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Private property is a human right: Supreme Court

Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Private property is a human right: Supreme Court

What to study?

For Prelims: Right to property.

For Mains: Observations made by the court and their significance.

Context: The Supreme Court has recently held that a citizen’s right to own private property is a human right and the state cannot take possession of it without following due procedure and authority of law.

Important observations made by the Court:

  1. The state cannot trespass into the private property of a citizen and then claim ownership of the land in the name of ‘adverse possession’.
  2. Grabbing private land and then claiming it as its own makes the state an encroacher.
  3. In a welfare state, right to property is a human right.
  4. A welfare state cannot be permitted to take the plea of adverse possession, which allows a trespasser i.e. a person guilty of a tort, or even a crime, to gain legal title over such property for over 12 years. The State cannot be permitted to perfect its title over the land by invoking the doctrine of adverse possession to grab the property of its own citizens.

What’s the issue?

The Himachal Pradesh government forcibly took over four acres of land belonging to a person at Hamipur district to build a road in 1967.

Even 52 years later, the state has failed to pay the compensation.

The appellant was wholly unaware of her rights and entitlement in law, and did not file any proceedings for compensation of the land compulsorily taken over by the state.

When her petition was turned down by the High Court, the appellant moved the Supreme Court.

Right to Property:

‘Right to private property was previously a fundamental right’ under Article 31 of the Constitution.

Property ceased to be a fundamental right with the 44th Constitution Amendment in 1978.

Nevertheless, Article 300A required the state to follow due procedure and authority of law to deprive a person of his or her private property.

The right to property is now considered to be not only a constitutional or statutory right, but also a human right.

Sources: the Hindu.