-Dewanshi Gupta


Pith and substance is a doctrine used to decide under which head a particular enactment falls. The convention is essentially utilized when a law is tested on the basis that one of aspect government has infringed upon the restrictive locale of another aspect of government. Along these lines, the principle of pith and substance deals with discovering the true nature of the legislation.


This is essentially a Canadian principle which presently entrenched in the Indian constitution statute. The constitution act, 1867, by which constitution of Canada is established as identified in sections 91 and 92 on which the dominion and the states could individually administer. It was discovered that the subjects specified in the two areas overlapped and the privy council over and again needed to pass on the constitutionality of laws made by the government and provincial law-making bodies. It was in this circumstance that the privy council advanced the regulation, that for choosing whether a denounced enactment was intra vires and respect must be had to its essence and substance.

The need for the doctrine of pith and substance

This doctrine is generally utilized in deciding whether a state is inside its privileges to make a rule that includes a subject referenced in the union list of the constitution. The essential thought behind this doctrine is that a demonstration or an arrangement made by the state is substantial if the idea of the demonstration or the arrangement is about a subject that falls in the state list. The precept has been applied in India additionally to give a level of adaptability to a rigid system of distribution of powers.


International application of the doctrine of pith and substance

The pith and substance doctrine as applied in the law of the judicial committee of the privy council, viably the British imperial court of appeal, has been conveyed to other commonwealth organizations. It is utilized in the Indian constitution. It was likewise utilized in Northern Ireland under the government of Ireland act 1920. The substance of the principle has been used in the legal structure in the Scotland act 1998. It was additionally utilized in Australia until 1964 when the high court in the case of Fairfax v commissioner of taxation overruled its utilization by a different method.


 Relevant case laws : (pith and substance)

State of Maharashtra versus FN Balsara AIR 1951 delineates this rule pleasantly. The state of Maharashtra passed the Bombay prohibition act that restricted the sale and storage of alcohol. This influenced the business of the appealing party who used to import alcohol. He challenged this on the ground that imports and exports are the subjects that have a place in the union list and the state is unequipped for making any laws concerning this subject. Sc dismissed this contention and held that the true nature of the demonstration is the prohibition of liquor in the state and this subject has a place with the state list. True character and nature of the demonstration having respect to the reason, extension, objective, and the impacts of its arrangements are being looked by the court regarding this case subsequently, the way that the principle addresses on import of liquor doesn’t make it invalid.

On account of Prafulla Kumar Mukherjee V. Bank Of Khulna, the legitimacy of the Bengal money lenders act, 1946 was tested which restricted the sum and the rate of interest recoverable by a moneylender on any advance. It was contended that promissory notes were a part central subject and not a state subject. It was held by the privy council that the demonstration was in essence and substance of the law regarding ‘money lending’ and was a part state subject.

In the case of the state of Rajasthan v. Chawla, a new law regarding restriction on the use of sound speakers was made by the province of Rajasthan. This law was abused by the respondent and the demonstration was reprimanded by the judicial magistrate. On a further appeal made to the supreme court, the state contended that the law was in the legislative competence of the state governing body under the entry 6 of list ii, i.e. The ability to enact according to public health includes the regulation for using the amplifiers as it produces noisy clamor while the restriction contended that intensifiers came under list 1, entry 31 for example post and transmits; phones; telecom and other like types of communication. The court concluded that the speaker didn’t fall under list 1, entry 31 even though the amplifier is an instrument for broadcasting, the enactment in its essence and substance was on state matter and it was not held invalid regardless of whether it unexpectedly infringed upon the subject of broadcasting and communication.


Entries in the list are given the most liberal and amplest conceivable translation and no endeavor ought to be made to restrict or trim down the extent of the entries. The application of the Principe of pith and substance truly implies that where enactment falls altogether inside the extent of entry and within the competency of the state legislature, then this principle will apply and the act won’t be struck down. The thought of infringement of one list in another and the degree thereof is additionally settled. On the off chance that the infringement is least and doesn’t influence the predominant piece of some other entry, which isn’t within the competency of the state legislature, at that point the act might be constitutionally valid. In any case, the central and the state enactment covers a similar field, at that point, the central enactment would prevail.


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