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The principle of implied repeal

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The principle of implied repeal was considered by three Judges Bench of this Court in the case of Om Prakash Shukla Vs. Akhilesh Kumar Shukla and Others, , this Court held thus:

……An implied repeal of an earlier law can be inferred only where there is the enactment of a later law which had the power to override the earlier law and is totally inconsistent with the earlier law, that is, where the two laws — the earlier law and the later law — cannot stand together. This is a logical necessity because the two inconsistent laws cannot both be valid without contravening the principle of contradiction. The later laws abrogate earlier contrary laws. This principle is, however, subject to the condition that the later law must be effective. If the later law is not capable of taking the place of the earlier law and for some reason cannot be implemented, the earlier law would continue to operate. To such a case the Rule of implied repeal is not attracted because the application of the Rule of implied repeal may result in a vacuum which the law-making authority may not have intended. Now, what does Appendix II contain? It contains a list of subjects and marks assigned to each of them. But who tells us what that list of subjects means? It is only in the presence of Rule 11 one can understand the meaning and purpose of Appendix II. In the absence of an amendment reenacting Rule 11 in the 1947 Rules, it is difficult to hold by the application of the doctrine of implied repeal that the 1950 Rules have ceased to be applicable to the ministerial establishments of the subordinate civil courts. The High Court overlooked this aspect of the case and proceeded to hold that on the mere reintroduction of the new Appendix II into the 1947 Rules, the examinations could be held in accordance with the said Appendix. We do not agree with this view of the High Court.

There is a presumption against repeal by implication. The reason for the presumption is that the legislature while enacting a law has complete knowledge of the existing laws on the subject matter and, therefore, when it is not providing a repealing provision, it gives out an intention not to repeal the existing legislation. If by any fair interpretation, both the statutes can stand together, there will be no implied repeal and the court should lean against the implied repeal. Hence, if the two statutes by any fair course of reason are capable of being reconciled, that may not be done and both the statutes be allowed to stand.

The principle of implied repeal has been elaborately discussed in the case of Municipal Council Palai Vs. T.J. Joseph and Others, , this Court held:

9. It is undoubtedly true that the legislature can exercise the power of repeal by implication. But it is an equally well-settled principle of law that there is a presumption against an implied repeal. Upon the assumption that the legislature enacts laws with a complete knowledge of all existing laws pertaining to the same subject the failure to add a repealing clause indicates that the intent was not to repeal existing legislation. of course, this presumption will be rebutted if the provisions of the new act are so inconsistent with the old ones that the two cannot stand together. As has been observed by Crawford on Statutory Construction, p. 631, para 311:

There must be what is often called ‘such a positive repugnancy between the two provisions of the old and the new statutes that they cannot be reconciled and made to stand together’. In other words they must be absolutely repugnant or irreconcilable. Otherwise, there can be no implied repeal… for the intent of the legislature to repeal the old enactment is utterly lacking.

 Their Lordships further observed as under:

The reason for the rule that an implied repeal will take place in the event of clear inconsistency or repugnancy, is pointed out in Crosby v. Patch and is as follows:

As laws are presumed to be passed with deliberation, and with full knowledge of all existing ones on the same subject, it is but reasonable to conclude that the Legislature, in passing a statute, did not intend to interfere with or abrogate any former law relating to the same matter, unless the repugnancy between the two is irreconcilable. Bowen v. Lease (5 Hill 226). It is a rule, says Sedgwick, that a general statute without negative words will not repeal the particular provisions of a former one, unless the two acts are irreconcilably inconsistent. ‘The reason and philosophy of the rule,’ says the author, ‘is, that when the mind of the legislator has been turned to the details of a subject, and he has acted upon it, a subsequent statute in general terms, or treating the subject in a general manner, and not expressly contradicting the original act, shall not be considered as intended to effect the more particular or positive previous provisions, unless it is absolutely necessary to give the latter act such a construction, in order that its words shall have any meaning at all.

In the case of Harshad S. Mehta and Others Vs. The State of Maharashtra, , a three Judges Bench of this Court considered the principle of implied repeal and held:

31. One of the important tests to determine the issue of implied repeal would be whether the provisions of the Act are irreconcilably inconsistent with those of the Code that the two cannot stand together or the intention of the legislature was only to supplement the provisions of the Code. This intention is to be ascertained from the provisions of the Act. Courts lean against implied repeal. If by any fair interpretation both the statutes can stand together, there will be no implied repeal. If possible, implied repeal shall be avoided. It is, however, correct that the presumption against the intent to repeal by implication is overthrown if the new law is inconsistent with or repugnant to the old law, for the inconsistency or repugnancy reveals an intent to repeal the existing laws. Repugnancy must be such that the two statutes cannot be reconciled on reasonable construction or hypothesis. They ought to be clearly and manifestly irreconcilable. It is possible, as contended by Mr. Jethmalani, that the inconsistency may operate on a part of a statute. Learned Counsel submits that in the present case the presumption against implied repeal stands rebutted as the provisions of the Act are so inconsistent with or repugnant to the provisions of the earlier Acts that the two cannot stand together. The contention is that the provisions of Sections 306 and 307 cannot be complied with by the Special Court and thus the legislature while enacting the Act clearly intended that the said existing provisions of the Code would not apply to the proceedings under the Act. Learned Counsel contends that this Court will not construe the Act in a manner which will make Sections 306 and 307 or at least part of the said sections otiose and thereby defeat the legislative intendment whatever be the consequences of such an interpretation.

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