Recently Kerala has filed a suit in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of various laws such as the Citizenship Amendment Act under Article 131 of the Indian Constitution.

Why Kerala has challenged the Centre under article 131?

  • Kerala has challenged the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, stating that it is violative of ‘Articles 14’equality before the law, ‘Article 21’ protection of life and personal liberty and ‘Article 25’ freedom of religion as well as against the secular fabric of the nation.
  • It also challenges the Passport Amendment Rules 2015, and Foreigners (Amendment) Order 2015, which had regularised the stay of non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who had entered India before December 31, 2014, on the condition that they had fled religious persecution from their home countries.

When can Article 131 be invoked?

Article 131 can be invoked by a state whenever there is a difference of opinion between the centre and state on the question of interpretation of the Constitution, which will affect the exercise of government powers that are attributes of a state.

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.
  • 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.

 Does the Centre have 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.