New Delhi

The Supreme Court of India ruled in a historic decision on Thursday that the state cannot lawfully acquire private property by force without following legal procedures. This decision emphasizes the need for due process in the acquisition of real estate, especially in cases where the state offers compensation.

The Case Background

A bench comprising Justices PS Narasimha and Aravind Kumar handed down the ruling, dismissing an appeal filed by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. The municipal organisation had appealed a ruling by the Kolkata High Court that had nullified the purchase of land on Narkeldanga North Road with plans to develop a park. According to the ruling of the High Court, the specified legislation did not authorize the municipal corporation to acquire the land through force.

The Value of Process in the Purchase of Property

In its 32-page ruling, the Supreme Court stressed that the state must follow a fair legal process before taking away someone’s real estate. Justice Narasimha emphasized that while compensation is a part of acquisition, it alone does not justify the authority of forcible acquisition when the state fails to follow the correct procedure.

Extensive Remarks from the Court

The court pointed out that placing too much focus on compensation compromises the more comprehensive procedural protections mandated by the Constitution. The court ruled that even if Section 363 of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation Act provides for compensation, the state must still follow proper procedures before depriving a person of their right to property; otherwise, compulsory acquisition remains unconstitutional.

Constitutional Framework

The 44th Constitutional Amendment moved the right to property from Part III (Fundamental Rights) to Part XII of the Constitution, but Article 300A still protects it. By stating that “no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law,” this article highlights property rights as both human and constitutional.

Seven Sub-Rights in Property Acquisition

According to the Supreme Court, obtaining property legally requires the following seven fundamental subrights:

  1. Right to Notice: The State must notify the individual of its plan to purchase their property.
  2. Right to be Heard: The State must hear any objections to the acquisition.
  3. Right to a Reasoned Decision: The State must justify its decision to acquire the property to the individual.
  4. Obligation to Purchase Only for Public Use: The State must prove that it is purchasing the property for public use.
  5. Right to Restitution or Fair Compensation: The State must provide restitution or offer fair compensation.
  6. Right to an Efficient and Timely Process: The State must carry out the acquisition procedure efficiently and within the allotted time frames.
  7. Right of Conclusion: The State’s actions must lead to a final resolution that results in vesting.

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