Krishna Kumar Singh & Anr. vs State of Bihar & Ors. (2017) 3 Supreme Court Cases (SCC) 1.

Author- Mayra Kumar, student, MIT World Peace University

Edited by- Sushree Sangita Panda, student, Birla Global University. 

ABSTRACT / HEADNOTE (not less than 150 words and more than 250 words)

The constitutionality of the State of Bihar government’s 1989 “State of Bihar Non-Government Sanskrit Educational Institutions (Taking Over of Administration and Control) Ordinance” was issued in the Krishna Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar (2017) case. This law aimed to regulate professional hiring practices in 429 private Sanskrit educational institutions and place them under governmental supervision. Legal objections about administrative law, education policy, and constitutional law surfaced, casting doubt on the ordinance’s legality and application. Important concerns included the governor’s constitutional jurisdiction to adopt ordinances, the steps involved in putting such laws into effect, and how these actions might affect educational institutions. The case comprised multiple legal hearings that resulted in a Supreme legal decision made by a seven-judge panel. After much deliberation, the judiciary declared that re-promulgating ordinances without parliamentary consent was illegal. This historic ruling highlighted the significance of upholding constitutional principles in legislative activities and had a substantial impact on the management and supervision of private educational institutions in Bihar.

Keywords (Minimum 5): Constitutionality, Supervision, Ordinances, Re-promulgating, Educational institutions.



      i)          Judgement Cause Title / Case Name Krishna Kumar Singh & Anr. vs State of Bihar & Ors.
    ii)          Case Number AIR 579
   iii)          Judgement Date January 2, 2017
   iv)          Court Supreme Court
     v)          Quorum / Constitution of Bench 7-judge bench of the Supreme Court
   vi)          Author / Name of Judges Justice Dr T.S. Thakur, C.J. (Concurring); Justice Madan B: Lokur (Dissenting); Justice S.A. Bobde (Majority);

Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Majority);

Justice Uday U. Lalit (Majority);

 vii)          Citation (2017) 3 Supreme Court Cases (SCC) 1
viii)          Legal Provisions Involved Articles 123, 133, 213, and 356 of the Indian Constitution


The President of India is empowered to enact laws through ordinances, which he may do on the advice of Union ministers. Ordinances have the same legal force as laws, although the house must not be in session before they can be enacted. The main purpose of ordinances is to provide emergency legislation or action when the country needs it and the parliament is not in session. This is the most significant aspect of ordinances. It is significant to remember that an ordinance will expire six weeks after the start of a new parliament session if it is not passed. The Constitution’s Articles 123 and 213 address the authority to make ordinances. The President of India may only promulgate an ordinance while neither of the two Houses of Parliament is in session, according to Article 123 of the Indian Constitution. Plus, it specifies that an ordinance can only possess the same legal force and effect as legislation of Parliament if it is presented to both chambers of Parliament. It is significant to remember that Article 213 grants the governor the authority to promulgate ordinances. An ordinance may be enacted on any matter over which Parliament has authority, provided that it is promulgated with consideration for the division of powers outlined in the concurrent, union, and state lists. Understanding the primary issue of what happens to activities taken under an ordinance that subsequently stops being in effect is the primary goal and objective of this essay. The important ruling in the Krishna Kumar Singh case provided clarification on the matter. Thus, let’s first examine the case’s facts before evaluating the questions in it.


Procedural Background of the Case

  • Ordinance Passage (1989) – The Bihar Non-Governmental Sanskrit Schools (Taking over Management and Control) Ordinance was passed by the Bihar government in 1989. The purpose of this legislation was to give the government management and control over 429 private Sanskrit institutions.
  • Re-issuing the Ordinance – The ordinance was repeatedly promulgated without being introduced in the state assembly for consideration of becoming a law. During the time this ordinance was in effect, no laws were passed pertaining to it.
  • Appeal to the High Court of Patna – The Patna High Court received a petition for pay and other obligations from teachers and staff at the impacted schools.
  • High Court Decision – The petition was dismissed by the Patna High Court. It was decided that re-promulgations without good cause in succession go against the fundamental principles of constitutionalism. It ruled that the re-promulgation was invalid, citing the D.C. Wadhwa v. State of Bihar decision. The High Court mandated that 305 legitimate school employees get their salaries through April 30, 1992.
  • Appeal to the Supreme Court – The Supreme Court received an appeal challenging the ruling of the High Court.
  • Judgment of the Apex Court (two judges) – The ruling of the High Court was upheld by the Supreme Court. It declared that the ordinance’s re-promulgation violated fundamental constitutional rights.
  • Linking to a Broader Bench – Regarding the initial ordinance’s legitimacy, there were differing opinions. Because of the constitutional relevance of the case, it was first referred to a 3-judge bench and subsequently to a 5-judge bench.
  • Final Judgment in the Krishna Kumar Case, 2017, 7 Judge Bench – The ultimate ruling was rendered by a 7-judge Supreme Court bench on January 2, 2017. It came to the conclusion that the ordinance’s entire enactment was a fraud on the authority granted by Article 213 of the Constitution.

 Factual Background of the Case

  • The Bihar Non-Governmental Sanskrit Schools Ordinance of 1989 – Granted authorization by the government of Bihar to assume control of 429 private Sanskrit schools. This led to the hiring of staff members and educators from the private sector by the government.
  • Re-issuing the Ordinance – The ordinance was often promulgated but never made into law. Legal challenges concerning its constitutionality resulted from this.
  • High Court Decision – Citing violations of fundamental principles, the Patna High Court ruled that the re-promulgation was unlawful. Stipulated that salaries be paid to staff members of legitimate schools through April 30, 1992.
  • Appeal to the Supreme Court – Appeals against the ruling of the High Court brought before the Supreme Court. Although the Supreme Court disagreed with the High Court’s decision, it upheld the initial ordinance’s legality.
  • Referral and Concluding Statement – The constitutional gravity of the subject led to its referral to larger benches. The final ruling in the Krishna Kumar case from 2017 reaffirmed that the ordinance’s promulgation was illegal.


  • Do any rights, obligations, or liabilities imposed by an ordinance continue to exist once it is no longer in effect?
  • Was the nature of the government regulations in Bihar legally valid?
  • Is it required for the executive branch to present the ordinance to the State Legislature and Parliament, respectively, under Article 123 or 213?
  • Is it not in opposition to the fundamental principles of constitutionalism to re-promulgate an Ordinance?


The counsels for Petitioner – In this particular case, the petitioners sought relief based on the ordinances. Citing the aforementioned ordinance’s designation of them as “government employees,” they brought to the Hon’ble Court’s attention their entitlement to receive wages and other benefits from the government. They also came to the conclusion that they should continue to profit from the government’s salary and benefits, which they were entitled to from the moment the first ordinance was enacted until the last law’s expiration.


The counsels for Respondent submitted that the respondent brought up the question of whether activities made under an ordinance that are taken before the date that the legislative assembly disapproves of it are lawful and have repercussions. The argument went that they were under no obligation to provide teachers and other staff members of the aforementioned schools with salaries or benefits because the ordinances were invalid.


Article 123 of the Constitution – It outlines the President’s authority to issue proclamations while Parliament is in recess. When Parliament is not in session, the President may promulgate ordinances to deal with critical issues. The President’s authority to enact ordinances is coextensive with Parliament’s legislative authority, meaning it can be applied to any topic on which Parliament is authorized to enact laws and is constrained by the same constitutional provisions as enacted by Parliament.

According to Article 133 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court has the authority to hear appeals from the High Court in civil cases. According to this Article, any judgment, decree, or final order rendered in a civil case by a High Court operating within the borders of India may be appealed to the Supreme Court, provided that the High Court certifies under Article 134A – that the matter concerns an important legal issue of public concern, one that the High Court believes should be decided by the Supreme Court.

Article 213 of the Indian Constitution – It explains the governor’s authority to enact ordinances while the legislature is in recess. In the event that the Governor determines that there are circumstances that necessitate his taking immediate action, he may promulgate such ordinances as he deems necessary, provided that the circumstances do not occur during the sessions of the State’s legislative assembly or legislative council, or during the sessions of both Houses of the Legislature.

According to Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, the President may issue a proclamation in the event that the state government is unable to carry out its constitutional duties as a result of a breakdown in the state’s constitutional machinery. The President may also make this determination without consulting the Governor of the State.



The Supreme Court’s ruling’s main ratio decidendi is that it is unlawful to reissue regulations without restrictions. This indicates that the President’s and the Governor’s powers under Articles 123 and 213 respectively are subject to judicial review. Although the Constitution gives the executive the right to enact ordinances, the court stressed that this is a conditional legislative power that can only be used when the Legislature is not in session. The ruling emphasizes the idea that repeatedly promulgating ordinances against the letter and spirit of the Constitution compromises the legislative process.


The court might have talked about the relevance of its previous ruling in D.C. Wadhwa v. State of Bihar (1986) in this instance. Although it may not directly relate to the main matter at hand, this could be regarded as obiter dictum because it offers further context or guidance. The court determined that the re-promulgation of ordinances was unconstitutional in the D.C. Wadhwa case. Citing this earlier ruling could support the court’s position that re-promulgating ordinances are unlawful.


In Krishna Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar (2017), the court struck a significant balance with the order issued by Justice Chandrachud, which made it very clear that the executive branch could not misuse its authority and that the ordinance must be promulgated in the event that the Parliament is not in session. The majority of opinions supported the judgment, and even while there is still disagreement over how to assess rights and obligations once the ordinance expires, this does not lessen the strength of the ruling. In his concurring opinion, the Chief Justice at the time said that there is still room for interpretation on this issue.


Important Cases Referred

      • C. Wadhwa vs. State of Bihar (1986)
      • State of Orissa vs. Bhupendra Kumar Bose (1962)
      • Venkata Reddy vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (1985)
      • R. Bommai vs. Union of India (1994)
      • Kameshwar Singh vs, State of Bihar (1952)
      • K. Roy vs Union of India (1982)
      • Ramesh vs Gendalal Motilal Patni (1966)

Important Statutes Referred

The “doctrine of colorable legislation” is a legal doctrine that attempts to stop the government from using its legislative power in an unconstitutional way. If the legislature is not allowed to do something, it should not be done under any circumstances or under the appearance that the conduct is still legitimate. The adage “what cannot be done directly, cannot be done indirectly” is the source of the principle. Nonetheless, a legislature may enact legislation in a fashion that lends it a constitutional appearance even while the legislation actually seeks to accomplish an objective that the legislature was unable to accomplish. Such laws are deemed invalid and are referred to as “colorable” laws.