What is the Doctrine of Harmonious Construction?

By Aarna Tiwari|Updated : August 3rd, 2022

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, then the Statute has to be interpreted upon harmonious construction. It signifies that in case of inconsistencies, proper harmonization is to be done between the conflicting parts so that one part does not defeat the purpose of another.’ The Doctrine of Harmonious Construction is considered the thumb rule to the Rule of Interpretation of Statutes.

Doctrine of Harmonious Construction

The objective of harmonious construction is to avoid confrontation between two enacting provisions of a statute and to construe the provisions in such a way that they harmonize. The normal presumption is that what the Parliament has given by one hand is not sought to be taken away from another. The origin Of the Doctrine Of Harmonious Construction dates back to the landmark Judgment of Sri Shankari Prasad Singhh Deo v. Union of India, 1951. The disagreement between Part III (Fundamental Rights) and Part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy) of the Constitution of India was the subject of the case.

The Court used the Harmonious Construction Rule to hold that Fundamental Rights, which are rights granted against the State, may be revoked under certain circumstances and modified by Parliament to bring them into compliance with constitutional provisions.

The Five main Principles of the Doctrine of Harmonious Construction are:

  • The provision of one section cannot be used to defeat the provision contained in another unless the Court, despite all its effort, cannot find a way to reconcile their differences.
  • Courts must also remember that interpretation that reduces one provision to a useless number or dead is not harmonious construction.
  • The Courts must avoid a head-on clash of seemingly contradicting provisions and construe the contradictory provisions to harmonize them. 
  • When it is impossible to reconcile the differences in contradictory provisions completely, the Courts must interpret them so that effect is given to both the provisions as much as possible.
  • To harmonize is not to destroy any statutory provision or to render it fruitless.

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What is Doctrine of Harmonious Construction FAQs

  • The Doctrine of Harmonious Construction provisions states that if the application of the doctrine is fundamentally inconsistent or repugnant to each other must be read entirely, and the complete enactment must be considered. The provision with a broader reach of the two contradicting provisions should be considered.

  • In the case of Venkataramana Devaru v. the State of Mysore, the Supreme Court, by applying the doctrine of harmonious construction, resolved the conflict between Articles 25(2)(b) and 26(b) of the Constitution. It held that every religious denomination or section had the right to manage its own religious affairs.

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