The framers of the Constitution were conscious of the fact that human knowledge is limited and human perception imperfect and no one could foresee what contingency may arise in future needing legislation. Therefore, the residuary power is intended to take care of such matters as could not be identified at the time of the constitution-making. Further, the framers of the Constitution were designedly devising for a strong Centre. 

The Constitution provides that the residue (i.e. matters not falling within any of the three lists of the 7th schedule) will belong exclusively to the Centre. This is provided for in Art. 248 read with entry 97, List I. These provisions take care of any unforeseen eventuality. Entry 97, List I, runs as : “Any other matter not enumerated in List II or List III including any tax not mentioned in either of those Lists.” Article 248(1) says : “Parliament has exclusive power to make any law with respect to any matter not enumerated in the Concurrent List or State List.” 

Union of India v. H.S. Dhillon – The most significant judicial pronouncement on the scope of residuary power of Parliament. In this case, a Bench of seven Judges decided questions of far reaching significance as to the taxing powers of Parliament and the State Legislatures. The question involved in Dhillon was whether the Centre could levy wealth tax on the assets of a person including agricultural land. Art. 248 was framed in the “widest possible terms” and so the scope of residuary power was vast. A matter not included in List II or in List III falls within the residuary field. No question need be asked whether the matter falls under List I or not. If the subject-matter does not fall in List II or List III, Parliament has power to legislate on it. Any matter, including tax, which has not been allotted exclusively to the State Legislatures under List II or concurrently with Parliament under List III, falls within List I, including entry 97 of that List read with Art. 248. The Court has also ruled that Parliament could supplement its power under an entry in List I with the residuary power to enact a law. List I and the residuary are supplementary to each other. What is included in List I is not excluded from the residuary power of Parliament. Rather, the Centre can make a law seeking support from both.

Att. Gen. for India v. Amratlal Prajivandas – Whenever the competence of Parliament to enact a specific statute is questioned one must look to the entries in List II. If the said statute is not relatable to any of the entries in List II, no further inquiry is necessary as Parliament will be competent to enact the said statute either by virtue of the entries in List I and List III, or by virtue of the residuary power contained in Art. 248 read with entry 97, List I.

Sat Pal & Co. v. Lt. Governor of Delhi – it is not proper to unduly circumscribe, erode or whittle down the residuary by a process of interpretation as new developments may demand new laws not covered by any of the three Lists and these Lists cannot be regarded as exhaustive of governmental action and activity. 

International Tourist Corp. v. State of Haryana – Before exclusive legislative competence can be claimed for Parliament by resort to the residuary power, the legislative incompetence of the State Legislature must be clearly established.

Jaora Sugar Mills v. State of Madhya Pradesh – Where there is a division of legislative subjects but the residuary power is vested in Parliament, such residuary power cannot be so expansively interpreted as to whittle down the power of the State Legislatures”. To do so would be to affect the federal principle adversely. If there is competition between an entry in List II and the residuary power of the Centre, the former may be given a broad and plentiful interpretation. 

Several Acts have been enacted by the Parliament under its residuary powers. For example – The Wealth Tax Act, Gift Tax Act, Commissions of Inquiry Act etc.

Previous Year Question: Discuss ‘Residuary Powers’ of the Parliament to legislate.  

Categories: POINT IAS

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