Saturday, 29 January 2022



The term harmonious construction describes such construction by which harmony or unity between various provisions of an enactment is achieved. When the words of statutory provision provide more than one meaning and there is a question about which meaning should induce, then such meaning should be followed by which the words best go with the subject matter of the enactment.

It is assumed that the legislature has enacted a law with a definitive aim. It is also assumed that the legislature has used accurate words to broaden their thoughts and left no uncertainty in the language of the enactment. It is further assumed that all the provisions of a statute are well-formed and constant with each other because the legislature is not presumed to contradict itself by giving conflicting provisions. Thus, the statute should be interpreted in such a way so as to prevent any repugnancy.

An inconsistency should neither be composed nor be readily implied. Where all alternative constructions are attainable, that construction should be admitted by which harmony is attained and the constructions directing to discrepancy should be refused.

The aim of the legislature is that every provision should continue to be operative. But where two provisions are conflicting, it may not be possible to execute both of them and in the outcome, one shall be discounted to futility as against the established essential principle of ut res magis valeat quam pereat.  

Therefore, such as construction should be agreed to induce by which existing discrepancy is removed and both the provisions continue to be in force, inconsistency with each other. It brings harmony between the several lists given in the Indian constitution schedule.

It is a key rule of construction and when there are two provisions of the same law inconsistent with each other, that both the provisions cannot be together, they should probably be so elucidated that effect can be provided to both and that construction which depicts any one of them as useless and inoperative should not be followed except when there is no option left.

  • Objective

The purpose of harmonious construction is to prevent any confrontation among two enacting provisions of a statute and to interpret the provisions in such a way so that they are consistent. The grounds of this rule is that the Legislature never expected to give two inconsistent provisions in a statute, for the reason that it results in self-contradiction.

The real legislative describes that is discovered in the procedure of interpretation cannot be to give for something in one provision and refuse the same in the consequent one. Hence, even if a conflict is found, the same should be taken as to be unintentional as such, is given to be corrected by way of harmonious construction.

  • Principles of rule of harmonious construction

In the landmark case CIT v. Hindustan Bulk Carriers (2003), the apex court established five principles of rule of harmonious construction:

  1. The courts must prevent a direct clash of apparent conflicting provisions and they must interpret the contradictory provisions.

  2. The provision of one section cannot be utilized to beat the provision given in another, unless the court, despite all its attempts, is unable to discover a way to rectify their differences.

  3. When it is futile to completely rectify the difference in conflicting provisions, the courts must construe them in such a manner so that effect is provided to both provisions as much as possible.

  4. Courts must also consider that interpretation that curtails one provision to a useless number or act is not harmonious construction.

  5. To harmonize is not to destruct any statutory provisions or to execute it useless.

  • Case laws:

  • Re-Kerala education bill 1951

In this case, it was laid down that in deciding the fundamental rights, the court must keep in mind the directive principle and follow the principle of harmonious construction. So, two possibilities are given influence as much as possible by marking a balance.

  • East India hotels ltd. v. Union of India (2001)

It was held that and Act is to be read fully, the different provisions have to be consistent and the effect is to be provided by all of them.

  • Quereshi v. State of Bihar

In this case, the apex court laid down that the state should implement the directive principle in a manner so that it will not intervene in fundamental rights.

  • Bhatia International v. Bulk Trading (2003)

It was held that if more than one explanation is possible for a statute then the court has to choose the explanation which represents the intention of the legislation.

  • Generalibus Specialia Derogant

This maxim describes that the special things derogate from usual things. So special provisions in a statute handle the general provisions. In simple words, general provisions have no admissibility in the matter that is administered by special provisions. It can, hence, be said that a special provision on an issue excludes the application of general provisions and always overpowers the general provisions but this overpowering effect is limited to the extent of inconsistency between them.

  • Conclusion

Law is created by the legislature and there is a chance of circumstances of ambiguity. In those circumstances, the rule of interpretation of statutes comes into the role and the provisions are formed so as to provide maximum effect to them. The doctrine of harmonious construction has helped judges to explain the two conflicting laws efficiently and helped in serving justice to society at large. Hence, it is one of the most prominent tools with the judiciary while giving any interpretation of the statutes.


Written by Parul Sharma

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