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Waman Rao Case (1981)

Waman Rao Case (1981)


  • There was an Act called Maharashtra Agricultural Lands (Ceiling on Holdings) Act 1962, hereinafter referred as the Act, imposed a ceiling on agricultural lands.
  • Thereafter the ceiling was revised from time to time and certain other amendments were brought into operation.
  • The validity of these Acts were challenged before the Bombay High Court on the ground that they take away the fundamental rights.
  • Articles 31A and 31B were also brought under the purview of challenge on the ground that they infringe the basic structure of the constitution.
  • But in the High Court level all challenges were rejected. Against the decision appeal was filed in the Supreme Court in the case of Dattatraya Govind Vs State of Maharashtra (1977 2 SCR 790).
  • But those appeals were also dismissed on reasons stated by the Court.
  • This judgment of Dattatraya case was delivered during emergency.
  • As the emergency had been revoked the petitions were filed in the Court seeking review of the Dattatraya case.
  • Therefore the present case has basically emerged as a review of the Dattatraya case.

Judges involved

  • The bench which gave this judgment was consisting of Chandrachud C.J, V.R Krishna Iyer, V.D. Tulzapurkar, A.P. Sen and Bhagwati.
  • The majority judgment was delivered by Chandrachud C.J on behalf of V.R Krishna Iyer, V.D. Tulzapurkar; A.P. Sen. Justice Bhagwati gave his dissenting opinion.
  • The judgment is split in a ratio of 4:1.

Issues | Waman Rao Case (1981)

In this instant case the Court has framed the following issues to be addressed:

  • Whether in enacting article 31A (1) by the way of constitution amendment, the parliament transgressed its power of constitutional amendment.
  • Whether article 31A (1) gives sufficient protection to the laws included under it from being challenged on the alleged ground of fundamental rights namely articles 14, 19 and 31.
  • Whether article 31B which provides for Ninth Schedule can be challenged on the ground of being inconsistent with the fundamental rights of the citizens.
  • Whether article 31C which aims to achieve the goals laid down under article 39 can be opened to challenge on the alleged ground of violation of fundamental rights.
  • Whether the proclamation of emergency was mala-fide and the 40th amendment which was enacted by extending the life of the parliament were valid or not.
  • Whether the doctrine of stare decisis can be applied in upholding the constitutional validity of any Article of the constitution or this principle can apply on to laws sought to be protected by those Articles. Waman Rao Case (1981)

Judgement | Waman Rao Case (1981)

  • In this case, the implications of the basic structure doctrine for Article 31-B were re-examined.
  • The Court drew a line of demarcation on April 24th, 1973 (the date of Kesavananda Bharati’s decision) and held it should not be applied retrospectively to reopen the validity of any amendment to the Constitution, which took place prior to 24-04-1973. It meant all the amendments which added to the Ninth Schedule before that date were valid.
  • All future amendments were held to be challengeable on the grounds that the Acts and Regulations, which they inserted in the Ninth Schedule, damaged the basic structure.

Conclusion | Waman Rao Case (1981)

  • The decision of this case a landmark one in the constitutional jurisprudence of India.
  • This case has helped in determining a satisfactory method of preserving the settled position and to address grievances pertaining to the violation of fundamental rights.
  • The judgment appears to be a sound one as it has created a line of determination between the Acts previous to and after the Kesavananda Bharati case. Now it is easier to decide as to which laws can be challenged and which are not.
  • But the judgment left certain areas while dealing with Article 31C and the doctrine of stare decisis. However if these two aspects are rectified then this judgment is very sound and effective. Waman Rao Case (1981)



Indian Polity

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