Article 131 in the Constitution of India

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The article

[ Shreya Thomas, laxmikanth's summarized version Mar 21, 2017

Article 131 of the Indian Constitution deals with the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court,detailed understanding and analysis is needed:

Article 131: Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

[Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute – (a) between the Government of India and one or more States; or (b) between the Government of India and any State of States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or (c) between two or more States.]

Original jurisdiction of the supreme court gives the nature of disputes that can be brought only to the supreme court at the first instance and not to any lower courts.

Also,the supreme court held that the disputes which can be raised before the Supreme Court in its exclusive original jurisdiction under Article 131:

must be disputes between the Union and the States or the States. must raise questions of a legal right. any suit by private citizen against centre or state cannot be entertained. All the above three cases clearly shows the federal nature of the disputes and also being exclusive only to the supreme court.Also,implies that the federal structure has been given importance by the constitution makers.

Now,Article 32 imposes duty on the Supreme Court to enforce the Fundamental rights. and every individual has a right to move the Supreme Court directly if there has been any infringement on his Fundamental Rights,by which writ should also come into original jurisdiction,but this case does not satisfy the above said points of federal nature and legal right .The same is for an individual vs centre/state dispute.

However,the exceptions for the article 131 are included in the article 363(1):-

[Notwithstanding ……. this Jurisdiction does not extend to treaties signed before the commencement of the constitution and its scope does not extend to

• complaints as to interference with interstate water supplies referred to statutory tribunal mentioned in Article 262 with Inter-state water (1) disputes Act. 1956.

• matters referred to the finance commission (Art. 280);

• adjustment of finances between the union and states (Art. 290).]

As per the above article,the supreme court should not interfere in any of the above circumstances.But there is again an exception given in article 143(2):

[The President may, notwithstanding anything in the proviso to Article 131, refer a dispute of the kind mentioned in the said proviso to the Supreme Court for opinion and the Supreme Court shall, after such hearing as it thinks fit, report to the President its opinion thereon.]

That is,irrespective of its jurisdiction,the President can consult for Supreme courts’ opinion.

The analysis of this article also throws light on one of the recent judgements on Cauvery water dispute coming under A.262 which is not in the Supreme Courts jurisdiction.Unlike, in the past where the supreme court denied to take up the state of Karnataka vs the state of Andhra Pradesh case on the basis of A.131,now the Supreme Court took up the Cauvery disputes case.Many claimed the court to be exercising beyond its jurisdiction.

The supreme court has a special leave to appeal option as mentioned in A.136(1):

[Notwithstanding …….grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India.]

The supreme court exercised this article to give the verdict of Cauvery water dispute. To the known extent,this is a major loophole in the article 131,as this diminishes the nature of the tribunals as equal to a lower court,along with timelag and piling up of cases,including non compliance of parties to tribunals.

In addition,other exceptions include,

cases of political nature (State of Bihar vs union of India case) an ordinary dispute of commercial nature between the centre and the states. recovery of damages by a state against the centre. Though,the above disputes can be raised in the lower courts and to the apex through appeals, the disputes under A.131 clearly remain only federal and only legal in nature.

Principles involved

Federalism in India

1961: Bengal II; 2004: Madhya Pradesh

Dhananjay Mahapatra, January 20, 2020: The Times of India

With netas fishing in CAA troubled waters, fissures in federalism may cost India

In the land of the Mahatma, violence is on the throne today. Its victims, among others, are helpless passengers in trains, loyal workers in strike-bound factories, and innocent citizens on riotstricken roads when the bandh-mongers claim the freedom of the city.”

This was said by Nani A Palkhivala, the unparalleled legal luminary, way back in 1982 referring to the situation prevailing in India then. “Not since abolition of thuggery by Lord William Bentick in the 1830s has violence characterised our national life on a scale so widespread and so unchecked as today. Our legal system has made life too easy for criminals and too difficult for law-abiding citizens. A touch here and a push there, and India may become ungovernable under the present constitutional set-up,” he had said.

Right to protest is undeniably a fundamental right. But this right does not extend to destruction of public property, or to laying siege to roads to violate right to free access of people and rendering India ungovernable.

Law teachers often said ‘India is a federal republic with a unitary bias’. In state of Rajasthan vs Union of India [1977 AIR 1361], a sevenjudge SC bench explained, “A conspectus of provisions of our Constitution will indicate that, whatever appearances of a federal structure our Constitution may have, its operations are certainly judged both by the contents of power which a number of its provisions carry with them and the use that has been made of them, more unitary than federal.”

Constitution’s principal architect BR Ambedkar, considered India to be “both unitary as well as federal according to the requirements of time and circumstances”. Over the years, the SC has settled the law and most political parties will agree with Palkhivala, who had said, “We do need a strong Union. But a strong Union is in no way inconsistent with strong states. On the contrary, by definition, a strong Union can only be a Union of strong states.”

When India was on the path of industrialisation under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Union government through Parliament enacted a law in 1957 to acquire privately held coalfields, most of which were in West Bengal, to increase coal production. The Bengal government, claiming sovereign control over its land and minerals, moved the apex court with an Article 131 suit challenging the law.

The Bengal government argued, “States have within their allotted field full attributes of sovereignty and exercise of authority by Union agencies, legislative or executive, which trenches upon that sovereignty is void.” Rejecting the state’s suit against the Centre [1963 AIR 1241], the SC had said, “The executive power of every state has to be so exercised as to ensure compliance with the laws made by Parliament and any existing laws which apply in that state, and not to impede or prejudice the executive power of the Union.”

In 2004, when Congressled UPA was in office at the Centre, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh had filed a suit under Article 131 in the SC challenging the validity of Parliament-enacted MP Reorganisation Act on the issue of division of electricity board assets and dues after carving out of Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh.

Disapproving a state government challenging the validity of a Parliament-enacted law through Article 131, the SC in ‘State of MP vs Union Of India’ on August 17, 2011, had said, “Normally, for questions relating to validity of central or other laws, the appropriate forum is the extraordinary writ jurisdiction under Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution of India in a writ petition and not an original suit filed under Article 131 which vests exclusive jurisdiction of this court as regards disputes enumerated therein.”

State governments moving the SC against the Centre

1961 West Bengal, 2020 Kerala

Dhananjay Mahapatra, January 15, 2020: The Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Kerala government on Tuesday challenged the validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act under Article 131, making it a Centre-state dispute, and dubbed the CAA unconstitutional for denying Indian citizenship to Muslims, Rohingyas, Hazaras, Tamils and even minorities such as Indian-origin people from Fiji and Malaysia.

The Kerala government said the assembly had on December 31, 2019, passed a resolution requesting the Centre to “abrogate CAA” and requested the Supreme Court to scrap the law as otherwise the state was bound under Article 256 of the Constitution to implement its “arbitrary, unreasonable and irrational” provisions.

The law provides a path to citizenship for Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain, Parsi and Buddhist minorities who fled Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh due to religious persecution and entered India by December 31, 2014.

This is the second time in 60 years that a state has moved the SC resisting the implementation of a Parliament-enacted law. In 1961, the West Bengal government had moved a suit in the court under Article 131 against Parliament passing the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957, which had empowered the Centre to acquire land vested or owned by the state government.

The SC had then ruled that “upon proper interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Act, it was clear that the Act applied to coal bearing areas vested in or owned by the state too”, upholding a crucial constitutional edge enjoyed by the Centre to legislate for acquiring state-owned property.

‘CAA ignoring issues of ethnic Indians in Malaysia and Fiji’

Article 131 gives the SC the exclusive jurisdiction to decide suits relating to Centrestate and state-state disputes. Apart from neighbouring countries, the Kerala government asked why the CAA did not cover ethnic Indians in Malaysia and Fiji. It said, “The impugned amendment Act and Rules and Passport Orders further overlooked the issues of ethnic Indians in Malaysia and Fiji. The Indian diaspora in Malaysia and Fiji are descendants of those Indians who migrated there in search of work or were brought there as indentured labourers when those were British colonies.”

The state said the CAA overlooked the issues of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Muslims in Sri Lanka, who are minuscule minorities in those countries. The CAA also did not consider “Hindus, primarily of Tamil descent in Sri Lanka, and Hindu Madhesis in Terai of Nepal, Christians of Bhutan and Sri Lanka and Buddhists from Nepal” for citizenship, it said.

It went on to say that the CAA did not cover “the ethnic issues of Balochs, Sindhis, Pakhthuns and Mohajirs in Pakistan and Biharis in Bangladesh”. “The Biharis of Bangladesh and Mohajirs of Pakistan form part of millions of citizens of undivided India belonging to various faiths who were staying in the said areas of Pakistan and Bangladesh when India was partitioned in 1947,” the Left Front government said.

2020: Chhattisgarh

Dhananjay Mahapatra, January 16, 2020: The Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Congress government in Chhattisgarh on Wednesday made the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, enacted by Parliament in 2008 during the Congress-led UPA government to investigate terror and other crimes having national consequence, a Centre-state dispute alleging that the counter-terrorism law was illegally usurping police powers of the state. The trigger for filing the suit to take on the Centre under a federal structure appeared to be the NIA’s decision to take over certain Naxal-related criminal cases.

The Bhupesh Baghel government’s Article 131 petition, settled by senior advocate Vivek Tankha, said, “NIA Act, in its present form, not only takes away the power of conducting investigation by the state through its police but also confers unfettered discretionary and arbitrary powers on the Union government. There are no rules governing the exercise of power (by the Union home ministry) which gives ample discretion to the Centre to exercise its power at any juncture without providing any reason or justification for the same.”

The NIA Act was passed by Parliament on December 31, 2008, in the immediate aftermath of the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai in

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