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The Doctrine of Severability

Updated: Apr 12, 2022

The doctrine of Severability

Article 13 of the Constitution of India reads as under:

The doctrine of Severability: Under Judicial Review, the Supreme Court and the High Courts may declare a law as void if it is against the Constitution. The question is whether the whole of the law (or Statute) is void or only that portion which is unconstitutional. To answer this, the Supreme Court has evolved the 'Doctrine of Severability'.

HINDI :- पृथक्करण का सिद्धांत


Landmark Judgments

The acid test of Doctrine of Severability

This means if a statute has offending and also valid pro- visions and, it is possible to separate the offensive from the valid provisions, then the offensive provisions alone are declared void and unconstitutional. The entire Statute or Act will not be quashed.

(i) A. K. Gopalan V. State of Madras. Sn. 14 of the Preventive Detention Act was declared void. As this provision could be severed from the other sections, the court applied the doctrine of Severability and held Sn. 14 void. This doctrine was applied in Balsara's Case and R.M.D.C.Case.

In R.M.D.C.Case, the Prize Competition Act was challenged. The Court held that competitions where success depended on 'Chance', could be severed from those dependent on SKILL. Hence, doctrine was applied and provisions relating to chance were quashed. The others were held valid.If the offensive and other provisions are inextricably bound up and cannot be severed, the entire Statute will be void.

(ii) Chintman Rao V. State ofM.P. The object of the M.P. Legislature was to encourage agriculture under its 'Grow More Food' policy, and to prevent agricultural labour being engaged elsewhere during seasons. The Act enabled the Government to notify all those persons who could be so employed. The court held that the Act was void as it included women, children, the weak and the infirm. Further, as this could not be severed from the other parts, the entire Act was quashed by the court.This was applied in Kunhi Koman V. State of Kerala (Kerala Agrarian Relations Act was quashed) and Bank Nationalisation cases.

(iii) Further, if the Act has provided for a Scheme containing valid and offensive provisions, and if it is not possible to implement the valid without the offensive provisions, the entire Act is void.


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