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Rights and Liabilities of the Government

Rights and Liabilities of the Government

INTRODUCTION

  • Articles 294 to 300 in Part XII of the Constitution of India deals with the property contracts, rights, liabilities, obligations, and suits of the Union and the states.
  • Article 294 states that all the property and assets which immediately before the commencement of the constitution were vested with the Dominion of India or a province or a princely state of India became vested in the Union or its corresponding state.
  • Article 296 states that any property in the territory of India which, if this Constitution had not come into operation, would have accrued to the king of England or to the Ruler of an Indian State by escheat or lapse or as bona vacantia for want of a rightful owner would vest in the Union or the state, as the case may be.
  • According to Article 297, things of value within territorial waters or continental shelf and resources of the exclusive economic zone of India vest in the Union.It also empowers the parliament to make law for the limits of the territorial waters, the continental shelf, the exclusive economic zone and other maritime zones of India.
  • At present, India’s territorial zone and exclusive economic zone extends up to 12 nautical miles and 200 nautical miles from the baseline respectively.

Property of the Union and the States

Regarding the management of Property of both Union and the States, the following rights and liabilities are available to the government.

Succession: 

  • All property and assets that were vested in the Dominion of India or a province or an Indian princely state, before the commencement of the present Constitution, became vested in the Union or the corresponding state
  • Similarly, all rights, liabilities and obligations of the government of the dominion of India or a province or an Indian state would now be the rights, liabilities and obligations of the Government of India or the corresponding state

Escheat, Lapse and Bona Vacantia: 

  • Any property in India that would have accrued to the King of England or ruler of Indian state (princely) by escheat (death of a person intestate without any heir), lapse (termination of rights through disuse or failure to follow appropriate procedures) or bona vacantia(property found without any power) for want of a rightful owner, would now vest in the state if the property is situated there and in the Union, in any other case.
  • In all three cases, the property accrues to the government as there is no rightful owner (claimant).

 Sea-Wealth: 

  • All lands, minerals and other things of value under the waters of the ocean within the territorial waters of India, the continental shelf of India and the exclusive economic zone of India vests in the Union. Hence, a state near the ocean cannot claim jurisdiction over these things
  • India’s territorial waters extend to a distance of 12 nautical miles from the appropriate baseline. Similarly, India’s exclusive economic zone is more than 2 million sq km.

Compulsory Acquisition by Law: 

The Parliament as well as the state legislatures are empowered to make laws for the compulsory acquisition and requisitioning of private property by the governments. Further, the 44th Amendment (1978) has also abolished the constitutional obligation to pay compensation in this regard except in two cases:

  • a) when the government acquires the property of a minority educational institution
  • b) when the government acquires the land held by a person under his personal cultivation and the land is within the statutory ceiling limits

Acquisition under Executive Power:

  • The Union or a stance can acquire, hold and dispose property under the exercise of its executive power, Further, the executive power of the Union or a state extends to the carrying on any trade or business within and in other states also.                                                  Rights and Liabilities of the Government

Suits against public officials

  1. President and Governor
  • The constitution provides certain immunities to the president and governors of the state. The immunities such provided may be divided into official acts and personal acts.
  • (a) Official Acts: The president and the governors cannot be sued for their official acts during their terms of office or thereafter. However, an aggrieved person can sue the government instead of president or governor of the concerned state.
  • (b) Personal Acts: Criminal proceedings cannot be initiated against the president and the governors in relation to their personal acts. They cannot be arrested or limited. The immunity is provided for the period of the terms of their office.
  1. Ministers
  • Ministers are not provided any immunity in personal as well as official acts. They can be sued for crimes as well as in civil cases like any other ordinary citizen.
  • The courts are barred from enquiring into the advice of ministers on which the president and the governors have done official act.
  1. Judicial Officers
  • The judicial officers cannot be sued for their official acts. They have immunity from any legal liability for an act done during the discharge of their official duty.
  1. Civil Servants
  • The constitution provides personal immunity to civil servants from any legal liability. An aggrieved person can sue the government for any contract made by a civil servant in his official capacity. However, the contract made by the civil servant should abide by the constitution and comply with the conditions specified in the constitution.
  • Otherwise, the civil servant who made the contact is personally liable. He is also immune from liability for torts while exercising sovereign functions of the government. Proceeding in civil cases related to official acts of civil servants can be started after two months advance notice.
  • This immunity is not provided in their personal acts. Proceeding in criminal cases related to official acts of civil servants can be started only with the prior permission of the president or the governor.                                                                          Rights and Liabilities of the Government

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