Law Notes Article 131 and 131A of Indian Constitution (With CASES)

Article 131 and 131A as per the Indian Constitution:

131. Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.—Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute— 

(a) between the Government of India and one or more States; or

(b) between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or 

(c) between two or more States,

if and in so far as the dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends: 

[Provided that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to a dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, sanad or other similar instrument which, having been entered into or executed before the commencement of this Constitution, continues in operation after such commencement, or which provides that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to such a dispute.] 

 [131A. Exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in regard to questions as to constitutional validity of Central laws.]. Omitted by the Constitution (Forty-third Amendment) Act, 1977, s. 4 (w.e.f. 13-4-1978)

Article 131 is one of the most important articles under the Indian Constitution, it talks about the special jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over the case when it involves the Centre and States. It says that the case will be handled by the Supreme Court if the two parties involved in the case has:

  • Centre on one side and any state on the other
  • Centre on one side and more than one state on the other
  • When the state is on both sides
  • When there is one state on one side and the other side has more than one state.

The scope of Article 131 is restricted to issues affecting legal rights as stated in the Article itself and is subject to Constitutional restrictions. However, it is clear that the jurisdiction is very broad as long as the disagreement is justifiable. It does not specify the types of disputes covered by the provision; rather, whether or not the requirements of Article 131 are met depends on the facts of the case and the judicial interpretation of the article. At the time of creating/writing this article goal of the Constitution’s authors was to prevent such conflicts from being heard by multiple levels of the judicial system and instead to have them heard once and for all by the nation’s top court. 

Some people misjudge this article by thinking that Supreme Court also has jurisdiction over the case which involve private parties, whereas, in its original jurisdiction, the S C cannot entertain any case filed by any private party against the GOI, it can only take a case which has a dispute which involves a question of fact or law. So all these instances raised a question: 

When the Article 131 can be invoked? 

Though a basic thinking thinks that A legal or factual issue on which “the existence or extent of a legal right depends” must be present for Article 131 to be used. There is no explicit indication in the article of what exactly a legal right is or whose legal right is in question.

But Supreme Court had a different opinion on the same question:

Invoking: In the 1977 case of State of Rajasthan v. Union of India, the Supreme Court (SC) stated that the legal “right” of the States refers to their feeling of freedom from the authority of the Union Government.

Limitations: A private party is not permitted to bring a dispute before the SC by invoking Article 131. The disagreement must concern a legal right and not a political issue.

This article has evolved through the time, lets discuss some cases which helped in the development of the article:

State of Rajasthan & Others vs Union of India (1977): 

In 1977, when the Janata Party took came into power of the nation, it urged opposition-ruled states to dissolve their legislatures and seek new elections. States, led by Rajasthan, petitioned the Supreme Court pursuant to Article 131, asking for a temporary injunction preventing the Centre from using Article 356. Political disagreements between governments, according to the SC, are not covered by Article 131. A further point made by the Court was that a State, not the ruling government, is referred to when discussing legal rights.

State of Karnataka v. Union of India:

The Karnataka Government in this case contested a provision of the Commission of enquiry Act, 1952, which gave the Central Government the right to convene a judicial enquiry against the State’s Ministers, including the Chief Minister. It was decided that Article 131 may be used when disagreements exist between the representatives of the state and those of the entire Indian population about a matter of constitutional interpretation that has an impact on the welfare of the populace, particularly that of the residents of the State in issue.

State of Jharkhand v State of Bihar ( 2014):

The defendant stated that the initial lawsuit did not meet the requirements of Article 131. The SC rejected the notion that a law’s constitutionality cannot be contested in a lawsuit brought under Article 131. And then for :a final decision, the case was transferred to a larger bench.

Kerala’s anti-CAA suit (2019):

 The state of Kerala appealed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) to the Supreme Court on the grounds that it contravened the Constitution and breached the secularism principle. As in present times The matter is still open. 

ARTICLE 131A

The Supreme Court of India was granted original jurisdiction in disputes between the Government of India and a State government, or between two or more State governments, under Article 131A of the Indian Constitution, if and to the extent that the case concerned the allocation of funds between the Union and the States.

The 43rd Amendment Act of 1977 revoked the provisions of this article. The removal of Article 131A has made it more challenging for the States to contest decisions made by the federal government regarding the distribution of tax income.

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