Originally, the right to property was one of the seven fundamental rights under Part III of the Constitution. It was dealt by Article 19(1)(f) and Article 31. Article 19(1)(f) guaranteed to every citizen the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property. Article 31, on the other hand, guaranteed to every person, whether citizen or non-citizen, right against deprivation of his property. It provided that no person shall be deprived of his property except by authority of law. It empowered the State to acquire or requisition the property of a person on two conditions:
- It should be for public purpose, and
- It should provide for payment of compensation (amount) to the owner.
Since the commencement of the Constitution, the Fundamental Right to Property has been the most controversial. It has caused confrontations between the Supreme Court and the Parliament. It has led to a number of Constitutional amendments, that is, 1st, 4th, 7th, 25th, 39th, 40th and 42nd Amendments. Through these amendments, Articles 31A, 31B and 31C have been added and modified from time to time to nullify the effect of Supreme Court judgements and to protect certain laws from being challenged on the grounds of contravention of Fundamental Rights. Most of the litigation centred around the obligation of the state to pay compensation for acquisition or requisition of private property.
Therefore, the 44th Amendment Act of 1978 abolished the right to property as a Fundamental Right by repealing Article 19(1)(f) and Article 31 from Part III. Instead, the Act inserted a new Article 300A in Part XII under the heading ‘Right to Property’. It provides that no person shall be deprived of his property except by authority of law. Thus, the right to property still remains a legal right or a constitutional right, though no longer a fundamental right. It is not a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
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