Saturday, 29 January 2022



Article 254 of the Indian Constitution determines the doctrine of repugnancy in India. Before analysing this doctrine, it is essential to understand the legislative scheme and the centre-state relations provided by the Constitution.

Article 245 authorizes the Parliament to create laws for the whole of ant part of India and the State legislature to create laws for the whole or any part of the state. It also determines that a law made by the Parliament shall not be considered invalid due to its extraterritorial application. Further, Article 246 gives the subject of laws that can be formed by the Parliament and Legislature of the States.

  • The Parliament has absolute powers to create laws for all matters provided in the Union List or List I of the Schedule VII of the Indian Constitution.

  • The Legislature of the State has the authority to make laws for State for all matters provided in the State list or List II of Schedule 7.

  • Both the state legislature and the parliament have the authority to make laws for all matters given in the concurrent List or List III of the 7th schedule.

  • The parliament has authority to make laws in regards to any matter for any part of the territory of India, not included in a State, notwithstanding if it is listed in the state list.

Repugnancy refers to a contradiction between two laws which when implemented to the same set of facts give different outcomes. It is utilized to determine incompatibility and inconsistency between the state laws and the central laws when applied in the concurrent field. The circumstances of repugnancy occur when two laws are so in conflict with each other that the application of any one of them would lead to the infringement of another.

The doctrine of repugnancy, according to article 254, describes that if any part of state law if conflicting with any part of a central law which the parliament is capable to enact, or to any part of a law of the matter of list iii, then the central law created by the parliament shall have an effect and the law created by the state legislature shall become void, to the reach of its repugnancy, While understanding this doctrine, whether the central law is established before of after the state laws are irrelevant. Hence, this is a principle to guarantee that when a state law becomes repugnant to the central law.

  • Judicial Interpretation

One of the landmark cases regarding this doctrine is M. Karunanidhi v. Union of India. In this case, a constitutional bench of the supreme court examined the question of repugnancy between the law created by the Parliament and a law created by the State legislature. It was noticed that the following conditions should be fulfilled for the application of the doctrine of repugnancy.

  1. A direct discrepancy between the state act and the central act.

  2. The discrepancy must be conflicting.

  3. The discrepancy between the provisions of the two acts should be of such manner as to bring the two directs face-to-face collision with each other and a circumstance should be reached where it is not possible to follow the one without no following the other.

The hon'ble court held some propositions with the same regard. For the implementation of the doctrine of repugnancy, two enactments must include provisions that are so discrepant that they can not stand together in the same area. Repeal by implication cannot be possible unless there is prima facie repugnancy in these enactments. In case, two enactments are in the same field and there is a chance for both of them to act without removing the other, then this doctrine is not recalled. When there is a lack of discrepancy but enactment in the same field makes different offenses, the question of repugnancy does not come.

Another prominent judgment is Government of Andhra Pradesh v. J.B. Educational Society, where the court saw that the judiciary must construe legislation made by the state legislature and the parliament in such a manner that the question of inconsistency does not arise or can be overpowered. Thus, if such inconsistency between laws is difficult to avoid, then the parliamentary law shall have an effect. Since list III provided the equal ability to both the parliament and the state legislature, to implement laws, the highest scope of a conflict comes here. Again, the court should construe laws to prevent the conflict or else obey the manner of resolution given in Article 245. Clause (2) of Article 254 describes a situation where the state legislature having been reserved and having attained the president's agreement, implements in that state, this again is subject to the proviso that parliament can again make legislation to overpower even such state legislation.

The case of Hoechst Pharma ltd. v. the state of Bihar determines the effect of clause (2) of Article 254. It was examined that the agreement of the president for a state law which is repugnant to a central law for subject matter related to a concurrent subject is prominent as it concludes in the prevailing of the state law in that specific state, thereby, overpowering the application of the central law of that particular state only.

  • Test for determining repugnancy

The principles of repugnancy have been established under the Australian Constitution and have been taken by analogy for their establishment in India. Following Australia example, the court in the case of Deep Chand v. State of Uttar Pradesh saw that repugnancy between the two enactments can be recognized with eth help of the following three tests:

  1. Whether there is a direct inconsistency between the two conflicting provisions,

  2. Whether the parliament aimed to establish an exhaustive enactment on the matter and to override the law created by the state legislature; and

  3. Whether the law created by the parliament and that created by the state legislature covers the same field.

  • Conclusion

The influence of the application of this doctrine will make the state law void till its repugnancy. As long as the central law covers the field, the state law is repealed. If in case, the central law is repealed, then the state law shall restore. The doctrine of severability also comes into application since if a state law is repealed for a matter in the concurrent list, then only the repealed part will be held void and the remaining shall work normally, hence, giving rise to severability. Article 254 proves that the Indian constitution is both federal and unitary. This doctrine is essential for the centre-state relations in the country.


Written by Parul Sharma 

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