Case Name: R. M. D. Chamarbaugwalla vs. Union of India
Citation: 1957 AIR 628, 1957 SCR 930
Court of jurisdiction: Supreme Court of India
Year of the Case: 9 April, 1957
Appellant: R. M. D. Chamarbaugwalla
Respondent: Union of India
Bench/Judges: HON’BLE JUSTICE T. L. VENKATARAMA AYYAR, HON’BLE JUSTICE S. R. DASS (CJI), HON’BLE JUSTICE B. P. SINHA, HON’BLE JUSTICE S. K. DAS AND HON’BLE JUSTICE P. B. GAJENDRAGADKAR
In R.M.D.C. v. Union of India, AIR 1957 SC 628, the constitutionality of the Prize Competitions Act 1955, was challenged on the ground that it violated the Fundamental Right of the petitioners secured by Article 19(1(g). The impugned Act, provided for the control and regulation of prize competitions. It was contended that Section 2(d) of the impugned Act which defined the expression “prize competitions” included not only competitions of a gambling nature but also those in which success to a substantial degree depends on skill.
Having regard to the circumstances under which the impugned Act was passed, the Supreme Court held that it was to control and regulate prize competitions of a gambling character. Therefore, the Court stated that the application of impugned provision of the Act could be restricted to the competitions of gambling character. The provisions of the impugned Act were thus held severable in their application to competitions, in which, success did not depend, to any substantial extent, on skill. The Court held that when a Statute, was in part, void, it would be enforced as regards the rest, if that was severable from what was invalid, The Court then referred to the rules of construction laid down by the American Courts for the operation of the doctrine of severability and applied these to the present case.
The Supreme Court then summed up the rules relating to severability
1. In determining whether the valid parts of the statute are separable from the invalid parts thereof, it is the intention of the Legislature that is the determining factor. The test.to be applied is whether the Legislature would have enacted the valid part if it had known that the rest of the statute was invalid.
2. If the valid and invalid provisions are so indistinguishably mixed up that they cannot be separated from one another, then, the invalidity of a portion must result in the invalidity of the Act in its entirety. On the other hand, if they are so distinct and separate that after striking out what is invalid, what remains is in itself a complete code independent of the rest, then it will be upheld notwithstanding that the rest has become unenforceable.
3. Even when the provisions which are valid are distinct and separate from those which are invalid, if they all form parts of a single scheme which is intended to be operative as a whole, then also the invalidity of a part will result in the failure of the whole.
4. Likewise, when the valid and invalid parts of a statute are independent and do not form part of a scheme but what is left after omitting the invalid portion is so thin and truncated as to be in substance different from what it was when it emerged out of the legislature, then also it will be rejected in its entirety.
5. The reparability of the valid and invalid provision of a statute does not depend on whether the law is enacted in the same section or different sections (Vide Coley’s Constitutional Limitations, Vol. I, pp. 361-362), it is not the form, but the substance of the matter that is material, and that has to be ascertained on an examination of the Act as a whole and of the setting of the relevant provision therein.
6. If after the invalid portion is expunged from the statute what remains cannot be enforced without making alterations and modifications therein, then the whole of if must be struck down as void, as otherwise it will amount to judicial legislation.
7. In determining the legislative intent on the question of severability, it will be legitimate to take into account the history of legislation, its object, the title and the preamble to it.
Intention of the legislature will determine whether the valid part of a statute is severable from the invalid parts. If the valid and invalid provisions are so inseparably mixed up that they cannot be separated from another, then the irrationality of a portion must result in the invalidity of the Act in its whole. On the other hand, if they are so distinct and separate that after striking out what is invalid what remains is itself a complete code independent of the rest, then it will be upheld notwithstanding that the rest had become unenforceable.
Courts would be reluctant to declare a law invalid or ultra vires on account of unconstitutionality. Courts would accept an interpretation, which would be in favour of constitutionality rather than the one which would render the law unconstitutional. The court can resort to reading down a law in order to save it from being rendered unconstitutional. But while doing so, it cannot change the essence of the law and create a new law which in its opinion is more desirable.