Harsh Vardan Shahi

INTRODUCTION (Doctrine of Repugnancy)

A study of the Indian Constitution is absolutely essential for any person attempting to study and understand the law of the country. The constitution is the supreme law of the land. It has the distinction of being the longest written constitution in the world. This is because the makers of our constitution did not want to exclude any subject which would later lead to a conflict of interest. With the enactment of laws by different legislative bodies all over the world, conflict of law is an unavoidable issue. The 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 Centre and the States. The legislative fields of the Parliament and the State Legislatures have been specified in Article 246 of the Constitution whereas Article 254 of the Indian Constitution describes the mechanism of the resolution of the conflict between the Central and the State Legislation enacted with respect to any matter enumerated in List III of the Seventh Schedule  

Black’s law dictionary defines repugnancy as an inconsistency or contradiction between two or more part of a legal instrument.

Repugnancy means the conflict between two parties of legislation which when applied to the same fact produce different results. Repugnancy arises when the provisions of the two laws are so inconsistent and irreconcilable that it is impossible to do one without disobeying the other.

Repugnancy arises when the provision of two laws are so inconsistent and irreconcilable that it is impossible to do one without disobeying the other. In the Indian context, if such a conflict arises between a central and state legislation, then the central law will prevail. This has been stated in Article 254 of the Indian Constitution and also been further clarified by the Supreme Court in various cases like I.T.C Ltd. v. Agricultural Produce Market Committee.


CASES (Doctrine of Repugnancy)

In M. Karunanidhi V. Union of India, S.C. held that where the provisions of Central Act and a State Act in the Concurrent and fully inconsistent and absolutely irreconcilable, the Central Act will prevail and the State Act will become void in view of the repugnancy.

The application of this provision most commonly arises when there is a direct conflict between statutes enacted by both Centre and the State on matters in the Concurrent List, and there is repugnancy between them. Repugnancy arises between two statues when they occupy the same field and are completely inconsistent with each other and have absolutely irreconcilable provisions; as stated in the case of Deep Chand v. State of Uttar Pradesh.

The SC held in case of Bharat Hydro Power Corpn. Ltd v. State of Assam, as well as in the case of Central Bank of India v. State of Kerela, that every effort should be made to reconcile the two enactments and consume them both, in such a way. So as to avoid them being repugnant to each other. If the two enactments operate in different fields without encroaching upon each other, then there will be no repugnancy.

In a most federal constitution and democracies across the world, the doctrine of repugnancy is embedded to resolve the conflict between a law made by centre and a confliction law by the state. In most case, the decision is in favour of the central law. In the United States of America, if the federal law conflict with state law for the territories was considered repugnant to the Commonwealth. Law, which was the supreme law.

The constitution under Schedule VII sets out the various subjects which the Parliament and State may legislate, under List I and List II respectively. Under List III, also known as the concurrent list, both the Parliament and the State have the power to make laws.

It is under Article 245 that the constitution provides that in case both the Parliament and the State make a law upon a matter in the Concurrent List and the laws are such that they are irreconcilable, then the law made by the state shall be deemed to be repugnant to the extent of its repugnancy with the Central law.



According to Article 254(1), if any provision of the state law is repugnant to a provision in a law made by the Parliament, which the Parliament is competent to enact, or with any existing law regarding any matter in the Concurrent List, then the Parliamentary law would prevail over the State law. It will be of no importance whether the Parliamentary law was enacted before or after the State law. To the extent of the doctrine of repugnancy, the State law will be void.

It is due to this Article and the doctrine of repugnancy that the power of the Parliament to a legislature upon matters contained in List III i.e.; the Concurrent List is supreme. The Article gives an overriding effect any statue which the Parliament is competent to enact and which has been enacted by it.

The sub-clause operates when two conditions are present. These conditions are:-

  • There must be valid central law on the same subject matter and in the same field in the concurrent list to which the central law relates.
  • The state law must be repugnant to the central law.

In Pt Rishikesh v. Salma Begum, the Supreme Court held that if an enacted Parliamentary law is brought into effect after enactment of the State law which had received the assent of the President, then the State law would prevail because the parliamentary law was the earlier law.

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