Doctrines of Indian Constitution

20 Feb 2023  Read 720 Views

Judicial doctrines form a significant part of the Indian constitution, which is usually considered a part of the Indian judiciary. A doctrine simply means a principle, belief, or position often held by authorities like courts, or it can be a rule, a theory or a tenet of law. There are several judicial doctrines applied under the Indian Constitution that law students find difficult to remember. So, let’s wrap up every important doctrine in this article 

Doctrine of Basic Structure

The basic structure is famous for saving Indian democracy from lapsing into an authoritarian regime. However, the ingredients of the basic structure are not clearly defined by the Supreme Court of India. So, Parliamentary democracy, fundamental rights, secularism, federalism, judicial review etc., are all held by courts as the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.

Where lies the origin of the basic structure doctrine?

The origins of this doctrine are found in the German Constitution which was amended after the Nazi regime to protect some basic laws.

Judgments related to Basic structure doctrine

a. Kesavananda Bharati case 1973 -  The Supreme Court of India ruled for the first time that the parliament has the power to amend any part of the constitution but it cannot alter the “basic structure of the constitution”. 

b. Indira Nehru Gandhi v Raj Narain case (1975) - The Supreme Court reaffirmed this judgment. The SC invalidated a provision of the 39th Amendment Act (1975) which kept the election disputes comprising the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Lok Sabha outside the jurisdiction of all courts.

C. In the Minerva Mills case, 1980 & Waman Rao case, 1981- The basic structure doctrine was reaffirmed in this case. The Supreme Court examined the validity of Article 31A & Article 31B of the Indian Constitution regarding this doctrine.

Doctrine of Separation of Powers

India constitutes three main organs- Legislature, Executive & Judiciary & legislatures being further divided into Parliament and state legislatures. Schedule VII of the Indian Constitution ensures the separation of power between the Union and the states via Union list, Concurrent list and state list. This doctrine mainly signifies the division of powers between several state organs: executive, legislature and judiciary.

Its features are as follows:

  • An individual must not be a part of more than one organs of the state.

  • One organ must not interfere with any other organ of the state.

  • One organ must not exercise the functions assigned to any other organ.

  • Also, Article-50 of the DPSP separates the judiciary from executive as, “the state shall take steps to separate judiciary from the executive in the public services of the state and except this there is no formal and dogmatic division of power”.

Judgments related to separation of powers

A. In Ram Jawaya v. State of Punjab (1955)- The SC held that “Indian Constitution has not indeed recognized the doctrine of separation of powers in its absolute rigidity but the functions of the different parts or branches of the government have been sufficiently differentiated.

B. In Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain (1975)- SC held that “Separation of powers is part of the basic structure of the constitution. None of the three separate organs of the republic can take over the functions assigned to the other”.

Doctrine of Pith and Substance

Pith means ‘true nature’ & substance means ‘the most important or essential part of something’.

Where lies the origin of pith and substance?

  • It was first acknowledged in the Canadian Constitution & later, it was adopted in the pre-independence period under the Government of India Act 1935.

  • This doctrine is usually applied where the question related to determining whether a particular law belongs to a particular subject (VIIth Schedule) is put forth and the court looks to the substance of the matter.

  • It is applicable on cases related to the competency of the legislature (Article 246), but it also applied in cases related to repugnancy in laws made by Parliament and laws made by the State Legislatures (Article 254).

  • The doctrine aims at resolving the inconsistency between laws made by the Centre & State Legislatures.

Judgment related to pith and substance

In the case of Prafulla v. Bank of Commerce (1946), the SC held that a State law relating to money lending (a State subject) is not invalid merely because it incidentally affected the promissory notes (which is a centre subject).

Doctrine of Incidental or Ancillary Powers

This doctrine has been developed in addition with the doctrine of Pith and Substance, which is invoked when there is a requirement of a principal legislation in question.The question here is, if there was already a doctrine of pith and substance, why this came into existence? The Doctrine of Pith and Substance deals only with subjects under the lists enshrined in Schedule VII, but the Doctrine of Incidental or Ancillary Powers deals with the power to legislate on such subjects and the matters connected thereto.

Where lies the origin of this doctrine?

  • This doctrine evolved at the time of “R. v. Waterfield’s case (1963)” by a decision of the English Court of Appeal.

  • Article 4 of the Indian Constitution states the power to make consequential changes in the law on matters supplemental and incidental to the law providing for altering the names of states under Article 2 and 3.

  • Also, Article 169 of the Indian Constitution talks about the power given to the Parliament on abolition or creation of Legislative Councils in States “as may be necessary to give effect to the provisions of the law and may also contain such supplemental, incidental and consequential provisions as Parliament may deem necessary.”

Judgments related to doctrine of incidental or ancillary powers

In State of Rajasthan v. G Chawla (1958)- SC ruled that “The power to legislate on a topic of legislation carries with it the power to legislate on an ancillary matter which can be said to be reasonably included in the power given.”

Doctrine of Severability

This doctrine is also referred to as the doctrine of separability, which protects the fundamental rights of the citizens. Under Artilce 13(1) of the Indian Constitution, if any of the laws enforced in India are inconsistent with the provisions of fundamental rights, they shall be void to the extent of that inconsistency. This means that the entire law pr act would not be held invalid, but only the provisions that are inconsistent with the fundamental rights.

However, there is a limitation, if the valid and invalid part are so closely mixed up with each other that it becomes inseparable, then the whole law or act will be held invalid.

Where lies the origin of severability?

Its history dates back to England in the case of Nordenfelt v. Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company Ltd. where the issue was concerned with the Trade clause.

Judgment related to doctrine of severability

A. In A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950), the SC held that in case of inconsistency to the Constitution, only the disputed provision of the Act will be void and not the act entirely.

B. In State of Bombay v. F.N. Balsara (1951), 8 provisions of the Bombay Prohibition Act were declared invalid, the SC ruled that the portion which was invalid to the extent of fundamental rights was separable from the rest of the act.

Doctrine of Eclipse

The doctrine of eclipse is applied when any law or act infringes the fundamental rights. In such cases, the fundamental rights overshadows the law and then makes it unenforceable, however, not void ab initio (that is, no legal effect from the beginning).They can be reinforced if the restrictions posed by the fundamental rights are removed.

  • It is fine that these laws remain in dormant condition only against the Indian citizens but remain in operation as against non-citizens who are not entitled to the fundamental rights.

  • Doctrine of eclipse is given in Article 13(1) of the Indian Constitution. It does not apply to post-constitutional laws.

Judgment related to doctrine of eclipse

In Bhikaji Narain Dhakras v. State of Madhya Pradesh (1955)- It was first introduced in India when the Central Provinces and Berar Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 1947 empowered the Provincial Government to take up the entire Provincial Motor Transport Business as they were considered as violative of article 19(1) (g).
The Supreme Court held that this impugned law became, for the time being, eclipsed by the fundamental right.

Doctrine of Territorial Nexus

This doctrine states that laws made by a State Legislature are not applicable outside the state except when there is a sufficient nexus between the state and the object (meaning that the object shall be located outside the territorial limits of the state & must have territorial connection or nexus with the state) It finds its place under Article 245 of the Indian Constitution.
Clause (2) of Article 245 provides that no law made by the Parliament would be invalid on the ground that it would have extra-territorial operation (takes effect outside the territory of India)

Judgments related to territorial nexus

A. In A.H. Wadia v. Income Tax Commissioner (1948), it was held that a question of extra- territorial operation of enactment can never be raised against a Supreme Legislative Authority on the grounds of questioning its validity.

B. In the State of Bombay vs RMDC (1952)- the SC held that there existed a sufficient territorial nexus to enable the Bombay Legislature to tax the respondent as all the activities that took place was mostly within Bombay.

Doctrine of Colourable Legislation

Did you knew that, this Doctrine is also called “Fraud on the Constitution”? It comes into play when a Legislature does not possess the power to make law upon a particular subject; the legislature cannot do so even indirectly.

Where lies the origin of colourable legislation?
Its origin can be traced back from a Latin Maxim, which implies, “Whatever legislature cannot do directly, it cannot do indirectly”.

  • The doctrine is usually applied to Article 246, which has drawn the Legislative Competence of the Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies with the help of separation of powers; the different subjects under Union list, State list and Concurrent list.

  • One limitation is that it has no application where there is no constitutional limitation. For example, there will be no application of colourable legislation if such power works only in accordance with the Constitution. Also it is also not applicable to Subordinate Legislation.

Judgment related to colourable legislation

In R.S Joshi v. Ajit Mills (1977), SC observed that “In the statute of force, the colourable exercise of or extortion on administrative force or misrepresentation on the constitution, are articulations which only imply that the assembly is clumsy to authorise a specific law, albeit the mark of competency is struck on it, and afterwards it is colourable enactment.”

Doctrine of Pleasure

This doctrine originated in English law, under which a civil servant holds office during the pleasure of the Crown.

  • Article 155 of Constitution- The Governor of a State is appointed by the President & holds the office during the pleasure of the President.

  • Article 310 of Constitution- The civil servants (members of the Defence Services, Civil Services, All-India Services or persons holding military posts or civil posts under the Centre/State) hold office at the pleasure of the President or the Governor as the case may be.

  • One limitation under Article 311 is that it places restrictions on this doctrine and gives safeguards to civil servants against any arbitrary dismissal from their posts.

Judgments related to doctrine of pleasure

  1. In State of Bihar v. Abdul Majid (1954), SC held that the English Common Law had not been adopted as a whole and with all its rigorous implications.

  2. In Union of India v. Tulsiram Patel (1965), SC stated that it is untrue to say that doctrine of pleasure is placed in India through British crown as it was not subject to any law or statute made in the British era by the Parliament. Rather derived its powers from what is expressly mentioned in the constitution.

SC also ruled that Article 14 is the constitutional guardian of the Natural Justice but not the originator of the same. This article is not only limited to protection against inequality but also arbitrariness. So, when the state does not apply natural justice rules, it results in arbitrariness, attracting Article 14. 

Doctrine of Harmonious Construction

The term harmonious construction means a construction by which harmony or oneness amongst several provisions of an enactment is arrived at. This doctrine comes into play when the words of statutory provision carry more than one meaning, and it is doubtful which meaning must prevail; their interpretation must be in a way that each has a separate effect, afterall Judiciary’s role is tto interpret the statute as well.

Where lies the origin of harmonious construction?

This doctrine originated through interpretations given by courts in a numerous cases, which evolved during the time of first amendment of the Indian Constitution with the landmark case of Shankari Prasad v. Union of India.

Judgments related to harmonious construction

  1. In CIT v. Hindustan Bulk Carriers (2003)- SC laid down five principles of rule of harmonious construction, which are as follows:

  • The courts should avoid a head-on clash of similar contradicting provisions.

  • One section cannot be used to defeat the provision contained in another unless the court, after putting all efforts, cannot find a way to interpret their differences.

  • When it is impossible to completely interpret the differences in contradictory provisions, the courts must interpret them in such a way so that effect is given to both provisions as much as possible.

  • Any interpretation which reduces one provision to a useless number or death is not harmonious construction. To harmonize does not mean to destroy any statutory provision.

  1. In the Re-Kerala education bill 1951 case- SC held that in deciding the fundamental rights, the court must also consider the DPSP and adopt the principle of harmonious construction

  2. In East India hotels ltd. V. Union of India (2001) case, SC held taht an act must be read in its entirety as the different provisions have to be harmonized and the effect is to be given to all of them.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 157 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Manager at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course). She is a patent analyst & had also done advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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