The Indian Constitution investigates a variety of legal doctrines. A legal doctrine/ism can/may be a rule or set of rules that are unit-wide followed. One amongst such doctrines/isms is the doctrine of pith and substance. ‘Pith’ suggests the ‘essence of something, whereas ‘substance’ suggests ‘the most important part of something.

Put together, the doctrine/ism would virtually mean ‘true nature and substance’, and it comes into play once there’s a conflict concerning the power/ability of a level of government to create law on a specific matter.

India incorporates a federal system of government, which means the Centre and State area units are ruled/dominated singly by completely different ruling bodies. In India, at the central level, the Parliament is the governance, and at the state level, we’ve got State Legislatures. Both of them derive their powers from Article 246 of the Indian Constitution. The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution contains 3 lists – the Union List, the State List, and therefore the Concurrent/synchronic List, which more contain bound subjects for legislation.

According to Article 246, the Centre has exclusive power to legislate/make law on any matter mentioned within the Union List. The States, on the opposite hand, have the privilege to legislate/make law on any matter mentioned within the State List. However, each Centre and therefore the States even have the ability to create laws/legislate on matters mentioned below the Concurrent/synchronic List, and just in case of a conflict, the law created by the Centre shall prevail.

The Doctrine of Pith and Substance Purpose

The main aim of introducing the doctrine/ism of pith and substance is to make sure that no alternative law is asserted as invalid just because it infringes the ability and jurisdiction of another level of government/state, so permitting flexibility. The doctrine/ism is employed by the courts to see verify the nature of the legislation.

The case of State of Bombay/Mumbai & Amr. VS F. N. Balsara was the primary case on this doctrine/ism, wherever the Supreme Court upheld the doctrine/ism of pith and substance and discovered that it had been necessary to determine to verify spirit and character of enactment so the List below that it came can be determined.

Application of the Doctrine of pith and Substance

The application of the doctrine/ism of pith and substance was outlined by the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in Kartar Singh VS State of Punjab. It discovered that the doctrine/ism of pith and substance is employed as a law associated with a matter in one amongst the Lists is additionally connected, perhaps indirectly, to an issue in another List. In such a scenario, the pith and substance of the law are to be ascertained/observed. On a careful examination of the legislation, if it’s found that the aforementioned legislation is on an issue during a list regarding the aforementioned lawmakers, then the act in toto is to be held/command valid, while not taking into consideration incidental encroachments that there could be. Incidental trenches can’t be altogether forbidden/taboo.

If on the application of the doctrine/ism to a specific statute, it’s found that the legislature/lawmakers that therefore enacted the statute are competent, then the Act must be command intra vires, albeit the lawmakers would possibly incidentally trench on matters not at intervals its jurisdiction.

However, there is a unit a lot of things that require to be taken into thought once declaring an Act as null and void. It may therefore happen that the legislature/lawmakers in concern may have accidentally encroached upon the powers of another legislature, and in such a case, abundant scrutiny is required to create a positive that it wasn’t done intentionally.


All in all, the doctrine/ism of pith and substance has tried to be helpful in varied things wherever the Centre and therefore States are during a tussle over legislative control. In India, the Centre carries a lot of worth than the States, which is why a lot of subjects within the Union List area unit of grave importance. The States area unit needed to legislate/pass solely on those matters that concern the States themselves. Still, there could also be overlaps just because one law is connected with the opposite, directly or indirectly. What’s imperative is that the courts perform their duty with no mistake.



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