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SAMPLE: CONSTITUTIONAL CASE LAW
- Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record -Association v. Union of India [2015 SC]
- In Re Special Reference No. 1 of 1998 [1998 SC]
- Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala [1973 SC]
- Ashok Kumar Thakur v. Union of India [2008 SC]
- Indra Sawhney v. Union of India [1993 SC]
- D. K. Basu v. State of West Bengal [1996 SC]
- Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India [1978 SC]
- Scope of State in Article 12
- In Re: Sri Justice C.S. Karnan [2017 SC]
- Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India [2017 SC]
- S. R. Bommai v. Union of India [1994 SC]
Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record -Association v. Union of India
Date of Judgment: 16 October 2015 Bench Strength: 5 No. of pages: 1042
The “basic structure” of the Constitution, presently inter alia includes the supremacy of the Constitution, the republican and democratic form of Government, the “federal character” of distribution of powers, secularism, “separation of powers” between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, and “independence of the judiciary”. This Court, while carving out each of the above “basic features”, placed reliance on one or more Articles of the Constitution, sometimes in conjunction with the preamble.
The deduction of the concept of “independence of the judiciary” emerged from a collective reading of Articles 12, 36 and 50. It is sometimes not possible, to deduce the concerned “basic structure” from a plain reading of the provisions of the Constitution. And at times, such a deduction is made, from the all-important silences hidden within those Articles. Therefore, when a plea is advanced raising a challenge on the basis of the violation of the “basic structure” with reference to the “independence of the judiciary”, its rightful understanding is, and has to be, that Articles 12, 36 and 50 on the one hand, and Articles 124, 217 and 222 on the other, (read collectively and harmoniously) constitute the basis thereof.
Article 124A constitutes the edifice of the Constitution (99th Amendment) Act, 2014. The striking down of Article 124A would automatically lead to the undoing of the amendments made to Articles 124, 124B, 124C, 127, 128, 217, 222, 224, 224A and 231. This, for the simple reason, that the latter Articles are sustainable only if Article 124A is upheld. Article 124A (1) provides for the constitution and the composition of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). It is composed of the following:
- the Chief Justice of India, Chairperson, ex officio;
- two other senior Judges of Supreme Court, next to the Chief Justice of India – Members, ex officio;
- the Union Minister in charge of Law and Justice – Member, ex officio;
- two eminent persons, to be nominated – Members.
If the inclusion of anyone of the Members of the NJAC is held to be unconstitutional, Article 124A will be rendered nugatory, in its entirety.
Clauses (a) and (b) of Article 124A (1) do not provide an adequate representation to the judicial component in the NJAC. Clauses (a) and (b) of Article 124A(1) are insufficient to preserve the primacy of the judiciary in the matter of selection and appointment of Judges to the higher judiciary (as also transfer of Chief Justices and Judges from one High Court to another). The same are accordingly, violative of the principle of “independence of the judiciary”.
Clause (c) of Article 124A (1) is ultra vires the provisions of the Constitution because of the inclusion of the Union Minister in charge of Law and Justice as an ex officio Member of the NJAC. Clause (c) of Article 124A (1), in my view, impinges upon the principles of “independence of the judiciary”, as well as, “separation of powers”.
Clause (d) of Article 124A (1) which provides for the inclusion of two “eminent persons” as Members of the NJAC is ultra vires the provisions of the Constitution, for a variety of reasons. The same has also been held as violative of the “basic structure” of the Constitution.
In the above view of the matter, I am of the considered view, that all the clauses (a) to (d) of Article 124A (1) are liable to be set aside. The same are accordingly struck down. In view of the striking down of Article 124A (1), the entire Constitution (99th Amendment) Act, 2014 is liable to be set aside.
I have concluded, that with the setting aside of the impugned Constitution (99th Amendment) Act, 2014, the provisions of the Constitution sought to be amended thereby, would automatically revive, and the status quo ante would stand restored.
The National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014 inter alia emanates from Article 124C. It has no independent existence in the absence of the NJAC, constituted under Article 124A (1). Since Articles 124A and 124C have been set aside, as a natural corollary, the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014 is also liable to be set aside; the same is accordingly hereby struck down.
ORDER OF THE COURT
1. The prayer for reference to a larger Bench, and for reconsideration of the Second and Third Judges cases is rejected.
2. The Constitution (Ninety-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014 is declared unconstitutional and void.
3. The National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014, is declared unconstitutional and void.
4. The system of appointment of Judges to the Supreme Court, and Chief Justices and Judges to the High Courts; and transfer of Chief Justices and Judges of High Courts from one High Court, to another, as existing prior to the Constitution (Ninety-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014 (called the “collegium system”), is declared to be operative.
5. To consider introduction of appropriate measures, if any, for an improved working of the “collegium system”, list on 3.11.2015.
The manner in which Articles 124 and 217 were interpreted by this Court, emerges principally from three-Constitution Bench judgments of this Court, which are now under pointed consideration. The first judgment was rendered, by a seven-Judge Bench, by a majority of 4:3, in the First Judges case on 30.12.1981.
By a majority of 7:2, a nine-Judge Bench of this Court, in the Second Judges case, overruled the judgment in the First Judges case. The instant judgment was rendered on 6.10.1993. Consequent upon doubts having arisen with the Union of India, about the interpretation of the Second Judges case, the President of India, in exercise of his power under Article 143, referred nine questions to the Supreme Court, for its opinion. A nine-Judge Bench answered the reference unanimously, on 28.10.1998.
In Re Special Reference No. 1 of 1998 [1998 SC]
S.P. BHARUCHA, J.
Appointment of Supreme Court Judges
The opinion of the Chief Justice of India which has primacy in the matter of recommendations for appointment to the Supreme Court has to be formed in consultation with a collegium of Judges.
Having regard to the terms of Article 124(2), we think it is desirable that the collegium should consist of the Chief Justice of India and the four seniormost puisne Judges of the Supreme Court.
Necessarily, the opinion of all members of the collegium in respect of each recommendation should be in writing. The ascertainment of the views of the seniormost Supreme Court Judges who hail from the High Courts from where the persons to be recommended come must also be in writing. These must be conveyed by the Chief Justice of India to the Government of India along with the recommendation.
In making a decision as to whom that collegium should recommend, it takes into account the views that are elicited by the Chief Justice of India from the seniormost Judge of the Supreme Court who comes from the same High Court as the person proposed to be recommended. It also takes into account the views of other Judges of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice or Judges of the High Courts or, indeed, members of the Bar who may also have been asked by the Chief Justice of India or on his behalf.
It is, we think, reasonable to expect that the collegium would make its recommendations based on a consensus. Should that not happen, it must be remembered that no one can be appointed to the Supreme Court unless his appointment is in conformity with the opinion of the Chief Justice of India.
The question that remains is: what is the position when the Chief Justice of India is in a minority and the majority of the collegium disfavour the appointment of a particular person? If the majority of the collegium is against the appointment of a particular person, that person shall not be appointed. We have little doubt that if even two of the Judges forming the collegium express strong views for good reasons that are adverse to the appointment of a particular person, the Chief Justice of India would not press for such appointment.
Where there is outstanding merit, the possessor thereof deserves to be appointed regardless of the fact that he may not stand high in the all-India seniority list or in his own High Court. When the contenders for appointment to the Supreme Court do not possess such outstanding merit but have, nevertheless, the required merit in more or less equal degree, there may be reason to recommend one among them because, for example, the particular region of the country in which his parent High Court is situated is not represented on the Supreme Court Bench.
Appointment of High Court Judges
The Chief Justice of India should form his opinion in consultation with his seniormost puisne Judges. They would in making their decision take into account the opinion of the Chief Justice of the High Court which “would be entitled to the greatest weight”, the views of other Judges of the High Court who may have been consulted and the views of colleagues on the Supreme Court Bench “who are conversant with the affairs of the High Court concerned”. All these views should be expressed in writing and conveyed to the Government of India along with the recommendation.
Having regard to the fact that information about a proposed appointee to a High Court would best come from the Chief Justice and Judges of that High Court and from Supreme Court Judges conversant with it, we are not persuaded to alter the strength of the decision-making collegium’s size; where appointments to the High Courts are concerned, it should remain as it is, constituted of the Chief Justice of India and the two seniormost puisne Judges of the Supreme Court.
Judicial review in case of an appointment to the Supreme Court or a High Court is available if the recommendation is not a decision of the Chief Justice of India and his seniormost colleagues, which is constitutionally requisite. Judicial review is also available if, in making the decision, views of the seniormost Supreme Court Judge who comes from the High Court of the proposed appointee to the Supreme Court have not been taken into account. Similarly, if in connection with an appointment to a High Court, views of the Chief Justice and senior Judges of the High Court, and of Supreme Court Judges knowledgeable about that High Court have not been sought or considered by the Chief Justice of India and his two seniormost puisne Judges, judicial review is available. Judicial review is also available when the appointee is found to lack eligibility.
Transfer of High Court Judges
Before recommending the transfer of a puisne Judge of one High Court to another High Court, also as a puisne Judge, the Chief Justice of India should obtain views of the Chief Justice of the High Court from which the proposed transfer is to be effected as also the Chief Justice of the High Court to which the transfer is to be effected.
These views should be expressed in writing and should be considered by the Chief Justice of India and the four seniormost puisne Judges of the Supreme Court. These views and those of each of the four seniormost puisne Judges should be conveyed to the Government of India along with the proposal of transfer. Unless the decision to transfer has been taken in the manner aforestated, it is not decisive and does not bind the Government of India.
Answers to the Reference
- The expression “consultation with the Chief Justice of India” in Articles 217(1) and 222(1) requires consultation with a plurality of Judges in the formation of the opinion of the Chief Justice of India. The sole individual opinion of the Chief Justice of India does not constitute “consultation” within the meaning of the said articles.
- The Chief Justice of India must make a recommendation to appoint a Judge of the Supreme Court and to transfer a Chief Justice or puisne Judge of a High Court in consultation with the four seniormost puisne Judges of the Supreme Court. Insofar as an appointment to the High Court is concerned, the recommendation must be made in consultation with the two seniormost puisne Judges of the Supreme Court.
- Recommendations made by the Chief Justice of India without complying with the norms and requirements of the consultation process are not binding upon the Government of India.
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Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala [1973 SC]
The single most important judgment in India’s Constitutional Law history is undoubtedly the 13-Judge Bench Majority Judgment in Kesavananda Bharati case delivered on 24th April 1973. No study of Constitutional Law can be complete without understanding this judgment. But it is easier said than done. Reason is simple. It is an exceptionally lengthy judgment, running in 502 printed pages.
DLA has taken pains to abridge this lengthy judgment in just about 5 pages so as to spare its students from spending their time and energy in going through its 502 pages.
We present below not only the gist of the operating part of the judgment, but also the original views of most of the judges comprising the Bench.
The Supreme Court laid down the Theory of Basic Structure in this case. It was held that some of the provisions of the Constitution of India form its basic structure, which are not amendable by Parliament by exercise of its constituent power under Article 368.
Gist of the Operating Part
In this case, the validity of 24th, 25th and 29th amendments to the Constitution of India was challenged. The main question related to the nature, extent and scope of amending power of the Parliament under the Constitution. The views of the majority were as follows:
(1) L.C. Golak Nath v. State of Punjab, AIR 1967 SC 1643 (which had held that fundamental rights were beyond the amending powers of Parliament) was overruled;
(2) The Constitution (Twenty-fourth Amendment) Act, 1971 (giving power to Parliament to amend any part of the Constitution) was valid;
(3) Article 368, as amended, was valid but it did not confer power on the Parliament to alter the basic structure or framework of the Constitution.
The court, however, did not spell out in any exhaustive manner as to what the basic structure/framework was except that some judges gave a few examples.
(4) The amendment of Article 31C containing the words “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” was held invalid.
Original views of individual judges
S.M. Sikri C.J.
This Preamble, and indeed the Constitution, was drafted in the light and direction of the Objectives Resolution adopted on January 22, 1947.
The fundamental rights were considered of such importance that right was given to an aggrieved person to move the highest court of the land, i.e. the Supreme Court, by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this part, and this was guaranteed. Article 32 (2) confers very wide powers on the Supreme Court, to issue directions or orders or writs including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by this Part. Article 32(4) further provides that “the right guaranteed by this article shall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for by this Constitution”.
The learned Attorney-General said that every provision of the Constitution is essential; otherwise it would not have been put in the Constitution. This is true. But this does not place every provision of the Constitution in the same position. The true position is that every provision of the Constitution can be amended provided in the result the basic foundation and structure of the constitution remains the same.
The basic structure may be said to consist of the following features:
(1) Supremacy of the Constitution;
(2) Republican and Democratic forms of Government;
(3) Secular character of the Constitution;
(4) Separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary;
(5) Federal character of the Constitution.
The above structure is built on the basic foundation, i. e. the dignity and freedom of the individual. This is of supreme importance. This cannot by any form of amendment be destroyed.
J.M. Shelat & A.N. Grover, JJ.
The Constitution is an organic document which must grow and it must take stock of the vast socio-economic problems, particularly, of improving the lot of the common man consistent with his dignity and the unity of the nation.
The Constitution being supreme all the organs and bodies owe their existence to it. None can claim superiority over the other and each of them has to function within the four-corners of the constitutional provisions. The Preamble embodies the great purposes, objectives and the policy underlying its provisions apart from the basic character of the State which was to come into existence, i.e. a Sovereign Democratic Republic. Parts III and IV which embody the fundamental rights and directive principles of State policy have been described as the conscience of the Constitution.
The legislative power distributed between the Union Parliament and the State Legislatures cannot be so exercised as to take away or abridge the fundamental rights contained in Part III. Powers of the Union and the States are further curtailed by conferring the right to enforce fundamental rights contained in Part III by moving the Supreme Court for a suitable relief, Article 32 itself has been constituted a fundamental right. Part IV containing the directive principles of State policy was inspired largely by similar provisions in the Constitution of the Eire Republic (1937). This part, according to B. N. Rao, is like an Instrument of Instructions from the ultimate sovereign, namely, the people of India.
The Constitution has all the essential elements of a federal structure as was the case in the Government of India Act, 1935, the essence of federalism being the distribution of powers between the federation or the Union and the States or the provinces.
All the Legislatures have plenary powers but these are controlled by the basic concepts of the Constitution itself and they function within the limits laid down in it. The Constitution has entrusted to the judicature in this country the task of construing the provisions of the Constitution and of safeguarding the fundamental rights. It is a written and controlled Constitution. It can be amended only to the extent of and in accordance with the provisions contained therein, the principal provision being Article 368.
It is the executive that has the main responsibility for formulating the governmental policy by “transmitting it into law” whenever necessary. “The executive function comprises both the determination of the policy as well as carrying it into execution. This evidently includes the initiation of legislation, the maintenance of order, the promotion of social and economic welfare, the direction of foreign policy, in fact the carrying on or supervision of the general administration of the State”.
K.S. Hegde & Mukherjea, JJ.
We find it difficult to accept the contention that our Constitution-makers after making immense sacrifices for achieving certain ideals made provision in the Constitution itself for the destruction of those ideals. There is no doubt as men of experience and sound political knowledge, they must have known that social, economic and political changes are bound to come with the passage of time and the Constitution must be capable of being so adjusted as to be able to respond to those new demands. Our Constitution is not a mere political document. It is essentially a social document. It is based on a social philosophy and every social philosophy like every religion has two main features, namely basic and circumstantial. The former remains constant but the latter is subject to change. The core of a religion always remains constant but the practices associated with it may change.
Likewise, a Constitution like ours contains certain features which are so essential that they cannot be changed or destroyed. In any event it cannot be destroyed from within. In other words, one cannot legally use the Constitution to destroy itself. Under Article 368 the amended Constitution must remain ‘the Constitution’ which means the original Constitution. When we speak of the ‘abrogation’ or ‘repeal’ of the Constitution, we do not refer to any form but to substance. If one or more of the basic features of the Constitution are taken away to that extent the Constitution is abrogated or repealed. If all the basic features of the Constitution are repealed and some other provisions inconsistent with those features are incorporated, it cannot still remain the Constitution referred to in Article 368. The personality of the Constitution must remain unchanged.
A ‘flexible’ constitution is one under which every law of every description (including one relating to the constitution) can legally be changed with the same ease and in the same manner by one and the same body. A ‘rigid’ constitution is one under which certain laws generally known as constitutional or fundamental laws cannot be changed in the same manner as ordinary laws.
H.R. Khanna, J.
Besides laying down the norms for the functioning of different organs a Constitution encompasses within itself the broad indications as to how the nation is to march forward in times to come. A Constitution cannot be regarded as a mere legal document. A Constitution must of necessity be the vehicle of the life of a nation. It has also to be borne in mind that a Constitution is not a gate but a road. Beneath the drafting of a Constitution is the awareness that things do not stand still but move on, that life of a progressive nation, as of an individual, is not static and stagnant but dynamic and dashful. A Constitution must therefore contain ample provision for experiment and trial in the task of administration. A Constitution, it needs to be emphasised, is not a document for fastidious dialectics but the means of ordering the life of a people. It had (sic) its roots in the past, its continuity is reflected in the present and it is intended for the unknown future.
K.K. Mathew, J.
Every well-drawn Constitution will provide for its own amendment in such a way as to forestall as is humanly possible all revolutionary upheavals. No existing Constitution has reached its final form and shape and become, as it were, a fixed thing incapable of further growth. Human societies keep changing; needs emerge, first vaguely felt and unexpressed, steadily becoming more and more exigent, generating a force which, if left unheeded and denied response, may burst forth. As Wilson said, a living Constitution must be Darwinian in structure and practice. The Constitution of a nation is the outward and visible manifestation of the life of the people and it must respond to the deep pulsation for change within. “A Constitution is an experiment as all life is an experiment”. If the experiment fails, there must be provision for making another.
Jefferson said that there is nothing sanctimonious about a Constitution and that nobody should regard it as the Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. Nor need we ascribe to men of preceding age, a wisdom more than human and suppose that what they did should be beyond amendment. A Constitution is not an end in itself, rather a means for ordering the life of a nation. The generation of yesterday might not know the needs of today, and, ‘if yesterday is not to paralyse today’, it seems best to permit each generation to take care of itself.
The sentiment expressed by Jefferson was echoed by Dr Ambedkar. How could he have said that what Jefferson said is “not merely true but absolutely true”, unless he subscribed to the view of Jefferson that “each generation is a distinct nation with a right, by the will of the majority to bind themselves but none ‘to bind the succeeding generations more than the inhabitants of another country”, and its corollary which follows as ‘the night the day’ that each generation should have the power to determine the structure of the Constitution under which they live.
And how could this be done unless the power of amendment is plenary, for it would be absurd to think that Dr Ambedkar contemplated a revolution in every generation for changing the Constitution to suit its needs and aspirations. I should have thought that if there is any implied limitation upon any power, that limitation is that the amending body should not limit the power of amendment of the future generation by exercising its power to amend the amending power.
Mr Palkhivala said that if the power of amendment of the amending power is plenary, one generation can, by exercising that power, take away the power of amendment of the Constitution from the future generations and foreclose them from ever exercising it. I think the argument is too speculative to be countenanced. It is just like the argument that if men and women are given the freedom to choose their vocations in life, they would all jump into a monastery or a nunnery, as the case may be, and prevent the birth of a new generation; or the argument of some political thinkers that if freedom of speech is allowed to those who do not believe in it, they would themselves deny it to others when they get power and, therefore, they should be denied that freedom today, in order that they might not deny it to others tomorrow.
Ashok Kumar Thakur v. Union of India [2008 SC]
[Constitutional Validity of Reservations for OBCs for Admissions in Educational Institutions] [It is a long long judgment. Delhi Law Academy is presenting here, for its students, a concise and useful Summary of the judgment:]
Whether the Ninety-Third Amendment of the Constitution is against the “basic structure” of the Constitution?
The Constitution (Ninety-Third Amendment) Act, 2005 does not violate the “basic structure” of the Constitution so far as it relates to the state maintained institutions and aided educational institutions. Question whether the Constitution (Ninety-Third Amendment) Act, 2005 would be constitutionally valid or not so far as “private unaided” educational institutions are concerned, is left open to be decided in an appropriate case.
Whether Articles 15(4) and 15(5) are mutually contradictory, hence Article 15(5) is to be held ultra vires?
Article 15(5) is constitutionally valid and Articles 15(4) and 15(5) are not mutually contradictory.
Whether exclusion of minority educational institutions from Article 15(5) is violative of Article 14 of Constitution?
Exclusion of minority educational institutions from Article 15(5) is not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution as the minority educational institutions, by themselves, are a separate class and their rights are protected by other constitutional provisions.
Whether the Constitutional Amendment followed the procedure prescribed under Article 368 of the Constitution?
The Ninety-Third Amendment of the Constitution does not affect the executive power of the State under Article 162 of the Constitution and hence, procedure prescribed under Proviso to Article 368(2) is not required to be followed.
Whether the Act 5 of 2007 is constitutionally invalid in view of definition of “Backward Class” and whether the identification of such “Backward Class” based on “caste” is constitutionally valid?
Identification of “backward class” is not done solely based on caste. Other parameters are followed in identifying the backward class. Act 5 of 2007 is not invalid for this reason.
Whether “Creamy Layer” is to be excluded from SEBCs?
“Creamy Layer” is to be excluded from SEBCs. The identification of SEBCs will not be complete and without the exclusion of “creamy layer” such identification may not be valid under Article 15(1) of the Constitution.
What should be the parameters for determining the “creamy layer” group?
The parameters contained in the Office Memorandum issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions (Department of Personnel and Training) on 08.09.1993 may be applied. And the definition of “Other Backward Classes” under Section 2(g) of the Act 5 of 2007 should be deemed to mean class or classes of citizens who are socially and educationally backward, and so determined by the Central Government; and if the determination is with reference to caste, then the backward class shall be after excluding the creamy layer.
Whether the “creamy layer” principle is applicable to Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes?
“Creamy Layer” principle is not applicable to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Whether the principles laid down by the United States Supreme Court for affirmative action such as “suspect legislation”, “strict scrutiny” and “compelling State necessity” are applicable to principles of reservation or other affirmative action contemplated under Article 15(5) of the Constitution?
The principles laid down by the United States Supreme Court such as “suspect legislation”, “strict scrutiny” and “compelling State necessity” are not applicable for challenging the validity of Act 5 of 2007 or reservations or other affirmative action contemplated under Article 15(5) of the Constitution.
Whether delegation of power to the Union Government to determine as to who shall be the backward class is constitutionally valid?
The delegation of power to the Union Government to determine as to who shall be the “other backward classes” is not excessive delegation. Such delegation is constitutionally valid.
Whether the Act is invalid as there is no time limit prescribed for its operation and no periodical review is contemplated?
The Act 5 of 2007 is not invalid for the reason that there is no time limit prescribed for its operation, but a review can be made after a period of 10 years.
What shall be the educational standard to be prescribed to find out whether any class is educationally backward?
The contention that educational standard of matriculation or (10+2) should be the benchmark to find out whether any class is educationally backward is rejected.
Whether the quantum of reservation provided for in the Act is valid and whether 27% of seats for SEBC was required to be reserved?
27% of seats for other backward classes is not illegal and the Parliament must be deemed to have taken into consideration all relevant circumstances when fixing the 27% reservation.
“Other Backward Classes” defined in Section 2(g) of Act 5 of 2007 is to be read as “Socially and Educationally Backward Classes” other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, determined as ‘Other Backward Classes’ by Central Government and if such determination is with reference to caste, it shall exclude “Creamy Layer” from among such caste.
* * * * *
Indra Sawhney v. Union of India [1993 SC]
Constitutional Validity of Reservations for OBCs in Public Employment
[It is a long long judgment. Delhi Law Academy is presenting here for its students a concise and useful Summary of the judgment:]
Issue 1 (a)
Whether the ‘provision’ in Article 16(4) must necessarily be made by the Parliament/Legislature?
It is not necessary that the ‘provision’ under Article 16(4) should necessarily be made by the Parliament/Legislature. Such a provision can be made by the Executive also. Local bodies, Statutory Corporations and other instrumentalities of the State falling under Article 12 of the Constitution are themselves competent to make such a provision, if so advised.
Whether an executive order making a ‘provision’ under Article 16(4) is enforceable forthwith?
An executive order making a provision under Article 16(4) is enforceable the moment it is made and issued.
Whether clause (4) of Article 16 is an exception to clause (1)?
Clause (4) of Article 16 is not an exception to clause (1). It is an instance and an illustration of the classification inherent in clause (1).
Whether Article 16(4) is exhaustive of the concept of reservations in favour of backward classes?
Article 16(4) is exhaustive of the subject of reservation in favour of backward class of citizens, as explained in this judgment.
Whether Article 16(4) is exhaustive of the very concept of reservations? Whether clause (1) of Article 16 does not permit any reservations?
Reservations can also be provided under clause (1) of Article 16. It is not confined to extending of preferences, concessions or exemptions alone. These reservations, if any, made under clause (1) have to be so adjusted and implemented as not to exceed the level of representation prescribed for ‘backward class of citizens’ – as explained in this Judgment.
Meaning of the expression “backward class of citizens” in Article 16(4).
A caste can be and quite often is a social class in India. If it is backward socially, it would be a backward class for the purposes of Article 16(4). Among non- Hindus, there are several occupational groups, sects and denominations, which for historical reasons, are socially backward. They too represent backward social collectivities for the purposes of Article 16(4).
Identification of “backward class of citizens”
Neither the Constitution nor the law prescribes the procedure or method of identification of backward classes. Nor is it possible or advisable for the court to lay down any such procedure or method. It must be left to the authority appointed to identify.
It can adopt such method/procedure as it thinks convenient and so long as its survey covers the entire populace, no objection can be taken to it. Identification of the backward classes can certainly be done with reference to castes among, and along with, other occupational groups, classes and sections of people. One can start the process either with occupational groups or with castes or with some other groups.
Thus one can start the process with the castes, wherever they are found, apply the criteria (evolved for determining backwardness) and find out whether it satisfies the criteria. If it does –what emerges is a “backward class of citizens” within the meaning of and for the purposes of Article 16(4). Similar process can be adopted in the case of other occupational groups, communities and classes, so as to cover the entire populace. The central idea and overall objective should be to consider all available groups, sections and classes in society. Since caste represents an existing, identifiable social group/class encompassing an overwhelming minority of the population, one can well begin with it and then go to other groups, sections and classes.
Whether the backwardness in Article 16(4) should be both social and educational?
It is not correct to say that the backward class of citizens contemplated in Article 16(4) is the same as the socially and educationally backward classes referred to in Article 15(4). It is much wider. The accent in Article 16(4) is on social backwardness. Of course, social, educational and economic backwardness are closely intertwined in the Indian context.
‘Means-test’ and ‘creamy layer’
‘Creamy layer’ can be, and must be excluded.
Whether a class should be situated similarly to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes for being qualified as a Backward Class?
It is not necessary for a class to be designated as a backward class that it is situated similarly to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes.
Adequacy of Representation in the Services under the State
The adequacy of representation of a particular class in the services under the State is a matter within the subjective satisfaction of the appropriate Government. The judicial scrutiny in that behalf is the same as in other matters within the subjective satisfaction of an authority.
Whether backward classes can be identified only and exclusively with reference to the economic criterion?
A backward class of citizens cannot be identified only and exclusively with reference to economic criteria.
Whether a backward class can be identified on the basis of occupation-cum-income without reference to caste?
It is, of course, permissible for the Government or other authority to identify a backward class of citizens on the basis of occupation-cum-income, without reference to caste, if it is so advised.
Whether Backward Classes can be further divided into backward and more backward categories?
There is no constitutional bar to classify the backward classes of citizens into backward and more backward categories.
To what extent can the reservation be made?
(a) Whether the 50% rule enunciated in Balaji a binding rule or only a rule of caution or rule of prudence?
(b) Whether the 50% rule, if any, is confined to reservations made under clause (4) of Article 16 or whether it takes in all types of reservations that can be provided under Article 16?
(a) and (b) The reservations contemplated in clause (4) of Article 16 should not exceed 50%. While 50% shall be the rule, it is necessary not to put out of consideration certain extraordinary situations inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people. It might happen that in far-flung and remote areas the population inhabiting those areas might, on account of their being out of the mainstream of national life and in view of the conditions peculiar to and characteristic of them need to be treated in a different way, some relaxation in this strict rule may become imperative. In doing so, extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case made out.
While applying 50% rule, if any, whether a year should be taken as a unit or whether the total strength of the cadre should be looked to?
The rule of 50% should be applied to each year. It cannot be related to the total strength of the class, category, service or cadre, as the case may be.
Whether clause (4) of Article 16 provides reservation only in the matter of initial appointments/direct recruitment or does it contemplate and provide for reservations being made in the matter of promotion as well?
Article 16(4) does not permit provision for reservations in the matter of promotion. This rule shall, however, have only prospective operation and shall not affect the promotions already made, whether made on regular basis or on any other basis. We direct that our decision on this question shall operate only prospectively and shall not affect promotions already made, whether on temporary, officiating or regular/permanent basis. It is further directed that wherever reservations are already provided in the matter of promotion – be it Central Services or State Services, or for that matter services under any Corporation, authority or body falling under the definition of ‘State’ in Article 12 – such reservations may continue in operation for a period of five years from this day. Within this period, it would be open to the appropriate authorities to revise, modify or re-issue the relevant rules to ensure the achievement of the objective of Article 16(4). If any authority thinks that for ensuring adequate representation of ‘backward class of citizens’ in any service, class or category, it is necessary to provide for direct recruitment therein, it shall be open to it to do so. It would not be impermissible for the State to extend concessions and relaxations to members of reserved categories in the matter of promotion without compromising the efficiency of the administration.
Whether Reservations are anti-meritarian?
While the rule of reservation cannot be called anti-meritarian, there are certain services and posts to which it may not be advisable to apply the rule of reservation.
Will the extent of judicial review be limited or restricted in regard to the identification of Backward Classes and the percentage of reservations made for such classes, to a demonstrably perverse identification or a demonstrably unreasonable percentage?
There is no particular or special standard of judicial scrutiny applicable to matters arising under Article 16(4).
Whether the distinction made in the second Memorandum between ‘poorer sections’ of the backward classes and others permissible under Article 16?
The distinction made in the impugned Office Memorandum dated September 25, 1991 between ‘poorer sections’ and others among the backward classes is not invalid, if the classification is understood and operated as based upon relative backwardness among the several classes identified as Other Backward Classes, as explained in paras 843-844 of this Judgment.
Whether the reservation of 10% of the posts in favour of ‘other economically backward sections of the people who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of the reservations’ made by the Office Memorandum dated September 25, 1991 permissible under Article 16?
The reservation of 10% of the posts in favour of ‘other economically backward sections of the people who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of the reservation’ made in the impugned Office Memorandum dated September 25, 1991 is constitutionally invalid and is accordingly struck down.
Desirability of a Permanent Statutory Body to Examine Complaints of Over-inclusion/ Under-inclusion
The Government of India and the State Governments have the power to, and ought to, create a permanent mechanism – in the nature of a Commission – for examining requests of inclusion and complaints of over-inclusion or non-inclusion in the list of OBCs and to advise the Government, which advice shall ordinarily be binding upon the Government. Where, however, the Government does not accept the advice, it must record its reasons therefor.
(1) Article 16(4) is not an exception to Article 16(1). It is an instance of classification inherent in Article 16(1). Article 16(4) is exhaustive of the subject of reservation in favour of backward classes, though it may not be exhaustive of the very concept of reservation. Reservations for other classes can be provided under clause (1) of Article 16.
(2) The expression ‘backward class’ in Article 16(4) takes in ‘Other Backward Classes’, SCs, STs and may be some other backward classes as well. The accent in Article 16(4) is upon social backwardness. Social backwardness leads to educational backwardness and economic backwardness. They are mutually contributory to each other and are intertwined with low occupations in the Indian society. A caste can be and quite often is a social class in India. Economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for determining the backward class of citizens contemplated by Article 16(4). The weaker sections referred to in Article 46 do include SEBCs referred to in Article 340 and covered by Article 16(4).
(3) Even under Article 16(1), reservations cannot be made on the basis of economic criteria alone.
(4) The reservations contemplated in clause (4) of Article 16 should not exceed 50%. While 50% shall be the rule, it is necessary not to put out of consideration certain extraordinary situations inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people. It might happen that in far-flung and remote areas the population inhabiting those areas might, on account of their being out of the mainstream of national life and in view of the conditions peculiar to and characteristic of them need to be treated in a different way, some relaxation in this strict rule may become imperative. In doing so, extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case made out.
For applying this rule, the reservations should not exceed 50% of the appointments in a grade, cadre or service in any given year. Reservation can be made in a service or category only when the State is satisfied that representation of backward class of citizens therein is not adequate.
(5) There is no constitutional bar to classification of backward classes into more backward and backward classes for the purposes of Article 16(4). The distinction should be on the basis of degrees of social backwardness. In case of such classification, however, it would be advisable – nay, necessary – to ensure equitable distribution amongst the various backward classes to avoid lumping so that one or two such classes do not eat away the entire quota leaving the other backward classes high and dry.
For excluding ‘creamy layer’, an economic criterion can be adopted as measure of social advancement.
(6) A ‘provision’ under Article 16(4) can be made by an executive order. It is not necessary that it should be made by Parliament/Legislature.
(7) No special standard of judicial scrutiny can be predicated in matters arising under Article 16(4). It is not possible or necessary to say more than this under this question.
(8) Reservation of appointments or posts under Article 16(4) is confined to initial appointment only and cannot extend to providing reservation in the matter of promotion.
We direct that our decision on this question shall operate only prospectively and shall not affect promotions already made, whether on temporary, officiating or regular/permanent basis. It is further directed that wherever reservations are already provided in the matter of promotion – be it Central Services or State Services, or for that matter services under any Corporation, authority or body falling under the definition of ‘State’ in Article 12 –such reservations may continue in operation for a period of five years from this day. Within this period, it would be open to the appropriate authorities to revise, modify or re-issue the relevant rules to ensure the achievement of the objective of Article 16(4). If any authority thinks that for ensuring adequate representation of ‘backward class of citizens’ in any service, class or category, it is necessary to provide for direct recruitment therein, it shall be open to it to do so.
Directions to Government of India and State Governments:
(A) The Government of India, each of the State Governments and the Administrations of Union Territories shall, within four months from today, constitute a permanent body for entertaining, examining and recommending upon requests for inclusion and complaints of over-inclusion and under-inclusion in the lists of other backward classes of citizens. The advice tendered by such body shall ordinarily be binding upon the Government.
(B) Within four months from today the Government of India shall specify the bases, applying the relevant and requisite socio-economic criteria to exclude socially advanced persons/sections (‘creamy layer’) from ‘Other Backward Classes’. The implementation of the impugned O.M. dated August 13, 1990 shall be subject to exclusion of such socially advanced persons (‘creamy layer’).
This direction shall not however apply to States where the reservations in favour of backward classes are already in operation. They can continue to operate them. Such States shall however evolve the said criteria within six months from today and apply the same to exclude the socially advanced persons/sections from the designated ‘Other Backward Classes’.
(C) It is clarified and directed that any and all objections to the criteria that may be evolved by the Government of India and the State Governments in pursuance of the direction contained in clause (B) of para 861 as well as to the classification among backward classes and equitable distribution of the benefits of reservations among them that may be made in terms of and as contemplated by clause (i) of the Office Memorandum dated September 25, 1991, as explained herein, shall be preferred only before this Court and not before or in any other High Court or other Court or Tribunal. Similarly, any petition or proceeding questioning the validity, operation or implementation of the two impugned Office Memorandums, on any grounds whatsoever, shall be filed or instituted only before this Court and not before any High Court or other Court or Tribunal.
Case Law on Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution
K. Basu v. State of W. B. [1996 SC]
The Executive Chairman, Legal Aid Services, West Bengal, a non-political organisation registered under the Societies Registration Act, on 26-8-1986 addressed a letter to the Chief Justice of India drawing his attention to certain news items published in The Telegraph regarding deaths in police lock-ups and custody.
The Executive Chairman submitted that it was imperative to examine the issue in depth and to develop “custody jurisprudence” and formulate modalities for awarding compensation to the victim and/or family members of the victim for atrocities and death caused in police custody and to provide for accountability of the officers concerned.
It was requested that the letter along with the news items be treated as a writ petition under “public interest litigation” category.
Considering the importance of the issue raised in the letter, it was treated as a writ petition and notice was issued on 9-2-1987.
We consider it appropriate to issue the following requirements to be followed in all cases of arrest or detention till legal provisions are made in that behalf as preventive measures:
(1) The police personnel carrying out the arrest and handling the interrogation of the arrestee should bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations. The particulars of all such police personnel who handle interrogation of the arrestee must be recorded in a register.
(2) That the police officer carrying out the arrest of the arrestee shall prepare a memo of arrest at the time of arrest and such memo shall be attested by at least one witness, who may either be a member of the family of the arrestee or a respectable person of the locality from where the arrest is made. It shall also be countersigned by the arrestee and shall contain the time and date of arrest.
(3) A person who has been arrested or detained and is being held in custody in a police station or interrogation centre or other lock-up, shall be entitled to have one friend or relative or other person known to him or having interest in his welfare being informed, as soon as practicable, that he has been arrested and is being detained at the particular place, unless the attesting witness of the memo of arrest is himself such a friend or a relative of the arrestee.
(4) The time, place of arrest and venue of custody of an arrestee must be notified by the police where the next friend or relative of the arrestee lives outside the district or town through the Legal Aid Organisation in the District and the police station of the area concerned telegraphically within a period of 8 to 12 hours after the arrest.
(5) The person arrested must be made aware of this right to have someone informed of his arrest or detention as soon as he is put under arrest or is detained.
(6) An entry must be made in the diary at the place of detention regarding the arrest of the person which shall also disclose the name of the next friend of the person who has been informed of the arrest and the names and particulars of the police officials in whose custody the arrestee is.
(7) The arrestee should, where he so requests, be also examined at the time of his arrest and major and minor injuries, if any present on his/her body, must be recorded at that time. The “Inspection Memo” must be signed both by the arrestee and the police officer effecting the arrest and its copy provided to the arrestee.
(8) The arrestee should be subjected to medical examination by a trained doctor every 48 hours during his detention in custody by a doctor on the panel of approved doctors appointed by Director, Health Services of the State or Union Territory concerned. Director, Health Services should prepare such a panel for all tehsils and districts as well.
(9) Copies of all the documents including the memo of arrest, referred to above, should be sent to the Illaqa Magistrate for his record.
(10) The arrestee may be permitted to meet his lawyer during interrogation, though not throughout the interrogation.
(11) A police control room should be provided at all district and State headquarters, where information regarding the arrest and the place of custody of the arrestee shall be communicated by the officer causing the arrest, within 12 hours of effecting the arrest and at the police control room it should be displayed on a conspicuous notice board.
Failure to comply with the requirements hereinabove mentioned shall apart from rendering the official concerned liable for departmental action, also render him liable to be punished for contempt of court and the proceedings for contempt of court may be instituted in any High Court of the country, having territorial jurisdiction over the matter.
The requirements, referred to above flow from Articles 21 and 22(1) of the Constitution and need to be strictly followed. These would apply with equal force to the other governmental agencies also to which a reference has been made earlier.
Case Law on Article 21 of the Constitution
Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India [1978 SC]
[It is a long judgment. Delhi Law Academy is presenting here for its students a concise and useful Summary of the judgment:]
The petitioner is the holder of the passport issued to her on June 1, 1976 under the Passports Act, 1967. On July 4, 1977 the petitioner received a letter dated July 2, 1977 from the Regional Passport Officer, Delhi intimating to her that it has been decided by the Government of India to impound her passport under Section 10(3)(c) of the Act in public interest and requiring her to surrender the passport within seven days from the date of receipt of the letter.
The petitioner immediately addressed a letter to the Regional Passport Officer requesting him to furnish a copy of the statement of reasons for making the order as provided in Section 10(5) to which a reply was sent by the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs on July 6, 1977 stating inter alia that the Government has decided “in the interest of the general public” not to furnish her a copy of the statement of reasons for the making of the order. The petitioner thereupon filed the present petition challenging the action of the Government in impounding her passport and declining to give reasons for doing so.
Meaning and content of personal liberty in Article 21
The expression ‘personal liberty’ in Article 21 is of the widest amplitude and it covers a variety of rights which go to constitute the personal liberty of man and some of them have been raised to the status of distinct fundamental rights and given additional protection under Article 19. Now, it has been held by this Court in Satwant Singh case that ‘personal liberty’ within the meaning of Article 21 includes within its ambit the right to go abroad and consequently no person can be deprived of this right except according to procedure prescribed by law.
Prior to the enactment of the Passports Act, 1967, there was no law regulating the right of a person to go abroad and that was the reason why the order of the Passport Officer refusing to issue passport to the petitioner in Satwant Singh case was struck down as invalid.
It will be seen at once from the language of Article 21 that the protection it secures is a limited one. It safeguards the right to go abroad against executive interference which is not supported by law; and law here means ‘enacted law’ or ‘state law’. Thus, no person can be deprived of his right to go abroad unless there is a law made by the State prescribing the procedure for so depriving him and the deprivation is effected strictly in accordance with such procedure. It was for this reason, in order to comply with the requirement of Article 21, that Parliament enacted the Passports Act, 1967 for regulating the right to go abroad. It is clear from the provisions of the Passports Act, 1967 that it lays down the circumstances under which a passport may be issued or refused or cancelled or impounded and also prescribes a procedure for doing so, but the question is whether that is sufficient compliance with Article 21. Is the prescription of some sort of procedure enough or must the procedure comply with any particular requirements? Obviously, the procedure cannot be arbitrary, unfair or unreasonable.
The inter-relationship between Articles 14, 19 and 21
We may at this stage consider the inter-relation between Article 21 on the one hand and Articles 14 and 19 on the other. We have already pointed out that the view taken by the majority in A.K. Gopalan case was that so long as a law of preventive detention satisfies the requirements of Article 22, it would be within the terms of Article 21 and it would not be required to meet the challenge of Article 19. This view proceeded on the assumption that “certain articles in the constitution exclusively deal with specific matters” and where the requirements of an article dealing with the particular matter in question are satisfied and there is no infringement of the fundamental right guaranteed by that article, no recourse can be had to a fundamental right conferred by another article.
This doctrine of exclusivity was seriously questioned in R.C. Cooper case and it was over-ruled by a majority of the full Court. The majority judges held that though a law of preventive detention may pass the test of Article 22, it has yet to satisfy the requirements of other fundamental rights such as Article 19.
The nature and requirement of the procedure under Article 21
Now, the question immediately arises as to what is the requirement of Article 14: what is the content and reach of the great equalising principle enunciated in this article? There can be no doubt that it is a founding faith of the Constitution. It is indeed the pillar on which rests securely the foundation of our democratic republic. And, therefore, it must not be subjected to a narrow, pedantic or lexicographic approach- No attempt should be made to truncate its all-embracing scope and meaning, for to do so would be to violate its activist magnitude.
Equality is a dynamic concept with many aspects and dimensions and it cannot be imprisoned within traditional and doctrinaire limits. We must reiterate here what was pointed out by the majority in E.P. Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu [(1974) 2 SCR 348], namely, that “from a positivistic point of view, equality is antithetic to arbitrariness. In fact equality and arbitrariness are sworn enemies; one belongs to the rule of law in a republic, while the other, to the whim and caprice of an absolute monarch. Where an act is arbitrary, it is implicit in it that it is unequal both according to political logic and constitutional law and is therefore violative of Article 14”. Article 14 strikes at arbitrariness in State action and ensures fairness and equality of-treatment. The principle of reasonableness, which legally as well as philosophically, is an essential element of equality or non-arbitrariness pervades Article 14 like a brooding omnipresence and the procedure contemplated by Article 21 must answer the test of reasonableness in order to be in conformity with Article 14. It must be “right and just and fair” and not arbitrary, fanciful or oppressive; otherwise, it would be no procedure at all and the requirement of Article 21 would not be satisfied.
How far natural justice is an essential element of ‘procedure established by law
The question immediately arises: does the procedure prescribed by the Passports Act, 1967 for impounding a passport meet the test of this requirement? Is it ‘right or fair or just’?
Now, as already pointed out, the doctrine of natural justice consists principally of two rules, namely, nemo debet esse judex in propria causa: no one shall be a judge in his own cause, and audi alteram partem: no decision shall be given against a party without affording him a reasonable hearing. We are concerned here with the second rule and hence we shall confine ourselves only to a discussion of that rule.
Attorney General urged that having regard to the nature of the action involved in impounding of a passport, the audi alteram partem rule must be held to be excluded, because if notice were to be given to the holder of passport and reasonable opportunity afforded to him to show cause why his passport should not be impounded, he might immediately, on the strength of the passport, make good his exit from the country and the object of impounding the passport would be frustrated. The argument was that if the audi alteram partem rule were applied, its effect would be to stultify the power of impounding the passport and it would defeat and paralyse administration of the law and hence the audi alteram partem rule cannot in fairness be applied while exercising the power to impound a passport.
The audi alteram partem rule would, by the experiential test, be excluded, if importing the right to be heard has the effect of paralysing the administrative process or the need for promptitude or the urgency of the situation so demands.
It would not therefore, be right to conclude that the audi alteram partem rule is excluded merely because the power to impound a passport might be frustrated, if prior notice and hearing were to be given to the person concerned before impounding his passport The Passport Authority may proceed to impound the passport without giving any prior opportunity to the person concerned to be heard, but as soon as the order impounding the passport is made, an opportunity of hearing, remedial in aim, should be given to him so that he may present his case and controvert that of the Passport Authority and point out why his passport should not be impounded and the order impounding it recalled. This should not only be possible but also quite appropriate, because the reasons for impounding the passport are required to be supplied by the Passport Authority after the making of the order and the person affected would, therefore, be in a position to make a representation setting forth his case and plead for setting aside the action impounding his passport.
A fair opportunity of being heard following immediately upon the order impounding the passport would satisfy the mandate of natural justice and a provision requiring giving of such opportunity to the person concerned can and should be read by implication in the Passports Act, 1967. If such a provision were held to be incorporated in the Passports Act, 1967 by necessary implication, as we hold it must be, the procedure prescribed by the Act for impounding a passport would be right, fair and just and it would not suffer from the vice of arbitrariness or unreasonableness. We must, therefore, hold that the procedure ‘established’ by the Passports Act, 1967 for impounding a passport is in conformity with the requirement of Article 21 and does not fall foul of that article.
Is Section 10(3)(c) violative of Article 14?
That takes us to the next question whether Section 10(3)(c) is violative of any of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution. Only two articles are relied upon for this purpose and they are Articles 14 and 19(l)(a) and (g).
Now, the law is well settled that when a statute vests unguided and unrestricted power in an authority to affect the rights of a person without laying down any policy or principle which is to guide the authority in exercise of this power, it would be affected by the vice of discrimination since it would leave it open to the authority to discriminate between persons and things similarly situated. But here it is difficult to say that the discretion conferred on the Passport Authority is arbitrary or unfettered.
There are four grounds set out in Section 10(3)(c) which would justify the making of an order impounding a passport. We are concerned only with the last ground denoted by the words “in the interests of the general public”, for that is the ground which is attacked as vague and indefinite. We fail to see how this ground can, by any stretch of argument, be characterised as vague or undefined.
The words “in the interests of the general public” have a clearly well defined meaning and the courts have often been called upon to decide whether a particular action is “in the interests of the general public” or in “public interest”. These words are in fact borrowed ipsissima verba from Article 19(5) and we think it would be nothing short of heresy to accuse the constitution-makers of vague and loose thinking.
The legislature performed a scissors and paste operation in lifting these words out of Article 19(5) and introducing them in Section 10(3)(c) and if these words are not vague and indefinite in Article 19(5), it is difficult to see how they can be condemned to be such when they occur in Section 10(3)(c). How can Section 10(3)(c) be said to incur any constitutional infirmity on account of these words when they are no wider than the constitutional provision in Article 19(5)?
Sufficient guidelines are provided by the words “in the interests of the general public” and the power conferred on the Passport Authority to impound a passport cannot be said to be unguided or unfettered. Moreover, it must be remembered that the exercise of this power is not made dependent on the subjective opinion of the Passport Authority as regards the necessity of exercising it on one or more of the grounds stated in the section, but the Passport Authority is required to record in writing a brief statement of reasons for impounding the passport and, save in certain exceptional circumstances, to supply a copy of such statement to the person affected, so that the person concerned can challenge the decision of the Passport Authority in appeal and the appellate authority can examine whether the reasons given by the Passport Authority are correct, and if so, whether they justify the making of the order impounding the passport. It is true that when the order impounding a passport is made by the Central Government, there is no appeal against it, but in such a case the power is exercised by the Central Government itself and it can safely be assumed that it will exercise the power in a reasonable and responsible manner.
When power is vested in a high authority like the Central Government, abuse of power cannot be lightly assumed. And in any event, if there is abuse of power, the arms of the Court are long enough to reach it and to strike it down. The power conferred on the Passport Authority to impound a passport under Section 10(3)(c) cannot, therefore, be regarded as discriminatory and it does not fall foul of Article 14. But every exercise of such power has to be tested in order to determine whether it is arbitrary or within the guidelines provided in Section 10(3)(c).
SCOPE OF ‘STATE’ IN ARTICLE 12
Chronological Development of Law in Supreme Court
Case 1 1967: Rajasthan SEB v. Mohan Lal
- Whether the Electricity Board, which was a corporation constituted under a statute primarily for the purpose of carrying on commercial activities, could come within the definition of “State” in Article 12?
Decision: [by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court]:
- “The expression ‘other authorities’ in Article 12 will include all constitutional or statutory authorities on whom powers are conferred by law. It is not at all material that some of the powers conferred may be for the purpose of carrying on commercial activities.”
Case 2 1975: Sukhdev Singh v. Bhagatram Raghuvanshi
- Whether the Oil and Natural Gas Commission, the Industrial Finance Corporation and the Life Insurance Corporation, each of which were public corporations set up by statutes, were authorities and therefore within the definition of State in Article 12?
- Court could compel compliance of statutory rules. The concept would include a public authority which “is a body which has public or statutory duties to perform and which performs those duties and carries out its transactions for benefit of the public and not for private profit. Such an authority is not precluded from making a profit for public benefit”.
- For identifying such an agency or instrumentality four indicia were propounded:
- (1) “A finding of the State financial support plus an unusual degree of control over the management and policies might lead one to characterize an operation as State action.”
- (2) “Another factor which might be considered is whether the operation is an important public function.”
- (3) “The combination of State aid and the furnishing of an important public service may result in a conclusion that the operation should be classified as a State agency. If a given function is of such public importance and so closely related to governmental functions as to be classified as a governmental agency, then even the presence or absence of State financial aid might be irrelevant in making a finding of State action. If the function does not fall within such a description, then mere addition of State money would not influence the conclusion.”
- (4) “The ultimate question which is relevant for our purpose is whether such a corporation is an agency or instrumentality of the Government for carrying on a business for the benefit of the public. In other words, the question is, for whose benefit was the corporation carrying on the business?”
Case 3 1981: Ajay Hasia v. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi
- This case dealt with a challenge under Article 32 to admissions made to a college established and administered by a societyregistered under the Jammu and Kashmir Registration of Societies Act, 1898.
- Contention of the Society was that even if there were an arbitrary procedure followed for selecting candidates for admission, and that this may have resulted in denial of equality to the petitioners in the matter of admission in violation of Article 14, nevertheless, Article 14 was not available to the petitioners because the Society was not a State within Article 12.
- The tests propounded for determining as to when a corporation can be said to be an instrumentality or agency of the Government were culled out and summarised as follows by a Constitution Bench:
“(1) If the entire share capital of the corporation is held by Government, it would go a long way towards indicating that the corporation is an instrumentality or agency of Government.
(2) Where the financial assistance of the State is so much as to meet almost entire expenditure of the corporation, it would afford some indication of the corporation being impregnated with governmental character.
(3) It may also be a relevant factor … whether the corporation enjoys monopoly status which is State-conferred or State-protected.
(4) Existence of deep and pervasive State control may afford an indication that the corporation is a State agency or instrumentality.
(5) If the functions of the corporation are of public importance and closely related to governmental functions, it would be a relevant factor in classifying the corporation as an instrumentality or agency of Government.
(6) ‘Specifically, if a department of Government is transferred to a corporation, it would be a strong factor supportive of this inference’ of the corporation being an instrumentality or agency of Government.”
- The Society was an authority falling within the definition of “State” in Article 12.
Case 4 1981: Som Prakash Rekhi v. Union of India
- Whether Bharat Petroleum Corporation was a “State” under article 12?
- Bharat Petroleum Corporation was held to be a “State” within the “enlarged meaning of Article 12”.
Case 5 1983: B.S. Minhas v. Indian Statistical Institute
- The Indian Statistical Institute, a registered society is an instrumentality of the Central Government and as such is an “authority” within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution.
- The composition of the Institute is dominated by representatives appointed by Central Government. money required for running the Institute is provided entirely by the Central Government and even if any other moneys are to be received by the Institute, it can be done only with the approval of the Central Government, and the accounts of the Institute have also to be submitted to the Central Government for its scrutiny and satisfaction. The Society has to comply with all such directions as may be issued by the Central Government.
- Control of the Central Government is deep and pervasive.
Case 6 1984: P.K. Ramachandra Iyer v. Union of India
- Both the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and its affiliate, the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, were bodies as would be comprehended in the expression “other authority” in Article 12 of the Constitution.
Case 7 1986: Central Inland Water Transport Corpn v. Brojo Nath Ganguly
- The appellant Company was covered by Article 12.
- It is financed entirely by three Governments and is completely under the control of the Central Government and is managed by the Chairman and Board of Directors appointed by the Central Government and removable by it and also that the activities carried on by the Corporation are of vital national importance.
Case 8 1988: Tekraj Vasandi v. Union of India
- Institute of Constitutional and Parliamentary Studies (ICPS), a society registered under the Societies Registration Act was held notbe an “other authority” within the meaning of Art 12.
Case 9 1991: Chander Mohan Khanna v. NCERT
- Whether the National Council of Educational Research (NCERT) was a “State” as defined under Article 12 of the Constitution.
- NCERT is a society registered under the Societies Registration Act. Since NCERT was largely an autonomous body and the activities of NCERT were not wholly related to governmental functions and that the government control was confined only to the proper utilisation of the grant and since its funding was not entirely from government resources, the case did not satisfy the requirements of the State under Article 12 of the Constitution.
Case 10 2002: Mysore Paper Mills v. Mysore Paper Mills Officers’ Assn
- A company substantially financed and financially controlled by the Government, managed by a Board of Directors nominated and removable at the instance of the Government and carrying on important functions of public interest under the control of the Government is “an authority” within the meaning of Article 12.
Case 11 2002: Pradeep Kumar Biswas v. Indian Institute of Chemical Biology
In 1972, Sabhajit Tewary, a Junior Stenographer with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution claiming parity of remuneration with the Stenographers who were newly recruited to CSIR. His claim was based on Article 14. A Bench of five Judges of Supreme Court denied him the benefit of that article because they held in Sabhajit Tewary v. Union of India  that the writ application was not maintainable against CSIR as it was not an “authority” within the meaning of Art 12.
The correctness of the decision is before us for reconsideration. The immediate cause for such reconsideration is a writ application filed by the appellants in the Calcutta High Court challenging the termination of their services by Respondent 1 which is a unit of CSIR.
The question before the Bench:
Is CSIR a State within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution and if it is, should this Court reverse a decision which has stood for over a quarter of a century?
Initially the definition of State was treated as exhaustive and confined to the authorities or those which could be read ejusdem generis with the authorities mentioned in the definition of Article 12 itself. The next stage was reached when the definition of “State” came to be understood with reference to the remedies available against it. For example, historically, a writ of mandamus was available for enforcement of statutory duties or duties of a public nature. Thus a statutory corporation, with regulations framed by such corporation pursuant to statutory powers was considered a State, and the public duty was limited to those which were created by statute.
It really does not matter what guise the State adopts for this purpose, whether by a corporation established by statute or incorporated under a law such as the Companies Act or formed under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. Neither the form of the corporation, nor its ostensible autonomy would take away from its character as “State” and its constitutional accountability under Part III vis-à-vis the individual if it were in fact acting as an instrumentality or agency of the Government.
The tests formulated in Ajay Hasia are not a rigid set of principles so that if a body falls within any one of them it must, ex hypothesi, be considered to be a State within the meaning of Article 12. The question in each case would be – whether in the light of the cumulative facts as established, the body is financially, functionally and administratively dominated by or under the control of the Government. Such control must be particular to the body in question and must be pervasive.
If this is found then the body is a State within Article 12. On the other hand, when the control is merely regulatory whether under statute or otherwise, it would not serve to make the body a State.
Coming now to the facts relating to CSIR, we have no doubt that it is well within the range of Article 12, a conclusion which is sustainable when judged according to the tests judicially evolved for the purpose.
For coordinating and exercising administrative control over working of the two research bodies already set up by the Department of Commerce, and to oversee the proper utilisation of the Industrial Research Fund, Government of India decided to set up a Council of Industrial Research on a permanent footing which would be a registered society under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860.
Unquestionably this shows that CSIR was “created” by the Government to carry on in an organized manner what was being done earlier by the Department of Commerce of the Central Government. In fact the two research bodies which were part of the Department of Commerce have since been subsumed in CSIR.
CSIR was set up in national interest to further economic welfare of the society by fostering planned industrial development in the country. That such a function is fundamental to the governance of the country has already been held by a Constitution Bench of this Court as far back as in 1967 in Rajasthan SEB v. Mohan Lal where it was said:
“The State, as defined in Article 12, is thus comprehended to include bodies created for the purpose of promoting educational and economic interests of the people.”
Governing Body of the Society is constituted by the:
- Director General;
- Member Finance;
- Directors of two national laboratories;
- Two eminent Scientists/Technologists, one of whom shall be from academia;
- Heads of two scientific departments/agencies of the Government of India.
Control of the Government in CSIR is ubiquitous. The Governing Body also has the power to frame, amend or repeal the bye-laws of CSIR but only with the sanction of the Government of India. Bye-law 44 of the 1942 Bye-laws had provided “any alteration in the bye-laws shall require the prior approval of the Governor-General-in-Council”.
Rule 41 of the present Rules provides that:
“The President may review/amend/vary any of the decisions of the Governing Body and pass such orders as considered necessary and such order shall be binding on the Governing Body. The Chairman may also refer any question which in his opinion is of sufficient importance to justify such a reference for decision of the President, which shall be binding on the Governing Body.”
Given the fact that President of CSIR is the Prime Minister, subjugation of the Governing Body to the will of the Central Government is complete.
As far as the employees of CSIR are concerned the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules and the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, for the time being in force, are from the outset applicable to them
The initial capital of CSIR was Rs 10 lakhs, made available pursuant to the Resolution of the Legislative Assembly on 14-11-1941. Non-governmental contributions are a pittance compared to the massive governmental input.
In the event of dissolution, unlike other registered societies which are governed by Section 14 of the Societies Registration Act, 1860, the members of CSIR have no say in the distribution of its assets. The assets and funds of CSIR though nominally owned by the Society are in the ultimate analysis owned by the Government.
From whichever perspective the facts are considered, there can be no doubt that the conclusion reached in Sabhajit Tewary was erroneous. Sabhajit Tewary decision must be and is in the circumstances overruled.
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SUO MOTU CONTEMPT PETITION
In Re: Sri Justice C.S. Karnan
Date of order: 9th May 2017 Bench strength: 7
O R D E R
On merits, we are of the considered view that Sri Justice C.S. Karnan has committed contempt of the judiciary.
His actions constitute contempt of this Court and of the judiciary of the gravest nature. Having found him guilty of committing contempt, we convict him accordingly. We are satisfied to punish him by sentencing him to imprisonment for six months. As a consequence, the contemnor shall not perform any administrative or judicial functions.
The sentence of six months imposed by this Court on Sri Justice C.S. Karnan shall be executed forthwith by the Director General of Police West Bengal.
Since the incident of contempt includes public statements and publication of orders made by the contemnor, which were highlighted by the electronic and print media, we are of the view that no further statements made by him should be published hereafter.
RIGHT TO PRIVACY
Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India [2017 SC]
Date of order: August 24, 2017 Bench Strength: 9
Nine judges of this Court assembled to determine whether privacy is a constitutionally protected value.
In substance, two questions were referred to this Nine Judge Bench, first, whether the law laid down in the case of M. P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra, District Magistrate Delhi [1954 SC] and Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh [1963 SC] insofar as it relates to the “right to privacy of an individual” is correct and second, whether “right to privacy” is a fundamental right under Part III of the Constitution of India?
The most important place of pride was given to the “People of India” by using the expression, WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, in the beginning of the Preamble. The Constitution was accordingly adopted, enacted and then given to ourselves.
The keynote of the Preamble was to lay emphasis on two positive aspects – one, “the Unity of the Nation” and the second “Dignity of the individual”. The expression “Dignity” carried with it moral and spiritual imports. It also implied an obligation on the part of the Union to respect the personality of every citizen and create the conditions in which every citizen would be left free to find himself/herself and attain self-fulfilment.
The incorporation of expression “Dignity of the individual” in the Preamble was aimed essentially to show explicit repudiation of what people of this Country had inherited from the past. Dignity of the individual was, therefore, always considered the prime constituent of the fraternity, which assures the dignity to every individual. Both expressions are interdependent and intertwined.
Unity and integrity of the Nation cannot survive unless the dignity of every individual citizen is guaranteed. It is inconceivable to think of unity and integration without the assurance to an individual to preserve his dignity. In other words, regard and respect by every individual for the dignity of the other one brings the unity and integrity of the Nation.
The expressions “liberty“, “equality” and “fraternity” incorporated in the Preamble are not separate entities. They have to be read in juxtaposition while dealing with the rights of the citizens. They, in fact, form a union. If these expressions are divorced from each other, it will defeat the very purpose of democracy.
In other words, liberty cannot be divorced from equality, so also equality cannot be divorced from liberty and nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity. The meaning assigned to these expressions has to be given due weightage while interpreting Articles of Part III of the Constitution.
It is a settled rule of interpretation as held in the case of Rustom Cavasjee Cooper v. Union of India [1970 SC] that the Court should always make attempt to expand the reach and ambit of fundamental rights rather than to attenuate their meaning and the content by process of judicial construction. Similarly, it is also a settled principle of law laid down in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala [1973 SC] that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution and, therefore, while interpreting any provision of the Constitution or examining any constitutional issue or while determining the width or reach of any provision or when any ambiguity or obscurity is noticed in any provision, which needs to be clarified, or when the language admits of meaning more than one, Preamble to the Constitution may be relied on as a remedy for mischief or/and to find out the true meaning of the relevant provision as the case may be.
“Right to privacy of any individual” is essentially a natural right, which inheres in every human being by birth. Such right remains with the human being till he/she breathes last. It is indeed inseparable and inalienable from human being. In other words, it is born with the human being and extinguish with human being.
One cannot conceive an individual enjoying meaningful life with dignity without such right. Indeed, it is one of those cherished rights, which every civilized society governed by rule of law always recognizes in every human being and is under obligation to recognize such rights in order to maintain and preserve the dignity of an individual regardless of gender, race, religion, caste and creed. It is, of course, subject to imposing certain reasonable restrictions keeping in view the social, moral and compelling public interest, which the State is entitled to impose by law.
“Right to privacy” is not defined in law except in dictionaries. The Courts, however, by process of judicial interpretation, has assigned meaning to this right in the context of specific issues involved on case-to-case basis.
The most popular meaning of “right to privacy” is “the right to be let alone”.
I, therefore, do not find any difficulty in tracing the “right to privacy“ emanating from the two expressions of the Preamble namely, “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship” and “Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual“ and also emanating from Article 19 (1)(a) which gives to every citizen “a freedom of speech and expression” and further emanating from Article 19(1)(d) which gives to every citizen “a right to move freely throughout the territory of India” and lastly, emanating from the expression “personal liberty” under Article 21. Indeed, the right to privacy is inbuilt in these expressions and flows from each of them and in juxtaposition.
In view of foregoing discussion, my answer to question No. 2 is that “right to privacy” is a part of fundamental right of a citizen guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution. However, it is not an absolute right but is subject to certain reasonable restrictions, which the State is entitled to impose on the basis of social, moral and compelling public interest in accordance with law.[ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE, J.]
Order of the Court
The reference is disposed of in the following terms:
(i) The decision in M P Sharma which holds that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution stands over-ruled;
(ii) The decision in Kharak Singh to the extent that it holds that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution stands over-ruled;
(iii) The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.
(iv) Decisions subsequent to Kharak Singh which have enunciated the position in (iii) above lay down the correct position in law.
Case Law on Article 356
S. R. Bommai v. Union of India [1994 SC]
P.B. SAWANT, J.
On Judicial Review
…. one of the conclusions which may safely be drawn is that the exercise of power by the President under Article 356(1) to issue Proclamation is subject to the judicial review at least to the extent of examining whether the conditions precedent to the issuance of the Proclamation have been satisfied or not. This examination will necessarily involve the scrutiny as to whether there existed material for the satisfaction of the President that a situation had arisen in which the Government of the State could not be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Needless to emphasise that it is not any material but material which would lead to the conclusion that the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution which is relevant for the purpose. It has further to be remembered that the article requires that the President “has to be satisfied” that the situation in question has arisen. Hence the material in question has to be such as would induce a reasonable man to come to the conclusion in question.
Effect of the bar imposed by article 74(2)
It was contended on behalf of the Union of India that since the Proclamation under Article 356(1) would be issued by the President on the advice of the Council of Ministers given under Article 74(1) of the Constitution and since clause (2) of the said article bars enquiry into the question whether any, and if so, what advice was tendered by Ministers to the President, judicial review of the reasons which led to the issuance of the Proclamation also stands barred.
……..although Article 74(2) bars judicial review so far as the advice given by the Ministers is concerned, it does not bar scrutiny of the material on the basis of which the advice is given. The courts are not interested in either the advice given by the Ministers to the President or the reasons for such advice. The courts are, however, justified in probing as to whether there was any material on the basis of which the advice was given, and whether it was relevant for such advice and the President could have acted on it. Hence when the courts undertake an enquiry into the existence of such material, the prohibition contained in Article74(2) does not negate their right to know about the factual existence of any such material.
Burden of proof
When the Proclamation is challenged by making out a prima facie case with regard to its invalidity, the burden would be on the Union Government to satisfy that there exists material which showed that the Government could not be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Since such material would be exclusively within the knowledge of the Union Government, in view of the provisions of Section 106 of the Evidence Act, the burden of proving the existence of such material would be on the Union Government.
Effect of approval by Parliament
A further question which has been raised in this connection is whether the validity of the Proclamation issued under Article 356(1) can be challenged even after it has been approved by both Houses of Parliament under clause (3) of Article 356. There is no reason to make a distinction between the Proclamation so approved and a legislation enacted by Parliament. If the Proclamation is invalid, it does not stand validated merely because it is approved of by Parliament.
No irreversible action before approval by Parliament
It is necessary to interpret clauses (1) and (3) of Article 356 harmoniously since the provisions of clause (3) are obviously meant to be a check by Parliament (which also consist of members from the States concerned) on the powers of the President under clause (1). The check would become meaningless and rendered ineffective if the President takes irreversible actions while exercising his powers under sub-clauses (a), (b) and (c) of clause (1) of the said article. The dissolution of the Assembly by exercising the powers of the Governor under Article 174(2)(b) will be one such irreversible action. Hence, it will have to be held that in no case, the President shall exercise the Governor’s power of dissolving the Legislative Assembly till at least both the Houses of Parliament have approved of the Proclamation issued by him under clause (1) of the said article. The dissolution of the assembly prior to the approval of the Proclamation by Parliament under clause (3) of the said article will be per se invalid. The President may, however, have the power of suspending the Legislature under sub-clause (c) of clause (1) of the said article.
Our conclusions, therefore, may be summarised as under:
I. The validity of the Proclamation issued by the President under Article 356(1) is judicially reviewable to the extent of examining whether it was issued on the basis of any material at all or whether the material was relevant or whether the Proclamation was issued in the mala fide exercise of the power. When a prima facie case is made out in the challenge to the Proclamation, the burden is on the Union Government to prove that the relevant material did in fact exist, such material may be either the report of the Governor or other than the report.
II. Article 74(2) is not a bar against the scrutiny of the material on the basis of which the President had arrived at his satisfaction.
III. When the President issues Proclamation under Article 356(1), he may exercise all or any of the powers under sub-clauses (a), (b) and (c) thereof. It is for him to decide which of the said powers he will exercise, and at what stage, taking into consideration the exigencies of the situation.
IV. Since the provisions contained in clause (3) of Article 356 are intended to be a check on the powers of the President under clause (1) thereof, it will not be permissible for the President to exercise powers under sub-clauses (a), (b) and (c) of the latter clause, to take irreversible actions till at least both the Houses of Parliament have approved of the Proclamation. It is for this reason that the President will not be justified in dissolving the Legislative Assembly by using the powers of the Governor under Article 174(2)(b) read with Article 356(1)(a) till at least both the Houses of Parliament approve of the Proclamation.
V. If the Proclamation issued is held invalid, then notwithstanding the fact that it is approved by both Houses of Parliament, it will be open to the court to restore the status quo ante to the issuance of the Proclamation and hence to restore the Legislative Assembly and the Ministry.
VI. In appropriate cases, the court will have power by an interim injunction, to restrain the holding of fresh elections to the Legislative Assembly pending the final disposal of the challenge to the validity of the Proclamation to avoid the fait accompli and the remedy of judicial review being rendered fruitless. However, the court will not interdict the issuance of the Proclamation or the exercise of any other power under the Proclamation.
VIII. Secularism is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The acts of a State Government which are calculated to subvert or sabotage secularism as enshrined in our Constitution, can lawfully be deemed to give rise to a situation in which the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
Diverse situations when the constitutional breakdown may justifiably be inferred:
- large-scale breakdown of the law and order or public order situation;
- gross mismanagement of affairs by a State Government;
- corruption or abuse of its power;
- danger to national integration or security of the State or aiding or abetting national disintegration or a claim for independent sovereign status and
- subversion of the Constitution while professing to work under the Constitution or creating disunity or disaffection among the people to disintegrate democratic social fabric.
B P Jeevan Reddy, J.
Effect of Article 365
Article 365 merely sets out one instance in which the President may hold that the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. It cannot be read as exhaustive of the situation where the President may form the said satisfaction.
Suffice it to say that the directions given must be lawful and their disobedience must give rise to a situation contemplated by Article 356(1). Article 365 merely says that in case of failure to comply with the directions given, “it shall be lawful” for the President to hold that the requisite type of situation [contemplated by Article 356(1)] has arisen. It is not as if each and every failure ipso facto gives rise to the requisite situation. The President has to judge in each case whether it has so arisen. Article 365 says it is permissible for him to say so in such a case. The discretion is still there and has to be exercised fairly.
- We may summarise our conclusions now:
(1) Article 356 of the Constitution confers a power upon the President to be exercised only where he is satisfied that a situation has arisen where the Government of a State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Under our Constitution, the power is really that of the Union Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at its head. The satisfaction contemplated by the article is subjective in nature.
(2) The power conferred by Article 356 upon the President is a conditioned power. It is not an absolute power. The existence of material – which may comprise of or include the report(s) of the Governor – is a pre-condition. The satisfaction must be formed on relevant material. The recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission with respect to the exercise of power under Article 356 do merit serious consideration at the hands of all concerned.
(3) Though the power of dissolving of the Legislative Assembly can be said to be implicit in clause (1) of Article 356, it must be held, having regard to the overall constitutional scheme that the President shall exercise it only after the Proclamation is approved by both Houses of Parliament under clause (3) and not before. Until such approval, the President can only suspend the Legislative Assembly by suspending the provisions of Constitution relating to the Legislative Assembly under sub-clause (c) of clause (1). The dissolution of Legislative Assembly is not a matter of course. It should be resorted to only where it is found necessary for achieving the purposes of the Proclamation.
(4) The Proclamation under clause (1) can be issued only where the situation contemplated by the clause arises. In such a situation, the Government has to go. There is no room for holding that the President can take over some of the functions and powers of the State Government while keeping the State Government in office. There cannot be two Governments in one sphere.
(5)(a) Clause (3) of Article 356 is conceived as a check on the power of the President and also as a safeguard against abuse. In case both Houses of Parliament disapprove or do not approve the Proclamation, the Proclamation lapses at the end of the two-month period. In such a case, Government which was dismissed revives. The Legislative Assembly, which may have been kept in suspended animation gets reactivated. Since the Proclamation lapses — and is not retrospectively invalidated – the acts done, orders made and laws passed during the period of two months do not become illegal or void. They are, however, subject to review, repeal or modification by the Government/Legislative Assembly or other competent authority.
(b) However, if the Proclamation is approved by both the Houses within two months, the Government (which was dismissed) does not revive on the expiry of period of the proclamation or on its revocation. Similarly, if the Legislative Assembly has been dissolved after the approval under clause (3), the Legislative Assembly does not revive on the expiry of the period of Proclamation or on its revocation.
(6) Article 74(2) merely bars an enquiry into the question whether any, and if so, what advice was tendered by the Ministers to the President. It does not bar the Court from calling upon the Union Council of Ministers (Union of India) to disclose to the Court the material upon which the President had formed the requisite satisfaction. The material on the basis of which advice was tendered does not become part of the advice. Even if the material is looked into by or shown to the President, it does not partake the character of advice. Article 74(2) and Section 123 of the Evidence Act cover different fields. It may happen that while defending the Proclamation, the Minister or the official concerned may claim the privilege under Section 123. If and when such privilege is claimed, it will be decided on its own merits in accordance with the provisions of Section 123.
(7) The Proclamation under Article 356(1) is not immune from judicial review. The Supreme Court or the High Court can strike down the Proclamation if it is found to be mala fide or based on wholly irrelevant or extraneous grounds. When called upon, the Union of India has to produce the material on the basis of which action was taken. It cannot refuse to do so, if it seeks to defend the action. The court will not go into the correctness of the material or its adequacy. Its enquiry is limited to see whether the material was relevant to the action. Even if part of the material is irrelevant, the court cannot interfere so long as there is some material which is relevant to the action taken.
(8) If the Court strikes down the proclamation, it has the power to restore the dismissed Government to office and revive and reactivate the Legislative Assembly wherever it may have been dissolved or kept under suspension. In such a case, the Court has the power to declare that acts done, orders passed and laws made during the period the Proclamation was in force shall remain unaffected and be treated as valid.
(9) The Constitution of India has created a federation but with a bias in favour of the Centre. Within the sphere allotted to the States, they are supreme.
(10) Secularism is one of the basic features of the Constitution. While freedom of religion is guaranteed to all persons in India, from the point of view of the State, the religion, faith or belief of a person is immaterial. To the State, all are equal and are entitled to be treated equally. In matters of State, religion has no place. No political party can simultaneously be a religious party. Politics and religion cannot be mixed. Any State Government which pursues unsecular policies or unsecular course of action acts contrary to the constitutional mandate and renders itself amenable to action under Article 356.
(11) The Proclamation dated April 21, 1989 in respect of Karnataka and the Proclamation dated October 11, 1991 in respect of Meghalaya are unconstitutional. But for the fact that fresh elections have since taken place in both the States – and new Legislative Assemblies and Governments have come into existence – we would have formally struck down the Proclamations and directed the revival and restoration of the respective Governments and Legislative Assemblies.
(12) The Proclamations dated January 15, 1993 in respect of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh are not unconstitutional.
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