Supreme Court strikes down Section 13(2) of Chhattisgarh Rent Control Act as unconstitutional

Supreme Court strikes down Section 13(2) of Chhattisgarh Rent Control Act as unconstitutional

Shruti Mahajan

The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court today struck down Section 13(2) of the Chhattisgarh Rent Control Act, 2011 as being ultra vires the Constitution of India and therefore unconstitutional.

The Constitution Bench of headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah, and Ravindra Bhat held that the State Legislature does not hold the power to enact legislations that would alter the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Therefore, Section 13(2) of the Rent Control Act is ultra vires the Constitution.

Section 13(2) of the Act provided for a direct appeal before the Supreme Court against the orders of the Rent Control Tribunal. In providing for this direct appeal, the State Legislature has transgressed its legislative power, the Court held. The Chhattisgarh State Assembly lacked the jurisdiction or the competence to enact any law that affects the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

“It is axiomatic that the legislature of a State may only make laws for the whole or any part of the State, while Parliament may make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India.”

The Court delved into the details of the entries made in the Union, State, and Concurrent lists to point out that Entry 18 in the State list enables a State legislature to legislate on issues of Rent and Tenancy relations. However, this entry does not give the power to the State legislature to circumvent other entries in State and Concurrent lists as regards the power to legislate on the jurisdiction of the Court. The Court points out,

“Entry 77 of the Union List, expressly confers law-making power in respect of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, exclusively to Parliament.

…In view of Entry 77 of the Union List, only Parliament has the legislative competence to legislate with respect to the constitution, organization, jurisdiction or powers of the Supreme Court.”

Elucidating further on the power to legislate, the Court points out that Entry 64 of the State list and Entry 46 of the Concurrent list confer the power on the State Legislature to make laws that touch upon the powers and jurisdiction of Courts, except the Supreme Court. Therefore, there is an explicit bar on the power of the State legislature to make laws as regards the Supreme Court.

On the aspect of the powers of the Supreme Court under Article 136, the Bench has held that the power under this Article is “not to be confused with the appellate power”. The  Supreme Court does not act as a regular Court of appeal while exercising its jurisdiction under Article 136.

“Article 136 does not confer a right of appeal on any party but confers a discretionary power on the Supreme Court to interfere in appropriate cases. This power can be exercised in spite of other provisions for appeal contained in the Constitution, or any other law,” the Court said while citing the 2003 judgment in N. Natarajan vs. B. K. Subba Rao.

Under Article 136, the Supreme Court exercises its discretionary powers as opposed to the powers in an appeal which is in continuation of original proceedings. Therefore, the Court rejected the submission that was made stating that the jurisdiction of the Court to hear appeals from the Rent Control Tribunal emanated from its special jurisdiction under Article 136.

Further, the Court also remarked in this judgment that a Presidential assent does not validate an enactment that is in excess of legislative powers of the State Legislature.

“Presidential assent cannot and does not validate an enactment in excess of the legislative powers of the State Legislature, nor validate a statutory provision, which would render express provisions of the Constitution otiose. Presidential assent cures repugnancy with an earlier Central Statute, provided the State Legislature is otherwise competent to enact the Statute.

In view of our finding that Presidential assent would not validate a statutory provision which the legislature was incompetent to enact, we need not go into the question of whether the President had occasion to consider the repugnancy of Section 13(2) of the Rent Control Act with the provisions of the Constitution.”

The Court, therefore, concluded that the State Legislature had no power to legislate on the issue of jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and thus, Section 13(2) was struck down as null, void, and ultra vires.

[Read Judgment]

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