New Delhi | The legislature cannot directly annul a court judgment, the Supreme Court ruled today as it struck down a provision of a Kerala law enabling the state government to acquire ten cashew factories. A bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman declared as unconstitutional the section 6 of the Kerala Cashew Factories Acquisition (Amendment) Act and directed the state government to hand back the ownership of ten acquired cashew factories to their respective owners within eight weeks.
Observing that the reference to the schedule of the Amendment contained only the 10 cashew factories that were ordered to be handed back, the bench said tt is clear, therefore, that Section 6 directly seeks to upset a final judgment inter-parties and is bad on this count and is thus declared unconstitutional.
It is settled law by a catena of decisions of this Court that the legislature cannot directly annul a judgment of a court…., the apex court said. Allowing the appeal against acquisition of the factories, the bench said the judgment of the High Court is set aside and it is ordered that the cashew factories and the land appurtenant thereto that have been taken over by the State under the Amending Act must be handed back within a period of eight weeks from the date on which this judgment is pronounced.
The court’s verdict came on a petition challenging the constitutional validity of some provisions of the Kerala Cashew Factories (Acquisition) Act, 1974 and subsequently amended law that gave power to the state government to acquire private cashew firms under certain situations. Forty-six cashew factories were acquired under the 1974 Act by the government and the matters reached to the apex court during 1990s. The apex court had held that the possession of factories be handed over to the respective owners.
As many as 36 cashew factories were returned to their owners in 1994 due to the court order. However, this was not done so far as the 10 cashew factories were concerned and later, the Act was amended in 1995 to bring them under its ambit. Terming the state action as an attempt to annul the court’s judgement, the apex court declared section 6 of the amended Act as unconstitutional.
In fact, the handing back of only 36 factories would be patently discriminatory as all 46 factories are similarly situated and have been treated as such by the State by issuing common notices to all of them under Section 3 of the Act. We have been reliably informed that these 36 factories are functioning under their respective owners for the last twenty years.
In the circumstances we hold that there is no intelligible differentia between the 36 factories and the 10 factories taken over having any rational relation with the object sought to be achieved and on this ground also Section 6 of the Amendment Act deserves to be struck down as violating Article 14 of the Constitution, it said.
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