Harmonious Construction Doctrine

Harmonious Construction Doctrine

When two or more provisions of the same statute are repugnant, the court will try to construe the provisions in such a manner, if possible, as to give effect to both by harmonizing them with each other. The court may do so by regarding two or more apparently conflicting provisions as dealing with separate situations or by holding that one provision merely provides for an exception of the general rule contained in the other. The question as to whether separate provisions of the same statute are overlapping or are mutually exclusive may, however, be very difficult to determine.

The basis of the principle of harmonious construction probably is that the legislature must not have intended to contradict itself. This principle has been applied in a very large number of cases dealing with interpretation of the Constitution. It can be assumed that when the legislature gives something by one hand it does not take away the same by the other. One provision of an Act does not make another provision of the same Act useless. The legislature cannot be presumed to contradict itself by enacting apparently two conflicting provisions in the same Act.

In State of Bombay v. F.N. Balasara, while deciding upon the constitutionality of the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949, enacted by the Bombay Legislature, whereby restrictions on production and sale of liquor were put, the Supreme Court observed that the expression possession and sale occurring in entry 31 of List II are to be read without any qualification.

Under that entry the State Legislature has the power to prohibit possession, use and sale of intoxicating liquor absolutely. The word import in Entry 19 of List I standing by itself does not include with sale or possession of the article imported into country by a person residing in the territory into which it is imported. There is, therefore, no real conflict between entry 31 of List II and Entry 19 of List I. Consequently, the Act of 1949, in so far as it purports to restrict possession, used and sale of foreign liquor, is not an encroachment on the field assigned to the Federal Legislature.

Some other cases:

  1. Raj Krishna Vs Binod, AIR 1954 SC 202
  2. Bengal Immunity Company Vs State of Bihar, AIR 1955 SC 661.
Harmonious Construction Doctrine

Read Complete Notes : Constitutional Law Unit I 

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