The Doctrine of Prospective Overruling

Where a statute is adjudged to be unconstitutional, it is as if it had never been. Rights cannot be built up under it; contracts which depend upon it for their consideration are void; it constitutes a protection to no one who has acted under it and no one can be punished for having refused obedience to it before decision was made.

There is a distinction between declaration of a statute as unconstitutional by a Court and repeal of a statute by Legislature. Legislature is empowered to introduce a saving clause.

Doctrine of Prospective Overruling was applied in I.C. Golak Nath v. State of Punjab, (1967) 2 SCR 762. Doctrine of Prospective Overruling can be applied to save past transactions under earlier decisions superseded or statutes held unconstitutional. Relief can be moulded by Court in exercise of its power under Article 142, notwithstanding declaration of a statute as unconstitutional. 

There is no question of repeal of a statute which has been declared as unconstitutional by a Court. Consequences of declaration of unconstitutionality of a statute have to be dealt with only by Court.

Hon’ble Justice L. Nageswara Rao, State of Manipur v. Surjakumar Okram, [Civil Appeal Nos. 823-827 of 2022].

PROSPECTIVE