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The Calcutta Gas Company vs. State of West Bengal And Others

CASE BRIEF

Civil Appeal No. 138 of 1961.

Appellant – The Calcutta Gas Company.

Respondents- State of West Bengal And Others.

Bench-  Justice B. P. Sinha (Cji), K. Subbarao, N. Rajagopala Ayyangar, J.R. Mudholkar, T.L. Venkatarama Aiyyar.

Decided On- 05.02.1962

Statues Referred-

  • The Constitution of India- Arts- 226, 246, Schedule VII, List II Entries 24, 25.
  • Oriental Gas Company Act, 1960.

Case Referred-

  • State of Orissa v. Madan Gopal Bungta 1952 SCR 28.
  • Chiranjit Lal Choudhary v. Union of India 1950 CR 869.
  • Raghubir Singh v. State of Ajmer 1959 SCR 478.
  • State of Bihar v. Ummh Jha AIR 1962 SC 50.

Facts –

  • The appellant was appointed as Manager of the Oriental Gas company which owned an industrial undertaking for the manufacture and sale of fuel gas in Calcutta by an agreement between the appellant company and the Oriental Gas company.
  • The West Bengal Legislature passed the Oriental Gas Company Act, 1960, and Section 4 provided that the said undertaking shall stand transferred to the State Government for five years for management and control.
  • On 3rd October 1960, the State Government issued a notification stating that the management and control of the said undertaking would be taken over by it.
  • The appellant filed a writ petition impugned the constitutional validity of the said Act and sought appropriate writs restraining the State Government form giving effect to it and quashing the said notifications.
  • The High Court rejected the petition and held that the State Legislature had the competence to enact the impugned Act and its constitutional validity was beyond question.
  • The appellant filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of India against the said order of the High Court.

Issue-

  • Whether the state legislature is competent to enact the Oriental Gas Company Act, 1960?

Contentions by Parties-

Petitioner’s Arguments

  • That the finding of the High Court that the appellant has no locus standi to file the petition cannot be sustained, as under the impugned Act the appellant’s legal rights under the agreement entered into by it with the Oriental Gas Company were seriously affected.
  • That the two entries in List II, namely, entries 24 and 25, cannot sustain the Act, as entry 24 is subject to the provisions of entry 52 of List I; and entry 25 must be confined to matters other than those covered by entry 24, and, therefore, the West Bengal Legislature is not competent to make a law regulating- the gas industry.
  • That Assuming that the State Legislature has power to pass the Act under entry 25 of List II, under Art. 254(1)  of the Constitution the law made by Parliament, namely, the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act 1951, shall prevail, and the law made by the State Legislature, namely, the impugned Act be. void to the extent of repugnancy. 

Respondent’s Arguments

  • That the appellant has no legal right to maintain the petition.
  • That the appellant cannot question the validity of the Act on the ground that its provisions infringed his fundamental rights under Arts. 14, 19, and 31 in view of Art. 31A(1)(b) of the Constitution.
  • That the West Bengal Legislature had the Legislative competence to pass the impugned Act under entry 42 of List III of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.
  • That entry 25 of List II also confers sufficient authority and power on the State Legislature to make laws affecting gas and gas work and even if the Act incidentally trenches upon any production aspect, the pith and substance of the legislation is gas and work within the meaning of entry 25 of List II.

Judgment-

The Apex Court held that the Legislature of a State has the exclusive power to make law in respect of gas industry by virtue of entry 25 of List II, and that entry 24 does not comprehend gas industry.

As we have indicated earlier, the expression “industry” in entry 52 of List I bears the same meaning as that in entry 24 of List II, with the result that the said expression in entry 52 of List I also does not take in a gas industry. In the result, we agree with the High Court that the impugned Act was within the legislative competence of the West Bengal State Legislature and was validly made.

Conclusion-

It can be perceived from this case that statutes are drafted by the legislatures and there is every possibility of situations of ambiguity, conflicts, etc.

Here, Courts come with several doctrines of the constitution to protect the statutes and acts as interpreters to render justice. Courts must acknowledge such practices so as to avoid repugnancy and make access to justice for the purpose of satisfying the welfare needs which the constitution upholds to protect.