We can't prevent the Legislature from considering a Bill: Karnataka High Court refuses to stay Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2020

"Where is the question of quashing a Bill? A writ court cannot control what happens in the House of Legislature", the Court observed.
We can't prevent the Legislature from considering a Bill: Karnataka High Court refuses to stay Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2020
Karnataka High Court

The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday refused to stay the Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2020 [Amendment Bill].

The Court was hearing an interlocutory application seeking to restrain the State government from going forward with the Amendment Bill.

While dismissing the application, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Vishwajith Shetty orally observed,

"Where is the question of quashing a Bill? We can't prevent the Legislature from considering a Bill. A writ court cannot control what happens in the House of Legislature."

During the hearing, petitioner counsel Vilas Ranganath Datar submitted that the Bill was cleared in the Karnataka Assembly in September and was later introduced before the Legislative Council. It was the petitioner's case that the Bill was never passed by the the Legislative Council. He added that the entire process was done in a hurried manner.

However, the Bench found no merit in these arguments and went on to hold that it cannot restrain the State Legislature from considering the Bill before it. The Court thus held,

"The prayers made in the applications are misconceived and therefore, the same is rejected."

The said IA was filed in connection with a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Karnataka Land Reforms (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.

The batch of PILs was filed before the Court after the State government, on October 19, issued a second rrdinance to further amend the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1964.

The same was given assent to by Governor Vajubhai R Vala and notified on November 2. The government had promulgated the first ordinance in July.

Whether the second ordinance was validly promulgated as per the components of Article 213 will have to be looked into, the Court said in its order. Further, it was stated that since an ordinance is as good as a legislation passed by the legislature, there is a "presumption of constitutionality" to it.

In this regard, the Court had granted time till January 5 to the State government to file its statement of objections in the matter.

In an earlier hearing, one of the petitioners, who was represented by Senior Advocate Professor Ravivarma Kumar, contended that Section 13 of the second ordinance was not in consonance with Article 213 of the Constitution.

It was submitted that the Governor does not have the authority to repel an ordinance, but he can only withdraw it. The Governor had repelled the first ordinance as he wanted to prevent it from lapsing, the Court was told.

Kumar had further pushed for the Bench to pass an interim order in the matter. However, the Court stated that it would pass an order only after hearing the arguments of the State.

Another plea moved by Advocate Shridhar Prabhu seeking similar reliefs, submitted that the second ordinance promotes absentee landlordism insofar as companies and other artificial juridical persons are permitted to own agricultural lands.

"Hence, it is opposed to Article 39 (a) and (b) of the Constitution of India and the law declared by the apex court in the case of H.S. Srinivasa Raghavachar and Ors. vs. State of Karnataka and Ors (1987) 2 SCC 692 and also the concept of “tiller is the owner of the land” which being anthemic to absentee landlordism, is the bedrock of the Act and the 1974 Act", said the plea.

It was further submitted that the ordinance under challenge paved the way for non-agriculturists, including companies to purchase agricultural lands, which can be conveniently used for non-agricultural purposes after the completion of the conversion formality.

It was the petitioner's case that the Ordinance seeks to validate the transactions under 79A-79B et al retrospectively.

On these grounds, the petitioner sought a declaration that the second ordinance is illegal, manifestly arbitrary and unconstitutional.

Karnataka High Court
Karnataka HC seeks response of State in plea seeking to quash Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 [Read plea]

The Court had issued notice to the State government in a PIL that had questioned the constitutional validity of the Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.

However, as the term of the first ordinance had expired after six weeks of its promulgation, none of the prayers in the said petition stands, the Bench stated.

The matter will be next heard on January 6.

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