ARTICLE 131 OF INDIAN CONSTITUTION
Recently Kerala and Chhattisgarh have filed a suit in the Supreme court challenging the constitutional validity of various central laws such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (Kerala) and the (NIA) National Investigation Agency Act(Chhattisgarh), under Article 131 of the Indian Constitution.
About Article 131
Article 131 of the Constitution talks about the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, where the apex court deals with any dispute between the Centre and a state; the Centre and a state on the one side and
another state on the other side; and two or more states. This means no other court can entertain such a dispute. A dispute to qualify under Article 131, it has to necessarily be between states and the Centre and must involve a question of law or fact on which the existence of a legal right of the state or the Centre depends.
In the State of Karnataka v Union of India, Case, 1978 Justice P N Bhagwati had said that for the Supreme Court to accept a suit under Article 131, the state need not show that its legal right is violated, but only that the dispute involves a legal question. It cannot be used to settle political differences between state and central governments headed by different parties. However, the Centre has other powers to ensure that its laws are implemented. The Centre can issue directions to a state to implement the laws made by Parliament. If states do not comply with the directions, the Centre can move the court seeking a permanent
injunction against the states to force them to comply with the law. The original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court does not extend to: A dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement or other similar instrument executed before the commencement of the constitution and continues to be in operation or
which provides that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court shall not extend to such a dispute; disputes relating to the use, distribution, or control of the water of any inter-state river;Suits brought by private individuals against the government of India.
Significance of Article 131
India’s quasi-federal constitutional structure: Inter-governmental disputes are not uncommon; therefore,
the framers of the Constitution expected such differences and added the exclusive original jurisdiction
of the Supreme Court for their resolution. Resolve disputes between states: Unlike individuals, State governments cannot complain of fundamental rights being violated or cannot move to the courts under Article 32 (Remedies for enforcement of rights). Therefore, the Constitution provides that whenever a State feels that its legal rights are under threat or have been violated, it can take the “dispute” to the Supreme Court. States have filed such cases under Article 131 against neighbouring States in respect of river water
sharing and boundary disputes. Supreme Court, should constitute a larger bench to decide the question whether the suits challenging central laws are maintainable under article 131 or not. In that case, if the suits are declared maintainable, the same bench may also adjudicate the disputes.