Question – In the context of the question of law, Article-131 of the Indian Constitution is a useful weapon of the Supreme Court to maintain balance between the Center and the State. Prove it

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Question – In the context of the question of law, Article-131 of the Indian Constitution is a useful weapon of the Supreme Court to maintain balance between the Center and the State. Prove it – 25 May 2021

Answer – 

Under Article 131, the Supreme Court decides disputes between various units of the Union of India – between the Center and the States, or between two or more states. By this Article, the Supreme Court shall have the power to hold the first hearing of the case against the appellate jurisdiction, wherein the apex court has to review the decision of the lower court.

The provisions mentioned in Article-131:

Article-131 of the Indian Constitution empowers the Supreme Court to have original jurisdiction over any dispute between the various units of the federal structure of India. These disputes are as follows:

  1. Between the Center and one or more states.
  2. Center and any state or states to be on one side and one or more states on the other side.
  3. Between two or more states.

Under Article-131 of the Constitution, disputes between the State and the Center can be heard in which the question of fact or law is contained, and the issues on which the existence of the legal authority of the State or Center depends. Therefore, this Article, 131 cannot be used to settle disputes motivated by political sentiment. In 2016, the Supreme Court disagreed to hear the dispute between the Central Government and the National Capital Territory of Delhi. If a citizen files a petition in the Supreme Court against the Center or the State, it will not be taken under this Article.

Disputes related to Kerala and Chhattisgarh:

  • The Kerala government, while filing the petition, said that, states will be compelled by the Center under Article 256 to comply with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which will be ‘clearly unilateral, unfair, irrational and infringing on fundamental rights’.
  • The Government of Kerala requested the Supreme Court to declare CAA as a law violating the principles of Article 14 (Equality before law), Article 21(life or personal liberty) and Article 25 (Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution.
  • Apart from Kerala, the Government of Chhattisgarh has also filed a petition before the Supreme Court using Article-131 to declare the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008 as unconstitutional.
  • According to the Government of Chhattisgarh, the Act violates the sovereignty of the State Governments regarding ‘Police’. It may be noted that, as per the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, ‘Police’ is the subject of the state list.

Other controversies related to Article-131:

  1. The first case regarding original jurisdiction was in the year 1961 in West Bengal v. Union of India, in which the Government of West Bengal challenged the THE COAL BEARING AREAS (ACQUISITION AND DEVELOPMENT) ACT, 1957 passed by Parliament in the Court.
  2. In the year 1978, in the case of Karnataka State v. Union of India, Justice P.N. Bhagwati ruled that the State need not show that its legal right has been violated, but a legal question must be present.
  3. In the said case, it was said that the constitutionality of the law can be examined by Article-131, but the decision of the Court in the case of Madhya Pradesh State v. Union of India in 2011 was different from this. However, this case is also pending before a three-judge bench of the court.
  4. The case of Jharkhand v. State of Bihar in the year 2012 involving the issue of Bihar’s obligation to pay pension to the employees of Jharkhand for employment period in the undivided Bihar state. This matter is also pending for hearing by a large bench of the court.

The Supreme Court should try to avoid hearing politically motivated petitions. Also, the representatives of the states should put their concerns in relation to any law at the time of lawmaking before Parliament. Be aware that federalism is like a two-way street, in which both sides should respect each other’s boundaries, which are prescribed by the constitution. Unless an act is declared void or unconstitutional through judicial process, states are bound to implement central laws.

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