The Doctrine of Harmonious Construction is a monumental principle, when it comes to the interpretation of statutes . It intends to resolve out the disputation between the legal provisions or statutes and creates conformity between those. This principle guarantees the reasonable and fair application of the laws, by virtue of the Judiciary.

Whenever a noteworthy imbroglio comes forward, either between two legal provisions or statutes, the court is supposed to overlook the controversy and establish a harmonisation between those.

However, in case of a difficulty creating the harmonisation between the disputed provisions ( or statues), the Court must interpret those in a manner, so that the both the provisions remains resilient and proportional.

Keywords: The Doctrine of Harmonious Construction, Monumental Principle, Interpretation of Statutes, Resolve Disputation, Legal Provisions, Statutes, Create Conformity.


Meaning of the Doctrine of Harmonious Construction:[1]

If any conflict arises, between two provisions ( or more than two) that fall under the similar Act or any inconsistency arises between two statutes, then the Court is required to interpret these two ( whether statutes or provisions) so that the harmonisation remains intact.

In simple words, when any disputation is observable, either between two statutes or provisions, and both of these cannot be entertained together, then the Court is required to interpret these finely and by maintaining the harmony and consistency, so that the effect could be served to both of those.

The doctrine of Harmonious Construction, is one of the crucial rules to the interpretation of statutes.

Historical Background / Evolution[2]

This doctrine has been emerged from the notable case, Shankari Prasad v. Union of India, where a conflict was noticeable, between Part 3 and Part 4 of the Indian Constitution. However, the Apex Court exercised the Doctrine of Harmonious Construction and held that both the concept of Fundamental Rights as well as the Directive Principles of State Policy are required and indispensable for the public welfare. Afterwards the Apex Court resolved this conflict by employing the rule of Harmonious Construction.

Besides that, in C.P and Berar General Clauses Act, the dispute sprung between entries 24 & 25 of the State List ( Indian Constitution). The Court employed the doctrine and interpreted these two in accordance with the predominant subject matter of the provisions.

 The Objectives of the Doctrine[3]

The predominant objectives of the doctrine have been enumerated down below:

 • The fundamental objective of this doctrine is to turn aside the conflict or disputation either between two statutes or provisions and to sustain the harmony or conformity between the controversial statues or provisions. This doctrine specifically emphasizes that the legislature does not create a crookedness in a statue or provision intentionally, so that it can turn out to be complicated.

Another objective is to be included that, the perplexities, arise, are not considered to be something intentional, rather that is required to be sanctified by virtue of the Doctrine of Harmonious Construction.

The Legal Principles underlying the Doctrine[4]

The five principles underlying this doctrine had been expounded by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the case CIT v. Hindustan Bulk Carriers (2003). The principles have been enumerated down below:

1. The Court is required to ignore the altercation between both the provisions (or statutes) and strive to reconcile those provisions, to constitute harmonisation.

2. The provision laid down in a section cannot be utilised to dismiss the provision laid down in another section, unless and until the Court fails to sustain the conformity (i.e. harmony) between those.

3. When the Court perceives that it’s implausible to sustain the conformity between the provisions, the Court is required to interpret the provisions in a  manner, so that both the provisions get prioritised within the bounds of possibility.

4.   If, due to the Interpretation, carried out by the court, one of the controversial provisions remains ineffective, then that shall not be regarded as the application of Harmonious Construction, hence, that is supposed to be avoided.

5. Harmonisation does not imply annihilating the significance of a statutory provision, thus the Court must take the matter into consideration, while interpreting.

The Application of the Doctrine:[5]

The following dimensions are to be taken into account while employing this doctrine:

a) Both the provisions or statutes are required to prioritised by the Court, by reading them as a whole,

b) the intricacy and difficulty must be abated,

c) if there is a broad and a narrow provision, then the broad provision ( i.e. the superior one) must be taken into consideration and search for any other consequence. If the consequence emphasizes harmonisation, then the scrutiny is not at all required anymore.

Latin Maxims related to this Doctrine:

  • Generalia Spacialibus Non Derogant[6]

If any conflict arises between two statutes or provisions, then the latter shall nullify the initial or the previous one. Basically, the special provisions are more preferred by the Court, than general provisions and the literal meaning of this maxim is general things do not go against special things.

  • Generalibus Specialia Derogant[7]

In simple words, this particular latin maxim specifies that, general provisions are not entertained in a statute, if there is a presence of a special provision. Basically the general provisions in a statute/statutes are superintended by the special provisions. Theapplicability of the general provisions is referenced by the special provisions, in a statute.

The Landmark Judicial Interpretations pertaining to this Doctrine:

  • Venkatramana Devaru v. State of Mysore[8]

There was a conflict, between Article 25(2)(b) and Article 26(b) of the Indian Constitution, pertaining to the Right to worship of all the Hindus, under the Madras Temple Entry Authorization Act, along with … The hon’ble Court interpreted this issue by sustaining the harmony between these two provisions and stated that denominational institutions are deemed to be public institutions and every individual, who is a Hindu, is permitted to enter into the sanctum of the temple, to worship.

  • Raj Krushna v. Binod Kanungo[9]

In this case, both the provisions, under the Representation of the People Act were in- controversy. Sec 33(2) of this Act denoted that a government servant can nominate or second an individual in election. Contrariwise, sec 123(8) displayed that a government servant is ineligible to assist any election candidate, unless and until he casts his vote.

However, the doctrine of Harmonious Construction was employed by the Court and it was held that, the government servant is authorised to proceed in accordance with sec 33(2) of this, along with that, he reserves the right to vote as well. However it was held that the government servant cannot assist a candidate in any other manner.

  • Union of India v. Dileep Kumar[10]

In this case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the provisions of the statutes are required to be gone through as a whole and harmoniously. Afterwards, if it is found to be extremely controversial and the conflict looks irreparable, then the superior or leading and the subordinate provisions are to be searched for and proceed accordingly.

  • Shankari Prasad v. Union of India[11]

 The actual disputation in this renowned case was whether Article 13(2) of the Indian Constitution bars the power of parliament to amend the Part 3 of the Indian Constitution, as Article 368 doesn’t possess any exception on its own, in terms of amending the Constitution.

The Supreme Court took this matter into account and harmoniously interpreted the provisions, stating that, the fundamental rights can be amended by Article 368, since there is no such exception with regard to this and it’s a sovereign power. However, Article 368 can neither take away nor diminish the fundamental rights, as guaranteed under the Indian Constitution.

  • Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala[12]

This case does not require any introduction. It is considered to be the most landmark judgement in the Constitution of India. The Apex Court, in this case, stated that Art. 368 possesses the authority to amend the provisions of the Indian Constitution, however this authority cannot be exercised, when it comes to the basic structure of the Constitution. To facilitate, the basic structure of the Indian Constitution cannot be amended by Article 368.

  • East India Hotels ltd. v. Union of India[13]

The Apex Court held that an Act is required to be read as a whole and afterwards all the different provisions should be harmonised altogether.


The Doctrine of Harmonious Construction, being one of the most emergent doctrines to the Interpretation of Statutes, intends to relinquish the disputation between two statutes or provisions. Rather, it pays attention to creating the coordination and harmony between those conflicting statutes or provisions. It demonstrates that, the statutes or provisions are to be read as a whole, as the legislature, while embellishing it, had a specific purpose behind it. Therefore, on the arrival of any intricacy between those, that should not be considered to be a clamor, on the part of the legislature, which is deliberate. Hence, if any inconsistency arises, the judiciary is required to rectify the inconsistency, by employing the Harmonious Construction.

[1] Ismail N, Legal Maxim – Generalibus Specialia Derogant, (DOC) Legal Maxim – Generalibus Specialia Derogant | Ismail N –, (Last visited on March 4,2024)

[2] Glossary, Generalia specialibus non derogant, Generalia specialibus non derogant | Practical Law (, (Last visited on March 4,2024)

[3] Lawbhoomi, Doctrine of Harmonious Construction, Doctrine of Harmonious Construction (, (Last visited on March 4,2024)

[4] Commissioner of Income Tax v. M/S. Hindustan Bulk Carriers (2003)3 SCC 57

[5] Zara Suhail Ahmed, Doctrine of Harmonious Construction, Doctrine of Harmonious Construction – Law Corner, (Last visited on March 4,2024)

[6] Ashutosh Singh and Pruthvi Singh, All about the Doctrine of harmonious construction, All about the Doctrine of harmonious construction – iPleaders, (Last visited on March 4, 2024)

[7] What is doctrine ofHarmonious Construction?, Whatis doctrine of harmonious construction? Answer at BYJU’S IAS (, (Last visited on March 4,2024)

[8] Sri Venkataramana Devaru v. State of Mysore (1958) SCR 895

[9] Raj Krushna Bose v. Binod Kanungo & Ors. (1954) SC 202

[10] Union of India & Ors.v Dileep Kumar Singh  (2015) C.A. Nos. 2466-2467

[11] Sri Sankari Prasad Singh Deo v. UOI (1951) SC 458

[12] Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru & Ors. v. the State of Kerala & Anr. (1973) SC 1461

[13] East India Hotels Ltd. & Anr v. UOI & Anr (2001) SC 231

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