Traditionally, when it comes to the contradiction between any two articles of the Constitution of India1 or any provisions of an Indian statute2 enforced by law, the courts have resorted to the usage of the Doctrine of Harmonious Construction.3 This rule of interpretation works on the premise that when faced with contradictory provisions, the attempt should be made to construe such provisions harmoniously in order to avoid any clash between those provisions and to assure consistent enactment of the entire statue without uprooting the purpose of any provision.

However, in cases when the courts are faced with the presence of two conflicting clauses in any document, for example, a sale deed/ gift deed / etc., Will of a person or any other commercial agreement, where the courts are left with an option of choosing one clause over another, this rule of interpretation (Doctrine of Harmonious Construction) does not find much relevance which is being mainly used in cases of statutory conflicts where the intention of the legislature has always been to give force to all provisions of such statute.

Therefore, it becomes interesting to track the judicial understanding and dictation when faced with two conflicting clauses in the same document (like any deed or Will of a person or a commercial agreement). The question here to be answered is whether there is any straight jacket formula to prevail any one clause over the other. Like the earlier clause would always prevail over the latter clause or vice versa. Or does it depends on case-to-case basis with the supremacy of the clause which provides a wider understanding of the document.

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1. Sri Venkataramana Devaru and others vs. State of Mysore and others, AIR 1958 SC 255; Pandit M.S.M. Sharma vs. Shri Sri Krishna Sinha and others, AIR 1959 SC 395; Calcutta Gas Company Proprietary Limited vs. State of West Bengal and others, AIR 1962 SC 1044.

2. Sirsilk Limited and another vs. Government of Andhra Pradesh and another, AIR 1964 SC 160; Commissioner of Sales Tax Madhya Pradesh and others vs. Radhakrishan and others, AIR 1979 SC 1588.

3. Sri Sankari Prasad Singh Deo vs. Union of India and State of Bihar, AIR 1951 SC 458; Commissioner of Income Tax vs. Hindustan Bulk Carriers, (2003) 3 SCC 57.

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