Indian Judicial Doctrines Explained for UPSC

Judicial doctrines are an important part of Indian constitutional law. They are often seen in the news with respect to the Indian judiciary. In this article, you can read about some of the most important judicial doctrines in the Indian context for the UPSC exam

Judicial Doctrine

A doctrine is a principle, belief, or position, often held by authorities such as courts.  A doctrine can be a rule, a theory or a tenet of law. There are many judicial doctrines applied under the Constitution of India. Some of the most important ones are described in this article.

Doctrine of Basic Structure

The Basic Structure Doctrine basically contends that the basic structure of the Indian Constitution cannot be abrogated even by a constitutional amendment. It follows that the Parliament cannot enact a law that would alter the basic structure of the Constitution. This doctrine is not mentioned in the Constitution itself and has evolved over time and many Supreme Court judgements. 

To know more about the Basic Structure Doctrine and related cases, click on the linked article.

Doctrine of Pith and Substance

The Doctrine of Pith and Substance holds that the union and the state legislatures should not encroach upon each other’s spheres. This doctrine helps in examining the true nature of a legislation and deciding which list it belongs to, central or state.

Read more on the Doctrine of Pith and Substance and related SC judgements in the linked article.

Doctrine of Severability

The Doctrine of Severability or Separability is a doctrine that protects the fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. It derives its validity from Article 13 and states that all laws that were enforced in India before the commencement of the Constitution, inconsistent with the provisions of fundamental rights shall to the extent of that inconsistency be void.

You can get a clearer picture of the Doctrine of Severability and related cases in the linked article.

Doctrine of Eclipse

This doctrine states that any law that violates fundamental rights is not null or void ab initio, but is only non-enforceable, i.e., it is not dead but inactive. 

Know more about the Doctrine of Eclipse by clicking on the linked article.

Doctrine of Laches

This doctrine states that the court will only assist those people who are vigilant about their rights and not those who are not. The underlying principle is that the court should not examine stale cases, because the court is to help an individual or party that is vigilant and not indolent.

For more details on the Doctrine of Laches, click on the linked article.

Doctrine of Territorial Nexus

According to the Doctrine of Territorial Nexus, laws made by a state legislature are not applicable outside that state, except when there is a sufficient nexus between the state and the object. This doctrine derives its authority from Article 245 of the Indian Constitution. The doctrine states that in order for a state law to have an extraterritorial operation, there must be a nexus between the object and the State. Hence, to invoke the doctrine of territorial nexus, it must be clear that the object is located outside the State’s territorial limits, however, it ought to have a territorial connection with the State.

The following table gives a few important terms and concepts related to the judiciary for the IAS exam. Click on the links to read more about them.

Doctrine of Colourable Legislation

This doctrine is a tool used to determine the legislative competence of laws enacted by various legislatures. Therefore, it is a means to implement the separation of powers and impose judicial accountability. Basically, this doctrine implies that whatever is prohibited directly is prohibited indirectly also. This is intended to bar the legislature from doing something indirectly or covertly what it has been prohibited from doing directly.

Doctrine of Harmonious Construction

According to this doctrine, a provision of the statute should not be interpreted or construed in isolation but as a whole, so as to remove any inconsistency or repugnancy. The courts must avoid a clash on contradicting provisions and they must construe the opposing provisions so as to harmonize them. When the court is unable to reconcile the differences between opposing provisions, the courts must interpret them in such a manner that both the opposing provisions are given effect as much as possible.

Doctrine of Incidental or Ancillary Powers

This is an addition to the Doctrine of Pith and Substance. It implies that the power to legislate on a particular issue also includes the power to legislate on ancillary matters that are reasonably connected to that issue or subject. For instance, the power to impose taxes would also include the power to search and seizure in order to prevent tax evasion. Nevertheless, if a subject is explicitly mentioned in a Union or State List, it cannot be said to be an ancillary matter.

Doctrine of Waiver

According to the Doctrine of Waiver, a person intentionally gives up his right or privilege or chooses not to exercise his right or privilege which are conferred on him by the state. It is the intentional or voluntary relinquishment of a known right. The Supreme Court had held that the fundamental rights of a person cannot be waived off in Basheshar Nath vs The Commissioner Of Income Tax (1958).

Judicial Review

Judicial review is defined as the doctrine under which executive and legislative actions are reviewed by the judiciary.

Read more about judicial review in the linked article.


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