful, although modest, land reforms, as in Kerala, are able to unleash the productive potential of the rural economy and reduce poverty. And in this landmark case of Keshvanand Bharti v. State of Kerala after going through various documents I have come to a conclusion that all the laws which were challenged in this case were in harmony with the article 31 C after deleting the last two lines of art 31 C ie.( 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) by the court, all the laws challenged were in perfect harmony with Art 31 C.
# Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kesavananda_Bharati_v._State_of_Kerala visited on January 17,2011.
# Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_structure visited on January 17,2011.
# AIR 1973 SC 1461.
# J.N.Pandey,Constitutional Law Of India,(Allahbad:Central Law Agency) 2008 p 731.
# AIR 1973 SC 1461
# AIR 1973 SC 1461
# Art 31(c)-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 any 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 conferred by Article 14 or Article 19 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: Provided that where such law is made by the Legislature of a # State, the provisions of this Article shall not apply thereto unless such law, having been reserved for the consideration of the President, has received his assent Right to Constitutional Remedies
# AIR 1974 SC 1461.
# J.N.Pandey,Constitutional Law Of India,(Allahbad:Central Law Agency) 2008 p 346.
# AIR 1981 SC 271.
# J.N.Pandey,Constitutional Law Of India,(Allahbad:Central Law Agency) 2008 p 347.
# Available at http://www.economywatch.com/agrarian/india/ visited on January 21 ,2010.
# Frithjof Kuhnen An Introduction into the Problems of Agrarian Structure and Agrarian Reform,( Verlag Breitenbach Publishers )1982 .
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