Mission Jai Hind, a seven-point plan of action put forward by a group of leading economists, intellectuals and activists has created quite the ripple. The document outlining the plan of action was shared via social media, and comes in response to the recently announced stimulus package that in many ways ignores the urgent need for economic support for those whose lives and livelihoods have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and consequent lockdown.
One particular point however has become a bone of contention for many – clause 7.1 which states that “all the resources (cash, real estate, property, bonds, etc) with the citizens or within the nation must be treated as national resources available during this crisis”. On Saturday, some the signatories too took to Twitter, distancing themselves from the issue.
The discussion however has put the spotlight on the Right to Property, which in turn brings us to the question: what is this Right all about, and how was it taken away from Indians?
The Right to Property had been a Fundamental Right, as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, but ceased to be such after the 44th Amendment in 1978. At the time, as per Article 19, all citizens had been guaranteed the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property. Additionally, article 31 postulates that "no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law." Under Right to Property, compensation would have to be paid to a person whose property had been taken for public purposes.
As economist and researcher Gautam Chikermane, put it in a Twitter thread, "The primary issue around Clause 7.1 is that the right to property as a fundamental right was snatched away from Indians in 1978."
Right to Property was repealed in 1978 with two exceptions. One was that minorities could establish and administer educational institutions, while the other allowed for people holding land for personal cultivation within the limit.
As per the 44th amendment, Right to Property would henceforth only be a legal right as opposed to a fundamental one. According to a 2010 article by The Hindu, the Supreme Court had dismissed a PIL seeking direction to reinstate Right to Property as a fundamental right. That particular petition had sought direction to strike down the 44th Amendment as being in violation of the Constitution.
In related news, in 2020, the Supreme Court had reportedly said that a citizens right to own private property was a human right, adding that the state could not take posession of it without following due process and the the law. The apex court had held that the state could not tresspass into the private property of a citizens and then claim the land citing 'adverse possession'.