29th CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
The thirty-second amendment bill, enacted as the Twenty-Ninth constitutional amendment in India’s twenty-third year as a republic, was authorized in the year 1972. In a nutshell, the 29th constitutional amendment is known for the addition of Kerala acts centering on land reforms to the ninth schedule of the Indian Constitution. It added two acts to the schedule which were:
- The Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1969 (Kerala Act 35 of 1969).
- The Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1971 (Kerala Act 25 of 1971).
However, before delving into the intricacies of the 29th Constitutional Amendment, it is prudent to know what the ninth schedule is about. Before gaining independence, the practise of Zamindari was quite prevalent in India and was widespread over the Indian sub-continent. However, after 1947, with the sole intent and agenda to take India towards an equitable and an unbiased road, the practise of Zamindari was curbed and a legal way of dealing with the land was introduced in the form of land reforms. Not everyone was accepting of these land reforms and these reforms, along with harsh criticisms, were also subjected to various legal petitions in the Courts.
The Bihar Land Reforms Act of 1950 was declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Patna citing it to be a violation of Article 14. The Government, visibly concerned with the incorrect direction being taken by the land and agricultural reforms, added the ninth schedule, through articles 31A and 31B to the Constitution of India in the year 1951 to protect the land reforms. Article 31 A is responsible for protecting different classes that come under laws whereas Article 31B provides its protection to some particular laws and regulations.
The ninth schedule now contains a list of laws, both at the central as well as the state level which fall outside the purview of judicial review and cannot be subjected to it. However, it has been reiterated by the Supreme Court that the laws falling under the schedule would be subjected to legal scrutiny if they are found to violate any of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens of India. Article 31B has a retrospective effect. It states:
“Validation of certain Acts and Regulations Without prejudice to the generality of the provisions contained in Article 31A, none of the Acts and Regulations specified in the Ninth Schedule nor any of the provisions thereof shall be deemed to be void, or ever to have become void, on the ground that such Act, Regulation or provision is inconsistent with, or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by, any provisions of this Part, and notwithstanding any judgment, decree or order of any court or tribunal to the contrary, each of the said Acts and Regulations shall, subject to the power of any competent Legislature to repeal or amend it, continue in force.”
The Kerala Land Reforms(Amendment) Act was brought into existence with the sole purpose of creating a tool for the development of the society. The land reforms were crafted to make it possible for small scale farmers or cultivators to gain a greater and a better access to the land. They were aimed at improving the lives of farmers belonging to the rural background who had no control over the use of the land that they worked on. The agrarian sector has always suffered from inequalities as well as exploitation which has been carried out by rich feudalistic lords upon the landless laborers. To eradicate this issue was another objective of the Act. The supporters of the act in question also firmly believed that the application of the act would bring about the desperately needed economic development, urbanization and modernization. The onset of financial development and development in other sectors would lead to the progression of the entire society in a positive direction and also ensure its metamorphosis for the good of everyone being affected by the old Zamindari system. Another objective of these land reforms act was to divide the land available in excess among the laborers who did not own any land.
Owing to the numerous factual and constructive difficulties faced by the Government of Kerala in the adequate implementation of the 1963 act, which was added to the ninth schedule, the process of heavy amendment of the act was commenced. The amendment was led by the Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1969 and the Kerala and Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1971.
Even after the initial act was amended, its successful implementation was again hindered due to the challenging of certain provisions of the amended act in the High Court of Kerala and later in the Supreme Court. The High Court of Kerala after due deliberation and keeping in consideration all the facts and circumstances surrounding the act and its amendments, proceeded to strike down several provisions of the amending act. The scheme and the objective due to which the act was brought into existence were appreciated both by the Supreme Court and the High Court, however, when an appeal was filed in the Apex Court by the parties who were affected by the decisions of the Kerala High Court, the Apex Court decided to uphold the decision of the High Court.
The Apex Court in its two judgments on 26th and 28th April, in the year 1972 cited its decision to stand with the High Court in striking down certain crucial provisions of the Land Reforms Act stating that it agreed with the High Court of Kerala in repealing of the aforementioned provisions. The amendment acts of 1969 and 1971 seek protection under Article 31B of the ninth schedule of the Indian Constitution.
Concern was expressed over the decision of both the High Court of Kerala and the Supreme Court since it was believed that the repealing of the provisions would have severe effect on the tenants and would lead to an ineffective implementation of the act. Till date, certain appeals against the judgment of the High Court of Kerala rendering certain provisions ineffective are pending in the Supreme Court.
One of the most famous cases of India, Kesavnanda Bharti v. State of Kerala, is related to the 29th Constitutional Amendment. A case was filed by the petitioner challenging the validity of the 29th Constitutional Amendment which included Kerala’s Land reforms and permitted the government to grab hold of land which belonged to the Mutt, of which the petitioner was a part of. The 1971 Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act was passed by the government when this issue was still under the consideration of the Court. This case also brought the validity of the 24th and the 25th Constitutional Amendment under the scanner along with the 29th Constitutional Amendment. It was contended by the petitioners that the amendments were a direct violation of their fundamental rights. This landmark case led to the establishment of the Doctrine of the Basic Structure of the Constitution. Amongst a bench of 13 judges, the validity of the 29th Constitutional Amendment was upheld by a majority of seven judges against the remaining six judges. Therefore, it can be noted that the validity was not upheld unconditionally.
- www.mea.gov.in/Images/pdf1/S9.pdf: Ninth Schedule of the Constitution of India
- indiankanoon.org/doc/257876/: Keshavnanda Bharti v. State of Kerala
- http://ildm.kerala.gov.in/THE-KERALA-LAND-REFORMS-ACT-1963.pdf: Kerala Land Reforms Act
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