Doctrine of Repugnancy in The Indian Constitution


After gaining our independence, the Constituent Assembly was given the task of drafting a Constitution for the Republic of India. It was a tedious process, one which involved approximately three years. One of the core reasons for it being so long was that the framers of the Constitution did not want to exclude any critical framework or a subject that might lead to issues and conflicts of interests within the country. Amongst them, the Center-State relation is an essential subject in the Constitution, which has been dealt with extensively in our Constitution. The doctrine of Repugnancy is a situation where a law, which has been enacted by either the State or the Center, is in direct violation or is inconsistent with an existing law made by the other body.


Having a look at the Constitution in Part XI, one may find relations between the Central government and a State government. Article 246 defines the legislative areas of Center and State, while Article 254 of the Indian Constitution deals explicitly with situations in which a conflict or a dispute arises between Central and State on a matter relating to legislations enacted by them.

India has adopted a federal type of government, and hence, it distributes legislative powers between the Center and the various State governments. Such division is mentioned in the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which is as follows:

  1. The Parliament has the exclusive right to make laws on subjects listed under List I or the Union List
  2. The State legislature has the exclusive right to makes laws for their respective state on subjects listed under List II or the State List.
  3. Both Parliament and the State Legislature have the power to make laws on subjects listed under List III or the Concurrent List.

Therefore, repugnancy in India refers to a conflict that has come to light after a conflict between legislation made by Center and State on the same subject, rendering one of them inconsistent with the other one as per Article 246 and Article 254 of the Constitution of India.


There have been several cases that have clarified the doctrine of repugnancy in the Indian context. One of the most prominent judgments for the same is M. Karunanidhi v. Union of India[1]. In this case, the Supreme Court of India held that when legislative provisions formulated by the Central and State governments are inconsistent with each other, the Center-made provision will be applicable completely, thereby nullifying the State-made legislative provision. This case law is applicable where repugnancy arises between two provisions when they are entirely inconsistent, and one of them will be performed at the cost of voiding the other one. The same has also been stated in the case of Deep Chand v. State of Uttar Pradesh.[2]

The above argument of the Supreme Court has further been clarified in many more cases like I.T.C. Ltd. vs. Agricultural Produce Market Committee[3]. Moreover, the Supreme Court in the case of Bharat Hydro Power Corporation Ltd. vs State of Assam[4], there should be an effort made by both the Parliament as well as the responsible state legislatures to ensure that the legislative provisions drafted by them are in line with each other. Such an effort will help in eradicating the need for involving the doctrine of repugnancy. The court stressed this fact because the doctrine of repugnancy only operates on legislation which is of the same field. If they are drafted for different fields, there would be no need for involving the doctrine of repugnancy. The Supreme Court stated similar arguments in the case of Central Bank of India vs. State of Kerala[5] as well.

The conditions which are laid down to establish whether there is a need to involve the doctrine of repugnancy are:

  1. Presence of apparent inconsistency between the legislation enacted by the Central and the State government.
  2. Such inconsistency is
  3. Due to the inconsistency, obeying either of the legislative provisions will result in direct disobeying of the other.


From the above case law and arguments, it can be made out that the doctrine of repugnancy is deeply embedded in the Constitution of India. It acts as a buffer between the powers vested by the Constitution itself with the Center and the various states of India. The doctrine of repugnancy is also crucial to the quasi-federal nature of India and hence protecting its federal and democratic interests and hence, plays an essential role in determining the role of the center and the states and helps in regular legislative functioning in the country.

[1] 1979 AIR 898

[2] 1959 AIR 648

[3] (2002) 9 SCC 232

[4] (2004) 2 SCC 553

[5] (2009) 4 SCC 94

This Article is Authored by Ashutosh Agarwal, 1st Year B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) Student at National Law University, Delhi (NLUD).

Also Read – Doctrine of Repugnancy

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