‘Private Property is a human right: SC’

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    21st Jan, 2020

Context

In a recent judgement, the Supreme Court held that “a citizen’s right to own private property is a human right” and the state cannot take possession of it without following due procedure and authority of law.

About Human Rights:

  • Human rights are based on dignity, equality and mutual respect – regardless of nationality, religion or beliefs.
  • Simply put, Human Rights are those minimal rights which every individual must have against the State or other public authority by virtue of his being a 'member of the human family', irrespective of any other consideration.
  • These basic human rights are:
  • Universal:They belong to all (everybody in the world)
  • Inalienable:They cannot be taken away from the people
  • Indivisible and interdependent:Governments should not be able to pick and choose which are respected.
  • Human Rights can be violated:Although they are inalienable, they are not invulnerable. Violations can stop people from enjoying their rights, but they do not stop the rights from existing.
  • Essential: They are essential for freedom, justice, and peace.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): UDHR was the first international agreement which outlined the rights and freedoms everyone is entitled to. It is a historic document on the basic principles of human rights that laid the foundation for human rights protections. India is a signatory to the UDHR.

 What did the Court say?

  • A bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and Ajay Rastogi in its verdict said the state, being a welfare state governed by the rule of law cannot arrogate to itself a status beyond what is provided by the Constitution.
  • The bench referred to an earlier verdict to say it has been held that the right to property is now considered to be not only a constitutional or statutory right but also a human right.
  • The top court ruled that to forcibly dispossess citizens of their private property, without following the due process of law, would be to violate a human right, as also the constitutional right under Article 300A of the Constitution.
  • The state being a welfare state cannot be permitted to take the plea of adverse possession, which allows a trespasser i.e. a person guilty of a tort, or even a crime, to gain legal title over such property for over 12 years.
  • The state cannot be permitted to perfect its title over the land by invoking the doctrine of adverse possession “to grab the property of its own citizens, as has been done in the present case”.
  • The state cannot dispossess a citizen of his property except in accordance with the procedure established by law.

Right to Property: Property ceased to be a fundamental right with the 44th Constitution Amendment in 1978. Nevertheless, Article 300A required the state to follow due procedure and authority of law to deprive a person of his or her private property. Article 300-A of the Constitution of India reads as under:

Persons not to be deprived of property save by authority of law. No person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law.”

Thus, right to property is a constitutional right as well as human right, though right to property is no longer a fundamental right and constitutional protection continues in as much as without authority of law, a person cannot be deprived of his property.

 The case:

  • The state government of Himachal Pradesh had acquired the land in 1967-68 for construction of road between Nadaun-Sujanpur Road in Hamir Pur district without following the acquisition proceedings.
  • The state government deprived the appellant (an illiterate persona and a widow from a rural area) of her private property without resorting to the procedure prescribed by law.
  • The Appellant has been divested of her right to property without being paid any compensation whatsoever for over half a century.
  • The SC exercised its extraordinary jurisdiction, under Articles 136 and 142 of the Constitution, and directed the state to pay the compensation to the woman in eight weeks with all statutory benefits.
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