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SC Upholds Section 50(a) of Delhi Land Reforms; Rejects Gender Bias in 1954 Act

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Supreme Court Law Insider

Priyanka Singh

Published on: September 21, 2022 at 19:23 IST

The Supreme Court, in a recent case, has upheld the constitutional validity of Section 50 (a) of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 and has observed that a State enactment regarding Agricultural land tenures is a special law, noting the subjects that the 1954 Act deals with are ceiling, fragmentation and devolution of tenancy rights over only agricultural holdings.

S. 50(a) of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 –

Under the Section 50, it is provided that after the death of a Bhumidar or Asami male, his interest in his holding shall devolve with the order of the succession as given below –

  1. Male lineal descendants in the line of succession
  2. No male member shall, from the aforementioned line would inherit if a male descendent between the line of descendants and the deceased is alive

Provided further that the son or sons of a pre-deceased on how low so ever shall inherit title share which would have devolved upon the deceased if he had been then alive;

(b) widow;

(c) father;

(d) mother, being a -widow;

(e) step mother, king a widow;

(f) father’s father;

(g) father’s mother, being a widow: –

(h) widow d a male lineal descendant in the male line of descent:

(i) unmarried daughter;

6) brother, being the son of the same father as the deceased;

(k) unmarried sister;

(1) brother’s son, the brother having been a son of the same father as the deceased;

(m) father’s father’s son;

(n) brother’s son’s son;

(o) father’s father’s son’s son;

(p) daughter’s son.

*This rule is further subject to the provisions of Sections 48 and 52.

Substance to the matter –

The Delhi Court heard the writ petition where it was contended that the Act of 1954 was –

  • Violation of Art. 14 of the Constitution;
  • Discrimination against women;
  • Hindu Succession Act, 1956 would prevail over the 1954 Act.

The High Court dismissed the petition and noted that the Act of 1954 has been placed in the Constitution of India under the Ninth Schedule much before the judgment of Kesavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala, also upholding the fact that Article 31(B) of the Constitution is extended immunity to the legislation.

[Para 23 of the Judgment] – It is well settled that all amendments are deemed to apply prospectively unless expressly specified to apply retrospectively or intended to have been done so by the legislature. Reference may be had to the following decisions:

[L.R. Brothers Indo Flora Ltd. vs. Commissioner of Central Excise10 ; Hitendra Vishnu Thakur vs. State of Maharashtra11; Union of India vs. Zora Singh12]In the present case there is no such intention reflecting from the amending Act.

Before the Supreme Court, it was submitted that the Act 1954 would be overtaken by the Article 254 of the Constitution for the reason that the Hindu Succession Act 1956 is a Parliament – enacted Act, on the other hand the 1954 Act being a State Act.

It is also contended that the 1956 Act is a special law and that the 1954 Act is a general law, to which the court observed that the 1954 Act is to referable to a matter enumerated in List III but can be referred to a matter under Entry 18 of List II.

Therefore, discarding any question of repugnancy in view of Art. 254.

The other contention being that the 1956 Act is a special law and the 1954 is a general law, was observed by the Court that “any State enactment relating to the Agricultural land tenures is a special law.”

The Court also rejected the contention of Gender bias as the legislation of 1954 Act is included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

The Court also stated the reason being that, “The 1954 Act is a special law, dealing with fragmentation and devolution of tenancy rights over agricultural holdings only, whereas the 1956 Act is a general law, providing for succession to a Hindu by religion as stated in Section 2 thereof. The existence or absence of Section 4(2) in the 1954 Act would be immaterial.”[Har Naraini Devi vs. Union of India]