Origin of the doctrine
The origin of this doctrine lies in Canada through the case named
Cushing Vs. Dupuy
(Important judgment because it paved the roots for Ancillary
and Incidental encroachment) and slowly made its way to India and is firmly
supported by Article 246 and Seventh Schedule (The Constitution of India has
divided the extent of legislative powers between the Centre and states by way of
the Seventh Schedule. This schedule consists of, Union, State and Concurrent
Lists) of Indian Constitution. This doctrine has become the basis of many
Supreme Court Judgements.
Meaning of the Doctrine
To disintegrate the doctrine to its molecular meanings, Pith
denotes true nature
or essence of something
and Substance means the most important
or essential part of something
. The definition of this doctrine states,
within their respective spheres the state and the union legislatures are made
supreme, they should not encroach upon the sphere demarcated for the other.
Doctrine of Pith and Substance is applied when legislation made by
of the legislatures is challenged or trespassed by other legislatures. This
doctrine says that when there is a question of determining whether a particular
law relates to a particular subject the court looks to the substance of the
matter. If the substance of the matter lies within one of the 3 lists, then the
incidental encroachment by law on another lists, does not make it invalid
because they are said to be intra vires.
Features of Doctrine
- This doctrine comes into application when subject matter between 2 lists
seems to be conflicting.
- The powers of legislature will be strictly limited if every law is
termed invalid on the grounds that it is encroaching upon other laws.
- The doctrine pulls out the true nature and character of the matter to
bifurcate it into its appropriate list.
- State of Bombay Vs. F.N. Balsara, was a case in which Bombay Prohibition
Act was challenged on the grounds that the prohibition of liquor on the borders
was a matter of Central Government. The act was held valid by the court because
it was in its pith and substance and fell under the State List though it was
impacting the import of liquor.
- Prafulla Kumar Mukherjee v. Bank of Khulna, was the case in which Bengal
Money Lenders Act, was challenged on the grounds that it limited the rate of
interest and the amount recoverable by a money lender on any loan. It was argued
that promissory notes were a central matter and not a state matter. It was held
by the Privy Council that the act was in piths and substance and law with
respect to 'money lending and money lenders' was a state matter and was valid
even if incidental encroachment upon 'Promissory notes' which is Central matter
was taking place.
This doctrine has been an important aspect in various Court
judgements. Every time question of overlapping or encroachment comes rises the
doctrine of Pith and substance gives a clarity towards the subject matter and in
which list does it belong to. This doctrine is observed to provide an ease to
the otherwise rigid federal structure which distributes the powers between
Central and State Government.
If it was so that every legislation was to be
termed invalid for encroaching upon the fields of other legislatures then the
powers would not hold any weight and the purpose of such powers being bifurcated
would be lost because of extreme rigidity.
To conclude, Pith and Substance denotes the true nature of law. The
doctrine emphasis on the real subject matter and not its effects on other