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
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.