The term harmonious construction refers to such construction by which harmony
or oneness amongst various provisions of an enactment is arrived at. When the
words of statutory provision bear more than one meaning and there is a doubt as
to which meaning should prevail, then such meaning should be adopted by which
the words best harmonize with the subject and the subject of the enactment.
It is presumed that the legislature has enacted a law with a definite purpose.
It is also presumed that legislature have used precise words to open their mind
and have left no ambiguity in the language of the enactment. It is further
presumed that all the provisions of a statute are well composed and consistent
with each other because the legislature is not supposed to contradict itself by
providing conflicting provision. Hence, the statute should be construed in such
a manner so as to avoid any repugnancy.
An inconsistency should neither be created nor be readily inferred. Where all
alternatives constructions are possible, that construction should be accepted by
which consistency is achieved and the constructions leading to inconsistency
should be rejected.
The intention of legislature is that every provision should remain operative.
But where two provisions are contradictory, it may not possible to effectuate
both of them and in result, one shall be reduced to futility as against the
settled basic principle of ut res magis valeat qauam pereat.
Therefore, such a construction should be allowed to prevail by which existing
inconsistency is removed and both the provisions remain in force, in harmony
with each other.
It brings harmony among the various lists referred to in Indian constitution
It is a cardinal rule of construction that when there are two provisions of the
same law are conflict with each other that both of them cannot stand together
they should possibly being so interpreted that effect can be given to both and
that a constructions which renders any of them inoperative and useless should
not be adopted except in the last resort.
The objective of harmonious construction is to avoid any confrontation between
two enacting provisions of a statute and to construe the provisions in such a
way so that the harmonize. The basis of this rule is that the Legislature never
envisages to provide two conflicting provisions in a statute, for the reason
that it amounts to self-contradiction.
The real legislative intent, that we try to discover in the process of
interpretation cannot be to provide for something in one provision and deny the
same in subsequent one. Hence, even if an inconsistency is found, the same
should be considered to be unintentional and as such, is required to be cured by
way of harmonious construction.
Principles of rule of Harmonious construction
In the land mark case of CIT v. Hindustan Bulk Carriers (2003) the supreme court
laid down five principles of rule of harmonious construction:
- the courts must avoid a head-on clash of seemingly contradicting
provisions and they must construe the contradictory provisions.
- the provision of one section cannot be used to defeat the provision
contained in another unless the court, despite all its efforts, is unable to
find a way to reconcile their differences
- when it is impossible to completely reconcile the differences in
contradictory provisions, the courts must interpret them in such a way so
that effect is given both the provisions as much as possible.
- courts must also keep in mind that interpretation that reduces one
provisions to useless number or dead is not harmonious construction.
- to harmonize is not to destroy any statutory provision or to render it
Re- Kerala education bill 1951
In this case it was held that in deciding the fundamental rights the court must
consider the directive principle and adopt the principle of harmonious
construction. So, two possibilities are given effect as much as possible by
striking a balance.
East India hotels ltd. V. Union of India (2001)
It was held that an Act is to be read as a whole, the different provisions have
to be harmonized and the effect to be given to all of them.
Qureshi v. State of Bihar
In this case supreme court held that the state should implement directive
principle in a way so as that it will not interfere fundamental right.
Bhatia international v. bulk trading (2003)
It was held that if more than one interpretation is possible for a statute than
the court has to choose the interpretation which shows the intention of the
In P.S Sattappan v. Andhra bank ltd. (2004)
The supreme court held observed that one cannot interpret a section in a manner
which would lead to a conflict between two sub sections of the same sections.
In Sarabjit Rick Singh v. Union of India (2008)
The apex court observed that a construction giving effect to all provisions of
the statute should be adopted.
In S. Nagraj v. B.R. Vasudeva Murthy (2010)
The apex court held that statutes opposing provisions but with same subject
matter have to be read together.
SBEC Sugar Limited v. Union of India (2011)
It was held that a cardinal principle of construction is that the provisions of
the notification have to be harmoniously construed as to prevent any conflict
with the provisions of the statute.
Maxims on which the rule of harmonious construction is expressedGeneralia specialibus non derogant
The general rule to be followed in case of conflict between two statutes is that
the later abrogates the earlier one. In other words, a prior special law would
yield to later general law if either of the two following conditions is
- the two are inconsistent with each other.
- if either of these two conditions is fulfilled, the later law, even
though general would prevail.
In Yakub Abdul Razak Memon v. State of Maharashtra
the supreme court held that
the conflict between the provisions of two statutes has to be resolved by
references to purpose and policy underlying two enactments. The Court must take
into consideration principal subject matter of statute and particular
perspective in order to determine whether a statute is special or general one.
In Union of India v. Dileep Kumar Singh
the apex court held that the provisions
of statute must be read harmoniously together. Where this is not possible and
there is irreconcilable conflict between two sections, it must be determined
which provision is leading provision and which provision is subordinate
provision and that which one must give way to the other.
Generalibus specialia derogant
This maxim means that special things derogate from the general things. So
special provisions in a statute control the general provisions. In other words,
general provisions have no applications in the matter that are governed by
special provisions. It can therefore be said that a special provision on a
matter excludes application of general provisions and always overrides the
general provisions but this overriding effect is restricted to the extent of
inconsistency between them.
Law is made by the legislature and there is a possibility of situations of
ambiguity. In that situations, the rule of interpretation of statutes come into
play and the provisions are construed so as to give maximum effect to them. The
doctrine of harmonious construction has helped judges to interpret the two
confronting laws easily and helped in providing justice to society at large.
Thus, it is one of the most important tools in hands of the judiciary while
doing any interpretation of the statutes.Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Tusharika Singh Gaharvar
Authentication No: OT28472898445-10-1020