Right to Property
The Right to Property guarantees a person’s right to possess private property unless it is explicitly barred by law. Most constitutions in the world recognize this right, except those that form the framework of a communist government. Even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights mentions this right.
Right to Property Article
In the Indian Constitution, Article 300A guarantees the Right to Property to people. This article falls in Part XII of the Constitution. It states that no person can be deprived of his/her property save by the authority of law. However, this was not the case when the original Constitution was drafted.
Right to Property is a Fundamental Right?
Even before 1949, the Government of India Act of 1935 had provisions with respect to the Right to Property. Under this law, the property of zamindars and peasants was protected. The government could take away the property only for public purposes.
In the original constitution, the Right to Property was a Fundamental Right under Article 19(1)(f) and Article 31. However, the status was changed with an amendment to the constitution.
Under the First Amendment to Indian Constitution, Article 31A and Article 31B which made legislation granting zamindars possession over their property unchallengeable in the court of law.
Why Right to Property Removed from Fundamental Rights?
The main reason for the removal of the right to property from the fundamental rights was a large number of litigations in courts related to the land acquisition of government. This was acting as an impediment to the development process, which included infrastructure development and agriculture reforms.
This was considered necessary to meet the socialistic goals of the government. Also, it was suggested that the interests of the public and public welfare should come before private interests. Nevertheless, it did not mean that state can take away private property in any manner. It is in the same spirit that the Supreme Court of India has, in a number of cases, rejected the doctrine of adverse possession to take away the property of citizens.
Although some amendments were made thereafter, the next significant amendment was done in 1978.
Right to Property Amendment
In the year 1978, the 44th Amendment Act was enacted by Indian Parliament. Among the many changes that it brought forth, one of the most significant was the removal of the Right to Property from Part III of the constitution. It must be noted that this amendment act did not affect the right of minority institutions to possess property under Article 30.
Right to Property is a Legal Right
Article 300A of the Constitution makes the right to property a legal right. It allows the state to acquire property under two conditions
- The acquisition should be for a public purpose.
- It should provide for payment of compensation to the owner.
The present status of the Right to Property is that it is a legal right and not a constitutional right. This means that it can be regulated, abridged, or curtailed by law without the constitutional amendment. It also means that in event of a violation of this right, an individual or a party cannot approach the Supreme Court for the issuance of a Writs. However, one can always approach the High court and file a petition.
Although the right to property is still immune from executive action, it is not so from legislative action. In other words, if the Parliament passes a law to this effect, the acquisition of private property by the state is legally justified. Also, there is no guaranteed right to compensation in the event of the state acquiring the property under the legislation passed by the Parliament.
Right to Property Supreme Court Judgements
The following judicial cases highlight how the interpretation of the Right to Property done by the Supreme Court (SC) has evolved over a period of time.
- The SC in the Bank Nationalisation case has held that there remains the right to reasonable compensation for the property taken over by the state.
- At the same time, the court has upheld the Doctrine of Eminent Domain, by which the state can take away private property for public purposes.
- In the Jilubhai Nanbhai Khachar case of 1995, SC held that the Right to Property as given under Article 300A of the Constitution is not part of the Basic Structure of the Indian constitution. It is only a legal right.
- Courts have time and again held that the state has no right to interfere in citizens’ private property unless it is done by the authority of law. This was most recently reiterated by the court in Ravindran vs District Collector, Vellore case of 2020.
- In January 2020, SC in Vidya Devi vs the State of Himachal Pradesh and others held that the Right to Property is a human right. In this case, the court held that the state cannot use the Doctrine of Adverse Possession to take away the property of its subjects without following the due procedure.
Right to Property UPSC
The Right to Property guarantees a person’s right to possess private property unless it is explicitly barred by law. In the Indian Constitution, Article 300A guarantees the Right to Property to people. It is not a fundamental right, but rather a legal right. Prior to the 44th Amendment Act, the right to property was a fundamental right. Difficulty faced by the government to acquire land for developmental works led the Parliament to change the status quo. Since then, it has remained a legal right. However, highlighting its importance, the Supreme Court in various instances has suggested that, it is a human right.