1. Saving of Laws Providing for Acquisition of Estates, etc.
Article 31A16 saves five categories of laws from being challenged and invalidated on the ground of contravention of the fundamental rights conferred by Article 14 (equality before law and equal protection of laws) and Article 19 (protection of six rights in respect of speech, assembly, movement, etc.). They are related to agricultural land reforms, industry and commerce and include the following:
(a) Acquisition of estates17 and related rights by the State;
(b) Taking over the management of properties by the State;
(c) Amalgamation of corporations;
(d) Extinguishment or modification of rights of directors or shareholders of corporations; and
(e) Extinguishment or modification of mining leases.
Article 31A does not immunise a state law from judicial review unless it has been reserved for the president’s consideration and has received his assent.
This Article also provides for the payment of compensation at market value when the state acquires the land held by a person under his personal cultivation and the land is within the statutory ceiling limit.
2. Validation of Certain Acts and Regulations
Article 31B saves the acts and regulations included in the Ninth Schedule18 from being challenged and invalidated on the ground of contravention of any of the fundamental rights. Thus, the scope of Article 31B is wider than Article 31A. Article 31B immunises any law included in the Ninth Schedule from all the fundamental rights whether or not the law falls under any of the five categories specified in Article 31A.
However, in a significant judgement delivered in I.R. Coelho case18a (2007), the Supreme Court ruled that there could not be any blanket immunity from judicial review of laws included in the Ninth Schedule. The court held that judicial review is a ‘basic feature’ of the constitution and it could not be taken away by putting a law under the Ninth Schedule. It said that the laws placed under the Ninth Schedule after April 24, 1973, are open to challenge in court if they violated fundamentals rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 or the ‘basic structure’ of the constitution. It was on April 24, 1973, that the Supreme Court first propounded the doctrine of ‘basic structure’ or ‘basic features’ of the constitution in its landmark verdict in the Kesavananda Bharati Case.
Originally (in 1951), the Ninth Schedule contained only 13 acts and regulations but at present (in 2016) their number is 282 Of these, the acts and regulations of the state legislature deal with land reforms and abolition of the zamindari system and that of the Parliament deal with other matters.
3. Saving of Laws Giving Effect to Certain Directive Principles
Article 31C, as inserted by the 25th Amendment Act of 1971, contained the following two provisions:
(a) No law that seeks to implement the socialistic directive principles specified in Article 39(b)21 or (c)22 shall be void on the ground of contravention of the fundamental rights conferred by Article 14 (equality before law and equal protection of laws) or Article 19 (protection of six rights in respect of speech, assembly, movement, etc.)
(b) No law containing a declaration that it is for giving effect to such policy shall be questioned in any court on the ground that it does not give effect to such a policy.
In the Kesavananda Bharati case23 (1973), the Supreme Court declared the above second provision of Article 31C as unconstitutional and invalid on the ground that judicial review is a basic feature of the Constitution and hence, cannot be taken away. However, the above first provision of Article 31C was held to be constitutional and valid.
The 42nd Amendment Act (1976) extended the scope of the above first provision of Article 31C by including within its protection any law to implement any of the directive principles specified in Part IV of the Constitution and not merely in Article 39 (b) or (c). However, this extention was declared as unconstitutional and invalid by the Supreme Court in the Minerva Mills case24 (1980).