Judicial Dictionary

Reasonable restrictions

This reasonableness is necessary not only in the substantive provisions of the impugned law, but also in its procedural provisions. The observations of Mukerji J. in Dr. N.B. Khare Vs. The State of Delhi, sums up the law on the point. Mukherji J. observed :

“That does not mean that in deciding the reasonableness or otherwise of the restrictions, the Courts have to confine themselves to an examination of the restrictions in the abstract……and that it is beyond their province to look up to the circumstances under which or the manner in which the restrictions have been imposed. It is not possible to formulate an effective test which would enable the courts to pronounce any particular restriction to be reasonable or unreasonable per se.

All the attendant circumstances must be taken into consideration and one cannot disassociate the actual contents of the restrictions from the manner of their imposition or the mode of putting them into practice. The question of reasonableness of the restrictions imposed by a law may arise as much from the substantive part of the law as from its procedural portion.”

The test provided for interpreting the word ‘reasonable’ in the extract quoted above has been followed in a large number of decisions and it is not necessary to refer to them. It emerges from these observations that the restrictions imposed by a law may be reasonable in their substantive provisions but the operation of the law may amount to an unreasonable restriction because no adequate provision has been made in the procedural part of the law to safeguard the rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

In the State of Madras Vs. V.G. Row, Patanjali Sastri C.J. observed : —

“…. no summary and what is bound to be largely one sided review by an Advisory Board, even where its verdict is binding on the executive Government, can be a substitute for a judicial enquiry. The formula of subjective satisfaction of the Govt. or of its officers, with an Advisory Board thrown in to review the materials on which the Government seeks to override a basic freedom guaranteed to the citizen, may be viewed as reasonable only in very exceptional circumstances and within the narrowest limits, and cannot receive judicial approval as a general pattern of reasonable restrictions on fundamental rights.”

It would be seen that in that case the prohibitory order was subject to a review by an Advisory Board and yet such a limited power of review was considered insufficient to make the restriction reasonable. Under the Dramatic Performances Act, there is no provision even for such a one-sided review. It confers an absolute discretion to an executive officer to grant or refuse permission for staging a play. He is not required to give any reasons for his order and no judicial review is provided.

Similar powers were given to the District Magistrates under the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act, 1931 and a Bench of this Court held these provisions to be void as they infringed the right conferred upon citizens under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. In Rama Shanker Tewari Vs. State, , it was held that the absence of a provision for review was certainly a factor to be taken into consideration in deciding whether a restriction is reasonable or not.

Similarly in Madanlal Kapur Vs. The State of Rajasthan[AIR 1953 Raj 162], the learned Judges held that the Rajasthan Dramatic Performances and Entertainments Ordinance (29 of 1949) contravened the provisions of Article 19 of the Constitution. The provisions of that ordinance were almost similar to the provisions of the Dramatic Performances Act, 1876. Clauses (a) and (c) of Section 3 of that Ordinance and the Dramatic Performances Act are word for word the same. The learned Judges observed: —

“The conclusion is that so long as no procedure is prescribed by rules u/s 11 of the Ordinance regarding issue of notice, an opportunity of making a representation to an authority or a tribunal to consider it, the provisions of Sections 3, 4, 6 and 8 of the Ordinance cannot be regarded as enforceable, because they do not come within the limits or reasonableness of Clause (6) of Article 19 of the Constitution.

Sections 3, 4, 6, 8 of the Ordinance therefore, without the provision of such procedure, become inconsistent with Article 19 of the Constitution. Section 3 of the Ordinance as it now stands, imposes an unreasonable restriction on the right of a citizen guaranteed by Article 19(g) of the Constitution, not because it suffers with any unreasonableness relating to its substantive provisions, but because no reasonable procedure has yet been made by the Government under its rule-making powers.”


Cases Referred

Rama Shanker Tewari Vs. State, AIR 1954 All 562
Janab Tozammal Khundel Sahaji Vs. Joint Secretary to the Government of West Bengal, AIR 1951 Cal 322
Dr. N.B. Khare Vs. The State of Delhi, AIR 1950 SC 211 : (1950) 1 SCR 519
State of Madras Vs. V.G. Row, AIR 1952 SC 196 : (1952) CriLJ 966 : (1952) 1 SCR 597
Madanlal Kapur Vs. The State of Rajasthan, AIR 1953 Raj 162


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