Doctrine of Harmonious Construction

The term harmonious construction refers to such construction by which harmony or oneness amongst various provisions of an enactment is arrived at. When the words of statutory provision bear more than one meaning and there is a doubt as to which meaning should prevail, then such meaning should be adopted by which the words best harmonize with the subject and the subject of the enactment.

It is presumed that the legislature has enacted a law with a definite purpose. It is also presumed that legislature have used precise words to open their mind and have left no ambiguity in the language of the enactment. It is further presumed that all the provisions of a statute are well composed and consistent with each other because the legislature is not supposed to contradict itself by providing conflicting provision. Hence, the statute should be construed in such a manner so as to avoid any repugnancy.

An inconsistency should neither be created nor be readily inferred. Where all alternatives constructions are possible, that construction should be accepted by which consistency is achieved and the constructions leading to inconsistency should be rejected.

The intention of legislature is that every provision should remain operative. But where two provisions are contradictory, it may not possible to effectuate both of them and in result, one shall be reduced to futility as against the settled basic principle of ut res magis valeat qauam pereat.

Therefore, such a construction should be allowed to prevail by which existing inconsistency is removed and both the provisions remain in force, in harmony with each other.
It brings harmony among the various lists referred to in Indian constitution schedule 7.

It is a cardinal rule of construction that when there are two provisions of the same law are conflict with each other that both of them cannot stand together they should possibly being so interpreted that effect can be given to both and that a constructions which renders any of them inoperative and useless should not be adopted except in the last resort.

The objective of harmonious construction is to avoid any confrontation between two enacting provisions of a statute and to construe the provisions in such a way so that the harmonize. The basis of this rule is that the Legislature never envisages to provide two conflicting provisions in a statute, for the reason that it amounts to self-contradiction.

The real legislative intent, that we try to discover in the process of interpretation cannot be to provide for something in one provision and deny the same in subsequent one. Hence, even if an inconsistency is found, the same should be considered to be unintentional and as such, is required to be cured by way of harmonious construction.

Principles of rule of Harmonious construction

In the land mark case of CIT v. Hindustan Bulk Carriers (2003) the supreme court laid down five principles of rule of harmonious construction:

the courts must avoid a head-on clash of seemingly contradicting provisions and they must construe the contradictory provisions.

the provision of one section cannot be used to defeat the provision contained in another unless the court, despite all its efforts, is unable to find a way to reconcile their differences

when it is impossible to completely reconcile the differences in contradictory provisions, the courts must interpret them in such a way so that effect is given both the provisions as much as possible.

courts must also keep in mind that interpretation that reduces one provisions to useless number or dead is not harmonious construction.

to harmonize is not to destroy any statutory provision or to render it fruitless.

Case laws:

Re- Kerala education bill 1951

In this case it was held that in deciding the fundamental rights the court must consider the directive principle and adopt the principle of harmonious construction. So, two possibilities are given effect as much as possible by striking a balance.

East India hotels ltd. V. Union of India (2001)

It was held that an Act is to be read as a whole, the different provisions have to be harmonized and the effect to be given to all of them.

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