|Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Significance of Article 131. Can States challenge the validity of central laws?
Conclusion. Way forward.
Under Article 131 Supreme Court decides the disputes between different units of the Indian federation- the Centre and states or between two or more states. Recently, the Kerala government moved the apex court under Article 131 of the Constitution, challenge the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) and certain allied laws before the Supreme Court under Article 131 of the Constitution.
Significance of Article 131:
- Federalism: Article 131 helps in the resolving federal disputes between state and centre or between two states. It implies that the federal structure has been given importance by the constitution makers. It is a way to maintain federal nature of Indian polity.
- Legal rights of the state: The Constitution under Article 131, provides that whenever a State feels that it’s legal rights are under threat or have been violated, it can take the dispute to the Supreme Court. It thus prevents an infringement of legal right of the State government.
- Way to remove states dissatisfaction: Article 131 allowsstates to move to apex court to remove their dissatisfaction against any action of centre which they might think is against the states and develop dissatisfaction in them. It provides a way to remove such dissatisfaction.
- Check on Centralisation tendency: Centre can’t enact any law which impinge or interfere with legal rights of state. Any tendency of such an act is dealt by Article 131.
- Cooperative federalism: By resolving various disputes among various federal units of the Indian polity i.e. centre and state and between two states, Article 131 allows them to cooperate and work on important matters.
Can States challenge the validity of central laws?
- In 2011, in the State of Madhya Pradesh v. Union of India and Another, the court said that the Central laws can be challenged in the State High Courts and Supreme Court under Article 32 and held that the constitutional validity of a central law cannot be normally challenged under Article 131.
- In the State of Jharkhand vs. State of Bihar and (2014), the Supreme Court upheld Article 131 as an appropriate tool to test the constitutionality of a central law. Court ruled that the condition for invoking the court’s jurisdiction under Article 131 was that the dispute should involve a question on the existence or extent of a legal right and not a political one.
- The apex court in State of Karnataka Vs. Union of India held that the sole condition which was required to be satisfied for invoking the original jurisdiction of the apex court was the dispute between the parties must involve a question on which the existence or the extent of legal right depends.
Thus, presently, the States can move Supreme Court under Article 131 if any legal right derived from any statue or the Constitution of India is infringed. Further states cannot question the legality of central law on political or ideological basis.