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(AIR 898 SC 1979)


The present writ petition has been filed to seek necessary guidelines and notification from court and judiciary system on doctrine of repugnancy; which deals when there is any conflict between the laws of Centre and State. According to black law dictionary repugnancy is thre condition when there is conflict between two pieces of legislation which when applied to the same facts produce different results. Repugnancy arises when the provisions of two laws are so inconsistent and irreconcilable that it is impossible to do one without disobeying the other.

In Indian law Doctrine of Repugnancy has been stated in Article 254 of the Indian Constitution, under Part XI dealing with arena of research falling within the jurisdiction of the relations between the Center and the States, as mentioned in the Constitution. This particular document deals the landmark case on doctrine of repugnancy in detail. This case study contrast Article 254 of Indian constitution which claims to stand for, along with the articles and the exceptions listed.

Article attempts to describe the importance of the Article 254 under the context of Indian centralism, as well as the highlights the importance of the Article 254 with respect to central and state domain.
The methodology of research adopted for this paper is mainly the doctrinal method of research.
The article is concluded with the judgement of the aforementioned case and is attempting to critically scrutinize the issue.



Petitioner of the case, M Karunanidhi, a former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu & appellant in this case brought a case on the table of the High Court by filing the application before the high court. On 15 june,1976 chief secretary to government of Tamil Nadu wrote a demi official Letter to then D.I.G.P, CBI appealing the authority to formulate a comprehensive and in-depth inspection into couple of issue raised against petitioner and others pleaders who were purported to have misused their official authority in the case of purchase of wheat from Punjab. After the alleged contemplations, Resultantly F.I.R was lodged. After then investigation took place and after inquiry prosecution was initiated against the petitioner on the grounds of section of I.P.C and Clauses of Prevention of corruption act.

FIR was lodged on 16 June, 1976 and after four months of F.I.R, then Governor of Tamil Nadu, Kodaras Kalidas shah conceded the sanction under section 197 of the Tamil Nadu Public Men (Criminal Misconduct) Act, 1973 herein referred as State Act. The sanction was for the pursuit of the petitioner under sections 161(1), 468(2) and 471(3) of the IPC and Sec. 5(2) r/w Sec. 5 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (hereinafter referred to as the Corruption Act, 1988). After the detailed investigation, police put forward a charge sheet against the petitioner for committing the abovementioned offences and purported that the petitioner had procured monetary benefit of Rs. 4 to Rs. 5 lakh from Madenlal Gupta for passing favourable judgement in some firm and the same was registered before special jury. Then Mr Karunanidhi, petitioner filed an application for discharge in front of special judge, but he rejected on the grounds of abovementioned FIR. Later, when petitioner appealed to HC for quashing the FIR but then the high court also rejected the appeal but under the favour granted a certificate for leave to appeal. While the process in December, 1973 Madras Legislature passed an Act titled “the Tamil Nadu Public Men (Criminal Misconduct) Act, 1973” later this act was generally vocalized the State Act and got final president assent on December 30, 1973. Later the act was amended by Act 16 of 1974 and for the same President’s assent was conferred on April 10, 1974.
After high court rejected the plea, the matter went to the Supreme Court bench through an appeal by accuse. But before the appeal was made the Tamil Nadu Public Men (Criminal Misconduct) Act, 1973 was repealed by the Presidential assent in 1977.


The petitioner

  • Questioned the legal and constitutional validity of the Tamil Nadu Public Men (Criminal Misconduct) Act, 1973, as amended by the Act 16 of 1974 on the ground that it was conflicting in nature with the Central Act and Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 and hence should be void. The State Act repealed and the question was tabled that whether action could be taken under the Central Laws i.e. the IPC, the Corruption Act and Criminal Law Amendment.
  • Made placate that despite the fact that the State Act was repealed it was repugnant to the Central Laws, i.e. the IPC and the Corruption Act. Resultantly, Under article 254(2) the provision the Central Act got repealed.

Finally the question before the court was whether there was any question of inconsistency between the State Act and the Central Act and Whether or not there was a original contradiction resulted from that inconsistency between the State Act and the Central Acts.


November, 1977 but at the time when it was in force, the act was wholly abhorrent to several provisions of the Code, the Corruption Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act and by ethic of Article 254(2) of the Constitution of India, all contradictory provisions of the abovementioned Central Act were repealed permanently.

Supported the fact that first part of his argument that the State Act was contradictory to the certain provisions of the The legal facet, here in the case was that despite the fact that the State Act was repealed on 6 Central Acts as a result of which the After the repealing, numerous grounds were augmented by lawyer representing the petitioner former was upheld as void.

The another argument was that even after when State Act freezed to exist and when the Central Acts were applied to the facts of the present case, the petitioner cannot be litigate under any of the Sections of the Indian Penal Code or the Corruption Act, because being the Chief Minister of the State at the relevant time petitioner was not at at authority of public servant as defined in section 21 clause (12) of the Indian Penal Code.

The essence of the argument was that by just because of the authority that the petitioner entertain as Chief Minister of state, there was no such relationship of master and servant between petitioner and the Government authority and hence he was acting as a constitutional functionary and, therefore, could not be described as a public servant as contemplated by section 21(12) of the Indian Penal Code.


When high court rejected the plea and the case went to apex court then, Supreme Court ordered and ruled that the State Act was not contradicting to the aforementioned Central Acts and so resultantly the same can not be repealed and so therefore Central Act which resumed to operation despite the fact that the decision of the repealing of the State Act generated distinct and separate offences with different ingredients and different punishments and does not in any way crashes with the any abovementioned Central Acts. The State Act is preferably acting as a complimentary Act to the Central Act. The State Act itself allows the Central Acts to come to its support after once the inspection is completed and a report is tabled. The State Act provides that the ‘public man’ will have to be prosecuted under the Central Acts.

The question of inconsistency between the central legislations and State legislation arises in couple of ways. First, where the central laws are sanctioned with respect to case allotment in respective arenas but they were somewhere in midst of conflict and were intersecting within each other and Second mode was, where the two central acts with respect to the case in the concurrent list and there is a dispute. In both the mentioned condition, the central legislation will be dominate in nature, in the first by virtue of non-obstacle clause in Article 246 (1) and in the second by reason of Article 256 of Indian constitution.

The court also cited Tika Ramji v. State of U.P. [AIR 1956 SC 676 : 1956 SCR 393] case, while handling the question arose of inconsistency between a Central and a State enactment, this Court also cited legal observations of Nicholas in his Australian Constitution, 2nd Edn. p. 303, where three tests of inconsistency were laid down and which are as follows:

  • There may be inconsistency in the actual terms of the competing statutes (R.V. Brisbane Licensing Court [(1920) 28 CLR 23 (Aus)] )
  • Despite the fact of being no direct conflict, a State law may be ineffective because the Commonwealth law, or the award of the Commonwealth Court, is intended to be a complete exhaustive code [Clyde Engineering Co. Ltd. v. Cowburn.]
  • Even in the absence of intention, a conflict may arise when both State and Commonwealth seek to exercise their powers over the same subject-matter. (Victoria v. Commonwealth [(1937) 58 CLR 618 (Aus)] ; Wenn v. Attorney-General [(1948) 77 CLR 84] ). This court also relied on the decisions in the case of Hume v. Palmer as also the case of Ex Parte McLean referred to above.

The use of the words ‘other public servants’ following a Minister of the Union or of a State clearly depict that a Minister would also be a public servant as other public servants contemplated by s. 199(2) of the Code and the Code being a statute harmonious and associated with the Indian Penal Code can be viewed into for the purpose of identifying the original meaning and import of the words ‘public servant’ as used in the aforesaid section [286 F] Dattatraya Narayan Patil v. State of Maharashtra, [1975], Supp. SCR 145; Emperor v. Sibnath Banerji & Ors., AIR 1945 PC 156; Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh & Anr. v. The State of Vindhya Pradesh, [1953] SCR 1188.

In the case the judgment was given by Justice Fazalali Syed Murtaza that the bench is satisfied that a Chief Minister or a Minister is doubtlessly a public servant as defined  in section  21(12) (a) of the Penal Code and the view taken  by the  High Court  on this point was absolutely correct in  law. As the salary paid to the chief minister is accounted for public work he perform in his tenure and although the authority get the payment from government but is not being paid like other constitutional authority like prime minister, speaker etc. so therefore he is not under the domain of public.

The result is that all the contentions raised by Mr. Venu Gopal, counsel for the appellant fail and the appeals are dismissed.

The case before the Special Judge will now proceed to its ultimate end according to law.

Finally court dismissed the plea.


After the in-depth study of this case and Doctrine of repugnancy we can finally conclude that the repugnancy generally arose when there is distinct and direct conflict between the Central Act and the State Act and such conflict is purely incompatible.

According to me in this case the apex court has provided a well written eloquent judgment and made its stance clear and comprehensive and also attempt to provide the rational behind the stance and judgement. In the case when the law becomes inconsistence with the other then it can led stumbling stone to both the side and can hamper the work of both the laws in negative aspect.

In this case, court under article 254 of Indian Constitution make it clear that the inconsistency provisions in detail and held that if a state law that is made on the concurrent list is inconsistency with the law made by center, then in normal situation law made by the center would be dominance and shall prevail but if the state law got the assent of the president, then state law would prevail in such condition.

Also, the court scrutinized many elements and provided the explicit interpretation of the issue of a public servant and held that Ministers can also fall under the ambit of public servant office which was a good appeal of jurisdiction used by judges to serve the justice.


Name of Author

  1. Anish sinha, first year law student of Asian law college, Noida
  2. Saloni verma, first year law student of Asian law college, Noida