Chief Justice Chandrachud Affirms Gandhian Ethos in Directive Principles; Rejects Socialistic Model Negating Private Property

Chief Justice Chandrachud underscores Gandhian ethos in directive principles, refuting a socialistic model negating private property. In Property Owners Association v. State of Maharashtra, the 9-Judge Bench deliberates on land ownership's communal trust aspect.

In a recent court session with a 9-Judge Bench, there were significant remarks made by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud regarding the interpretation of private property under Article 39(b) of the Constitution. This article deals with the directive principles of state policy, focusing on the principles of Gandhian ideology. Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasized that these principles are rooted in the Gandhian ethos, where property is viewed as something held in trust, balancing between private ownership and a socialist model.

"Our directive principles, we must understand, have their foundation in the Gandhian ethos. The directive principles are really in persuance of the Gandhian ideology, and what is that ethos? Our ethos regards property as something which is held in trust," remarked Chief Justice Chandrachud.

The Bench underscored the importance of distinguishing between community resources held in trust for future generations and privately owned property, such as a flat. The case under consideration involves a challenge against Chapter VIIIA of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Act, 1976, which empowers the Mumbai Building Repair and Reconstruction Board to acquire certain properties for restoration with the consent of 70 percent of residents.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Chandrachud reflected on the philosophical approaches of Justice V R Krishna Iyer and Justice Chinnappa Reddy, comparing the capitalist and socialist perspectives on property ownership.

"If you look at the purely capitalist concept of property, the capitalist concept of property attributes a sense of exclusiveness to property. This is my pen; it's exclusively mine; nobody else can use my pen. The Socialist concept concept of property is the mirror image, which attributes to property a notion of commonality, nothing is exclusive to the individual, all property is common to the to the community, that's the extreme socialist view," stated Chief Justice Chandrachud.

He further elaborated on the Indian perspective, stating, "Our concept of property has undergone a very different, a very subtle change from either the extreme capitalist perspective or the extreme socialist perspective. We regard property as something which we hold in trust."

Chief Justice Chandrachud cautioned against interpreting "material resources of the community" in a narrow manner, highlighting the importance of considering societal welfare and the need for redistribution from a societal perspective.

"We must put ourselves back in the 1950s when the Constitution was made, the Constitution which was intended to bring about a sense of social transformation... We shouldn't therefore go as far as to say that the moment property is private property, Article 39 (b) and (c) will have no application," he remarked.

During the proceedings, Advocate Sameer Parekh, representing the Petitioner, argued against an extreme interpretation of Justice Iyer's views, stating that Article 39(b) does not mandate the acquisition and redistribution of all private properties.

"What, in fact, Justice Krishna Iyer does advocate is that, please, acquire private property and distribute it. That is too extreme a view. It's too extreme; it's a Marxist concept that you acquire everybody's land and give it to everybody else. That is not in our humble submission, the intent of Article 39(b). It cannot be interpreted in that manner," argued Parekh.

He emphasized that while the State can acquire land for public purposes, Article 39(b) does not mandate the wholesale redistribution of private properties.