Arbitrary and discriminatory lagislation

Violation of equality clause in the Constitution.

Validity of economic legislation leaving a section of people.

Fourteenth Amendment of Constitution of USA and view of Supreme Court of USA:

When local economic regulation is challenged solely as violating the Equal Protection Clause, this Court consistently defers to legislative determinations as to the desirability of particular statutory discriminations. … Unless a classification trammels fundamental personal rights or is drawn upon inherently suspect distinctions such as race, religion, or alienage, our decisions presume the constitutionality of the statutory discriminations and require only that the classification challenged be rationally related to a legitimate state interest. States are accorded wide latitude in the regulation of their local economies under their police powers, and rational distinctions may be made with substantially less than mathematical exactitude. Legislatures may implement their programme step-by-step … in such economic areas, adopting regulations that only partially ameliorate a perceived evil and deferring complete elimination of the evil to future regulations … In short, the judiciary may not sit as a super-legislature to judge the wisdom or undesirability of legislative policy determinations made in areas that neither affect fundamental rights nor proceed along suspect lines …, in the local economic sphere, it is only the invidious discrimination, the wholly arbitrary act, which cannot stand consistently with the Fourteenth Amendment.

[Source: City of New Orleans v. Dukes 427 U.S. 297 (1976)]

The courts should not adopt a doctrinaire approach which might well choke all beneficial legislation and that legislation which is based on a rational classification is permissible. A law applying to a class is constitutional if there is sufficient basis or reason for it. In other words, a statutory discrimination cannot be set aside as the denial of equal protection of the laws if any state of facts may reasonably be conceived to justify it.

[Source: Harmon Singh and Ors. v. Regional Transport Authority, Calcutta and Ors. (1954) SCR 371 (FB)]

It is for the Legislature to decide what should be the cut-off point for the purpose of classification and the Legislature of necessity must have a lot of latitude in this regard. It is well settled that the safeguard provided by Article 14 of the Constitution can only be invoked, if the classification is made on the grounds which are totally irrelevant to the object of the statute. But, if there is some nexus between the objects sought to be achieved and the classification, the Legislature is presumed to have acted in proper exercise of its constitutional power. The classification in practice may result in some hardship. But, a statutory discrimination cannot be set aside, if there are facts on the basis of which this statutory discrimination can be justified.

In order to strike a balance between the interests of the landlords and the tenants and for giving a boost to house building activity, the Legislature in its wisdom has decided to restrict the protection of the Rent Act only to those premises for which rent is payable upto the sum of Rs. 3,500/- per month and has decided not to extend this statutory protection to the premises constructed on or after the date of coming into operation of the Amending Act for a period of ten years. This is a matter of legislative policy. The Legislature could have repealed the Rent Act altogether. It can also repeal it step by step. It has decided to confine the statutory protection to the existing tenancies whose monthly rent did not exceed Rs. 3,500/-.

[Source: D.C. Bhatia vs. Union of India.]

The court partially departed from earlier case in which the following observations reached to contrary opinion.

To say that a non-residential building is different from a residential building is merely to say what is self-evident and means nothing. Tenants of both kinds of buildings equally need the protection of the beneficent provisions of the Act. No attempt has been made to show that the tenants of non- residential buildings are in a disadvantageous position as compared with tenants of residential buildings and therefore, they need greater protection. There is and there can be no whisper to that effect. To illustrate by analogy, it is not enough to say that man and woman are different and therefore, they need not be paid equal wages even if they do equal work. The counter affidavit has repeatedly referred to the weaker sections of the people and stated that in order to protect the weaker sections of the people, a distinction has been made between them and those who are in a position to pay higher rent. It is difficult to understand how the exclusion of tenants who pay higher rent from the protection afforded by the Act will help to protect tenants belonging to the weaker sections of the community. It is one thing to say that tenants belonging to the weaker sections of the community need protection and an altogether different thing to say that denial of protection to tenants paying higher rents will protect the weaker sections of the community. Further the distinction suggested in the counter appears to be quite antipathic to the actual provision because as we pointed out earlier, there is no such ceiling in the case of tenants of non-residential buildings and therefore a tenant of a non-residential building who is in a position to pay a rent of Rs. 5000 per month is afforded full protection by the Act, whereas, inconsistently enough, the tenant of a residential building who pays a rent of Rs. 500 is left high and dry. It certainly cannot be pretended that the provision is intended to benefit the weaker sections of the people only.

[Source: Rattan Arya v. State of Tamil Nadu]
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