The resolution of contentious issues regarding distribution of legislative powers by the courts has given rise to two important principles of interpretation, the “Principle of Federal Supremacy” and “Harmonious Construction”.
- Refers to the process of reconciling conflicting provisions in a statute by giving effect to both provisions where possible.
- The courts aim to avoid a “head-on clash” between provisions and must interpret the conflicting provisions in such a way that both provisions are given effect as much as possible.
- The principle of harmonious construction is essential in ensuring that all provisions of a statute are given effect and no provision is reduced to a “dead letter”.
Principle of Federal Supremacy:
- Refers to the superiority of the Union government over the State governments in terms of legislative and executive powers.
- The Supreme Court has held that the legislative and executive powers of the states are subject to the respective supreme powers of the Union.
- The structure of the Indian Union is centralized with the Centre having overriding powers over the States.
Thus both the principles of Harmonious construction and federal supremacy play important roles in the interpretation of statutes and ensure a balanced distribution of legislative powers between the Union and State governments.