The Article 19 (1) (g) guarantees to all citizens the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. This freedom is not uncontrolled, for clause (6) of Article 19 authorises legislation which imposes reasonable restrictions on this right in the interest of general public. However, reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the use of this right. Under Article 19 (6), the State is not prevented from making:
(a) A law imposing in the interests of general public reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the above right,
(b) A law relating to professional or technical qualifications necessary for practicing any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business,
(c) A law relating to the carrying on by the State, or by a corporation owned or controlled by the State, of any trade, business, industry or service whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise.
It is thus clear that under Article 19 (6) the State is empowered to impose reasonable restrictions on the right guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (g). The condition, however, is that the restriction:
(a) Must be reasonable, and
(b) In the interest of general public.
In N.R. & F. Mills v. N.T.G. Brothers, AIR 1971 S.C. 264, the Government issued an order under the Rice Milling Industries (Regulations) Act, 1958, sanctioning the change in the location of the rice mills from its original site to the new site. The respondent challenged the order on the ground that appellant’s mill was moved to a place in the vicinity of their rice mills and in consequence of the removal of the appellant’s mill, their business was likely to be adversely affected and amounted to unreasonable restriction on his right to carry on business.
The court held the order to be valid. The right to practice any profession, trade and business includes that it is subject to reasonable restrictions imposed in the interest of general public and not that it adversely affects other’s business.
In Lakhan Lal vs. State of Orissa, AIR 1977 S.C. 722, it has been held that the State has the power to enforce an absolute prohibition of manufacture for sale of intoxicating liquor. The State has the exclusive right or privilege to manufacture, store, and sale of liquor and to grant that to its license holders on payment of considerations with such considerations and restrictions for its regulations as may be necessary in the public interest.
The right to carry on business includes the right to close it any time the owner likes. But as no right is absolute, so the right to close is also not absolute. The restrictions can be placed on it in the interest of public. In Excel Wear v. Union of India, AIR 1979 S.C. 25, it was held that refusal or approval for closure of a business when the owner cannot pay even minimum wages to his employees, was not in the interest of public and hence it was invalid.
In Sukumar Mukherjee v. State of West Bengal, (1993) 3 S.C.C. 724, the appellants had challenged the validity of West Bengal State Health Services Act, 1990, on the ground that it imposes, unreasonable restriction on their right to carry on any occupation or trade or business under Article 19(l)(g) of the Constitution.
Section 9 of the Act prohibited private practice by teacher-doctors. The Supreme Court held that imposition of private practice on teacher-doctors is reasonable and in the interest of general public.
In order to determine the reasonableness of the restrictions for the purpose of clause (6) of Article 19, regard must be had to the nature of the business and conditions prevailing in the particular trade. It thus obvious that nature and business must differ from trade to trade and no hard and fast rules concerning all can be laid down.
The concept, “interest of the general public” is of wide import and covers legislation for these preservation and protection of public safety, health, morality and general welfare of the people. In A.K. Gopalan v. state of Madras, AIR 1956 S.C. 27, the Supreme Court has that the word, “general public” refers to the rest of the citizens with reference to free citizen who claims the right in question. It does not refer to any group or class of people as distinguished from the people generally.
In Laxmi Khandsari vs. State o/U.P., AIR 1981 S.C. 873, a notification issued under the Sugar-Cane (Control) Order stopping crushers from producing Khandsari so that production of white sugar could be increased and thereby making the sugar available to the consumers at a reasonable price, was held to be imposing restrictions in the interest of general public on the right of persons using crushers, and therefore valid.
In Minerva Talkies, Bangalore v. State of Karnataka, AIR 1988 S.C. 526, a Rule of the State Government prescribing that no licensee would be allowed to exhibit more than four shows in a day, was held to be valid as imposing reasonable restriction on the right to carry on business in the interest of general public.
Similarly, in Sreeniwas General Traders v. State of U.P., (1983) S.C.C. 354, the validity of (Agricultural Produce and Livestock) Markets Act, 1966 and the rules made thereunder, have been upheld by the court on the ground that it imposes reasonable restrictions within the meaning of Article 19 (6) and hence not violative of Article 19 (1) (g).
Here the Act seeks to enable producers to get a fair price for these commodities by eliminating middlemen. Hence, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the restrictions imposed by the Act on the principle of “interest of general public.”
In All Delhi Cycle Rickshaw Operators’ Union v. Municipal Corporation of Delhi, (1987) 1 S.C.C. 371, it was held that the by-law 3 of the Cycle Rickshaw By-laws, 1960 framed under Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, which restricted the issue of Licenses only to the owners of the rickshaws who play themselves but excluded persons owning more than one cycle rickshaws and who hire them to rickshaw-pullers, was constitutionally valid as it imposed reasonable restriction in the interest of general public and was therefore not violative of Article 19 (1) (g). The object of the by-laws was to prevent exploitation of rickshaw pullers by the owners of the cycle-rickshaws.
(a) Nationalisation of trade or business
This too comes within Article 19 (6) (ii) of the Constitution. The State is competent under this Article to nationalise any business or trade and carry on itself. In Moti Lal v. State of U.P., AIR 1951 Alld. 259, it was held that the State was not competent to create monopoly in trade or business in its own favor,
(b) Professional and technical qualification
The State may prescribe the professional or technical qualifications necessary for trade, business or occupation, for example, it may prescribe that a lawyer must hold LL.B. degree or a doctor must have passed M.B.B.S. degree exam, or so on. The Advocates’ Act, 1961, the Indian Medical Degrees Act, Bengal Dentist Act, etc. are some of the examples which regulate professions requiring qualifications.