Article 131 of the Constitution of India

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The article

[ Shreya Thomas, laxmikanth's summarized version Mar 21, 2017

Article 131 of the Indian Constitution deals with the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court,detailed understanding and analysis is needed:

Article 131: Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

[Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute – (a) between the Government of India and one or more States; or (b) between the Government of India and any State of States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or (c) between two or more States.]

Original jurisdiction of the supreme court gives the nature of disputes that can be brought only to the supreme court at the first instance and not to any lower courts.

Also,the supreme court held that the disputes which can be raised before the Supreme Court in its exclusive original jurisdiction under Article 131:

must be disputes between the Union and the States or the States. must raise questions of a legal right. any suit by private citizen against centre or state cannot be entertained. All the above three cases clearly shows the federal nature of the disputes and also being exclusive only to the supreme court.Also,implies that the federal structure has been given importance by the constitution makers.

Now,Article 32 imposes duty on the Supreme Court to enforce the Fundamental rights. and every individual has a right to move the Supreme Court directly if there has been any infringement on his Fundamental Rights,by which writ should also come into original jurisdiction,but this case does not satisfy the above said points of federal nature and legal right .The same is for an individual vs centre/state dispute.

However,the exceptions for the article 131 are included in the article 363(1):-

[Notwithstanding ……. this Jurisdiction does not extend to treaties signed before the commencement of the constitution and its scope does not extend to

• complaints as to interference with interstate water supplies referred to statutory tribunal mentioned in Article 262 with Inter-state water (1) disputes Act. 1956.

• matters referred to the finance commission (Art. 280);

• adjustment of finances between the union and states (Art. 290).]

As per the above article,the supreme court should not interfere in any of the above circumstances.But there is again an exception given in article 143(2):

[The President may, notwithstanding anything in the proviso to Article 131, refer a dispute of the kind mentioned in the said proviso to the Supreme Court for opinion and the Supreme Court shall, after such hearing as it thinks fit, report to the President its opinion thereon.]

That is,irrespective of its jurisdiction,the President can consult for Supreme courts’ opinion.

The analysis of this article also throws light on one of the recent judgements on Cauvery water dispute coming under A.262 which is not in the Supreme Courts jurisdiction.Unlike, in the past where the supreme court denied to take up the state of Karnataka vs the state of Andhra Pradesh case on the basis of A.131,now the Supreme Court took up the Cauvery disputes case.Many claimed the court to be exercising beyond its jurisdiction.

The supreme court has a special leave to appeal option as mentioned in A.136(1):

[Notwithstanding …….grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India.]

The supreme court exercised this article to give the verdict of Cauvery water dispute. To the known extent,this is a major loophole in the article 131,as this diminishes the nature of the tribunals as equal to a lower court,along with timelag and piling up of cases,including non compliance of parties to tribunals.

In addition,other exceptions include,

cases of political nature (State of Bihar vs union of India case) an ordinary dispute of commercial nature between the centre and the states. recovery of damages by a state against the centre. Though,the above disputes can be raised in the lower courts and to the apex through appeals, the disputes under A.131 clearly remain only federal and only legal in nature.

State governments moving the SC against the Centre

1961 West Bengal, 2020 Kerala

Dhananjay Mahapatra, Kerala challenges CAA in SC, makes it Centre-state dispute, January 15, 2020: The Times of India

Only 2nd Time In 60 Yrs A State Has Invoked Art 131

The Kerala government on Tuesday challenged the validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) under Article 131, making it a Centre-state dispute, and termed the CAA unconstitutional for denying Indian citizenship to Muslims, Rohingya, Hazaras, Tamils and even minorities, such as Indian-origin people from Fiji and Malaysia.

The Kerala government said the assembly had on December 31, 2019, passed a resolution requesting the Centre to “abrogate CAA” and requested the Supreme Court to scrap the law as otherwise the state was bound under Article 256 of the Constitution to implement its “arbitrary, unreasonable and irrational” provisions.

The law provides a path to citizenship for Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain, Parsi and Buddhist minorities who fled Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh due to religious persecution and entered India by December 31, 2014.

This is the second time in the last 60 years that a state government has moved the apex court resisting implementation of a Parliament-enacted law. In 1961, the West Bengal government had moved a suit in the court under Article 131 against Parliament passing the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957, which had empowered the Centre to acquire land vested or owned by the state.

The SC had ruled that “upon proper interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Act, it was clear the Act applied also to coal-bearing areas vested in or owned by the state”, upholding a constitutional edge enjoyed by the Centre to legislate for acquiring state-owned property.

Kerala: Why ethnic Indians in Malaysia, Fiji being ignored?

Article 131 gives the SC the exclusive jurisdiction to decide suits relating to Centre-state and state-state disputes. Apart from neighbouring countries, the Kerala government asked why the CAA did not cover ethnic Indians in Malaysia and Fiji. It said, “The impugned amendment Act and Rules and Passport Orders further overlooked the issues of ethnic Indians in Malaysia and Fiji. The Indian diaspora in Malaysia and Fiji are descendants of those Indians who migrated there in search of work or were brought there as indentured labourers when those were British colonies.”

The state said the CAA overlooked the issues of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Muslims in Sri Lanka, who are minuscule minorities in those countries. The CAA also did not consider “Hindus, primarily of Tamil descent in Sri Lanka, and Hindu Madhesis in Terai of Nepal, Christians of Bhutan and Sri Lanka and Buddhists from Nepal” for citizenship, it said.

It went on to say that the CAA did not cover “the ethnic issues of Balochs, Sindhis, Pakhthuns and Mohajirs in Pakistan and Biharis in Bangladesh”. “The Biharis of Bangladesh and Mohajirs of Pakistan form part of millions of citizens of undivided India belonging to various faiths who were staying in the said areas of Pakistan and Bangladesh when India was partitioned in 1947,” the Left Front government said. It further said the CAA did not promise citizenship to “Hazaras, reportedly persecuted and repeatedly attempted to be cleansed on the ground of their ethnicity, in Afghanistan. Further, the CAA does not cover the ethnic and linguistic issues of Tamils in Sri Lanka”.

The plea, without articulating how the Citizenship (Amendment) Act became a Centre-state dispute, said since the Act was “manifestly arbitrary and unconstitutional” as it violated secularism and right to equality, “thus, there exists a dispute involving questions of law and facts between the state of Kerala and the Union of India, regarding the enforcement of legal rights as a state and as well as for the enforcement of fundamental, statutory, constitutional and other legal rights of the inhabitants of the state of Kerala”.

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