Until 1978, the right to property, in India, was a fundamental right. Fundamental rights are a group of rights that have been acknowledged as deserving of a high degree of protection from interference. These are absolute human rights that nobody can deny or deprive a person of under any circumstances.
This was true till the 44th amendment in the Indian constitution in 1978. Today, the right to property in India falls under the category of human rights. This means that is an essential right that every human has. It is meant to protect their dignity and equality. However, it is important to remember that human rights are not absolute and can be limited in certain situations.
Since it is essential knowledge, let us help you understand it simply. In this article, we would talk about
- What is “property”?
- Why was the 44th amendment made at all?
- What is stated in article 300-A (the article that altered the right to property from a fundamental right to a human right)?
- What does the supreme court say about it?
What is “property”?
In general, we understand it to be any land we possess. However, according to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 31, the term “property” should be given a broad definition. The court says that it should include all widely accepted categories of interests that bear the hallmarks or characteristics of property rights. The term “property” under Article 300A is not limited to just land. It includes corporeal and incorporeal rights. It consists of money, a contract, an ownership stake in property, etc.
Why was the 44th amendment made at all?
Prior to Part III of the Indian Constitution, Article 19 (1) (f) and Article 31 both, maintained that the right to property was a basic right. Indian residents were given the right to purchase, possess, and dispose of their property under Article 19(1)(f). Article 31 safeguarded the right against being deprived of one’s property. The right was absolute and could not be denied in any circumstance. However, there was a clash.
The Defence of India Act had given the government the authority to requisition and acquire any movable property in the public interest in accordance with the Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Properties Act, 1952. This had been passed in 1962. However, as soon as the authority began purchasing land, it became clear that the state’s ability to do so for public use could be limited because the right to property was a fundamental right.
Eventually, the 44th Amendment to the Indian Constitution abolished Article 19 (1) (f). The Constitution (44th Amendment) Act of 1978 also abolished Article 31, and a modified version of it was inserted as Article 300-A. This altered the right to property act – changed it from being a fundamental right to a human right.
What is stated in article 300-A?
Article 300-A (right to property act) was added to the Constitution in 1978. It states that “no person shall be deprived of his property except by authority of law”.
It means that nobody can take away someone’s property. However, it gives authority to the government to do it, if needed. The article gives the government the authority to seize someone else’s property for the benefit of the general welfare. However, the Madhya Pradesh High Court (HC) clarified in a case it decided in May 2022 that the law requiring the property acquisition needed to be legitimate and that the state’s acquisition of land had to be for the benefit of the public.
What does the Supreme Court say about it?
The Supreme Court of India states that under a welfare state, even the government authorities cannot seize property without following the necessary legal process. It stated that no matter what, the government would not be allowed to break into a citizen’s private property and claim ownership under the excuse of “adverse possession.”
In the case of Vidya Devi versus the State of Himachal Pradesh(January 2022), the Supreme Court (SC) said that a welfare state cannot be allowed to use the defence of adverse possession, which grants legal title to such property for more than 12 years to a trespasser – a person who has committed a tort or even a crime. The state cannot be authorised to use the law of adverse possession to seize the property of its own residents in order to perfect its title to the land.
Although it may no longer be a fundamental right, the right to property is still protected by Article 300-A of the Constitution. It is a human right today. This was noted by the court in the case of Vimlaben Ajitbhai Patel vs. Vatslaben Ashokbhai Patel and others. No person is to be dispossessed of his property except by the authority of law, according to Article 300-A of the Indian Constitution.