Rule of law binds Parliament: SC
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Last Updated: Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 18:05
New Delhi: 'Rule of law' is an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution and cannot be abrogated by Parliament which is bound by it, the Supreme Court has held.

"Rule of law as a concept finds no place in our Constitution, but has been characterized as a basic feature of our Constitution which cannot be abrogated or destroyed even by Parliament and in fact, it binds it," a five-judge constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said.

"In Kesavananda Bharati?s case, this Court enunciated rule of law as one of the most important aspects of the doctrine of basic structure. Rule of law affirms Parliament’s supremacy while at the same time denying it sovereignty over the Constitution," the bench said.

It added that "any law, which deprives a person of his private property for private interest, will be unlawful and unfair and undermines the rule of law and can be subjected to judicial review."

The constitutional bench held that rule of law is an "implied limitation" on Parliament’s powers to legislate.

The bench, however, cautioned the constitutional courts from considering the doctrine of rule of law as an absolute principle and said the doctrine can be applied in rare cases to undo laws which are tyrannical and in violation of the basic structure of our Constitution.

"Rule of law as a principle, it may be mentioned, is not an absolute means of achieving equality, human rights, justice, freedom and even democracy and it all depends upon the nature of the legislation and the seriousness of the violation," it said.

The bench, which also included justices Mukundakam Sharma, K S Radhakrishnan, Swatanter Kumar and Anil R Dave passed the judgment while upholding the Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Acquisition Act, 1996, enacted by the Karnataka legislature to protect the 465-acre estate of the famous Russian painter Svetoslav and his wife, in Bangalore.

Svetoslav had sold a part of the estate to K T Plantation before dying but the state government took over the estate in 1996, through the act, to preserve the valuable trees, paintings and arts gallery of the artist couple.

The bench while dismissing the plea of K T Plantation had said that private land of individuals can be acquired for public purpose only and with due compensation.

The court also mentioned in its 122-page judgment that land acquisition becomes a matter of concern in the area of foreign investment but it should be clear to all that rule of law exists in the country.

"Let the message, therefore, be loud and clear, that rule of law exists in this country even when we interpret a statute, which has the blessings of Article 300A (Persons not to be deprived of property save by authority of law).

Deprivation of property may also cause serious concern in the area of foreign investment, especially in the context of International Law and international investment agreements.

"Even, if the foreign investor has no fundamental right (in the host country), let them know, that the rule of law prevails in this country," the bench said.


First Published: Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 18:05

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