Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SC: Gudalur Janmam Estates Abolition Act not violative of fundamental right

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Dinamani ePaper

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SC: Gudalur Janmam Estates Abolition Act not violative of fundamental right

J. Venkatesan


"Janmam Act is a piece of legislation for abolishing feudal tenure and is a measure of land reform"

Purpose of the Act is meant to do away with hereditaryship


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has held that the Gudalur Janmam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1969, vesting of private forests with the State, and its inclusion in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution did not violate any fundamental right or destroy the basic structure of the Constitution.

Dismissing a batch of petitions and appeals, a Bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar held that the purpose of the Act, enacted by the Tamil Nadu government, was meant to do away with hereditaryship.

Initially the petitions came up before a bench of two judges and were referred to a larger bench later. After a nine-judge Bench held that even laws included in the Ninth Schedule would be subject to judicial review, these petitions were heard by a three-judge Bench.

While Chief Justice Kapadia wrote a judgment for himself and Justice Kumar, Justice Radhakrishnan wrote a separate, but concurring, judgment.

Chief Justice Kapadia said: "It is the case of the petitioners that by reasons of the forests vesting in the State under the Janmam Act 'the rule of equality in law' stood violated which violation amounted to abrogation of Article 14. One of the reasons for deletion of the "right to property" from Part III of the Constitution was that the economic liberties of freedom of property came in direct conflict with egalitarian values, including inter-generational equity."

National asset

He said: "Forests in India are an important part of environment. They constitute national asset. The present generation is answerable to the next generation by giving to the next generation a good environment. We are answerable to the next generation and if deforestation takes place rampantly then inter-generational equity would stand violated. The doctrine of sustainable development also forms part of Article 21 of the Constitution."

The CJI said "this aspect needs to be kept in mind as in this case the substantive challenge is based on the right to property in the garb of over-arching principles like separation of powers, rule of law and abrogation of the power of judicial review."

The doctrine of classification under Article 14 has several facets and none of those facets had been abrogated by the Constitution 34 {+t} {+h} Amendment Act, 1974.

Comparative concept

The CJI said "Equality is a comparative concept. A person is treated unequally only if that person is treated worse than others, and those others (the comparison group) must be those who are "similarly situated" to the complainant. The "similarly situated test" is not attracted in this case."

The Janmam Act is a piece of legislation for abolishing feudal tenure and is a measure of land reform in pursuance of Directive Principles of State Policy."

In his judgment, Justice Radhakrishnan said: "Janmam Estate which takes in forests, mines and minerals, quarries, rivers and streams, tanks and irrigation work, fisheries and so on stood vested in the State free from all encumbrances. Janmies are also entitled to get ryotwari patta in respect of all land, if they establish they have been cultivating lands for a continuous period of three agricultural years immediately before June 1, 1969. Provision for payment of compensation has also been provided under the Act."

Constitutional right

He said "Right not to be deprived of property, save by authority of law, is no longer a fundamental right but only a constitutional right which has never been treated as part of the basic structure of the Constitution."

So this law did not violate the basic structure.

© Copyright 2000 - 2009 The Hindu

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http://www.thehindu.com/2010/09/15/stories/2010091553710500.htm


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