Thursday, 7 July 2022

Doctrine of Colourable Legislation by Mayurakshi Sarkar at Lexcliq

 Doctrine of Colourable Legislation by Mayurakshi Sarkar at Lexcliq


The federal structure of governance in India has kept the country together for more than seven decades, distributing authority between the federal government and the states. Two or more tiers of government are common in a federal system. Each level of government has its own set of rules and regulations (area of control). As stated in the Constitution, each level of government has its own set of powers. Federalism is characterised by the division of authority between the federal government and the states. One level of government cannot amend the core provisions of the Constitution unilaterally. The goal of the federal system is to preserve and foster unity while allowing for regional differences.

Power-sharing was agreed upon even before the country became an independent state. Regional and linguistic differences were taken into consideration by the leaders. An elected body, known as the Constituent Assembly, had chosen to construct a government that would be guided by principles of unity and collaboration amongst the states, with a clearly defined sphere of action. When a legislative body is not entitled to enact laws in a specific area, but does so nonetheless under the influence of another law, the doctrine known as colourable legislation comes into play. Colourable legislation is used to determine if they have the authority to implement certain laws. The purpose of this article is to determine whether or not this notion impedes legislative power.

Theory of Colourable Legislation

  • The division or sharing of power is a necessary part of the separation of powers concept. It's stated in the Constitution that each of these organs should have a different set of authorities in order to prevent any of them from abusing their authority.

  • Systematic balances begin to take shape. The Constitution divides powers between the federal and state governments in accordance with their respective jurisdictions.

  • The legislative body does, on rare occasions, pass legislation that go beyond its authority. In other words, it's done something indirectly that it couldn't do directly, which is a sign that it's overstepped its boundaries.

  • Colorable legislative power or enacting laws indirectly while doing so directly is unlawful is known as this practise. As a result, the concept of colorable legislation was developed to prohibit legislators from misusing their authority.

  • For example, only towns with a history of social and educational disadvantage are granted reservations under the constitution.

  • As a result, any attempt to label socially progressive groups as "backward communities" in order to justify the expansion of the reservation is viewed as unconstitutional.

Supreme Court Judgements involving Doctrine of Colourable Legislation

K.C. Gajapati Narayan Deo v. State of Orissa

  • In this case, the constitutional validity of the Orissa Agricultural Income Tax (Amendment) Act,1950 was challenged as colorable legislation.

  • The reason behind this was its real objective was to reduce the Net income of intermediaries to keep the compensation paid to a minimum.

  • The court felt that it is not a colorable piece of legislation as agriculture income is a state subject and it had the authority to enact the law and reducing the compensation is another part of it.

M.R. Balaji v. The state of Mysore 1962

  • In this case, the Mysore government has passed a law stating all communities except the Brahmin community are socially and educationally backward communities.

  • It left only 32 % of seats for the merit pool and reserved nearly 62% in state medical and engineering colleges.

  • The court held that it violated Article 15(4) and therefore is invalid.


In the case of colourable law, the legislative power has been encroached upon. When something is not permitted to be done directly, the concept of colourable legislation prohibits it from being done in any way, shape, or form. It examines whether or not the legislature has enacted a statute that is within the scope of its authorised power. As a result, if there is a constraint on the ability to create laws, the legislature must abide by it, or else it will be deemed to be acting outside the scope of its legislative authority.

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