Doctrine of Repugnancy

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Doctrine of Repugnancy

From time immemorial, legislative bodies have been enacting laws all over the world. With the enactment of laws by different legislative bodies all over the world, conflict of laws is an unavoidable issue. However, in this article I will mainly be focusing on the conflict of laws with regard to India. In India, there are three wings of the Government, namely, The Legislature, The Judiciary and the Executive. The legislature has the law making powers for the entire country. The legislature is further divided into the Centre and the State. Doctrine of Repugnancy deals with the conflict of laws between the State and the Centre. Part XI of the Indian Constitution describes the legislative relations between the States and the Centre. The legislative field of the Parliament and the State Legislatures has been specified in Article 246 of the Constitution whereas Article 254 of the Indian Constitution describes the mechanism for resolution of conflict between the Central and the State legislations enacted with respect to any matter enumerated in List III of the Seventh Schedule.

Various judicial pronouncements have declared the pre-conditions for the application of the doctrine of repugnancy. In the case of M. Karunanidhi v. Union of India, the Constitutional Bench laid down the tests for the application of the Doctrine of Repugnancy, which is as follows:

“1. That in order to decide the question of repugnancy it must be shown that the two enactments contain inconsistent and irreconcilable provisions, so that they cannot stand together or operate in the same field.

2. That there can be no repeal by implication unless the inconsistency appears on the face of the two statutes.

3. That where the two statutes occupy a particular field, but there is room or possibility of both the statutes operating in the same field without coming into collision with each other, no repugnancy results.

4. That where there is no inconsistency but a statute occupying the same field seeks to create distinct and separate offences, no question of repugnancy arises and both the statutes continue to operate in the same field."

In National Engineering Industries Ltd. Vs. Shri Kishan, the Supreme Court observed :

“In order that a question of repugnancy may be arise, two conditions must be fulfilled, namely that the State Law and the Laws of the Union must operate the name field and one must be repugnant or inconsistent with the other.”

From the plain reading of the Articles 246 and 254 it is clear that in case of a conflict between the Union laws and State laws, it is the Union law which shall prevail if it is made within an entry of List III of the Constitution. In such a scenario if any provision of a State-made law is in conflict with the Parliament–made law under such circumstance the State-made law is declared void to the extent of repugnancy. However, this general rule is subject to Clause (2) of Article 254 of the Indian Constitution. The Clause (2) of the said Article says that that the State law will become void to the extent of repugnancy unless the State law has been reserved for the assent of the President. If the Preseident grants his assent to the said state law, then the Union law, to the extent of its repugnancy will become void in that state. However, this does not curtail the power of the Parliament from enacting at any time any law with respect to the same matter including a Law adding to amending varying or repealing the law so made by the legislature of the State.

Thus, what is visible to us by analyzing the various judicial pronouncements and by going through the Constitution is that both the Centre and the State have supreme powers with regard to enacting the laws for their respective domains but in the presence of a conflict, it is the Centre-made laws which shall prevail in most cases.

The Supreme Court in Zameer Ahmed Latifur Rehman Sheikh Vs. State of...
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