Articles 294 to 300 in Part XII of the Constitution deal with the property, contracts, rights, liabilities, obligations and suits of the Union and the states. In this regard, the Constitution makes the Union or the states as juristic (legal) persons.
PROPERTY OF THE UNION AND THE STATES
1. Succession: All property and assets that were vested in the Dominion of India or a province or an Indian princely state, before the commencement of the present Constitution, became vested in the Union or the corresponding state.
2. Escheat, Lapse and Bona Vacantia: Bona vacantia (property found without any owner) for want of a rightful owner, would now vest in the state if the property is situated there, and in the Union, in any other case. In all these three cases, the property accrues to the government as there is no rightful owner (claimant).
3. Sea-Wealth: All lands, minerals and other things of value under the waters of the ocean within the territorial waters of India, the continental shelf of India and the exclusive economic zone of India vests in the Union. Hence, a state near the ocean cannot claim jurisdiction over these things.
4. Compulsory Acquisition by Law: The Parliament as well as the state legislatures are empowered to make laws for the compulsory acquisition and requisitioning of private property by the governments. Further, the 44th Amendment Act (1978) has also abolished the constitutional obligation to pay compensation in this regard except in two cases: (a) when the government acquires the property of a minority educational institution; and (b) when the government acquires the land held by a person under his personal cultivation and the land is within the statutory ceiling limits.
5. Acquisition under Executive Power: The Union or a state can acquire, hold and dispose property under the exercise of its executive power. Further, the executive power of the Union or a state extends to the carrying on any trade or business within and in other states also.
SUITS BY OR AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT
Article 300 of the Constitution deals with the suits by or against the Government in India. It lays down that the Government of India may sue or be sued by the name of the Union of India and government of a state may sue or be sued by the name of that state, eg, State of Andhra Pradesh or State of Uttar Pradesh and so on. Thus, the Union of India and states are legal entities (juristic personalities) for purposes of suits and proceedings, not the Government of the Union or government of states.
1. Liability for Contracts
2. Liability for Torts
SUITS AGAINST PUBLIC OFFICIALS
1. President and Governor: The Constitution confers certain immunities to the president of India and governor of states with regard to their official acts and personal acts.
2. Ministers: The Constitution does not grant any immunity to the ministers for their official acts.
3. Judicial Officers: The judicial officers enjoy immunity from any liability in respect of their official acts and hence, cannot be sued. The Judicial Officers Protection Act (185)) lays down that, ‘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 in the discharge of his official duty’.
4. Civil Servants: Under the Constitution, the civil servants are conferred personal immunity from legal liability for official contracts. This means that the civil servant who made a contract in his official capacity is not personally liable in respect of that contract but it is the government (Central or state) that is liable for the contract.