25 May 2010

Doctrine of Repugnancy: The law revisited

The Constitution of India vests the law-making power between the Union Parliament and State Legislatures in terms of its various provisions read with Schedule VII. It therein distributes the subject-matters over which the two are competent to make laws; List I being the fields allocated for the Parliament, List II being those within the exclusive domain of the State Legislatures and List III represents those areas where both carry concurrent powers to make laws. The Constitution, however, itself provides [vide Article 254] that a law on a subject-matter prescribed in List III enacted by the State Legislature would be valid only in the absense of or not being contrary to a law made by the Parliament on the same subject-matter. Thus has developed the the doctrine of repugnancy which is employed to test as to when and where a State law turns repugnant to the Parliamentary legislation.

In a recent decision, dealing with the issues relating to the constitutional validity of MCOCA (a State legislation), the Supreme Court revisited the doctrine and explained its nuances in its decision in Zameer Ahmed Latifur Rehman Sheikh v. State of Maharashtra and Ors. in the following terms;
47.Chapter I of Part XI of the Constitution deals with the subject of distribution of legislative powers of the Parliament and the legislature of the States. Article 245 of the Constitution provides that the Parliament may make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India, and the legislature of a State may make laws for the whole or any part of the State.
48.The legislative field of the Parliament and the State Legislatures has been specified in Article 246 of the Constitution. Article 246, reads as follows: -
“246. Subject-matter of laws made by Parliament and by the legislature of States.—(1) Notwithstanding anything in clauses (2) and (3), Parliament has exclusive power to make laws with respect to any of the matters enumerated in List I in the Seventh Schedule (in this Constitution referred to as the ‘Union List’).
(2) Notwithstanding anything in clause (3), Parliament, and, subject to clause (1), the legislature of any State also, have power to make laws with respect to any of the matters enumerated in List III in the Seventh Schedule (in this Constitution referred to as the ‘Concurrent List’).
(3) Subject to clauses (1) and (2), the legislature of any State has exclusive power to make laws for such State or any part thereof with respect to any of the matters enumerated in List II in the Seventh Schedule (in this Constitution referred to as the ‘State List’).
(4) Parliament has power to make laws with respect to any matter for any part of the territory of India not included in a State notwithstanding that such matter is a matter enumerated in the State List.”
Article 254 of the Constitution which contains 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 reads as under:
“254. Inconsistency between laws made by Parliament and laws made by the legislatures of States.—(1) If any provision of a law made by the legislature of a State is repugnant to any provision of a law made by Parliament which Parliament is competent to enact, or to any provision of an existing law with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List, then, subject to the provisions of Clause (2), the law made by Parliament, whether passed before or after the law made by the legislature of such State, or, as the case may be, the existing law, shall prevail and the law made by the legislature of the State shall, to the extent of the repugnancy, be void. 
(2) Where a law made by the legislature of a State with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List contains any provision repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law made by Parliament or an existing law with respect to that matter, then, the law so made by the legislature of such State shall, if it has been reserved for the consideration of the President and has received his assent, prevail in that State:
Provided that nothing in this clause shall prevent 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.”
49. We may now refer to the judgment of this Court in M. Karunanidhi v. Union of India, [(1979) 3 SCC 431], which is one of the most authoritative judgments on the present issue. In the said case, the principles to be applied for determining repugnancy between a law made by the Parliament and a law made by the State Legislature were considered by a Constitution Bench of this Court. At para 8, this Court held that repugnancy may result from the following circumstances:
“1. Where the provisions of a Central Act and a State Act in the Concurrent List are fully inconsistent and are absolutely irreconcilable, the Central Act will prevail and the State Act will become void in view of the repugnancy.
2. Where however a law passed by the State comes into collision with a law passed by Parliament on an Entry in the Concurrent List, the State Act shall prevail to the extent of the repugnancy and the provisions of the Central Act would become void provided the State Act has been passed in accordance with clause (2) of Article 254.
3. Where a law passed by the State Legislature while being substantially within the scope of the entries in the State List entrenches upon any of the Entries in the Central List the constitutionality of the law may be upheld by invoking the doctrine of pith and substance if on an analysis of the provisions of the Act it appears that by and large the law falls within the four corners of the State List and entrenchment, if any, is purely incidental or inconsequential.
4. Where, however, a law made by the State Legislature on a subject covered by the Concurrent List is inconsistent with and repugnant to a previous law made by Parliament, then such a law can be protected by obtaining the assent of the President under Article 254(2) of the Constitution. The result of obtaining the assent of the President would be that so far as the State Act is concerned, it will prevail in the State and overrule the provisions of the Central Act in their applicability to the State only. Such a state of affairs will exist only until Parliament may at any time make a law adding to, or amending, varying or repealing the law made by the State Legislature under the proviso to Article 254.” 
In para 24, this Court further laid down the conditions which must be satisfied before any repugnancy could arise, the said conditions are as follows:-
“1. That there is a clear and direct inconsistency between the Central Act and the State Act.
2. That such an inconsistency is absolutely irreconcilable. 
3. That the inconsistency between the provisions of the two Acts is of such nature as to bring the two Acts into direct collision with each other and a situation is reached where it is impossible to obey the one without disobeying the other.”
Thereafter, this Court after referring to the catena of judgments on the subject, in para 38, laid down following propositions:-
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.”
50. In Govt. of A.P. v. J.B. Educational Society, [(2005) 3 SCC 212], this Court while discussing the scope of Articles 246 and 254 and considering the proposition laid down by this Court in M. Karunanidhi case (supra) with respect to the situations in which repugnancy would arise, in para 9, held as follows:- 
“9. Parliament has exclusive power to legislate with respect to any of the matters enumerated in List I, notwithstanding anything contained in clauses (2) and (3) of Article 246. The non obstante clause under Article 246(1) indicates the predominance or supremacy of the law made by the Union Legislature in the event of an overlap of the law made by Parliament with respect to a matter enumerated in List I and a law made by the State Legislature with respect to a matter enumerated in List II of the Seventh Schedule. 
10. There is no doubt that both Parliament and the State Legislature are supreme in their respective assigned fields. It is the duty of the court to interpret the legislations made by Parliament and the State Legislature in such a manner as to avoid any conflict. However, if the conflict is unavoidable, and the two enactments are irreconcilable, then by the force of the non obstante clause in clause (1) of Article 246, the parliamentary legislation would prevail notwithstanding the exclusive power of the State Legislature to make a law with respect to a matter enumerated in the State List.
11. With respect to matters enumerated in List III (Concurrent List), both Parliament and the State Legislature have equal competence to legislate. Here again, the courts are charged with the duty of interpreting the enactments of Parliament and the State Legislature in such manner as to avoid a conflict. If the conflict becomes unavoidable, then Article 245 indicates the manner of resolution of such a conflict.
Thereafter, this Court, in para 12, held that the question of repugnancy between the parliamentary legislation and the State legislation could arise in following two ways:-
“12……….First, where the legislations, though enacted with respect to matters in their allotted sphere, overlap and conflict. Second, where the two legislations are with respect to matters in the Concurrent List and there is a conflict. In both the situations, parliamentary legislation will predominate, in the first, by virtue of the non obstante clause in Article 246(1), in the second, by reason of Article 254(1). Clause (2) of Article 254 deals with a situation where the State legislation having been reserved and having obtained President’s assent, prevails in that State; this again is subject to the proviso that Parliament can again bring a legislation to override even such State legislation.”
51. In National Engg. Industries Ltd. v. Shri Kishan Bhageria [(1988) Supp SCC 82], Sabyasachi Mukharji, J., opined that the best test of repugnancy is that if one prevails, the other cannot prevail.


Anonymous said...

Mr Tarun Jain ,i am a law student and i must appreciate the way u have dealt with the doctrine and in a very lucid and conceptualized manner u have penned down the same .thank you for ur contribution

Rajeev Mahunta

Kushu said...

The elucidation of the concept of this popular doctrine is no doubt very pragmatic and lucid.The citation of case decisions and particularly of M. Karunaninidhi case is very germane to the better and precise understanding of the doctrine.The step by step analytical and process followed with relevant extracts of the verbatim SC judgement by Justice Faizal Ali is a purposive approach.

Kaushik Chowdhury, 3 yrs LLB student,