Bhikaji Narain Dhakras v. State of Madhya Pradesh and Another,1955 AIR 781, 1955 SCR (2) 58

Author- Aryaman Arora, University Five Year Law College, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur

Edited By- Mansi, University Five Year Law College, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur

A) ABSTRACT / HEADNOTE

This case analysis examines the detailed issues related to pre and post-constitution laws. This case includes the parties CP Transport Service Servicing Transport company, these two big players are greatly affected by the newly enacted 1947 amendment act which gave the provincial government power to create a monopoly and acquire trade routes for themselves, even though the plaintiffs have a permit to trade, they are denied of so.

The key issue that went to court was an interpretation of Articles 13(relating to inconsistent laws), 19(relating to trade freedom) and 31(2). Along with the constitutionality of the alleged 1947 Act concerning the violation of fundamental Rights.

This proved to be a landmark judgment in which the court used the Doctrine of Eclipse and indulged in interpretations of word like ‘void’ and ‘dormant’ and ultimately dismissed the writ petitions filed by the motor operators on the ground that subsequent amendments to the constitution namely (4th and the 5th constitutional amendments), rectified the inconsistencies in 1947 Act and revalidated it once again making it operable.

B) CASE DETAILS

  • Judgement Cause Title / Case Name: Bhikaji Narain Dhakras And Others vs The State Of Madhya Pradesh
  • Case Number: Petitions No. 189 to 193 of 1955
  • Judgement Date: 29 September 1955
  • Court: Supreme Court of India
  • Quorum / Constitution of Bench: Sudhi Ranjan Das, N.H. Bhagwati, T.L.Venkatarama Aiyyar, Syed Jaffer Imam, N. Chandrasekhara Aiyar
  • Author / Name of Judges: Acting Chief Justice S.R. Das
  • Citation: 1955 AIR 781, 1955 SCR (2) 589
  • Legal Provisions Involved Constitution of India – (Article 13, 19, 31,32), Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, C.P & Berar Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 1947

C) INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND OF JUDGEMENT

This particular case in point delves into the concept of Doctrine of the eclipse:-

This doctrine as enshrined in Article 13(1) – “All laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Pan, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.”, which simply means that any law which came into force even before the enactment of the Constitution of India in 1950, if found in violation of the fundamental rights as promised to the citizens of India does not instantaneously null and void, but simply remains dormant or unenforceable till the extent of the inconsistency.

The law can once again become fully operable when by way of an amendment it attifies the inconsistency in that specific law such that it no longer commits the said breach of fundamental rights. This doctrine is one of the most prominent doctrines and also finds its applications not just in this particular case but in many of the landmark cases decided by the Indian Judiciary

D) FACTS OF THE CASE

The Factual Matrix, The petitioners were carriage operators in Madhya Pradesh and for a long time had been carrying their business as per permits given under the Motor Vehicle Act. The core problem arose when a new amendment, increased the powers given to the government of the province, essentially giving them the power to create a monopoly in the transport business, which it exercised on 4th February 1955 by taking over certain routes that drastically affected the petitioners economically.

27th May 1955, The Petitioners filed a writ petition in Supreme Court, that aimed to challenge the constitutional validity of the 1947 amendment. They contended that their right to do trade as given in Article 19 was being infringed by the said amendment and asserted it became void as per provisions of Article 13(1).

After due consideration and deliberation, on 29th September 1955, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in this landmark judgment dismissed the petitions and upheld the validity of the act based on the doctrine of eclipse.

E) LEGAL ISSUES RAISED

i. Whether C.P & Berar Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Act, 1947 became void after the Constitution of India 1950 came into force, owing to its inconsistencies with Article 19(1)(g) {Freedom to Trade}

ii. Whether a law, once rendered void under Article 13(1) of the Constitution, can be revived by later amendments without the need for re-enactment.

iii. Whether the amendments to the Constitution (expressly the 1st Amendment, 1951 and 4th Amendment, 155), removed the inconsistencies of the disputed CP & Berar Act, hence restoring its validity.

F) PETITIONER/ APPELLANT’S ARGUMENTS

1. The counsels for Petitioner submitted that the said Amendment Act conferred substantial powers to the Provincial Government, allowing them to create a monopoly in the transport business . They asserted that such an act was violative of fundamental rights enshrined in part III of the constitution (especially Article 19’s Right to Carry Trade).

–Moreover cited violation of Article 31 (2) “No property shall be compulsorily acquired or requisitioned save for a public purpose and save by authority of a law which provides for compensation for the property so acquired or requisitioned….”, which relates to the acquisition of property by the state only under certain conditions.

2. The petitioners also relied on the case of Shagir Ahmad v. State of U.P to substantiate their argument that the CP & Berar Act became upon enactment of the Constitution under Article 13(1) {relating to laws inconsistent with fundamental rights}, that the contested act applied a total prohibition on carrying out trade by transport operators and was no manner ‘reasonable restriction’ as laid in Article 19(6).

3. The learned counsel on behalf of petitioner contended that the contested amendment act was rendered void under article 13(1) and bolstered this argument by citing Professor Cooley’s work on Constitutional limitations (also cited in the aforementioned Shagir Ahmad case) which argues that laws which are void owing to their unconstitutionality remain ‘dead’ and cannot be revived by later amendments.

4. The learned counsel for the petitioner contended that the First and the Fourth Constitutional Amendments (1951 and 1955 respectively) did not restore the said contested act. They agreed, that these amendments were to address certain irregularities in the Part III of the constitution but also affirmed that they explicitly did not mention nor revalidate the act in question. They firmly maintained without a special re-enactment through the legislative process, the Berar Act couldn’t be restored to validity.

G) RESPONDENT’S ARGUMENTS

i. The counsels for Respondent submitted that the act in question did not become void in entirety upon the Constitution’s enactment in 1950 . They cited article 13(1)- “All laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Pan, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void” , emphasizing on the term ‘void’ and argued it meant only ‘till the extent of inconsistency’ , and didn’t imply the entire act to be obliterated/wiped out.

ii. They also relied on Keshavan Madhava Menon v. State of Bombay to bolster their argument that the Act was not dead but only dormant . They further used this case to argue that after the First amendment’s rectification , the CP & Berar Act ceased to be inconsistent and once again became operational.

iii. The respondents counsel argued that the Fourth Amendment, 1955 had retrospective effect and had been explicitly applied at the CP & Berar Act and made it constitutional . Therefore , the petitioners now couldn’t challenge it under Article 31(2) {conditional acquisition of property}.

B) RELATED LEGAL PROVISIONS

Constitution of India –

i. Article 13(1) – “All laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Pan, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.” .

ii. Article 19(1)(g) – “All citizens shall have the right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.”

iii. Article 31(2) – “No property shall be compulsorily acquired or requisitioned save for a public purpose and save by authority of a law which provides for compensation for the property so acquired or requisitioned and either fixes the amount of the compensation or specifies the principles on which, and the manner in which, the compensation is to be determined and given; and no such law shall be called in question in any court on the ground that the compensation provided by that law is not adequate.”

Motor Vehicle sections involved:

Section 58 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 – Related to grant and renewal of permits.

Section 43 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 – Conferred powers on provincial government.

Other provisions involved:

Section 299 of Government of India Act, 1935

Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 – Amended Article 19(6).

Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Act, 1955 – Amended Article 31(2).

 C.P. & Berar Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 1947 (Act III of 1948) – Amended Motor Vehicles Act for Central Provinces and Berar region.

H) JUDGEMENT

The Supreme Court in its final Judgment on 29 September, 1951 , dismissed the petitions filed by Bhikaji Narain Dhakras and others , ultimately upholding the validity of CP & Berar Act . The court upheld the notification of the state government in taking over transport routes . Furthermore , the court restored the validity of the 1947 Act , taking into account the First Amendment 1951 and Fourth in 1955 , that rectified the inconsistencies of the contested act with respect to Article 19(1)(g) and 31(2) .

The Hon’ble court affirmed that the 1947 Act was merely ineffective until its rectification by constitutional amendments rather than being completely ‘void’ , owing to Doctrine of Eclipse .

I) CONCLUSION & COMMENTS

The case being a landmark judgment of the apex court, is definitely a one of its kind precedent than delves into the intricacies and analysing the interplay between pre-constitutional and post-constitutional laws. The deep deliberation and analysis of all the smallest aspects of laws involving Articles 13, 19(1)(g) and 31(2) along with considering their retrospective nature is definitely evident in the greatly formulated judgment .

I believe the apex court did justice in this case by upholding constitutionality of the 1947 Act. Moreover I believe the petitioner’s arguments were way less convincing and lacked in terms of legal quality.

J) REFERENCES

Cases Referred:

i. Saghir Ahmad v. The State of U.P. & Others, 1954 AIR 728- This case was cited by the petitioners to argue that laws inconsistent with fundamental rights are rendered void and cannot be revived without re-enactment.

ii. Deep Chand v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1959 AIR 648) – This case was likely referenced to discuss the implications of Article 13(1) on pre-constitutional laws.

iii. Keshavan Madhava Menon vs The State Of Bombay, 1951 AIR 128, 1951 SCR 228- used to bolstered respondent’s argument that the act was merely dormant and not ‘dead’

Important Statutes Referred:

The Constitution of India:

1. Article 13(1) – Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights.

2. Article 19(1)(g) – Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc. (right to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade, or business).

3. Article 31(2) – Right to property and the conditions under which the state can acquire property.

Motor Vehicles Act, 1939:

i. Section 58 – Permits for stage carriages and other transport vehicles.

ii. C.P. & Berar Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 1947 (Act III of 1948) – Amended the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, granting the Provincial Government the power to monopolize the motor transport business.

Constitutional Amendments:

i. First Amendment Act, 1951 – Introduced changes to address inconsistencies with fundamental rights.

ii. Fourth Amendment Act, 1955 – Further amendments to harmonize laws with the Constitution.