Repugnancy between Centre and State Laws: Constitutional Law Notes


Repugnancy Between Centre And State Laws

Federalism limits every action of the government and splits power between centre and the state. The basic principle of the Indian constitution is that there is a division of legislative, executive and financial authority between the centre and the state. In Indian constitution, there are three types of lists mentioned in the 7th schedule they include Union list in which the union government has an exclusive power to make law. In State list, the state government has an exclusive power to make law. In the concurrent list both state legislature and the union have the power to make law.

               The laws made by the Centre have been given more priority than other laws. When conflict arises between laws, the central will get succeed. One of the significant portions of the constitution deals with centre – state relation. The doctrine of Repugnancy essentially deals with the conflict between the laws of Centre and State. Repugnancy means the 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 that it is impossible to obey each other. The doctrine of repugnancy is adopted from American constitution. In the Indian, if such a conflict arises between a central and a state legislation, then the central law will prevail under article 254 of Indian constitution act, 1949 as stated below.

ARTICLE 254 of Indian constitution act, 1949

Inconsistency between laws made by Parliament and laws made by the Legislatures of States

  • If any provision of a law made by the Legislature of a State is repugnant to any provision of a law made by Parliament which Parliament is competent to enact, or to any provision of an existing law with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List, then, subject to the provisions of clause ( 2 ), the law made by Parliament, whether passed before or after the law made by the Legislature of such State, or, as the case may be, the existing law, shall prevail and the law made by the Legislature of the State shall, to the extent of the repugnancy, be void.
  •  Where a law made by the Legislature of a State with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the concurrent List contains any provision repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law made by Parliament or an existing law with respect to that matter, then, the law so made by the Legislature of such State shall, if it has been reserved for the consideration of the President and has received his assent, prevail in that State: Provided that nothing in this clause shall prevent Parliament from enacting at any time any law with respect to the same matter including a law adding to, amending, varying or repealing the law so made by the Legislature of the State.

Case: M.Karunanidhi vs. Union of India, 1979

FACTS: In the case, CBI inquiry was instituted against the appellants who were alleged to have abused their official position in the matter of purchase of wheat from Punjab. As a result of the inquiry a prosecution was launched against the appellant under the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act. The police submitted a charge sheet against the appellant for the offences and alleged that the appellant had derived for himself pecuniary advantage from Gupta for passing favourable orders in respect of some firms. The case was registered before the Special Judge and the necessary copies of the records were furnished to the appellant. the Prevention of Corruption Act.

JUDGEMENT:  The Supreme Court held that the State Act was not repugnant to the Central Acts and the Central Act would  continue to be in operation even after the repeal of the State Act even though if it creates distinct and separate offences.  The State Act provides that the ‘public man’ will have to be prosecuted under the Central Acts. . The Supreme Court held that, where the provisions of a Central Act and a State Act in the Concurrent list are fully inconsistent and absolutely irreconcilable, the Central Act will prevail and the State Act will become void in view of the repugnancy. From the above case, the following conditions were observed for repugnancy,

There must be a clear and direct inconsistency between the two enactments.

  •  There can be no repeal unless inconsistency appears on the face of the two statues.
  •  Two statues occupy same field without coming in collusion there can be no repugnancy results.
  • There is no inconsistency between the statues in the same field both the statues continue to operate.


  • If any law passed by the legislature of the state enumerated in the concurrent list which is repugnant to the earlier law or an existing law,  the law passed by the state legislature would remain in existence in that state if the assent is given by the president. After receiving the presidential assent also the law can be held void if parliament amend any law in respect to same matter.
  •  It is the duty of the court to interpret the enactments and avoid conflicts between the centre and the state.
  • In order to strike down a law passed by the state legislature in the court it is necessary to prove both laws are made on the same matter and both are inconsistent with each other.
  • The state law which becomes void after repugnancy till the time the union law is not repealed, once it is repealed it becomes operative.


The constitution of India consist of various doctrines out of which doctrine of repugnance is one of the most significant it helps to maintain the uniformity in the country and avoid disputes between the centre and the state. The constitution of India has been called as quasi – federal in nature. Article 254 of Indian constitution is a suitable example of how both the unitary and federal features exist in Indian constitution.  Repugnancy arises where the three essentials are satisfied like direct conflict, occupied field and intended occupation if they are satisfied then the parliamentary law would prevail over the state law. This doctrine plays a critical role in order to preserve the integrity of the country and avoid two laws on the same subject matter.


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