How Ideology Impacts a Judge’s Decision Making – A Study of Justice Chinnappa Reddy’s judgments on DPSP v. FRs

Written by  //  September 17, 2010  //  Law & The Judiciary  //  10 Comments

Professor Sathe observed that while judges should be non-political, every judge is apolitical, i.e. every judge is driven by a certain ideology which impacts his decision making. A few years ago, I was involved in a study of judgments of Justice Chinnappa Reddy and whether there was any ideology he subscribed to which impacted his decision making. One aspect I analyzed was his views on the conflict between fundamental rights (“FRs”) and directive principles of state policy (“DPSP”). For the purposes of this study I read his judgments and the other landmark judgments on the topic and interviewed him on the issue. It was a once in a lifetime experience, which in addition to being a lesson on humility and simplicity provided me a wonderful insight into the working of a judge’s mind.  

What came through from my discussions with Justice Reddy was that he firmly believed that India was a socialist state and its status of a socialist State could be achieved only if DPSP were given their due. He believed that the term “socialist state” was analogous to “welfare state” in the Indian context and that India would cease to be a welfare state if DPSP were made subject to FRs.  

He also believed that a major task of the law is to provide a rational reconciliation of conflicting interests. In that sense an attempt should first be made to reconcile any conflict between FRs and DPSP. While FRs represent individual rights, DPSP represent a duty of the State to act in furtherance of public good, coupled to which there is a correlative public right. When there is a conflict between DPSP and FRs, the role of the judge then is to reconcile the individual right with the public right. However, there is a possibility that such reconciliation may not be possible in which case the DPSP should prevail.

This view of his comes through very clearly in his landmark judgment on the subject- Sanjeev Coke Manufacturing Company v. Bharat Coking Coal Limited[1] (“Sanjeeva Coke”).

Judgments prior to Sanjeeva Coke  

The Supreme Court (in State of Madras v. Smt. Champdkam Dorairajan[2], Mohd. Hanif Qureshi v. The State of Bihar[3], Deep Chand v. The State of Uttar Pradesh and Ors.[4], In Re : The Kerala Education Bill, 1957[5]) initially took the view that since DPSP were not enforceable as a result of Article 37 and since B.N.Rau’s view that a law made in furtherance of a DPSP should be considered a reasonable restriction on a FR, was expressly rejected, the DPSP were subservient to FRs. This view was dominant till the historic case of Kesavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala [6].

In this case while that clause of Article 31C, which took away the power of judicial review was struck down as being violative of the basic structure of the Constitution, the first part of Article 31C, which provided that any law made in furtherance of Article 39(b) and (c) would not be subject to Article 14,19 and 31 was upheld. While upholding the validity of the above clause, the majority of the judges stressed on the importance of the DPSP and status of DPSP and FRs as the conscience of the Constitution. However, Justice Ray, Justice D.G.Palekar and Justice Chandrachud went on to categorically state that DPSP should prevail over FRs.

Article 31C, was then amended pursuant to which any law made in furtherance of any DPSP would not be subject to Articles 14,19 and 31. The validity of this amendment was challenged in Minerva Mills v. Union of India[7] (“Minerva Mills”). The Supreme Court held that the harmony between DPSP and FRS was part of the basic structure of the Constitution and by giving precedence to DPSP, this harmony would be affected, thereby violating the basic structure of the Constitution. On these grounds the majority judges struck down the amended Article 31C.

Justice Bhagwati, however dissented and held that any law made in furtherance of any DPSP had to be in furtherance of substantive equality. There could therefore be no conflict between a law in furtherance of a DPSP and a FR. He was thus of the opinion that all Article 31C did was codify the existing position so that the Courts would not waste time over the issue of whether a law made in furtherance of a DPSP was violative of a FR. As to whether a law is enacted in furtherance of a DPSP or not, Justice Bhagwati observed that the issue should be decided by the Court.

The Chinnappa Reddy era –Sanjeeva Coke

Following Minerva Mills was the Constitution Bench decision (judgment was delivered by Justice Reddy) in Sanjeeva Coke. The issue in this case was whether the Coking Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1972 is entitled to the protection of Art 31C of the Constitution, as it stood prior to the 42nd Amendment. While going into this issue, Justice Reddy analyzed Minerva Mills in detail and stopped short of calling the whole judgment as obitur dicta.

Justice Reddy came down heavily on the judges in Minerva Mills for going into the constitutional validity of the amended Article 31C. According to Justice Reddy the whole issue did not arise and the Supreme Court went into an unnecessary issue of academic importance. The impugned legislation in Minerva Mills was the Sick Textiles (Undertakings) Nationalisation Act 1974, which had been enacted prior to the 42nd Amendment. Section 39 had been enacted in furtherance of Article 39(b) and since this enactment was prior to the 42nd Amendment, the pre-42nd Amendment Article 31C, which provided that any law made in furtherance of Article 39(b) and (c) would not be subject to Articles 14,19 and 31 , and whose constitutionality was upheld by a 13 judge bench in Kesavananda, was applicable. There was no requirement to go into the validity of the 42nd Amendment.

Justice Reddy was also of the opinion that the ratio of Kesavananda based on which pre 42nd Amendment Article 31C was held to be constitutionally valid, logically should extend to post-42nd Amendment Article 31C as well as there was nothing to suggest that the nature of the other DPSP “is so drastic or different from the Directive Principles in Clause (b) and (c), of Article 39, that the extension of constitutional immunity to laws made to further these principles would offend the basic structure of the Constitution.”. Justice Reddy therefore clearly suggested that the 42nd Amendment was constitutionally valid. These observations by Justice Reddy are reflective of his then losing battle to do social justice by giving prevalence to DPSP. These comments are obitur dicta and were made only to stress on the importance of Part IV of the Constitution. This ‘apolitical’ view of Justice Reddy is also reflected in the ratio of the case.  

It was argued by the Petitioners that if a law was proved to violate Article 14, it could not be in furtherance of Article 39(b) or (c) and could not claim the protection guaranteed by Article 31C.

Justice Reddy rejected this argument stating that if any law made in furtherance of Articles 39(b) and (c) was necessarily in consonance with Article 14, Article 31C would be rendered redundant. He therefore took the view that it was possible for there to be a conflict between FRs and DPSP.

The departure from Justice Bhagwati’s view and method in which it has been made is interesting to note. While he states that he broadly agrees with Justice Bhagwati, he does disagree on one important aspect. Justice Bhagwati was of the opinion that there could be no conflict between Part III and Part IV, as any law made in furtherance of Part IV had to be in furtherance of substantive equality embodied in Article 14. Justice Reddy, on the other hand did contemplate a conflict between a law made in furtherance of Part IV and Article 14. Justice Reddy’s central point is that even if a law is discriminatory and violates Article 14, it can be in furtherance of 39(b) and (c) and thus be valid.

Justice Reddy went on to hold that the impugned legislation was in fact in furtherance of Article 39(b) and (c) and there was no need to go into whether it was in consonance with Article 14 to decide whether it falls under the purview of Article 31C.

While Justice Reddy did not get the opportunity to expressly state that DPSP should prevail over FRs he admitted while speaking to me that it was his view that DPSP should prevail over FRS that dictated his decision making in Sanjeeva Coke.

Justice Reddy was disappointed that his views in Sanjeeva Coke were not taken forward and that DPSP were given less importance by later judges. However, in recent times a new line of decisions (Municipal Corporation of the City of Ahmedabad and Ors. v. Jan Mohammed Usmanbhai[8], Workmen of Meenakshi Mills Ltd. v. Meenakshi Mills Ltd..[9], M.R.F. Ltd. v. Inspector, Kerala Govt.[10]) have emerged. Whether a statute is in furtherance of a DPSP or not is a major factor in determining reasonability for the purposes of Articles 19(2)- 19(6). Moreover, if a statute is reasonable for the purposes of Article 19, pursuant to a plethora of Supreme Court decisions, it would be reasonable for the purposes of Articles 14 and 21 as well. Hence, following these decisions a law made in furtherance of Part IV need not necessarily be reasonable but in all probability is reasonable and not violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21.Hence, in a way, though the bar has been lowered, there is a reversion to Article 31C which was struck down in Minerva Mills and which Justice Reddy in Sanjeeva Coke declared ought to have been held to be valid.   


[1] AIR 1983 SC 239.

[2] [1951] S.C.R. 525.

[3] [1959] S.C.R. 629.

[4] 1959 Supp. (2) SCR 8.

[5] [1959] S.C.R 995.

[6] AIR 1973 SC 1461.

[7] AIR 1980 SC 1789.

[8] AIR 1986 SC 1205.

[9] MANU/SC/0512/1992

[10] MANU/SC/0702/1998

About the Author

Advocate, Madras High Court Trainee Solicitor, Clifford Chance LLP, London (2008-2010). Author, The Law of Reservation and Anti-discrimination, LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa Nagpur (2008). Chief-editor, Justice R.S.Bachawat's Law of Arbitration and Conciliation, 5th edition, LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa Nagpur (2010).

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10 Comments on "How Ideology Impacts a Judge’s Decision Making – A Study of Justice Chinnappa Reddy’s judgments on DPSP v. FRs"

  1. Niranjan September 17, 2010 at 5:34 am ·

    Great post, Anirudh. This post demonstrates what I believe is the greatest danger to the judiciary, especially in India – deciding cases on factors that are unconnected with legal reasoning. There are many examples one could cite, of course, but here I’ll briefly discuss Sanjeev Coke.

    With great respect to Justice Chinappa Reddy, I believe Sanjeev Coke is wrongly decided and deserves to be overruled by the Bench constituted a few years ago to consider it. Mihir has written a wonderful article on the subject at 21(1) NLSIR – I’ll post a link if I can find one. In short, Krishna Iyer J. had held in Ranganatha Reddy (in a concurring opinion, and possibly in obiter) that Art. 39(b) of the Constitution includes “private property”, relying on the word “distribution” used there. There is no clear explanation in the judgment of why this is the case, but it was accepted as law by Chinappa Reddy J. in Sanjeev Coke and subsequently, until it was doubted by a Constitution Bench in Property Owners. The difficulty with Chinnappa Reddy J.’s thesis, as Mihir points out in more detail, is that it does not distinguish between “acquisition” of property and collection of taxes – it implies that tax collection for the common good is beyond the pale of FR scrutiny, which is not the case.

    Finally, the Constituent Assembly debates strongly (almost conclusively) demonstrate that Sanjeev Coke is incorrect. As Mr. Seervai points out, discussions on a draft proposed by BN Rau, if I remember correctly, demonstrate that the Constituent Assembly did not consider Directive Principles to be enforceable or justiciable. Further, Mr. Seervai argues persuasively that the drafters always intended Part III to override Part IV – while that is not the position the Supreme Court has taken today, it could not be further from the one Chinnappa Reddy J. proposes. Moreover, an amendment moved by Prof. KT Shah to exclude “private property” from Art. 39(b) was withdrawn on the assurance that that was already the case.

  2. Anirudh Krishnan September 17, 2010 at 7:11 am ·

    Niranjan, I agree that Justice Reddy’s stand that DPSP must override FRs is against the intention of the framers of the Constitution. Infact B.N.Rau’s view that a law made in furtherance of a directive principle should be considered a reasonable restriction on a fundamental right , was expressly rejected by the rest of the Constituent Assembly. However, I agree with the balance that has been reached by the Supreme Court today (in Municipal Corporation of the City of Ahmedabad v. Jan Mohammed Usmanbhai, Workmen of Meenakshi Mills Ltd. v. Meenakshi Mills Ltd., M.R.F. Ltd. v. Inspector, Kerala Govt).

    The decision of the Constitutional bench reconsidering Sanjeeva Coke would be interesting. However, subject to correction, they are looking into only one aspect of the decision (which was raised in Property Owners’ Association v. State of Maharashtra). Jusitce Reddy did not go into the issue of whether the pre-42nd Amendment Article 31C automatically revived post-Minerva Mills or whether Article 31C ceased to exist in any form post-Minerva Mills. This issue, I believe, is still pending before the Court.

  3. Prasan Dhar September 17, 2010 at 9:18 am ·

    “[T]he greatest danger to the judiciary, especially in India – [is] deciding cases on factors that are unconnected with legal reasoning.” That is surely quite harsh. Whatever happened to judicial corruption, judicial appointment procedures, case overload, badly trained lower court judges etc.?

    You assume that the law exhausts all possible solutions in matters before the court. That is quite clearly false. Courts make law, whether we like it or not.

  4. Anirudh Krishnan September 17, 2010 at 10:15 am ·

    I did not address this aspect of Niranjan’s reply in my earlier reply. My post merely seeks to elucidate that the ideologies that a judge subscribes to impacts his decision making. I agree with Professor Sathe that it is impossible for a judge to be apolitical.

  5. Niranjan September 18, 2010 at 6:14 pm ·

    @ Prasan, I don’t mean to imply that things like corruption or appointment procedure are unimportant. Just that judges making law when (often) there is no need to do so is less obviously a problem than – because it is not as widely identified as incorrect. As far as I know, the only sustained analysis of Indian judgments with this concern is mind is Mr. Seervai’s and that was fourteen years ago. Of course this is not a settled question, and it never will be. Perhaps this view is also in the minority. So I don’t want to get into making a case for judicial conservatism here – one of the most succinct and yet comprehensive pieces that does that is available at http://www.joink.com/homes/users/ninoville/lesserevil.asp.

    @Anirudh, I agree – a judge will ultimately fail to be entirely apolitical. But I don’t think that is a reason to abandon the task as hopeless, especially when he confronts a case where the law is clear. Again, the best exposition of this view I’ve read is Mr. Seervai’s book, Vol. I, Interpretation of the Constitution.

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  9. raja August 18, 2011 at 10:19 am ·

    @ Niranjan ……Moreover, an amendment moved by Prof. KT Shah to exclude “private property” from Art. 39(b) was withdrawn on the assurance that that was already the case.
    Can you give more details on this statement ? If this is so read the observation by the Seven Judge Bench in Property owners Association case on 20-2-2002:
    Quote:
    Having given due consideration, we are of the opinion that this interpretation of Article 39(b) requires to be reconsidered by a Bench of nine learned Judges: we have some difficulty in sharing the broad view that material resources of the community under Article 39(b) covers what is privately owned.

    Unquote: If Prof. K.T. Shah was assured ( by whom & when) is correct, then does it need a Nine Judge Bench to consider it ?
    Please clarify.

  10. Madabhushi Sridhar April 27, 2013 at 3:41 am ·

    Anirudh Krishnan has made a very crisp and effective analysis of Justice Reddy’s mind, the judgments relevant and the present trend with reference to Part III and Part IV of the Constitution. His interview with Justice Chinnappa Reddy has brought out the strong views of the later. It is a great tribute to Justice Reddy who died recently. Anirudh deserves all appreciation for his appreciation and analysis of Article 31C.

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