Lord Roche II / The Revival of Ray IV

In Allied Motors, (2012) 2 SCC 1 reference was made to the celebrated Judgment of Privy Council in Nazir Ahmad, AIR 1936 PC 253: “Where a power is given to do a certain thing in a certain way, the thing must be done in that way, or not at all. Other methods of performance are necessarily forbidden.” The principle has been reiterated and expanded by Supreme Court in several decisions.

In D.R. Venkatachalam, AIR 1977 SC 842 it was observed:-

In ultimate analysis, the rule of construction relied upon by Mr. Chitaley to make the last-mentioned submission is: “expression unius est exclusio alterius.” This maxim, which has been described as “a valuable servant but a dangerous master” (per Lopes J, in Court of Appeal in Colquhoun v. Brooks, (1888) 21 QBD 52 finds expression also in a rule formulated in Taylor v. Taylor (1875) 1 Ch D 426 applied by Privy Council in Nazir Ahmad v. King Emperor which has been repeatedly adopted by this Court. That rule says that an expressly laid down mode of doing something necessarily implies a prohibition of doing it in any other way.”

Similarly, in Sanjeev Nanda, AIR 2012 SC 3104 this Court observed thus:-

It is a settled principle of law that if something is required to be done in a particular manner, then that has to be done only in that way or not at all.”

Another Judgment where this principle has been reiterated is Rashmi Rekha Thatoi, (2012) 5 SCC 690 wherein it was observed thus:-

In this regard it is to be borne in mind, a Court of Law has to act within the statutory command and not deviate from it. It is a well-settled proposition of law, what cannot be done directly, cannot be done indirectly. While exercising a statutory power a Court is bound to act within the four corners thereof. The statutory exercise of power stands on a different footing than exercise of power of judicial review.”

Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, Hon’ble Justice Dipak Misra, Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India, [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 536 of 2011].


In D.R. Venkatachalam, Judgment of A.N. Ray CJI and Krishna Iyer J was delivered by Krishna Iyer. M.H. Beg J gave a separate concurring opinion.


Also see, Three-Judge Bench, State of U.P. v. Virendra Kumar, [Civil Appeal Nos. 6622-6623 of 2022] decided on 25.11.2022.