Chintaman Rao and Ors. vs. State of Madhya Pradesh

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Chintam Rao & ors. vs. State of Madhya Pradesh
In the Supreme Court of India
Civil Original Jurisdiction 
Case No. 
1951 AIR 118, 1950 SCR 759
Petitioner
Chintaman Rao and Ors.
Respondent 
State of Madhya Pradesh
Decided on
8 November 1950
Bench
H.J. Kania, (C.J); N. Chandrasekhara Aiyar; B.K. Mukherjea; M.C. Mahajan; S.K. Das

Background

The case is pertaining to the manufacture of bidis and interlink with the fundamental right to trade. Here it is pertinent to note that there was no query of res extra commercium but the improper regulation by the state government. The Act has given the authority wide power to issue orders and ultimately gives the power to specify the season and prohibit manufacture. In furtherance of it, two prohibitory orders were passed by the Deputy Commissioner which mandates the petitioners to question the impugned Act.

Constitution and Statutory Provisions

  • §3 & 4 of Central Provinces and Berar Regulation of Manufacture of Beedis Act, 1948
  • 19(1)(g) and 19 (6) of Constitution of India, 1949

Facts

§3 & 4 of the impugned Act grants power to the Deputy Commissioner to fix the period as the agricultural season with respect to certain villages where the Act applies. The Deputy Commissioner has the power to prohibit the manufacture of bidis and no person is authorized to manufacture the bidis.

On 13th June 1950, an order was issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Sagar prohibiting the people in certain villages to manufacture bidis. When the case is dealt by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the period mentioned in the order expired and another order covering agricultural period from 8th October, 1950 to 18th November, 1950 was issued and the subsequent order was also questioned in the present case. The question arises whether the impugned Act is falling within the saving clause or excess of its provisions?

Procedural history

Two applications have been presented before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India under Art. 32 of the Constitution for enforcement of Art. 19(1)(g) of Constitution of India. The petition is filed by the proprietor and employee of a bidi manufacturing concern located in District Sagar of State of Madhya Pradesh. It is contended that the law in force in State of Madhya Pradesh which authorizes the prohibition of manufacture of bidis in certain villages is inconsistent with Part III of Constitution of India. 

Issues which were in Challenge

Whether the total prohibition of carrying on the business of manufacture of bidis within the agricultural season amounts to a reasonable restriction on the fundamental rights mentioned in Art. 19(1)(g) of the Constitution?

Arguments

Contention of the Petitioners

The impugned Act does not impose reasonable restrictions on the fundamental right to engage in business, in the interest of general public but totally negatives it.

Contention of the Respondent

The state legislature was a proper judge of the reasonableness of the restrictions imposed by the statute. The legislature only knows the social and economic conditions prevailing in the state and enact an appropriate law that could be effective. The object of the act is to promote the grow more food campaign and help to bring the fallow land under the plough.

Judgment

Ratio Decidendi

  • To analyse whether the impugned Act is against the fundamental right, it becomes necessary to understand the provisions of the Act. In preamble of the Act, it was mentioned that the Act was passed to provide measures for the supply of adequate labor for agricultural purposes in bidi manufacturing areas. The act helps in more food campaign and brings the plough considerable areas of fallow land.
  • The Deputy Commissioner is having the power to prohibit the manufacture of beedis in certain villages and also can fix the agricultural season. The Contravention will result in imprisonment for six months under §7 of the impugned act.
  • The reasonable restriction of any fundamental right imposed on personal enjoyment of the right should not be arbitrary or of an excessive nature which is required for public interest. Similarly, the legislation cannot act arbitrarily and there is a need to strike a proper balance between freedom guaranteed under Art. 19(1)(g) and Art. 19(6) of the constitution.
  • The impugned act results in complete stoppage of business in certain agricultural seasons and areas. For the purpose of regulation, it is an extreme measure and for allocation of labor, they could have resorted to regulation of working hours. Thus, the provision has no reasonable relation to the object and acts in excess of the requirement of the case. The ban is not only on the manufacture but also restricts the manufacturer from employing any person in business i.e. he cannot input labor from neighboring places also.
  • The language employed in the impugned provisions is wide enough to cover restriction both within and without the limits of constitutionally permissible legislative acts that affect the right.
  • The contention of the respondent is against the clear provision of the Constitution, as the restrictions made by legislation is not final and conclusive. In case of contravention with the fundamental rights it is upto the Supreme Court (which continuously watches and guards the rights) to determine. It has the power to set aside the Acts of the Legislature, if it contravenes the freedom guaranteed under Constitution of India

Obiter Dicta

  • The word reasonable implies intelligent care and deliberation which is the choice of the course which reason dictates.
  • The Constitution makers had mentioned certain restrictions under Art. 19(6) which is considered reasonable and it must be used to interpret the laws and understand the nature and extend of restrictions.
  • The population comprises of women, children, disabled people and old people who are restricted from working in bidi concerns. This ban has no relation to the object as they could work in their leisure time.

Conclusion

The Court is of the opinion that the impugned act does not stand the test of reasonableness and therefore void. In furtherance of it the orders issued by the deputy commissioner were held to be void inoperative and ineffective. Moreover, the respondents are directed not to enforce §4 of the impugned act in whatsoever manner against the petitioners. The petitioners will have the cost of the proceedings. The petitionsare allowed.

Edited by  Chiranjeeb Prateek Mohanty
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

References

No references have been made by the Supreme Court.