Chintaman Rao v. the State of MP

The case is about the manufacture of bidis and interlink with the fundamental right to trade. Here it is pertinent to note that there was no query of res extra commercium but the improper regulation by the state government. The Act has given the authority wide power to issue orders and ultimately gives the power to specify the season and prohibit manufacture. In furtherance of it, two prohibitory orders were passed by the Deputy Commissioner which mandates the petitioners to question the impugned Act. The Court thinks that the impugned act does not stand the test of reasonableness and therefore void. In furtherance of it, the orders issued by the deputy commissioner were held to be void inoperative and ineffective. Moreover, the respondents are directed not to enforce §4 of the impugned Act in whatsoever manner against the petitioners. The petitioners will have the cost of the proceedings.

Name of The Case- Chintaman Rao v. the State of MP

Citation- 1951 AIR  118  1950 SCR  759

Year of the case- 08/11/1950

Appellant: CHINTAMAN RAO

Respondent: THE STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH

Bench: MAHAJAN, MEHR CHAND, KANIA, HIRALAL J. (CJ), MUKHERJEA, B.K., DAS, SUDHI RANJAN, AIYAR, N. CHANDRASEKHARA

Act Involved: Central Provinces and Berar Regulation of Manufacture of Bidis  (Agricultural  Purposes) Act(LXIV of  1948), Law prohibiting bidi manufacture during the agricultural season–  Validity  –Restriction of fundamental right to carry on a trade or business-Reasonableness of restrictions–Test of reasonableness–Jurisdiction of court to consider whether restrictions are reasonable–Constitution of India, 1950, Art.19(1)(g), 19(6).

Introduction

[i]The management enters into a contract with independent contractors, known as Sattedars, for the supply of bidis locally. The documents embodying the terms of the contract entered into by the Sattedars were not produced in the case. But the terms of the contract are not in dispute. The Management supplies tobacco to the Sattedars and in some cases bidi leaves. Some of the Sattedars maintain a small factory where they get bidis manufactured by engaging coolies. Others give tobacco and bidi leaves to outsiders who prepare bidis in their houses. After bidis are rolled in the Sattedars collect the bidis so manufactured and take them to the factory directly or through coolies where they are sorted and checked by the workers in, the factory.

The selected or approved bidis are separately packed in bundles of 10 and 25 and taken by the Sattedars or the coolies in gauze trays to tandul and left there. The rejected bidis, commonly known as I chhant’ are again bundled by the Sattedars and delivered to the factory. The management pays the Sattedars the cost of the manufacture of bidis after deducting therefrom the cost of tobacco supplied to them. Thereafter the second stage of the process of the manufacture begins in the factory. It is carried out exclusively by the laborers employed in the factory. It consists of warming of bidis to give a taste, wrapping them in tissue papers, labeling, and finally bundling them in the ‘Pudas’.

The finished product is then marketed. From the aforesaid description of the dual process of manufacture of bidis, it is manifest that a Sattedar is only an independent contractor, who undertakes to do a specific job of work, i. e., the supply of bidis, directly or indirectly through his coolies, by manufacturing them either in his factory or by entrusting the work to third parties, at a price to be paid by the management after delivery and approval. He (Sattedar) or his coolies neither work in the appellants’ factory nor are they subject to the supervision or control of the appellants.

The coolies or the third parties, to whom the work of making of bidis is entrusted by the Sattedars, are employed by the Sattedars and are paid by them. None of them works in the factory though they bring bidis to the factory for delivery by the terms of the contract. It may also be pointed out that the factory employs workers who are under the direct control and supervision of the factory management and who attend to the second part of the process of manufacture described above. On December 9, 1952, Sri B. V. Desai, the Inspector of Factories, Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur, visited the factory at 5-30 p. m.

At the time of his inspection, he found the following persons in the factory

  • Pirbaksha, son of Amir.
  • Abdul Sagir, son of Sk. Alam.
  • Deviprasad, son of Uddam.
  • Ram Shankar, son of Mulchand.
  • Gopal, son of Mulchand.
  • Nirpat, son of Bhagirath.
  • Rameband, son of Gyan.
  • Gotiram, son of Lila.
  • Basodi, son of Gulu, (SCR on page 1344)

Of the aforesaid persons, Deviprasad, Nirpat, and Gotiram are Sattedars and the rest are coolies employed by the Sattedars. The Inspector found the first seven persons sorting out bidis and packing them into bundles of 10 and 25 in the premises and the last two bringing the bidis to the room in jali for warming. The said facts are practically admitted by some of the aforesaid persons, who gave evidence in the case, and they explained that they came to the factory on that day for delivering the bidis manufactured by them to the factory.

Background of the case

The case is about the manufacture of bidis and interlink with the fundamental right to trade. Here it is pertinent to note that there was no query of res extra commercium but the improper regulation by the state government. [ii]The Act has given the authority wide power to issue orders and ultimately gives the power to specify the season and prohibit manufacture. In furtherance of it, two prohibitory orders were passed by the Deputy Commissioner which mandates the petitioners to question the impugned Act.

Facts

Section 3 & 4 of the impugned Act grants power to the Deputy Commissioner to fix the period as the agricultural season concerning certain villages where the Act applies. The Deputy Commissioner has the power to prohibit the manufacture of bidis and no person is authorized to manufacture the bidis.

On 13th June 1950, an order was issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Sagar prohibiting the people in certain villages to manufacture bidis. When the case is dealt with by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the period mentioned in the order expired and another order covering the agricultural period from 8th October 1950 to 18th November 1950 was issued and the subsequent order was also questioned in the present case. Does the question arise whether the impugned Act is falling within the saving clause or excess of its provisions?

Issue

Whether the total prohibition of carrying on the business of manufacture of bidis within the agricultural season amounts to a reasonable restriction on the fundamental rights mentioned in Art. 19(1)(g) of the Constitution?

Related Provision

The Central Provinces and Berar Regulation of  Manufacture  of Bidis (Agricultural Purposes) Act, LXIV of 1948,  a law which was in force at the commencement of the  Constitution of India, provided that” the Deputy Commissioner may by notification fix  a period to be an agricultural season for such villages as may be specified  therein” and that “the  Deputy Commissioner may by general order  which shall  extend to such villages as he may  specify,  prohibit the  manufacture of bidis during the  agricultural  season.” The  Act  provided further that” no person  residing  in  a village specified in such order shall during the agricultural season engage himself in the manufacture of bidis, and no manufacturer shall during the said season employ any  person for  the manufacture of bidis.”

An order was issued by the Deputy Commissioner under the provisions of the Act forbidding all persons residing in certain villages from engaging in the manufacture of bidis during a. particular season.  A manufacturer of bidis and an employee in a  bidi factory residing in one of the said villages applied under Art.  32 of the Constitution for a writ of mandamus alleging that since the  Act prohibited the petitioners from exercising their fundamental right to carry on their trade or business which was guaranteed to them by cl. (1) (g) of Art.  19  of the Constitution, the Act was void:

 Related Cases

 The law even to the extent that it could be said to authorize the imposition of restrictions regarding agricultural labor cannot be held to be valid because the language employed was wide enough to cover restrictions both within and without the limits of constitutionally permissible legislative action affecting the right, and so long as the possibility of its being applied for purposes not sanctioned by the Constitution cannot be ruled out, it must be held to be wholly void.

 The phrase “reasonable restriction” connotes that the limitation imposed on a person in the enjoyment of the right should not be arbitrary or of an excessive nature,  beyond what is required in the interests of the public.  The word “reasonable” implies intelligent care and deliberation, that is, the choice of a course which reason dictates.  Legislation which arbitrarily or excessively invades the right cannot be said to contain the quality of reasonableness and unless it strikes a proper balance between the freedom guaranteed in Art. 19 (1) (g) and the social control permitted by el. (6) of Art. 19, it must be held to be wanting in that quality.

 Judgment

1950 November 8. The judgment 0 the Court was delivered by MAHAJAN J.–These two applications for enforcement of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution of India have been made by a proprietor and an employee respectively of a bidi manufacturing concern of District Sagar (State of Madhya Pradesh). It is contended that the law in force in the State authorizing it to prohibit the manufacture of bidis in certain villages including the one wherein the applicants reside is inconsistent with the provisions of Part III of the Constitution and is consequently void.

The Central Provinces and Berar Regulation of Manufacture of Bidis (Agricultural Purposes) Act, LXIV of 1948, was passed on 19th October 1948 and was the law in force in the State at the commencement of the Constitution. Sections 3 and 4 of the Act are in these terms;-

” 3. The Deputy Commissioner may by notification fix a period to be an agricultural season concerning such villages as may be specified therein.

4. (1) The Deputy Commissioner may, by general order which shall extend to such villages as he may specify, prohibit the manufacture of bidis during the agricultural season.

(2) No person residing in a village specified in such order shall during the agricultural season engage himself in the manufacture of bidis, and no manufacturer shall during the said season employ any person for the manufacture of bidis.”

On the 13th June 1950, an order was issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Sagar under the provisions of the Act forbidding all persons residing in certain villages from engaging in the manufacture of bidis. On the 19th June 1950, these two petitions were presented to this Court under article 32 of the Constitution challenging the validity of the order as it prejudicially affected the petitioners’ right of freedom of occupation and business. During the pendency of the petitions, the season mentioned in the order of the 13th June ran out. A fresh order for the ensuing agricultural season–8th October to 18th November 1950–was issued on 29th September 1950 in the same terms. This order was also challenged in a supplementary petition. Article 19 (1) (g) runs as follows :

“All citizens shall have the right to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade, or business.”

[iii]The article guarantees freedom of occupation and business. The freedom guaranteed herein is, however, subject to the limitations imposed by clause (6) of Article 19. That clause is in these terms :

“Nothing in subclause (g) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the general public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause, and, in particular, nothing in the said sub-clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it prescribes or empowers any authority to prescribe, or prevent the State from making any law prescribing or empowering any authority to prescribe, the professional or technical qualifications necessary for practicing any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business.”

The point for consideration in these applications is whether the Central Provinces and Berar Act LXIV of 1948 come within the ambit of this saving clause or is more than its provisions. The learned counsel for the petitioners contends that the impugned Act does not impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the fundamental right in the interests of the general public but negatives it. To judge the validity of this contention it is necessary to examine the impugned Act and some of its provisions. In the preamble to the Act, it is stated that it has been enacted to provide measures for the supply of adequate labor for agricultural purposes in bidi manufacturing areas. Sections 3 and 4 cited above empower the Deputy Commissioner to prohibit the manufacture of bidis during the agricultural season. The contravention of any of these provisions is made punishable by section 7 of the Act, the penalty being imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine or with both. It was enacted to help in the grow more food campaign and to bring under the plow considerable areas of fallow land.

The question for decision is whether the statute under the guise of protecting public interests arbitrarily interferes with private business and imposes unreasonable and unnecessarily restrictive regulations upon lawful occupation; in other words, whether the total prohibition of carrying on the business of manufacture of bidis within the agricultural season amounts to a reasonable restriction on the fundamental rights mentioned in article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution. Unless it is shown that there is a reasonable relation of the provisions of the Act to the purpose in view, the right of freedom of occupation and business cannot be curtailed by it.

The phrase “reasonable restriction” connotes that the limitation imposed on a person in the enjoyment of the right should not be arbitrary or of an excessive nature, beyond what is required in the interests of the public. The word “reasonable” implies intelligent care and deliberation, that is, the choice of a course which reason dictates. Legislation which arbitrarily or excessively invades the right cannot be said to contain the quality of reasonableness and unless it strikes a proper balance between the freedom guaranteed in article 19 (1) (g) and the social control permitted by clause (6) of Article 19, it must be held to be wanting in that quality.

Clause (6) in the concluding paragraph particularizes certain instances of the nature of the restrictions that were in the mind of the constitution-makers and which have the quality of reasonableness. They afford a guide to the interpretation of the clause and illustrate the extent and nature of the restrictions which according to the statute could be imposed on the freedom guaranteed in clause (g).

The statute in substance and effect suspend altogether the right mentioned in article 19 (1) (g) during the agricultural seasons and such suspension may lead to such dislocation of the industry as to prove its ultimate ruin. The object of the statute is to provide measures for the supply of adequate labor for agricultural purposes in bidi manufacturing areas of the Province and it could well be achieved by legislation restraining the employment of agricultural labor in the manufacture of bidis during the agricultural season.

Even in point of time, a restriction may well have been reasonable if it amounted to a regulation of the hours of work in the business. Such legislation though it would limit the field for recruiting persons for the manufacture of bidis and regulate the hours of the working of the industry, would not have amounted to a complete stoppage of the business of manufacture and might well have been within the ambit of clause (6). The effect of the provisions of the Act, however, has no reasonable relation to the object in view but is so drastic in scope that it goes much more than that object.

Not only are the provisions of the statute over the requirements of the case but the language employed prohibits a manufacturer of bidis from employing any person m his business, no matter wherever that person may be residing. In other words, a manufacturer of bidis residing in this area cannot import labor from neighboring places in the district or province or from outside the province. Such a prohibition on the face of it is arbitrary since it has no relation whatsoever to the object which the legislation seeks to achieve and as such cannot be said to be a reasonable restriction on the exercise of the right.

Further, the statute seeks to prohibit all persons residing in the notified villages during the agricultural season from engaging themselves in the manufacture of bidis. It cannot be denied that there would be several infirm and disabled persons, several children, old women, and petty shop keepers residing in these villages who are incapable of being used for agricultural labor. All such persons are prohibited by law from engaging themselves in the manufacture of bidis and are thus being deprived of earning their livelihood. It is a matter of common knowledge that there are certain classes of persons residing in every village who do not engage in agricultural operations. They and their womenfolk and children in their leisure hours supplement their income by engaging themselves in bidi business. There seems no reason for prohibiting them from carrying on this occupation.

The statute as it stands, not only compels those who can be engaged in agricultural work from not taking to other avocations, but it also prohibits persons who have no connection or relation to agricultural operations from engaging in the business of bidi making and thus earning their livelihood. These provisions of the statute, in our opinion, cannot be said to amount to reasonable restrictions on the right of the applicants and that being so, the statute is not in conformity with the provisions of Part III of the Constitution. The law even to the extent that it could be said to authorize the imposition of restrictions regarding agricultural labor cannot be held valid because the language employed is wide enough to cover restrictions both within and without the limits of constitutionally permissible legislative action affecting the right. So long as the possibility of its being applied for purposes not sanctioned by the Constitution cannot be ruled out, it must be held to be wholly void.

Mr. Sikri for the Government of Madhya Pradesh contends that the legislature of Madhya Pradesh was the proper judge of the reasonableness of the restrictions imposed by the statute, that that legislature alone knew the conditions prevailing in the State and it alone could say what kind of legislation could effectively achieve the end in view and would help in the grow more food campaign and would help for bringing in fallow land under the plow and that this Court sitting at this great distance could not judge by its yardstick of reason whether the restrictions imposed in the circumstances of the case were reasonable or not. This argument runs counter to the clear provisions of the Constitution.

The determination by the legislature of what constitutes a reasonable restriction is not final or conclusive; it is subject to the supervision by this Court. In the matter of fundamental rights, the Supreme Court watches and guards the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and in exercising its functions it has the power to set aside an Act of the Legislature if it violates the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. We are therefore of opinion that the impugned statute does not stand the test of reasonableness and is therefore void.

The result, therefore, is that the orders issued by the Deputy Commissioner on 13th June 1950 and 26th September 1950 are void, inoperative and ineffective. We, therefore, direct the respondents not to enforce the provisions contained in section 4 of the Act against the petitioners in any manner whatsoever. The petitioners will have the costs of these proceedings in the two petitions.

 Concept highlighted

1-The word reasonable implies intelligent care and deliberation which is the choice of the course which reason dictates.

2-The Constitution makers had mentioned certain restrictions under Art. 19(6) which is considered reasonable and it must be used to interpret the laws and understand the nature and extend of restrictions.

3-The population comprises of women, children, disabled people, and old people who are restricted from working in bidi concerns. This ban is not related to the object as they could work in their leisure time.

References

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