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2. LLB


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I. Introduction

II. Meaning of Aids to Construction

III. Internal Aids to Construction

1. Statement of Objects and Reasons

2. Preamble

3. Titles

4. Heading

5. Marginal Headings or Notes

6. Definition Clauses

7. Explanation

8. Proviso

9. Illsutrations

10. Punctuation

11. Schedules

12. Transitional Provisions

13. Legal fictions

14. Saving clause

I. Introduction

Internal aids to construction are a part of the statute unlike text books and commentaries which are not a part of the statute.

II. Meaning of Aids to Construction

Courts may take assistance of various parts of a statute while trying to ascertain the meaning of vague and ambiguous words. Such kind of assistance or help is known as aids construction.

III. Internal Aids to Construction

When the courts do not consider anything outside the statute, such aid is known as internal aid. Following are internal aids to construction :

1. Statement of Objects and Reasons

The statement of objects and reasons accompanying a bill, when introduced in Parliament, can be used for "the limited purpose of understanding the background and the antecedent state of affairs leading up to the legislation." [State of West Bengal v. Union of India (1963)]

The statement of objects and reasons for introducing a particular piece of legislation cannot be used for interpreting the legislation, if the words used therein are clear enough.[Express Newspaper (P) Ltd. v. Union of India (1958)]

The statute has to be considered in its entirety. Picking a particular provision and analyzing it in a manner contrary to the statement of objects and reasons is neither permissible nor warranted.

State of Maharashtra v. Marwanjee F. Desai (2002)

Statement of objects and reasons is undoubtedly an aid to construction and a useful guide but the interpretation and the intent shall have to be gathered from the entirety of the statute and when the language of the sections providing an appeal to a forum is clear and categorical, no external aid is permissible in interpretation of the same.

2. Preamble

Preamble is accepted as an aid in construing a provision. It is useful in ascertaining the legislative intention. The Preamble briefly indicates the object of the legislation. It discloses the primary purpose of the legislation.

Minerva Talkies v. State of Karnataka (1988)

If the express provisions of the act are plane and unambiguous, it is always advisable to find out the purpose of the legislation from those provisions, but if the provisions are ambiguous and the courts face the difficulty in deducing the purpose of the act from the express provisions of the act, it is permissible to refer to the Preamble of the act to find out the legislative object and the purpose of the act.

Limitation to the use of the Preamble as an aid

Bhim Singhji v. Union of India (1981)

Where the language of the act is clear, the Preamble cannot be a guide but where the object or meaning of the provision of the Act is not clear, then an aid from the Preamble can be taken into consideration for the purpose of explaining the provisions of the act

Preamble of the constitution

The Supreme Court in the case of Kesavnanda Bharati vs State of Kerala 1973, and Minerva Mills Ltd vs Union of India 1980, had strongly relied upon the Preamble of the Constitution and had concluded that the power of amendment conferred by Article 368 was a limited power.

3. Titles

Title may be long or short. Long title is a part of the act and is thus admissible as an aid to construction. Usually long title precedes the Preamble, e.g. 'An Act to authorize Advocates of the Supreme Court to practice as of right in any High Court. Short title is not as useful as the long title. In words of Lord Moulton, it is a statutory nickname to obviate the necessity of always referring to the Act under its full and descriptive title.

R. vs Secretary of State for Foreign and Common Wealth Affairs, 1994

Long title as well as short title of an Act is a good aid to its construction and the object, purpose and scope of the act.

Aswini Kumar Ghose vs Arabinda Bose, 1952

S.R. Das J observed, according to earlier English cases, long title of an Act was not considered to be a part of the statute and was, therefore, excluded from consideration in construction but now it is well settled that it is an important part of the Act and is useful and legitimate aid to Construction.

Title, it cannot override the clear meaning of the enactment. [Poppatlal Shah vs State of Madras, 1953]

4. Heading

A "heading" may be a name, title, caption or nomenclature. They supply a key to the interpretation of clauses ranged under it. They are of two types:

1. Short headings which are prefixed to sections, and

2. Long headings which are prefixed to a set or a group of sections. [Bhinka vs Charan Singh, 1959]

There are two groups with different opinion regarding headings. One group is of the opinion that unless the wording is inconsistent with the interpretation, a heading is to be regarded as supplying the key to interpretation of clauses arranged under it.

The section heading constitutes an important part of the Act itself and may be read not only as explaining the provisions of the section, but it also affords a better key to the construction of the provisions of the section which follows, than might be afforded by a mere Preamble. [Eastern Coalfields Limited vs Sanjay Transport Agency, 2009]

Another group is of the opinion that when the words are ambiguous resort to the headings can be taken.

A heading or label of a provision is not always the real determining test of its true nature. [Rani Choudhary vs Suraj Jut Chaudhary, 1982]

But it can certainly be referred to as indicating the general drift of the clause and affording a key to a better understanding of its meaning. [Union of India vs Raman Iron Foundry, 1974]

It prima facie furnishes clues as to the meaning and purpose of the section.[Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Sanjay Jit Choudhary (1982)]

Therefore it can be seen that there is no unanimity of opinions about the importance to be attached to the heading.

5. Marginal Headings or Notes

Headings or notes which are present on one side of the section are called marginal headings or marginal notes.

This marginal headings or notes were considered useful in the past but now according to majority of views, they cannot be used for construing the section. [Karnataka Rare Earth vs Deptt. of Mines and Geology, 2004]

Shrimanta Padmaraje R. Kadambande vs CIT, 1992

Marginal heading of the section cannot control the meaning of the section when it is clear and unambiguous.

Eastern Coalfields Ltd vs Sanjay Transport Agency, 2009

The section headings constitute an important part of the Act itself, and may be read not only as explaining the provisions of the section, but it also affords a better key to the construction of the provisions of the section which follows, than might be afforded by a mere Preamble.

Sarabjit Rick Singh vs Union of India, 2008

Although marginal notes may not be relevant for rendition of decisions in all types of cases, but where the main provision is sought to be interpreted differently, reference to marginal notes would be permissible in law.

6. Definition Clauses

In order to avoid verbatim reproduction of the provisions of the earlier Act into the latter, a definition is a legislative device adopted for the sake of convenience.

Definitions may be borrowed from an earlier Act. This is known as a definition borrowed by incorporation or by reference. [Ichchapur Industrial Cooperative Society Limited vs ONGC, 1997]

When the definition of a word is provided in the statute itself, dictionary meaning cannot be looked into. [S. Gopal Reddy vs State of Andhra Pradesh, 1996]

A definition clause is not to be taken as substituting one set of words for another or as strictly defining what the meaning of a term must be under all circumstances, but as merely declaring what may be comprehended within the term, when the circumstances require that it should be so comprehended. [Raval & Co. v. K.G. Ramachandran (1974)]

7. Explanation

An explanation is sometimes appended to a section to explain the meaning of the words contained in the section.

Explanation is, thus, an interpretation, definition, solution, answer, elucidation or meaning of what is provided in the section or the proviso. Consequently it becomes a part and parcel of the enactment. [Bengal Immunity Co. Ltd. vs State of Bihar, 1955]

There can be a negative explanation taking out or excluding certain types of categories from the main provision. [ITO vs Short Bros Pvt Ltd, 1967]

Explanations are meant to clear any ambiguity in case of any obscurity or vagueness.

In order to suppress the mischief and advance the object of the Act, where some gap is left which is required to be explained, explanations assist the court in arriving at the true meaning and intendment of the enactment.

However it cannot set at naught the working of the Act by becoming an obstacle in interpretation.

8. Proviso

Proviso is generally an exception from the general rule enacted in the main provision.

However, sometimes, this legitimate use is not strictly adhered to by the draftsman and it may be in the substance, a substantive provision adding to and not merely excepting something out of or qualifying what goes before it. [U.P. SRTC v. Mohd. Ismail, (1991)]

Provisos are often added not as exceptions or qualifications to the main enactment but as saving clauses, in which case they will not be construed as controlled by the section. [Shah Bhojraj Kuverji Oil Mills and Ginning Factory v. Subhash Chandra Yograj Sinha (1961) ]

The proper function of a proviso is that it qualifies the generality of the main enactment by providing an exception and taking out as it were, from the main enactment, a portion which, but for the proviso, would fall within the main enactment. [CIT v. Indo Mercantile Bank Ltd. 1959]

9. Illsutrations

In order to explain the provision of law contained in a statute, illustrations are examples or instances appended to a section.

Illustrations, therefore, form a part of the section and are relevant and useful in the construction and elucidation of the text of the section. [Mahesh Chandra Sharma v. Raj Kumari Sharma, (1996)]

Illustrations cannot diminish the importance of the language of the section which is the enacting provisions. They can't control the real content of the section. They must give away in case of repugnance with the text of the section.

10. Punctuation

Earlier punctuations had no place in the construction of a statute in England. It was considered as an error if punctuations were relied upon for construction.

Punctuations cannot be discarded, it has its own use and value; however, it cannot control the plain meaning of a text. [Aswini Kumar Ghose vs Arabinda Bose]

AK Gopalan vs State of Madras, 1950

With respect to modern statutes, if the statute in question is carefully punctuated, punctuation though a minor element may be resorted to for construction.

Bihar SEB vs Palak Enterprises, 2009

Even though sometimes, presence or absence of comma has been taken aid of in interpreting the particular provision, the ordinary rule is that punctuation mark is a minor element in the interpretation of statute.

11. Schedules

Details of a schedule are not included in a section to avoid confusion. It helps to read and understand the section easily.

The division of a statute into sections and schedules is a mere matter of convenience and a schedule may contain substantive enactments. [Aphali Pharmaceuticals Ltd. v. State of Maharashtra (1989)]

If the language is unclear, the provision in the schedule may be construed as confined to the purpose indicated by the heading and the relevant section connected. [Ujagar Prints (2) v. Union of India, 1989]

In case of conflict between the body of the act and the schedule, the former has an upper hand and prevails. [Alphali Pharmaceuticals]

12. Transitional Provisions

According to Thornton, " the function of a transitional provisions is to make special provision for the application of legislation to the circumstances which exist at the time when that legislation comes into force."

What may appear to be the plain meaning of a substantive enactment is often modified by transitional provisions located elsewhere in the Act.

13. Legal fictions

Legal fiction is something which is not real but the law recognises it and the courts accept it as reality. The courts believe something to exist which does not exist in reality.

State of Bombay vs Pandurang Vinayak, 1953

A legal fiction is said to be created when a statute enacts that something shall be deemed to have been done, which in fact and truth was not done.

In construing the scope of a legal fiction, it would be proper and even necessary to assume all those facts on which alone the fiction can operate. [CIT v. S. Teja Singh (1959)]

14. Saving clause

A savings clause is mostly an exception of a special thing out of the general things mentioned in an Act. [Dwarka Prasad vs Dwarka Das Saraf, 1976]

The true principal is that the sound interpretation and meaning of the Statue, on a view of the enacting clause, saving clause and proviso, taken and construct together is to prevail. [Tahsildar Singh v. State of U.P. (1959)]


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