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The Right to Property and Article 39(b)

A Complex Interplay

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The importance of the right to property as outlined in Article 39(b) of the Constitution, discussing its implications and significance in ensuring economic justice and social welfare.

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The question of whether the government has the right to take possession of private property under Article 39(b) of the Indian Constitution is a topic of significant legal and philosophical debate. This article delves into the intricacies of this provision, its historical context, and the contemporary discourse surrounding it.

Article 39(b) falls under the Directive Principles of State Policy, which are guidelines for the creation of a just society. Specifically, Article 39(b) states that the State should ensure that “the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good.” This provision is complemented by Article 31C, which provides immunity to laws giving effect to certain directive principles against judicial review on the grounds of violation of fundamental rights conferred by Articles 14 and 19.

Historically, the Directive Principles have been considered unenforceable by the courts. However, Article 39(b) is unique in that it has been given a place of prominence due to its relationship with Article 31C. This relationship was highlighted in the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973), where the Supreme Court held that while Directive Principles cannot override Fundamental Rights, Article 31C is an exception provided it is used to implement Article 39(b) and (c).

The interpretation of Article 39(b) has been a subject of contention, particularly regarding its application to privately owned properties. The Supreme Court of India has initiated proceedings to clarify the government’s right to private property, focusing on establishing the importance of the directive principle of State policy and Article 39(b) of the Indian Constitution.

The debate around Article 39(b) is not merely academic. It has real implications for wealth distribution and the role of the state in managing resources. A recent study by the World Inequality Database highlighted that wealth inequality in India is now higher than during British rule. This has sparked discussions on whether Parliament could enact a ‘wealth tax’ to redistribute wealth more equitably.

The Supreme Court’s reinterpretation of Article 39(b) is set against the backdrop of these debates. While deciding property disputes, the Court has felt the need to re-interpret this article to address wealth distribution and wealth inequality in India. The expression ‘material resources’ is under scrutiny, with questions arising about whether it includes private resources as well.

The ongoing legal discourse is complex, with various interpretations and potential implications for property rights in India. The Supreme Court’s judgment will be pivotal in determining the extent of the government’s authority over private property and its redistribution for the common good.

In conclusion, the right of the government to take possession of private property under Article 39(b) is a multifaceted issue that touches upon constitutional law, socio-economic policies, and individual rights. The Supreme Court’s forthcoming judgment is eagerly awaited, as it will set a precedent for the interpretation of this constitutional provision and its application in the future.

The debate on Article 39(b) and the government’s right to property is a testament to the dynamic nature of constitutional law and its ability to adapt to the evolving needs of society. It remains to be seen how the Court will balance the directive principles with fundamental rights, and how this balance will shape the socio-economic landscape of India.

Vinay Kumar is Marketing Professional turned Entrepreneur, believes in turning ideas into reality.

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