Doctrine of Repugnancy
The notion of repugnancy is established in India under Article 254 of the Indian Constitution. Before delving into this concept, it's critical to grasp the legislative framework as well as the Constitution's provisions for the Centre-State relationship. Article 245 gives the Parliament the ability to make laws for the entire country or any portion of it, and the State assembly the power to make laws for the entire state or any part of it. It further provides that a legislation passed by Parliament cannot be declared illegal because it applies extraterritorially. Furthermore, Article 246 establishes the subject-matter of legislation that can be enacted by the states' legislatures.
The Parliament has sole legislative authority over all items listed in the Union List or List. I of the Schedule VII of the Indian Constitution.
The Legislature of the State has powers to make laws for such State for all matters given in the State List or List II of Schedule VII.
Both the Parliament and the State Legislature have powers to make laws for all matters listed in the Concurrent List or List III of the Seventh Schedule.
The Parliament is empowered to make laws relating to any matter for any part of the territory of India, not included in a State, notwithstanding if it is enumerated in the State List.
Repugnancy means a contradiction between two laws which when applied to the same set of facts produce different results. It is used to describe inconsistency and incompatibility between the Central laws and State laws when applied in the concurrent field. The situation of repugnancy arises when two laws are so inconsistent with each other that the application of any one of them would imply the violation of another.
The doctrine of repugnancy, in accordance to Article 254, states that if any part of State law is repugnant or conflicting to any part of a Central law which the Parliament is competent to enact, or to any part of a law of the matter of List III, then the Central law made by the Parliament shall prevail and the law made by the State legislature shall become void, to the extent of its repugnancy. While considering this doctrine, whether the central law is passed before or after the State law is immaterial. Hence, this is a principle to ascertain that when a state law becomes repugnant to the Central law. `
M. Karunanidhi v. Union of India is a seminal case in the history of this theory. A constitutional bench of the Supreme Court reviewed the subject of repugnancy between a legislation passed by Parliament and a bill passed by the State legislature in this case. It was noted that in order to apply the theory of repugnancy, the following requirements must be met:
The Central Act and the State Act are in direct conflict.
Irreconcilable discrepancy is required.
The discrepancy between the provisions of the two Acts should be of such a type that they collide head-on, making it impossible to follow one without violating the other.
The Right Honorable Court also laid down some propositions in this respect. For the application of the doctrine of repugnancy, two enactments must contain provisions that are so inconsistent that they cannot stand together in the same field. Repeal by implication cannot be done unless there is a prima facie repugnancy in the enactments. If two enactments exist in the same field and there is a possibility for both of them to operate without colluding with the other, then this doctrine is not attracted. When there is an absence of inconsistency but enactment in the same field creates distinct offences, the question of repugnancy does not arise.
Another landmark judgment is Government of Andhra Pradesh v. J.B. Educational Society, where the Court observed that the judiciary must interpret legislation made by the Parliament and the State Legislature in such a way that the question of conflict does not arise or can be circumvented. However, if such a conflict between laws is unavoidable, then the Parliamentary law shall prevail. Since List III gives equal competence to both the Parliament and the State Legislatures, to enact laws, the highest scope of a conflict exists here. Again, the Court should interpret laws to avoid the conflict or else follow the manner of resolution iterated in Article 245. Clause (2) of Article 254 deals with a situation where the State legislation having been reserved and having obtained President’s assent, prevails in that State; this again is subject to the proviso that Parliament can again bring a legislation to override even such State legislation.
The case of Hoechst Pharma ltd. v. State of Bihar discusses the effect of Clause (2) of Article 254. It was observed that the assent of the President for a state law which is repugnant to a Central law for a matter related to a concurrent subject is important as it results in the prevailing of the State law in that particular State, thereby, overriding the application of the Central law in that state only.