TITLE OF THE CASE – His Highness Maharajadhiraja Madhav Rao Jiwaji Rao Scindia vs Union of India
CITATION – 1971 AIR 530, 1971 SCR  9
PETITIONER – H. H. Maharajadhiraja Madhav Rao Jiwaji Raoscindia Bahadur
RESPONDENT – Union of India
BENCH – Hidayatullah, M. [CJ], A.N. Grover, C.A. Vaidialingam, A.N. Ray, G.K. Mitter, J.C. Shah, I.D. Dua, K.S. Hegde, S.M. Sikri, J.M. Shelat and Vashishtha Bhargava, JJ.
DATE OF JUDGEMENT – 15TH December, 1970
This case is also known as the Privy Purse Case.
In 1947, the Princely States covered 48% of the area of the Indian Dominion and formed 28% of its population. After Independence, the Colonial Government had given the states an option to be a part of the Dominion of Pakistan or the Dominion of India or to remain independent.
More than 562 Private States joined India, leading to the formation of the Union of India. In exchange, the princes, Kings/ princes Kings, Governor- General who came under these princely states were promised to be paid certain amount and privileges. The amount which was paid to them were known as ‘Privy Purse’.
Therefore, this case was also known as the Privy Purse Case.
The instruments of merger provided for the amalgamation of the States and guaranteed to the Rulers the privy purse, succession according to the law and custom of the State and personal rights, dignities, privileges and titles.
Most Congressmen opposed the payment of privy purses by stating that you cannot give such high amount to these princely states. But Sardar Patel gave a stirring speech on October 12, 1949 in the Constituent Assembly. He asked the members of the Parliament to realize that for the integration of India this is a very small price to pay.
Privy Purse was a Constitutional Guarantee given to princely purses by way of Article 291 of the Constitution of India. In September, 1970 the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi brings 24th Constitutional Amendment in the Parliament to delete Article 291 and Article 366 which gave the Constitutional Guarantee of privy purse. The motion to abolish the privy purse and derecognition of the rulers was brought into the parliament. The Constitutional Amendment Bill was cleared in the Lok Sabha on 2nd September, 1970 with 2/3rd majority. On 5th September, 1970 the Bill was brought before the Rajya Sabha. There are 224 members present for voting, and under Article 368, the requisite majority which is required for clearing the Amendment is 2/3rd of the members present in voting. So, in order to clear the said Bill, it required 150 members, but only 149 members voted in the favor of Bill and remaining 75 voted against it, and therefore, by 1 vote the Bill was disapproved.
When the amendment was not passed by the Parliament, a Presidential Order was passed regarding the same issue. The President of India on September 6th, 1970 passed a laconic order in respect of each of the Rulers. The order was served to the Government of India by the Secretary. An order issued to the Ruler of Gwalior State may be read here:
"In exercise of the powers vested in him under Article 366 of the Constitution, the President hereby directs that with effect from the date of this Order His Highness Maharajadhiraja Madhav Rao Jivaji Rao Scindia Bahadur do cease to be recognised as the Ruler of Gwalior."
Also, similar orders were communicated to all the other Rulers of India who had been previously recognized under Article 366 of the Constitution of India.
The President of India recognized Jiwaji Rao as the Ruler of Gwalior. After the death of Jiwaji Rao, Madhav Rao- the Petitioner was recognized as the Ruler of Gwalior.
Madhav Rao moved a petition in the Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India claiming that the declaration passed the President of India is unconstitutional, void and ultra vires.
Article 366 defines a Ruler: Ruler means a Prince or a Chief with whom the Covenant or agreement was entered by the Dominion of India as referred in Article 291 and who for the time being is recognized by the President as the ruler of the State.
ISSUES RAISED –
1] Whether the order of the President in derecognizing rulers from getting privy purse is unconstitutional or ultra vires of the Constitution of India?
2] Whether the President had the power to de-recognize the princes under Article 366 of the Constitution of India?
The Case was heard by a 11 Judge bench before the Supreme Court of India.
The Supreme Court holds that the President is not invested with any political power transcending the constitution, which he may exercise to the prejudice of citizens.
The Supreme Court states that the power of the President arise from and are defined by the Constitution. Validity of the exercise of those powers is always amenable to the jurisdictions of the courts, unless the jurisdiction is by precise enactment excluded. Power of this Court under Article 32, or of High Courts under Article 226, cannot be bypassed under a claim that the President has exercised Political power.
Therefore, the Supreme Court ultimately declares the order of the President derecognizing the rulers from getting privy purse is illegal, ultra vires of the Constitution and violates the Constitutional provisions. The attempt to remove Article 291, Article 362 and Article 366 from the Constitution of India, without hearing to the rulers was in breach of the accepted principles of natural justice.
This article is written by Manasi Khadilkar of Gopaldas Jhamatmal Advani Law College.