Kolkata Municipal Corporation vs Bimal Kumar Shah 2024 INSC 435 – Constitutional Right To Property – Sub-Rights

Constitution of India, 1950; Article 300A – Right To Property -The binary reading of the constitutional right to property must give way to more meaningful renditions, where the larger right to property is seen as comprising intersecting sub-rights, each with a distinct character but interconnected to constitute the whole. These sub-rights weave themselves into each other, and as a consequence, State action or the legislation that results in the deprivation of private property must be measured against this constitutional net as a whole, and not just one or many of its strands. Seven such sub-rights can be identified, albeit non-exhaustive. These are: i) duty of the State to inform the person that it intends to acquire his property – the right to notice, ii) the duty of the State to hear objections to the acquisition – the right to be heard, iii) the duty of the State to inform the person of its decision to acquire – the right to a reasoned decision, iv) the duty of the State to demonstrate that the acquisition is for public purpose – the duty to acquire only for public purpose, v) the duty of the State to restitute and rehabilitate – the right of restitution or fair compensation, vi) the duty of the State to conduct the process of acquisition efficiently and within prescribed timelines of the proceedings – the right to an efficient and expeditious process, and vii) final conclusion of the proceedings leading to vesting – the right of conclusion-These seven sub-rights may be procedures, but they do constitute the real content of the right to property under Article 300A, noncompliance of these will amount to violation of the right, being without the authority of law- The Right to notice: (i) A prior notice informing the bearer of the right that the State intends to deprive them of the right to property is a right in itself; a linear extension of the right to know embedded in Article 19(1)(a). The Constitution does not contemplate acquisition by ambush. The notice to acquire must be clear, cogent and meaningful – The Right to be heard: (i) Following the right to a meaningful and effective prior notice of acquisition, is the right of the property-bearer to communicate his objections and concerns to the authority acquiring the property. This right to be heard against the proposed acquisition must be meaningful and not a sham– The Right to a reasoned decision: i) That the authorities have heard and considered the objections is evidenced only through a reasoned order. It is incumbent upon the authority to take an informed decision and communicate the same to the objector- The Duty to acquire only for public purpose: (i) That the acquisition must be for a public purpose is inherent and an important fetter on the discretion of the authorities to acquire. This requirement, which conditions the purpose of acquisition must stand to reason with the larger constitutional goals of a welfare state and distributive justice- The Right of restitution or fair compensation: (i) A person’s right to hold and enjoy property is an integral part to the constitutional right under Article 300A. Deprivation or extinguishment of that right is permissible only upon restitution, be it in the form of monetary compensation, rehabilitation or other similar means. Compensation has always been considered to be an integral part of the process of acquisition – The Right to an efficient and expeditious process: (i) The acquisition process is traumatic for more than one reason. The administrative delays in identifying the land, conducting the enquiry and evaluating the objections, leading to a final declaration, consume time and energy. Further, passing of the award, payment of compensation and taking over the possession are equally time consuming. It is necessary for the administration to be efficient in concluding the process and within a reasonable time. This obligation must necessarily form part of Article 300A– The Right of conclusion: (i) Upon conclusion of process of acquisition and payment of compensation, the State takes possession of the property in normal circumstances. The culmination of an acquisition process is not in the payment of compensation, but also in taking over the actual physical possession of the land. If possession is not taken, acquisition is not complete. With the taking over of actual possession after the normal procedures of acquisition, the private holding is divested and the right, title and interest in the property, along-with possession is vested in the State. Without final vesting, the State’s, or its beneficiary’s right, title and interest in the property is inconclusive and causes lot of difficulties. The obligation to conclude and complete the process of acquisition is also part of Article 300A. (Para 26-31)

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