This article has been written by Tanya Gupta, a student pursuing BA LLB from Ideal Institute of Management and Technology and School of Law, affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi. This article focuses on the rule of harmonious construction and landmark cases related to it.
Is it law really plays an important role in society? Every individual living in society must understand the importance of law. Law is that powerful tool which keeps a society peaceful and prevents conflicts between people by regulating their behaviour. The laws are enacted to regulate the society are drafted by Legal Experts and it is well anticipated that laws enacted will not be specific and contain some ambiguity. Judiciary plays an important role to remove and resolving these inconsistencies.
We all are well known aware that there are three wings of the government i.e. legislature, executive and judiciary. The role of interpretation of statues comes into play and is of utmost importance for the Judiciary to render justice correctly by interpreting the statues in the way in which the society demands.
Doctrines are” a rule, principle, theory or tenet of the law”. One of the doctrines is Harmonious Construction it is one of the principles of the interpretation of statutes. They follow the principle of a statute shall be read as a whole and should confirm benefits to the people.
Doctrine of Harmonious Construction
According to Salmond, “by construction is meant, the process by which the court seeks to ascertain the meaning of the legislature through the medium of authoritative forms in which it is expressed.”
The Constitution of India makes a two-fold distribution of legislative powers:
- With respect to the territory;
- With respect to the subject matter.
Article 245, Constitution of India is related to the territorial jurisdiction and Art. 246 is related to the subject matter of lawmaking power of Parliament and State Legislature.
The list of legislation- Union list, state list and concurrent list enshrined under schedule 7 of Indian Constitution. The Union Government has an exclusive power to make laws on the subject mentioned in the Union List i.e. of national importance. The State Government has the power to make laws in subjects mentioned in the State List i.e. of local importance and for the subjects mentioned in the Concurrent List both Central and State government has exclusive power. But in the case conflicts arises Central law will prevail.
In a statue, when there are two provisions which are in apparent conflict with each other, they should be interpreted such that effect can be given to both. When there is a conflict between two or more statues or two or more parts of the statue then the doctrine of the harmonious construction needs to be adopted.
According to this rule, a statute should be read as a whole and one provision of the act should be constructed with the reference to other provision in the same Act so as to make a consistent enactment of the whole statue and to remove inconsistency or repugnancy.
It helps to bring harmony between the list referred in Schedule 7, Constitution of India.
In the case when it is impossible for harmonization between statues or between two or more provisions of the statues, then the court’s decision regarding the provision shall prevail.
Landmark Case Laws: Doctrine of Harmonious Construction
Principles of rules of Harmonious Construction: CIT v. HINDUSTAN BULK CARRIERS (2003)3SCC57
In this landmark case, the Apex Court laid down five principles of rule of harmonious construction:
1.Courts must avoid a head-on clash of seemingly contradicting provisions and they must construe the contradictory provisions so as to harmonize them
2. The provision of one section cannot be used to defeat the provision contained in another unless the court, despite all its effort, is unable to find a way to reconcile their differences.
3. When it is impossible to completely reconcile the differences in contradictory provisions, the court must interpret them in such a way so that effect is given both the provisions as much as possible.
4. Courts must also keep in mind that interpretation that reduces one provision to a useless number or dead is not harmonious construction.
5. To harmonize is not to destroy any statutory provision or to render it fruitless.
Raj Krishan v Binod, AIR 1954
In this case, two provisions of Representation of People Act, 1951, which were in apparent conflict were brought before the court. Section 33 (2) says that a government servant can nominate or a second a candidate in the election but section 123(8) says that a government servant cannot assist any candidate in the election except by casting his vote. The Supreme Court observed that both these provisions should be harmoniously interpreted and held that a government servant was entitled to nominate or a second candidate seeking election in State Legislative Assembly.
Venkataramana Devaru v. State of Mysore, AIR 1997 SC1006
In this case, Apex Court applied the doctrine of harmonious construction in resolving a conflict between article 25(2)(b) and Article 26(b) of the Constitution of India and it was held that the right of every religious denomination or any sections thereof to manages its own affairs in matters to religion [art. 25)(b)] is subject to a law made by State providing for social welfare and reform or throwing open of Hindu religious institution of public character to all classes and section of Hindus.
As there are three organs of the government legislature makes the laws; the executive implements the law and judiciary interpret the laws. There are three lists i.e. Union, State and concurrent list. As statues are drafted by legislature there is every possibility of the situation of inconsistency, ambiguity, repugnancy etc. In such situations, the rules of interpretation of statutes come into play and the provisions are construed so as to give maximum effect to them and to render justice to the situation at hand. The principle of harmonious construction plays a very important role in interpreting the statues and is used in an abundance of cases. It is a thumb rule to the interpretation of any statue. The judiciary should interpret the statues properly and rendered justice to the citizens of the country.
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