Rights and Liabilities of the Government

Context

  • Articles 294 to 300 in Part XII deals with the Rights and Liabilities of the Government.

Property of the Union and States

Succession

  • vested in the Union or the corresponding state

Escheat, Lapse and Bona Vacantia

  • vest in the state if the property is situated there, and in the Union, in any other case

Sea-Wealth

  • India’s territorial waters extend to a distance of 12 nautical miles from the appropriate base line. Similarly, India’s exclusive economic zone extends upto 200 nautical miles

Compulsory Acquisition by Law

  • Parliament as well as the state legislatures are empowered to make laws for the compulsory acquisition and requisitioning of private property by the governments.

Acquisition under Executive Power

  • Union or a state can acquire, hold and dispose property
  • executive power of the Union or a state extends to the carrying on any trade or business within and in other states

Suits by or against the Government

  • Article 300 Rights and Liabilities of the Government
  • Union of India and states are legal entities
  • Liability for Contracts
    • president or the governor is not personally liable in respect of any contract executed in his name. Similarly, the officer executing the contract is also not personally liable
  • Liability for Torts
    • Union or states in India can be sued for torts (civil wrongs) committed by its officials only in the exercise of its non-sovereign functions but not in the sovereign functions like administering justice, constructing a military road, commandeering goods during war
  • Suits against Public Officials
  • President and Governor

Official Acts

  • cannot be sued during the term of their office or thereafter, for any act done by them in the exercise and performance of their official powers and duties
  • official conduct of the president can be reviewed by a court, tribunal or any other body authorized by either House of Parliament to investigate charges for impeachment

Personal Acts

  • No criminal proceedings can be started nor can they be arrested or imprisoned
  • limited to the period of the term of their office only and does not extend beyond that civil proceedings can be started against them during their term of office in respect of their personal acts after giving two months’ advance notice

Ministers

  • Constitution does not grant any immunity to the ministers for their official acts & not liable in the courts for those acts
  • not required to countersign (as in Britain) the official acts of the president and the governors
  • not liable for the official acts as the courts are debarred from inquiring into such advice
  • do not enjoy any immunity for their personal acts, and can be sued for crimes as well as torts in the ordinary courts like common citizens

Judicial Officers

  • enjoy immunity from any liability in respect of their official acts and hence, cannot be sued
  • no judge, magistrate, justice of peace, collector or other person acting judicially shall be liable to be sued in any civil court for any act done by him

Civil Servants

  • conferred personal immunity from legal liability for official contracts
  • made a contract in his official capacity is not personally liable but it is the government (Central or state) that is liable for the contract
  • enjoy immunity from legal liability for their tortious acts in respect of the sovereign functions of the government.
  • liability of the civil servants for torts or illegal acts is the same as of any ordinary citizen
  • Civil proceedings can be instituted against them for anything done in their official capacity after giving a two months’ advance notice
  • Criminal proceedings can be instituted against them for acts done in their official capacity, with the prior permission of the president or the governor.

Articles related to Rights and Liabilities of the Government

The following table gives a brief about the article of the Constitution of India that governs the liabilities and rights of the Government of India:

Rights and Liabilities of the Government
Article Subject-matter
294 Succession to Property, assets , rights liabilities and obligations in certain cases
295 Succession to Property, assets , rights liabilities and obligations in certain cases
296 Property accruing by escheat or lapse or as bona vacantia
297 Things of value within territorial waters or continental shelf and resources of the exclusive economic zone to vest in the Union
298 Power to carry on trade etc.
299 Contracts
300 Suits and Proceedings
361 Protection (immunities) of President and Governors

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