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What is the Doctrine of Harmonious Construction?

By Balaji

Updated on: March 29th, 2023

The Doctrine of Harmonious Construction states, ‘Whenever there is a conflict between two or more statutes or between two or more parts or provisions of a statute, the statute should be interpreted as on harmonious construction. It shows that in case of discrepancies, proper reconciliation should be made between the conflicting parts so that one part does not defeat the purpose of the other.’ The Doctrine of Harmonious Construction is considered to be the rule of thumb for the rule of interpretation of rules.

Doctrine of Harmonious Construction

The purpose of harmonizing construction is to avoid conflict between two enacted provisions of a statute and to interpret the provisions in such a way that they harmonize. The general impression is that what Parliament has given with one hand is not trying to take away from the other.

The principle of harmony building has its origins in the landmark judgment of Shri Shankari Prasad Singh Deo v. Union of India, 1951. The disagreement between Part III (Fundamental Rights) and Part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy) of the Constitution was the subject of the India case.

The Court, using the Harmonious Creation Rule, held that Fundamental Rights, which are rights conferred against the State, can be abrogated in certain circumstances and can be amended by Parliament to bring them into compliance with constitutional provisions.

Principles of the Doctrine of Harmonious Construction

The Doctrine of harmonious construction has five main principles:

  • The provision of one clause cannot be used to defeat the provision contained in the other, unless the Court, in spite of all its efforts, finds a way to settle their differences.
  • Courts must also remember that an interpretation that renders a provision useless or dead is not harmonious construction.
  • Courts should avoid confrontation between seemingly conflicting provisions and reconcile conflicting provisions between them.
  • When it is impossible to fully reconcile the differences in conflicting provisions, courts must interpret them so as to give as much effect as possible to both provisions.
  • To harmonize is not to destroy or nullify any statutory provision.

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