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The most comprehensive coverage on the construction of Statutes. It includes parts of statutes,Extrinsic-Aids,Intrinsic aids, Reading down, Amendments,Repeals,codifications,Quasi-Judicial agencies,Non-obstante clause,Mandatory/Declatory provisions,Tax ,Beneficial, Criminal,Fiscal Statute's Interpretation and sub-ordinate legislations.Besides it contains the Rules of Interpretation and the Role of Judiciary.Citations are in abundance.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chapter-4 Other materials Part-4-14


Other materials


Similarly, Supreme Court used information available on internet for the purpose of interpretation of statutory provision in Ramlal v State of Rajasthan, (2001) 1 SCC 175. Courts also refer passages and materials from text books and articles and papers published in the journals. We are of the view that these external aids are very useful tools not only for the proper and correct interpretation or construction of statutory provision, but also for understanding the object of the statute, the mischief sought to be remedied by it, circumstances in which it was enacted and many other relevant matters. In the absence of the admissibility of these external aids, sometime court may not be in a position to do justice in a case.

International Conventions

Apart from these external aids, court also take recourse to other material. For example, wherever necessary, court can look into International Conventions (P.N. Krishanlal v Govt. of Kerala, (1995) Sup. (2) SCC 187). The Supreme Court in Visakha v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1997 SC 3011 took recourse to International Convention for the purpose of construction of domestic law. The Court observed :-

“In the absence of domestic law occupying the field to formulate effective measures to check the evil of sexual harassment of working women at all work places, the contents of International Conventions and norms are significant for the purpose of interpretation of the guarantee of gender equality, right to work with human dignity in Articles 14, 15, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution and the safeguards against sexual harassment implicit therein. Any international convention not inconsistent with the fundamental rights and in harmony with its spirit must be read into those provisions to enlarge the meaning and content thereof, to promote the object of the Constitutional guarantee.” (para 7)

Later developments to be considered

Later Development and Scientific Inventions

It is often possible that after the enactment of a statute, political and economic developments in the society may take place. New scientific inventions may also come out. The legislature might not have been aware of all these developments and inventions, when the law was made. Therefore, courts take into account all these development while construing statutory provisions. In this regard, Bhagwati J. (as he then was) in S.P. Gupta v Union of India, AIR 1982 SC 149 has stated:

“The interpretation of every statutory provision must keep pace with changing concepts and values and it must, to the extent to which its language permits or rather does not prohibit, suffer adjustments through judicial interpretation so as to accord with the requirement of the fast changing society which is undergoing rapid social and economic transformation … It is elementary that law does not operate in a vacuum. It is, therefore, intended to serve a social purpose and it cannot be interpreted without taking into account the social, economic and political setting in which it is intended to operate. It is here that the Judge is called upon to perform a creative function. He has to inject flesh and blood in the dry skeleton provided by the legislature and by a process of dynamic interpretation, invest it with a meaning which will harmonise the law with the prevailing concepts and values and make it an effective instrument for delivery of justice.” (para 62)

Again, in S.P. Jain v Krishan Mohan Gupta and others, AIR 1987 SC 222, the Supreme Court has held:

“We are of the opinion that law should take pragmatic view of the matter and respond to the purpose for which it was made and also take cognizance of the current capabilities of technology and life style of community”. (para With the change of times, Article 21 of the Constitution which was at one time interpreted in a very narrow way, has now been interpreted in such a way, that the right to life includes everything which makes a man’s life meaningful, complete and worth living. The Supreme Court in J.K. Cotton Spinning & Wvg Mills Ltd. v Union of India, AIR 1988 SC 191 observed at para 45 that in a modern progressive society it would be unreasonable to confine the intention of the legislature to the meaning attributed to the word used at the time the law was made and unless a contrary intention appears, an interpretation should be given to the words used to take in new facts and situations, if the words are capable of comprehending them.

Therefore, court has to take into account social, political and economic developments and scientific inventions which take place after enactment of a statute for proper construction of its provision.

Historical facts and surrounding circumstances

Historical facts and surrounding circumstances

Apart from the various external aids discussed above, courts while interpreting a statutory provision, can take into account relevant historical facts or history of enactment in order to understand the subject matter of statute. Court can also have regard to the surrounding circumstances which existed at the time of passing of the statute. But, like any other external aid, the inference from historical facts and surrounding circumstances must give way to the clear language employed in the enactment itself. In this regard, Supreme Court in Mohanlal Tripathi v. Distt. Magistrate Rail Bareilly and others, (1992) 4 SCC 80, has observed:

Value of ‘historical evolution’ of a provision or ‘reference’ to what preceded the enactment is an external aid to understand and appreciate the meaning of a provision, its ambit or expanse has been judicially recognized and textually recommended. But this aid to construe any provision which is ‘extremely hazardous’ should be resorted to, only, if any doubt arises about the scope of the section or it is found to be ‘sufficiently difficult and ambiguous to justify the construction of its evaluation in the statute book as a proper and logical course and secondly, the object of the instant enquiry’ should be ‘to ascertain the true meaning of that part of the section which remains as it was and which there is no ground for thinking of the substitution of a new proviso was intended to alter’.” (para 7)

This rule of admissibility permits recourse to historical works, pictures, engraving and documents where it is important to ascertain ancient facts of a public nature.

Recently, Supreme Court while dealing with the Dental Act, 1948 in Dental Council of India v Hariprakash, (2001) 8 SCC 61 has observed:

“The Act is a pre constitutional enactment but it has application in the post constitutional era also. When interpreting such an enactment, we have not only to bear in mind the historical background leading to the legislation and the amendments effected therein, but also various aspects covered by it”. (para 3.1)

It is apparent from this discussion that historical facts and surrounding circumstances are also relevant facts to be taken into account by the Court as external aids for interpretation of statutes.

Foreign Decisions as an Aid to Interpretation

For the purpose of construction of Indian statutes, courts also refer to decisions of foreign courts which are following same system of jurisprudence as ours. The assistance of such decisions is subject to the qualification that prime importance is always to be given to the language of the relevant Indian statute, the circumstances and the setting in which it is enacted and the relevant conditions in India where it is to be applied. These foreign decisions have persuasive value only and are not binding on Indian courts and where guidance is available from binding Indian decisions, reference to foreign decisions is of no use (see Forasol v ONGC, AIR 1984 SC 241; General Electric Co. v. Renusagar Power Co., (1987) 4 SCC 137).
While interpreting provisions relating to fundamental rights contained in the Indian Constitution, Supreme Court took much assistance from American precedents.
In case where an International Convention is involved, it is obviously desirable that decisions in different jurisdictions across the world should so far as possible be kept in line with each other. Therefore, in such cases foreign decisions are more useful for guiding the courts.
The following passage is very authentic statement of the Apex Indian court which states clearly that the context of the statue and the foreign decisions should be seen first before application of these types of situations.The case pertains to the constitutional issues.I quote below:

"Elaborate arguments have been advanced about the applicability of the foreign decisions, more particularly, the American Courts. It is to be noted that the American cases which have been highlighted by the petitioners relate essentially to strict classification, strict scrutiny and narrow tailoring. This issue is of considerable importance when so much debate is taking place about respect being shown by courts of a country to a decision of another country. The factual scenario and the basic issues involved in the cases sometimes throw light on the controversy. It has been rightly contended by Mr. Vahanvati and Mr. Gopal Subramanium that there is a conceptual difference between the cases decided by the American Supreme Court and the cases at hand. In Saurabh Chaudri and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors. (2003 (11) SCC 146) it was held that the logic of strict classification and strict scrutiny does not have much relevance in the cases of the nature at hand. If one looks at the different Statutes in India, Article 14 of the Constitution is conceptually different from 14th Amendment to the American Constitution as was noted in State of West Bengal vs. Anwar Ali Sarkar (1952 SCR 284) and State of Bombay and Anr. v. F.N. Balsara (1952 SCR 682). In Anwar Ali's case (supra) at pages 363 and 364 it was noted as follows:
"I find it impossible to read these portions of the Constitution without regard to the background out of which they arose. I cannot blot out their history and omit from consideration the brooding spirit of the times.
They are not just dull, lifeless words static and hide- bound as in some mummified manuscript, but, living flames intended to give life to a great nation and order its being, tongues of dynamic fire, potent to mould the future as well as guide the present. The Constitution must, in my judgment, be left elastic enough to meet from time to time the altering conditions of a changing world with its shifting emphasis and differing needs. I feel therefore that in each case judges must look straight into the heart of things and regard the facts of each case concretely much as a jury would do; and yet, not quite as a jury, for we are considering here a matter of law and not just one of fact; Do these "laws" which have been called in question offend a still greater law before which even they must bow?"
ASHOKA KUMAR THAKUR v. UNION OF INDIA & ORS [2008] INSC 614 (10 April 2008)

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When a word is not defined in the statute itself, it is permissible to refer to dictionaries to find out the general sense in which that word is understood in common parlance.

(See Municipal Board Sarahanpur v Imperial Tabacco of India Ltd. (1999) 1 SCC 566).

However, in the selection of one out of the various meanings of a word, regard must always be had to the scheme, context and legislative history.

Usages and Practice

Usages and Practice

Usages and practice developed under a statute is indicative of the meaning ascribed to its words by contemporary opinion and in case of an ancient statute, such reference to usage and practice is an admissible external aid to its construction. But this principle is not applicable to a modern statute and it is confined to the construction of ambiguous language used in old statute. This principle of ‘contemporanea exposito’ was applied by the Supreme Court in National and Grindlays Bank v Municipal Corporation for Greater Bombay, AIR 1969 SC 1048 while construing Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888. The apex court also referred to the actual practice in the matter of appointment of judges of Supreme Court and High Court in the context of interpreting Articles 74 and 124 of the Constitution and observed that the practice being in conformity with the constitutional scheme should be accorded legal sanction by permissible constitutional interpretation. (see Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association v Union of India, AIR 1994 SC 268)

Reference to other statutes

Reference to other statutes

It is a settled principle that for the purpose of interpretation or construction of a statutory provision, courts can refer to or can take help of other statutes. It is also known as statutory aids.

The General Clauses Act, 1897 is an example of statutory aid. Apart from this, Court can take recourse to other statutes which are in pari mataria i.e. statute dealing with the same subject matter or forming part of the same system. Supreme Court in Common Cause, A Registered Society v Union of India, AIR 1996 SC 3081, took recourse to section 13A and 139 (4B) of the Income Tax Act 1961 for the purpose of interpretation of Explanation I to section 77 (1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

The application of this rule of construction has the merit of avoiding any contradiction between a series of statutes dealing with the same subject, it allows the use of an earlier statute to throw light on the meaning of a phrase used in a later statute in the same context. On the same logic when words in an earlier statute have received an authoritative exposition by a superior court, use of same words in similar context in a later statute will give rise to a presumption that the legislature intends that the same interpretation should be followed for construction of those words in the later statute. (see Bengal Imunity Co. Ltd. v State of Bihar, AIR 1955 SC 661). However, a later statute is normally not used as an aid to construction of an earlier statute, but when an earlier statue is truly ambiguous, a later statute may in certain circumstances serve as a parliamentary exposition of the former.

Reports of Parliamentary Committees and Commissions

Reports of Parliamentary Committees and Commissions

Reports of Commissions including Law Commission or Committees including Parliamentary Committees preceding the introduction of a Bill can also be referred to in the Court as evidence of historical facts or of surrounding circumstances or of mischief or evil intended to be remedied. Obviously, courts can take recourse to these materials as an external aid for interpretation of the Act. Though, the Supreme Court of India refused to take recourse to the Report of the special Committee which had been appointed by the Government of India to examine the provision of the Partnership Bill for construing the provisions of the Partnership Act, 1932 in CIT, A.P. v Jaylakshmi Rice and Oil Mills Contractor Co., AIR 1971 SC 1015, yet in another case Haldiram Bhujiawala and another v Anand Kumar Deepak Kumar and another, (2000) 3 SCC 250, the Supreme Court took recourse to the very same report of the Special Committee (1930-31) for construing the provisions of section 69 of the Partnership Act, 1932. The Supreme Court in the above case held that decision in CIT v. Jaylakshmi Rice & Oil Mills (supra) in this respect is no longer good law. Law Commission’s Reports can also be referred to where a particular enactment or amendment is the result of recommendations of Law Commission Report. (see Mithilesh Kumari v Prem Behari Khare, AIR 1989 SC 1247).

Similarly, the Supreme Court in Rosy and another v State of Kerala and others, (2000) 2 SCC 230 considered Law Commission of India, 41st Report for interpretation of section 200 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1898.

The above discussion obviously indicates that parliamentary material including committees and commission reports are admissible external aid for interpretation of statutory provisions.

Statment of Objects and Reasons

So far as Statement of Objects and Reasons, accompanying a legislative bill is concerned, it is permissible to refer to it for understanding the background, the antecedent state of affairs, the surrounding circumstances in relation to the statute and the evil which the statute sought to remedy. But, it cannot be used to ascertain the true meaning and effect of the substantive provision of the statute. (Devadoss (dead) by L. Rs, v. Veera Makali Amman Koil Athalur, AIR 1998 SC 750.

Let us see the common practices:

Objects and reasons of the Act.-The objects and reasons of the Act are to be taken into consideration in interpreting the provisions of the statute and not the debates in Parliament on the Bill.

The law is well settled that it is permissible to look into the circumstances which prevailed at the time when the law was passed and which necessitated the passing of that law to determine the purpose or object of the legislation.

The maxim“contemporanea expositio”- Application of.The maxim “contemporanea ecpositio” as laid down by Coke is applied in construing ancient statutes but not to interpreting Acts which are comparatively modern.Further, it has been observed that in a modern progressive society it would be unreasonable to confine the intention of a Legislature to the meaning attributable to the word used at the time the law was made and, unless a contrary intention appears, an interpretation should be given to the words used to take in new facts and situations, if the words are capable of comprehending them


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