While interpreting two contradictory statutes the general statute must yield to those of the special statute. Legislature enacts laws for the welfare of the people therefore repealing any law is done only in exceptional cases. Whenever there is conflict in interpretation of statutes this maxim is applied. This maxim helps the judiciary in interpreting the statutes. The rules of special laws are preferred over the rules of general law as the special law for a subject addresses the subject in greater detail.  Thus, where there are provisions in general law as well as special law on the same subject then the provisions of special law must prevail as it give detail and complete rules on the subject.


In this Latin maxim the word Generalia stands for general and the word Specialibus stands for special. The maxim ‘generalis specialibus non derogant ‘means that general things do not derogate from special things.

If there is a general law as well as any special law on a subject then the special law must be applied. This principle is the core of this maxim. This maxim is used for statutory interpretation whenever there is conflict between the general law and special law.

If on any particular subject a special law is made though any special Act then such subject is excluded from the application of general law. The maxim establishes the principle that the special provisions should be prefered over the general provisions. If the parliament after passing a Special Act subsequently passes a General Act on the same subject matter, it is assumed that the General Act has not repealed the Special Act. As while passing a Special Act the Parliament considers the particular subject matter in detail.  This maxim is used to prevent any conflict between statutory rules and statutory orders. This maxim is not applicable if the General Act and the Special Act deal with different subject. 


Two important elements of this maxim are as follows-

  1. When two Acts are passed by the Parliament on the same subject matter but at different times and if the subsequent is a General Act and the prior Special Act then the Special Act prevails. Thus, when a Special law on a particular subject matter is already passed by the Parliament and later on a general law is passed on the same subject matter then the general law does not repeal the prior special law.

2. When on a particular subject matter general law already exists and later on a special law is passed by the Parliament on the same subject matter then the later special law repeals the prior general law if both come in conflict with each other.


This maxim is used by the Courts in interpretation of statutes. The scope of the special law is more than the scope of the general law as the special law on a specific subject deals with the subject in detail. Whenever the provisions of two statutes on the same subject matter are contradictory then the Courts use this maxim to decide which statute is valid in which case.


Suresh Nanda v/s C.B.I-

 In this case the issue was of impounding of the passports. There are two acts that deal with impounding of passports i.e. Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and the Passports Act.  In the instant case, the provisions of section 104 of CrPC and section 10(3) of the Passport Act were contradictory. Here, the petitioner lost access to his license because of the detail procedures of a case in which he was accused. C.B.I. seized his passport. In this case the Court observed that the police only have the authority to seize the passport it cannot impound the passport. Only the passport authority can decide whether to impound the passport or not. Thus, the Court held that for impounding passport the special legislation namely the Passports Act prevails over the general provisions of CrPC.

Azad Transport Company v/s State of Bihar-

In this case the provisions of VAT and CrPC were in conflict wth each other. The Court held that VAT is a special law made on the subject of tax whereas CrPC is a general law that does not specifically deal with tax. Thus VAT being the special law on Tax prevails over the general provisions of CrPC.

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